My First Milk Goat – Mia

If someone would have told me ten years ago, when I was in my late thirties I’d have goats and milk them and make cheese I would have laughed them away.  But, here I am (now a year after I first started) with a herd of 8 nannies and a billy.

Mia the Goat

My first goat was Mia.  She is an alpine/toggenberg cross and has had triplets for six years of her 7 years of life.   A good friend of mine, Jennifer Wolfe, gave Mia to me and told me it only takes 5 minutes to milk a goat by hand (that I will never forget.)  Jennifer had talked me into the milk goat after discovering my love for cheese making.  Jennifer dropped her off after our family had returned from a 3 week Alaskan adventure in the middle of July of 2011.  I returned to knee high grass for a lawn and millions of mosquitoes after one of the wettest Junes on record.  Mia proceeded to school me on the art of being a goat owner, and I’ll have to say it was me who changed, not her.

On her first day at the Crazy Mare Ranch, I caught her and proceeded to take her out of the pen and attempt to milk her while tied to the goat corral.  Sitting on my knees beside her and regardless of the bucket of oats in front of her, Mia proceeded to move to and fro, step in the bucket, kick over the bucket and not eat her oats.  Forty five minutes later with milk that contained numerous detritus and the odd mosquito, I dumped the remaining milk into the dog food bowl.  The dogs thanked Mia for her evasion tactics.

Of course what does a person do at this point on day one?  Call Jennifer for guidance.  I knew, of course, that Mia had been milked in a barn, in a stanchion and was very easy to milk.  An idea of a goat milking barn filled my head complete with choirs of angels, but the obstacle in my pursuit of the milking barn Holy Grail was my dear husband Kevin.  I knew that there was no way after one day of milking I could convince him that I would need somewhere to milk out of nature’s elements.  So on I soldiered and on day two I tied Mia once again to the post, and bungee corded her bucket so the grain would remain in it and off to milking I set.  After about 10 minutes of which Mia stepped in the bucket 5 times and knocked it over 3 times I had about ¼ cup of dirty milk to show for my efforts.  Between the mosquitos, the dogs roaming the yard that kept Mia looking over her shoulder and with every look she was giving me the “hey lady this is no barn!” I resolved that collecting milk wasn’t going to happen.  At the point I should mention, I really wasn’t milking with my whole hand, just the front of 3 fingers, so I soon resolved that learning to milk properly would be a darn good objective.

On day three I decided that a great idea might be to take Mia into the garage to help with her distraction.  Well everyone out there raising goats –get ‘em young and teach them how to lead; because when you are 120 pounds and the goat full grown 150 pounds guess who wins a battle of wills?  Finally I got Mia in the garage-by bribery…yes oats…and the two kids who I had purchased from Jennifer earlier in the spring.  At this point I had put a large flatbed wagon next to a post for her to stand on and bungee corded a bucked once again to the post to attempt once again to milk this goat.  Well you guessed it, the grain was eaten by her two kids, and Mia kicked and stepped and evaded milking again.  My frustration mounting I decided that the garage smelled too much of dog but what I needed was a stanchion, so I made one…okay just the head part but it was not hard.

The next day I was sure I was going to succeed.  But that morning Mia absolutely refused to be lead, carried, dragged or anything so after many expletives, I tied Mia once again to the post next to the gate, jerry rigged the stanchion to the fence and began to milk.  “Praise be,” I became instantly religious because the goat actually ate part of her oats while kicking at mosquitos.  For my efforts I took inside 1 litre of mosquito ridden milk.  In my excitement I instantly called Jennifer and by now she was answering the phone with not “hello” but, “goat milking hotline, may I help you?” and told her of my success.

Next day…once again failure loomed.  Mia out right refused to stand, eat her oats and depths of milking despair threatened again.  My internal thoughts flourished with four letter words.

Inside the Milking Shack

That night over a glass of wine I told my husband we were going to convert that little horn shack, a 4 x 8 structure that sat basically vacant except the deer and moose horns in contained from hunting season, into a milk house because this milking had to be easier, it’s only supposed to take 5 minutes, why is it like a huge argument each day with this goat?  So after much cajoling, my hubby agreed, and the next day in the rain we converted the old horn hut into a milk shack.

By this time it’s been about ten days, because the arguments with one goat tend to melt together.  I’m sure Mia probably took one look and wondered what this building was but the next morning I opened up the door and convinced her she could jump in, fed her some oats and again became religious because she actually ate while I happily milked away!(Imagine my surprise that this milk shack could contain choirs of angels too!)  From then on, Mia told me when it was 6am and milking time.  It took me a number of weeks to build up the muscles in my hands to make the milk out take 5-8 minutes and all this on a one teeted milk goat.  Soon it was like Mia and I were racing to see if I could milk her out before she finished her grain.  Milker beware if you’re not done she’ll move on you and usually step right into that beautiful bucket of milk.

Mia, Rosie & Mary

When I think back to those days, only one year ago, I think of the way Mia looked so pissed at me with her ears falling apart to the sides an expression in her eyes like, “what is this chick thinking?”  So the moral is, you can’t lead a goat anywhere they don’t want to go, distractions are just that, distractions, and when milking, it’s difficult to keep the milk clean, no matter how much you brush, or clean something beforehand!  We still have Mia and I now milk via machine.  Thanks to great neighbors I rescued an old vacuum pump from a high self in their barn, that had 24 years of dust on it and cranked it up.  We have now converted an old grainary to a milk room and I know can milk 2 goats at once in minutes, but that my friend is another story.

Comments

  1. Carrie Berry says:

    Well done Ntala! Time flies when you are having Fun. I am looking foreward to tasting some of that goat cheese one of these days : )

  2. Mel Calvert says:

    Awesome story Ntala. Can’t wait for the next one!!

  3. Jannet Talbott says:

    You tell a good story Ntala, with a happy ending!! Look at you, with your own blog, how wonderful….I always knew you were amazing, I just didn’t know how amazing!!!

    • I remember the first time I miekld a goat, after saying I can handle it when offered instructions from my Dad, I had bruises on my shoulder’s, ribs and upper thighs for weeks. After refusing to go help my Dad again for an extended period of time’, he gave me some instructions/hints and Nutmeg and I were buds after that! Never turn down a good chance to learn from a master!

  4. You had me on Pins and needles. I kept thinking “Ntala, try peanut butter?!”

  5. Ntala!
    What a story! Talk about perseverance. And then you say – but that’s another story … have you written it? You are an engaging writer! I want more! Have you tried the goat milk ricotta yet? Cannot wait to hear from you when you are done, and read your post on that!
    🙂
    V

    • Hi Valerie,
      Done the ricotta working on the post. Would love to meet you sometime. Thanks for the great comments. Things like that happen everyday here! Ntala

  6. I’d love to see them all! I’m very interested in goats as we have a few weethrs and are looking for a doe. I plan on getting chickens here shortly so that would be interesting too! But then again, I’m all for finding ways to help supplement our extremely low income by doing stuff here…lol. Tough choices. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: