Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Milking Area

Gate to the far left is to the milking stall.
The double gate is where hay is delivered.
The milking area is done. Not perfect but a great improvement over being a ramada with some wire fencing attached to control the goats. It has a total of four gates. Two at either end of the milk stall. One facing the camper. A double gate where the hay comes in. It's been painted barn red to match the Veggie Shack.

There are a few things I'd have done differently if I knew better what I was doing. When we designed the stall for Gucci, we measured her. She was pregnant at the time and about three feet wide. She's only two feet wide now, so she has room to move around a lot, making the milk pail a moving target. She gets a little fidgety. I've slowed that down by adding a heavy duty metal feeder with a top that closes so she really has to concentrate on how to get her food out while I'm milking her. The busier she is, the less she fidgets or tries to swipe my hand away from the milkmakers with her sharp cloven hooves.

Gucci in the milk stall with her metal feeder.
My milk stool (after trying other items) is a milk crate.
It works great!
There is no head gate in the milk stall, which probably is not ideal. I'm making do. I don't like to have to restrain an animal too much as long as I can do what needs to be done without being in danger. I've debated ordering hobbles, which I always have to use on one of my goats. I think Gucci's udder was sensitive in the beginning and that may have been why she kept avoiding me when I touched her. She's really mellowed the past few days. Plus, I'm getting faster and learning the secrets to each teat and how to get the milk out.

The hay area is far bigger than I thought it would be. At present I have six bales stored in there and room to walk around. I keep a tarp over it all to guard from sun or rain damage.

My goat stanchion fits in the milking area across from the hay and I even have a small shelf in there to store tools and supplies. The best part of this whole idea is the concrete pad which can be hosed clean and swept. I love that the most.

Farmer K demonstrating his milking skills.
Today it rained and we milked in the rain and didn't get soaked. Gucci behaved herself and puzzled out how to get the alfalfa through the metal grating in her feeder. She's strong enough to move it around, but not too much. We also added a board with two notches cut in it as a stop that slides in behind her butt with the notches fitting into the existing railings. This keeps her from walking backward and avoiding me when I reach in. At first, I was using a rope, but as you can imagine she can stretch a rope quite far if she leans hard enough on it.

I am reminded that this whole thing is merely an illusion. Cows are huge and powerful. If she wants to leave this spot badly enough, she could ram the gate and break right out. She showed me this when Max the dog got too close for comfort and she whacked the gate on another occasion. I pushed it all back together, but I got the point. The dog is not allowed out while the cow is being milked.

On average we get anywhere from one gallon to a gallon and a half of milk at each session. It depends on when the calf has eaten. This morning we got a gallon and a half. Karma was busy skipping and running in the rain with her bell jingling.

Every day, we skim the cream from the milk and make it into butter using our mixer. It goes quite fast, much faster than shaking the cream in a jar. I'm storing the excess butter in the freezer for baking later on.

So far, we've made mozerella, haloumi cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk biscuits. The milk goes into cereal, macaroni and cheese, and anything else we need milk for. Some even goes into our friends' refrigerators. There is more than enough. It's the best milk I have ever tasted in my life and well worth the effort.

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