By J. T. Brown, F.z.s., M.r.san.i.
As pointed out in my preceding article, milk taken from the goats the first three days after parturition is not fit for human consumption, as it is highly coloured, and contains a mucus. At the end of three days, however, it will be seen to froth up nicely, and is then fit for use.
Milking is one of the most important matters in the keeping of goats, although many people who take up goat-farming for the first time imagine that it is a very simple process, entailing little trouble. They soon learn, however, that there is far more in the milking of goats than they imagined. It requires much patience to manage properly a young Nanny at her first milking. In nine cases out of ten the operator loses her temper, which is absolutely the worst thing that could happen, for no animal is more sensitive to rough usage than the goat, and although the milk may be drawn, as likely as not it will be kicked over before the milking operation is finished. Kindness and patience are absolutely necessary when milking young Nannies, and unless exercised the animals may on all future occasions fail to give their milk properly. Punishment never did and never can do what patience and kindness can to render young Nannies tractable during the process of milking.
There are two ways of milking the goat. Some attendants adopt the method known as "nievling," and others that commonly called ' stripping." When the former method is adopted, the teats are grasped by the hands and forced downwards, whilst at the same time the fingers are closed to imitate the action of the kid. When the latter method is adopted, the teat is taken between the finger and thumb, and the latter are drawn downwards, considerable pressure being brought to bear upon the teat.
Sometimes the teats are too small to allow of the "nievling" process being performed, and "stripping" has to be done; it is essential, however, that the latter process be resorted to, so that the last drop of milk may be drawn, as this is very important. Indeed, it is well nigh impossible to emphasise too much the importance of taking the last drop of milk from the udder. Unless milking is done thoroughly, the milch goat will soon become dry, owing to the fact that every drop of milk left in the udder will be absorbed back into the system, Nature seeming to know that it is not required. If a little is left in the udder each time the animals are milked, the flow will gradually become weaker, and eventually cease altogether. The greedy milker is the best milker; she is constantly asking for more, and drains the udder to the last drop, with the result that the milk flow increases daily.
An ocular demonstration from an experienced hand will do much towards helping the novice to perform properly the operation of milking. One soon becomes proficient after a few lessons from a farmer, milkman, or any goat-keeper. If a good flow is not obtained at the first operation, the novice must not be discouraged; neither must grumbling be heard about aching fingers and arms. With practice, a better flow will come, and muscular aches will cease. It is important that the milking should be done as quickly as possible, otherwise the generally tractable animal will become restless and unmanageable.
Handling a Young Animal
As previously stated, a young Nanny may become very restless at the first time of milking, but with kindness, patience, and perseverance one can get over the difficulty. It is a good plan to get on good terms with the young Nannies some time before they are due to kid. They should be placed daily in the stalls with the rest of the herd, and should be fed with them, and handling the teats should be attempted. It is likely that the animals will plunge about, but a little oilcake or other tit-bit, and gentle stroking, will do much towards getting them tractable.
When the young are born and taken from the mother, the latter should be tied up short and fed. The udder should then be gently handled, and the milk taken slowly at first. The young having been removed, the udder will soon become distended with milk, the animal will be glad to be relieved of it, and after being milked a few times, it is as likely as not that she will submit quietly to the process. All animals, however, are not of the same temperament, and individual ones defy all attempts on the part of their owners to milk them quietly. All that can be done in such cases is to have patience and keep cool, leaving the udder alone until it becomes full of milk, and then to tie the hind leg of the animal to a post by means of a stout cord, and attempt the milking operation. She will feel relieved when the milk is removed, and after being milked a few times in this way, she will learn to submit to the handling of the milker.
Not only should goats be thoroughly milked, but they should be milked at regular times. As to how often during the day goats should be milked depends upon the milk yield of individual animals. Some produce so much milk that to allow them to be milked but twice daily would be to punish them, as their udders would become distended and painful. It is generally admitted that goats giving more than five pints a day should be milked three times, and that those giving less should be milked twice daily. When the milk flow is diminishing, and has become reduced to about a pint a day, a thorough milking during the early part of the day will suffice.
Before milking commences the udder of the goat should be sponged with warm water to cleanse it, and then dried with a soft cloth. Nothing is more disgusting than to milk with dirty hands, or while the goat's udder is unclean. If the animals have been lying on soiled litter the washing of the udders will be imperative, but if they have just returned from clean pasture land milking may be proceeded with. Many goat-keepers, however, always wash the udders to render the teats more pliable, so that the milking can be performed with greater comfort. They also lubricate their hands with a little milk, so as to make the operation more natural, as the kids naturally moisten the teats when sucking. A kneeling-mat should be used when milking, although many animals are taught to mount a platform, on which they stand and feed, wherein lies the secret of getting them to stand quietly. A good-sized enamelled pan and a pail are generally the utensils employed when milking a large herd, and as the pan is filled by the milkers its contents are emptied into the pail, which, by the way, is kept out of reach of the goat's heels. It is almost needless to touch upon the importance of cleanliness in the utensils used. All should be thoroughly cleansed by scalding every time they are in use, after which they should be placed in the open so that the fresh air can purify them.
A Bad Habit
Goats sometimes suck their own milk, which means much loss and annoyance to the owner, unless something is done to check the habit. Smearing the teats with some nauseous substance will sometimes effect a cure, but it entails much work in washing the teats thoroughly each time before milking can be done. The safest place for animals so inclined is outside the herd, unless one has ample time to manage them. To be continued.