Got my goat(s)

Allow me to introduce you to the two newest members of our animal family here at Mulberry Lane:

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Eclair, aka Clair, Clairey, Clair Bear… she’s 2, and we’re milking her now.

 

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Fiona, aka Onie, Fiony Baloney, and anything else that comes into our head ending “ony” :P  She’s 5 months and so cute!

 

We’ve been thinking of getting some dairy goats for a few years now. Sometime last year, we found a lady fairly close to us who’s been raising dairy goats (Alpines) for 20 years or so, so we stopped in and visited her farm (they sell milk and cheese, so they’re used to having people just drop in.) We talked to her and asked questions, tried some milk, and bought some cheese… and then we didn’t really act upon anything until last month.

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When we decided that we really wanted to make this commitment, we called the lady and asked if she was selling any at this time, and if so could we come for another visit because we were really interested in it. She said she’d be glad to have us come – so we went there one evening and spent close to three hours with her asking questions and being shown the ropes. We watched her milk the last group (she’s milking about 50 does right now – 8 at a time with an automatic set up), helped her give the kids their bottles, etc. We left with a commitment to come back and buy a freshened doe that we could milk now, and a doeling to be bred January 2012, along with a wealth of information and glad that we had found someone so willing to help us and answer questions.

We spent the next week and a half getting things ready – adding an extra wire to the bottom of our existing high-tensile fence, cleaning out one of the old horse stalls to use as a milking room, building a milking stand, building a crate that Dad could put on his trailer so we could haul the goats home, gathering and ordering all our supplies, and doing lots of reading and searching to be as prepared as possible.

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August 4th marked the exciting day -time to go choose and bring home our girls. We chose a black 2yo doe and a fawn colored, 5 mo. old doeling, with advise from the lady (henceforth referred to as C.) on which to choose. She showed us how to milk, since we were going to be hand-milking, how to trim hooves, answered some more questions and gave us some more advice, sent us home with some of the feed she was using to mix with what we were going to be using since they’re different. We’re so thankful that she was so knowledgeable and helpful… even after we pestered her with emails after bringing them home. :D

And so began my life as a milkmaid. The first time milking on Friday morning was interesting – and sort of funny, with all four of us out in the barn at 5:30am and everyone watching me s-l-o-w-l-y squirt milk into the pail. It took awhile, but by 7am, the first quart of milk was chilling in the fridge. Everything goes much faster and more smoothly now. I take the morning milking, and Ada does it in the afternoon.

Here’s how we do things:

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1. Sanitize all of the milking equipment that the milk is going to come in contact with. Since we don’t pasteurize, cleanliness is really important. There are two ways to do it – boil everything, or let it soak in hot bleach water for two minutes, then air dry for fifteen minutes so the bleach evaporates. We use the hot water/bleach method.

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2. After the fifteen minutes are up, time to head to the barn. Here’s Clair, ready to come in for grain and milking. We scoop feed into her bucket and prepare the udder wash/teat dip. When everything is ready we let her in an up she goes on the milking stand and starts chowing down. Fiona stays outside and eats a bit of grain, too.

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3. We wash her udder with clean paper towels and a solution of water, bleach, and Dawn dish liquid, then dry it with another paper towel.

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4. The first six squirts of milk, three from each teat, go into what is called a strip cup. This is a stainless steel cup with a mesh screen on top, and it has a dual purpose – to check for mastitis, and sort of clean off any residual stuff from the udder wash and any nasties that might still remain. This milk just gets dumped down the drain – I tried giving it to Whisper, but he turned up his nose at it, snobby cat.

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5. Time to start milking! Basically you close off the top of the teat with your thumb and forefinger to trap the milk in the teat, and then squeeze with your other fingers to squirt it into the pail. Repeat until the udder is completely empty, stopping to massage the udder when you are almost done so she lets down the rest of her milk.

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6. When we’re finished milking, we put the lid on the pail to keep any dirt from getting in. We dip the teats in the same solution as the wash, release the headlock on the milk stand, and let her back out in the pasture. Of course we usually stay a few extra moments to pet/play with both of them, check their automatic waterer to make sure it isn’t dirty, and refill the hayrack if needed.

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7. It’s best to get the milk strained and chilling as soon as possible for the best flavor and freshness, so we don’t linger too long. Once we get the milk into the house, it needs to be poured through a filter to strain out anything that may have fallen in. We have a strainer and disposable filters specifically for this and the strainer fits on top of a wide mouth mason jar. Since right now we are getting a quart of milk per milking, this works out perfectly. Once it’s all gone through the filter, the jar of milk goes in the back of the fridge, and the pail, strainer, and strip cup get washed with warm soapy water.

And that’s it!

So far, besides just using the milk, I’ve made whole milk ricotta, Chevre/goat cheese, Orange Sherbet (adaped from this recipe) and bread from the whey left over from cheese making. I think my next project will be yogurt, once I figure out the best way to incubate it.

And we are enjoying every aspect of this new adventure – the goats themselves make wonderful pets, and the milk is so good and healthy!

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{P.S. I’m linking up to the Prairie Homestead Barn Hop}

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Got my goat(s)

  1. They are GORGEOUS! I hope I can be you someday.

  2. Kristen

    Aw, adorable furry friends. :) Can’t wait to meet them!

  3. They are gorgeous! Congrats, such an exciting addition :) The milk is the best there is!

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