10 August 2009

There's No Need to Cry Over Spilt Milk

Why cry when you can swear and beat a goat?

Just kidding - about the swearing, that is. Well, maybe not...


So, I spent all of last week farm sitting for GoatMan and his family. Their dairy goat farm is about 3 miles from our house and the girlies and I went there every day around 7:30 am and 6:30 pm to feed, water, pet, clean, and milk.

The farm has 17 goats, 1 large pony, 1 sheep, and 1 herding dog.

The first order of business was ALWAYS to feed Maggie. Mags is the only equine on the property and she believes herself to be queen. Those who disagree may get snapped at. However, once she's been fed, Maggie is a model pony who loves to be talked to and petted.

The extra young lady in the photo is 14 year-old Mandy. She's the granddaughter of a friend of Special K's and she came with us our last morning for some farm experience. She was a truly delightful addition to our goaty girl gathering! :-D

Maggie always shares her food and her stall with Sophie, the sheep. It's quite sweet to see that big-ole pony stepping aside so Sophie can get some grain or hay.

See, They're sharing!

After those two are settled, we feed the kids. They are so stinkin' adorable and MERCY, do they ever love attention!

Of course, their desire for love and attention can get them into trouble. At one point one of the babies leaped up right through that gap in the top of the gate and came out to greet us. She was so proud of herself! Immediately I could see the others had their little goaty brains a-going. If she can get out to play, so can we!!

Groovy needed to goat proof the gate - and FAST. Unfortunately, none of GoatMan's tools were accessible except for a saw and one pair of hedge clippers. I didn't even have any duct tape!

What to do? What to DO?

Well, one thing I did have in abundance was bailing twine from all the hay bails. So I pulled out my 4-H ingenuity and used the twine to make a barrier on the upper part of the gate. The whole time I worked I got kissed and licked and butted and nibbled and sucked on, but I got it done. I knew GoatMan would get a laugh out of my engineering skills when he got home. Sadly, I took no photos of my creation because I was exhausted by the time I was finished!

After the kids, the girlies feed this sweet pair of breeding Saanens. They're not much more than kids themselves, but apparently an early marriage was approved by their owners. The little buck kept getting his head stuck through the fence, requiring the use of MORE Groovy bailng twine to close some of the gaps!

Next we fed a huge LaMancha buck and his friend, a Nubian female. Rumor has it their relationship is purely platonic... Sadly, I never got any pics of them.

Naturally we also had to feed Stella, a great pyrenees mix. Stella is a wonderful, affectionate dog, but for some reason she was TERRIFIED of my camera!

What is that flashing THING? Is she going to hit me with it?

I must escape!!!

It can't get me over here!

Last of all, the girls threw hay out to the milking does. Then we brought them into the parlor one or two at a time. Here they ccould eat all the grain they wanted whilst I milked them. Here's the line-up:

First up we have a Saanen. Saanens are the Holsteins of the goat world, well known and respected for their copious milk production. This particular lady gives almost 2 gallons of milk a day. We didn't know her name so we called her "The Cow". She was sweet and patient and obedient - very easy to deal with.

Check out the size of that udder... Milking her took FOREVER!

We also had a yearling Saanen we called Sweet Pea. There just could not be a nicer goat. She was very tolerant of being milked by slow, small hands. (Go Silly-Head!)

Next is Dido, the LaMancha. LaManchas are an American breed noted for their itty-bitty (almost nonexistant) ears and good dispositions. Dido was good as gold most of the time, as long as I milked her first. If she had to wait to be milked second, she'd get dancy and difficult. She managed, at least once to knock over the milk.


I very quickly learned to milk her first. Voila, no more problems.

Our other LaMancha was Doris Day. Doris can be a doll, but she was on my "Bad Goat" list for the first couple of days because she kicked, danced and BIT! I chained her head up close to the wall (after smacking her pretty darned hard up the side o'her head!) and learned that once I'd released a little of the milk, she'd settle down.

By the end of our farming stint she and I were getting along fine. See?

There were also two Nubians to milk. Nubians are beautiful goats with roman noses and long, floppy ears. They have a reputation for being stubborn and needy, loyal and affectionate, and very, VERY loud. Nubians do not bleat, they SCREAM! In fact, we joke that they sound like dying elephants. ;-)

Ironically, the two Nubians we milked were among the most patient and gentle of the whole bunch. I felt very comfortable letting the girlies help milk either of these ladies. First there was Dandy:

And this one we called Mindy, which may or may not be her actual name.

Let's see now. That was 2 LaManchas, 2 Saanens, and 2 Nubians. That just leaves us with.............The Goat From Hell.

We didn't know the name of this Saanen/Alpine mix, but we quickly resorted to calling her ButtHead. I'd chain her and as soon as I touched her udder she'd swing around and head-butt me. HARD! We're talking Groovy-sees-stars head-butting!

Don't let her fool you with her Bambi's mom looks.

Oh no, she's about to attack!

I didn't trust her or like her, but I did admire her. ButtHead was, by far, the smartest doe we had. The milking parlor is a nifty little room. There's a latched sliding door on the left. The goats go up a ramp and through the door one or two at a time onto the milking pltform where they are chained and can eat while being milked. Once they're done (or, more technically WE'RE done) we unlatch the door on the right and they exit down a ramp into their portion of the barn. We refill the grain bins and bring in the next couple. It's a slick set-up.

And ButtHead knew exactly how it worked. One morning she came in first, so she was chained by the exit door. I chained her up short so she couldn't give me a concussion, then milked her as quickly as I could. I went on to goat number two and left ButtHead to gorge herself. She got bored and dumped the grain. I had Silly-Head take the grain pan away from her. She was still bored, so she did a graceful little goaty dance. We ignored her while Silly-Head and I worked on perfecting our mother/daughter dual milking process (She's the left hand, I'm the right):

However, ButtHead was ready to LEAVE. NOW. Forget this waiting for humans thing. She started nibbling on the latch and got it unhooked in a matter of less than a minute. Then she started pushing on the door with her nose. Silly-Head and I started giggling. In less than 3 minutes time, ButtHead had the door OPEN and started biting on the chain. We were so impressed that we took pity on her and let her go.

As you can probably tell, Silly-Head spent alot of time in the milk room with me. She really enjoyed helping me milk and refilling the grain pans. Girly-Girl wasn't so much into milking, though she did take a turn at it each day. Her strength was that of Goat Whisperer. She was/is a real champ at calming a cranky goat. She has a knack for knowing just the right tone of voice and just how to touch a touchy goat to soothe them. Both the girls were an invaluable help to me!

And, surprise of ALL surprises, Mulletman even came out and helped a few times. I say "surprise" not because he isn't usually helpful, he is. I say that because he isn't all that fond of animals. And yet he ASKED me if he could try milking. AND he milked. MORE THAN ONCE! I was amazed!

I am also amazed at how long it has taken me to type this post and insert the photos. I coulda done all the barn chores twice by now! Oy!

GoatMan seemed very pleased when he returned from vacation. He also gave em the happy news that if we do this again we can use the milking machine. That's a real plus because my hands were hurting SO bad it was almost unbelievable.

OK...I need to get the girlies off to a pool party, so I'll end it here for now. I hope you've enjoyed this little visit to the farm. (Minus the poop, mud, bugs, and head-butting!)


Dawn said...

Oh, my, you are a better woman than I! That is SO MUCH work!! How can a goat with such blue eyes be so evil??

My hands hurt just thinking about it!

And - did you know there was a milking machine or is this a little detail Goatman forgot to mention??

Lauri said...

That goat has scary blue eyes- I think I don't like her either.

Paul Nichols said...

Whew! You must be whipped. I never liked goat milk. Sorry. There's a reason, but it's a long story.

Well, good for you for being such a good friend/neighbor. Interesting post. Enjoyed it.

Oh said...

This was a treat - the pictures are wonderful and isn't that dog gorgeous? Sounds like a busy time. But what fun and those goats are hilarious!

Bear said...

Check out the size of that udder... I once got slapped for saying that.

All I know about goat farming is that I like goat's milk cheese.