Another busy-but-productive day….albeit the ladies thankfully let me get on with some ‘real’ work whilst they continued their well-earned break from kidding to flutter their collective caprine eyelashes at Dairy Engineer Steve, who has truly turned out to be our local Knight-in-Shining-Armour (well okay, knight-in-white-van) by helping me to reset our wonderful Milking Parlour so that I can at least use it again – even though it still needs cluster weights, a new jetter for Stanchions 11/12, & the computer to be reprogrammed for our individual goats.
And this was another issue: how to identify said ladies – quickly & easily – when faced with a row of bums rather than beards, as we’re commonly used to…? Well to be honest whilst I might recognise every last lady in the herd from whatever angle, I suspect that on the odd day when I can pin poor Tony down to do any milking (well, it’s not like he’s busy with his career as an airline pilot, is it…?! 😉 ) he’d struggle more than a little: as he’s certainly more thoroughly acquainted with the front ends’ than the ‘back ends’!
We had discussed freeze-branding their tag numbers onto each caprine behind; however as we don’t have a branding set ourselves & having only witnessed rather than carried out the procedure before, I’d attempted to contact the local ‘expert’ regarding paying to Get The Job Done. A month later & he still hasn’t got back to me; I suspect because he is more used to dealing with a cow’s big, bony backside than that of a more diminutive goat. And whilst the process isn’t painful it IS permanent; as therefore, would be mistakes….
A prospective solution surprisingly presented itself during a trip to the Farmers’ Co-Op in Carmarthen. Whilst perusing the shelves for typical springtime ‘goodies’ – replacement bottle teats; umbilical spray; lambing ropes etc; I stumbled across a set of ‘branding irons’. But these are for identifying recently-shorn sheep: & dipped in a long-lasting, gloopy black paint then (presumably) plonked on the animal’s posterior (in our case, at least) for identification purposes.
Well; I’ll let you know how I get on, once I’ve plucked up the courage to suitably insult the ladies…..more fun & games, no doubt.
Meanwhile Steve arrived & immediately set to work. One of the milk lines from a cluster had split, & (I assumed) required replacement; however in the time it took me to conjure up a cuppa Steve had swiftly trimmed back the pipe & neatly reinstated it – saving me valuable £s in the process. Not to mention he’d already fitted our replacement compressor after the previous model proved to be faulty; checked & sorted the vacuum pump’s suspected oil filtration problem; & had even given the parlour a thorough, initial overhaul. Speedy, superior service; at its best.
Needless to say if anyone locally requires a top-flight Dairy Engineer you simply could not do better than to call on Steve’s ingenious brilliance – a tireless, dedicated professional who is worth his weight in gold to concerned dairy farmers such as ourselves.
Meanwhile with Tony doubtless drinking endless cups of coffee in the buffeted & misty skies overhead whilst ferrying passengers to-&-fro, Steve & I paused with our own welcome beverages to survey the contentedly-cudding caprines. Cwtches* of cuddly kids are almost irresistable; & as the Mums had finished breakfast & their cheeky youngsters had in turn enjoyed a tummyful of lovely, warm, rich milk all was mercifully quiet in the Dairy Complex. Adorable bundles of babies snuggled in sleepy heaps, tucked into their beds of soft, golden straw whilst their mothers enjoyed a rare, well-earned rest before the next moment of madness instigated by the wicked little cherubs.
And so we returned to the Parlour, rolled up our sleeves, & kicked the slumbering system back into life with a full-on deep clean. Steve’s typical resourcefulness came to the fore.
“That broken jetter could potentially prove a serious problem,” he mused. “You might have to temporarily shut down Stanchions 11/12 altogether, if we can’t guarantee the system’s self-cleaning programme is operating 100% effectively….”
Not good news: to have effectively one-sixth of the Parlour decommissioned would prove extremely costly – both in terms of time and money.
However, with a bit of investigation Steve found an ingeniously swift-but-effective solution to the problem; which was immediately proved successful by the system’s sensitive computerised interrogation of each-&-every ‘milk jar’. Basically by continually analysing the resisitivity of whatever liquid is flowing through it – & the system can differentiate between milk, water & cleaning fluid – the computer can accurately analyse exactly how many times each milk meter (we no longer use ‘jars’) has been used, & for what purpose (i.e. cleaning, milking or holding); which is absolutely fantastic. In fact it’s especially valuable where goats are concerned because the somewhat crude mastitis benchmark of stripping out the foremilk, whilst a reasonable (albeit to my mind slightly late) indicator in cows, comes considerably later in caprines: they tend to retain subclinical symptoms of the problem for far longer (meaning potentially-contaminated milk).
We get around this by regularly performing what’s known as a CMT (California Milk Test) on each goat, routinely, from ten days after kidding; & then at monthly intervals thereafter (or weekly if she has a family history or is considered a ‘high risk’ case i.e. she gave birth to triplets+). This is a simple-but-effective ‘belt-&-braces’ approach; but one I’d certainly recommend to any amateur goat-keeper (regardless of the number of kids their doe produces) who use the milk for their own consumption – especially if it’s consumed raw; or used for the elderly, infirm, or infants.
But we are extremely fortunate in that our Parlour is also the latest in cutting-edge milking technology – one of the most advanced, in fact, for any species of animal, throughout West Wales. And certainly I do not know of any other goat herd in the country with a similar parlour – so we are very lucky indeed that Goat Guru Dreda (who unearthed this rare gem) persuaded us to purchase it as an important investment in our herd’s long-term future.
However the P21’s fantastic technology detects immediately (& even before we can)- that a goat may be suffering from mastitis; setting off an alarm above the inflicted goat – not to mention, withholding ALL the milk to ensure the rest of the system’s flow isn’t contaminated.
Trying to explain this to the local Dairy Inspector who hasn’t come across such an advanced parlour before, proved interesting – especially when we discussed the foremilk issue (a strip-test, which we STILL have to do, as it’s part of ‘standard’ dairying routine – albeit that goats are classed as “non dairy” animals. So – why, oh why…? Unless we’ve frankly been utterly appalling managers, a foremilk strip tells us absolutely nothing about our goats’ udders’ health. Rather: regular handling, CMT, & our Metatron P21 System, tells us all we need to know as professional, responsible, milk producers. Can’t legislation keep up with the times, with the animals, & with the latest technology…..? It’s not rocket science. Yet.
And then it was time to put the system to the test: because –
Here Come The Girls….
Amazing. As soon as the vacuum pressure was singing through the milklines our wonderful Armeria was hanging over the gate to lead our Third-Generation Milkforce into their newly-commissioned, state-of-the-art Milking Parlour – bless her goaty socks. 😉
Ever the consummate caprine professional, she swept up into the parlour as only a supercilious Matron could. Followed by a rather dour-humoured (but not to be outdone) big, bruising Wolfie & an eager, capaciously udder-swinging Vine the vacancies at the Dining Table were rapidly filled. Pudding was eager as ever to join the queue; but typically ‘blobbed’ on the ramp at the last minute (sorry, BringMeSunshine-Jo: not enough camera-grabbing time, too much activity for that sought-after photo!).
We also had a slightly suprising hiccup with Parlour veteran Angry Aggie, who slipped during her greedy scramble up the ramp, & panicked a bit as she lost her footing; but other than that the girls were soon munching contentedly, clusters attached & milk flowing smoothly through the lines once more.
The only other slight hitch occurred when we came to release the exit gate but discovered we’d accidentally left the door at the far end, firmly closed; which as you can guess led to some typically amateur-dramatically caprine confusion (although I think it was worse for us!).
But the ladies were soon safely back in their accommodation to enjoy their standard leisurely afternoon whist we tackled a second washdown of the parlour. At last though I was starting to get ‘back into the saddle’, again; & whilst Steve & I were sporting a few goodly bruises by the end (clonking our heads on long-forgotten bits of low-hanging equipment!) by the time I switched off the vaccuum pump, all was well.
And we’d even ironed out a few long-standing parlour ‘niggles’ en route; things which Tony & I have been living with but didn’t have the expertise to sort out – but thankfully, which Steve does. In fact today’s greatest challenge was probably sorting out Apricot, who didn’t want to be handmilked earlier when I’d needed a swift emergency colostrum bottle for another desperately hungry kid; she reared with such angry velocity that she almost knocked me out – lucky I was anticipating her reaction, dodged neatly out of the way & then maintained my grim hold on her collar whilst she dragged me round the pen. And I did get that much-needed milk – well, wouldn’t you….?!
Cwtch: a lovely little Welsh word describing a sort-of sngglingly-warm, deliciously-contented cuddle (also rather more cheekily, of the amorous kind…! 😉 )