We knew today was going to be a tough one…..
And whilst it was in a tiring way, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d anticipated. Firstly, we were up at Obscenely Early O’Clock to milk the Junior Milkforce for the very first time. After feeding the rest of the hungry hordes we put hay into their pen but no feed, in an effort to encourage them up onto the milkstands, which the majority hadn’t been on, before.
Basically a milkstand is an elevated platform with a yoke at one end, through which the goat puts her head whilst being milked. On the far side of the yoke is a bucket for feed/water, so the goat is encouraged to come to be milked with the enticement of a hearty meal without being butted out of the bowl by her peers. The milkstand is useful for handmilking as (when sat on a milking stool) it puts the ‘milkmaid’ at a comfortable height to work with the goats’ udders; or if machine milking, it means the herdsperson does not have to bend down so far to clean & dip teats & attach the clusters, thus lessening the risk of back strain. And milkstands are also useful for other applications, such as administering drugs or injections; taking blood samples; foot & horn trimming etc as they keep the goat reasonably well restrained.
First of all, after getting everything ready, we had to meake sure we knew exactly order in which the goats would be encouraged into the parlour, & onto which stand they’d been allocated (we have two). First, I ‘eked’ out Eek, gently leading her in & showing her the stand. Then, with the encouragement of the bucket of feed, Tony gently placed each of her front feet onto the stand until we could encourage her to jump her back legs on, to follow; although initially Tony usually ends up having to bodily lift the hind end into place, as well.
Next we have to persuade the goat to put her head through the yoke – not easy, as they’re naturally quite flightly animals. However, their voracious appetites generally get the better of them: which thankfully happened in this case, as Eek soon happily had her head in the bucket.
But it’s not over yet. The next challenge is wiping the udders & teats clean; then very gently applying the milking clusters & hoping the goat will accept the unfamiliar sensation without kicking them off (& usually also taking a well-aimed swipe at me in the process). And then there’s the post-milking teat dip to contend with!
All being well, we then have to persuade the goat that she now needs to vacate the stand – a whole new challenge. But once we’ve ‘shown her the ropes’ we restore them back to their pen; breathe a huge sigh of relief; & dive in for the next one on the list, & repeat the process…..
I couldn’t tell you exactly how long it’ll take to get the goats used to jumping on the stand & being milked; nor getting used to parlour protocols & routine, as each of our ladies is highly individual & some will naturally adapt more readily than others. Eek was OK; Agro was fine; Rally kicked at the clusters; Booty wouldn’t be caught; Aloe’s udders kept dropping the clusters for some bizarre reason; Ninny took to it like a duck to water; Apricot was in a blind panic throughout; & Koo muddled awkwardly but happily through. So we’ll see….
Next on the agenda (after cleaning & sterilising the parlour & machinery – all of which is done by hand as we only have a galvanised twin-arm bucket milking machine at present), was the first bottle-feed of the confused little babies. We’re starting them for the first few days on 250mls of warmed milk each, four times per day with the first feed at 0600 & the last, at 10pm. Goat kids are notoriously picky when it comes to the temperature of their milk; they’d rather starve, than drink it if it isn’t at exactly the right warmth or the teat doesn’t feel quite right or the milk doesn’t flow through the aperture at exactly the right rate! Luckily we seemed to have got things reasonably accurate however, as the majority took their feed needing only a little persuasion although we’re a fair way from being able to use a bottle rack to feed four of them at once! But with individual care & attention they each got the feed they required with only a couple hesitant babies requiring closer monitoring.
After the first round of work we paused for breakfast; by which time I realised I wasn’t going to make today’s Welsh lesson, much to my regret. Meanwhile Paul arrived with the extra boards to finish the work on the Dairy Complex pillars & walls; & as it was a cold, squally day I made sure they he & his staff were well fed with bacon butties & tea.
Whislt we were topping up the water buckets & sweeping down the barns we had a visitor – a chap from a local tarmac team had been directed to us by neighbour Quae, as they’d delivered the wrong grade of tarmac to the cattle market in Newcastle Emlyn & had to ‘rehome’ it, urgently. Quae was aware that we needed some emergency repairs to our driveway after the recent bad weather – so thought we could do with this ‘windfall’ as the tarmac would cost less than half price – with the labour to lay it, provided free of charge. And as the top of the drive was in such a state, Tony jumped at the chance. Therefore by early afternoon we had a new length of immaculate tarmac driveway – at a fraction of what we’d otherwise have expected to pay; also graded to assist runoff & prevent further deterioration, lower down. Although Tony was frustrated; as if the groundworks had been finished by now (as they should have been) we could have had the perimeter of the building tarmaced instead – which would have been just the ticket. Very annoying.
Then it was on to the next round of then measured into bottles; delivered to the babies; amounts fed recorded; babies checked; & all bottles, racks & teats washed & sterilised – it really is like running an orphanage!
After that it was a brief chance to do some more work on the Business Plan – before doing the evening chores & then tackling the next round of milking with still unfamiliar, nervous goats most of which required highly individual attention to the extent of still literally having to be carried onto their stands & not without regular bouts of caprine panic dishing out a fair share of bruises to our legs, arms & midriffs during the ensuing frantic wrestling matches (so glad we don’t work with cows..!). So again, that all takes quite a while…..
…..by which time, I hurried back to the house to dish up bowlfuls of tasty Magic Cauldron casserole which we shovelled down before Tony took the opportunity to relax briefly whilst I did the washing up, prepared the next bottle feed, put a load of washing in the machine, fed the cats, dog & of course cheeky little Bechan etc etc….
Glad to shut the door, at last, at gone 11pm, against the raging weather & the mad March night.