Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nine Rules for Milk Barn Harmony

I love dairy animals. I love the relaxing routine of milking. I love producing clean healthy milk. I've been a dairy farmer since 1979 when I got my first goats from Finley Nelson. And in the intervening years, I've learned a few things. As I was milking this newest batch of yearlings, I thought of trying to list why I like milking and why it is such an integral part of my life.

Rules for Milk Barn Harmony

1. Keep anger out of the milk barn. It has no place there. Goats are just goats, there is no reason to get angry at them, they won't waste the energy on getting angry at you. Anger saps your energy and makes any task less enjoyable. And bringing anger in from outside will only make life unpleasant for you and your milkers.

2. Say "hi" to your goat before you slap a wash rag on an udder, whether your way of saying "Hi" is to talk, or brush their head as you do up the head gate or run a hand over her side, treat her with respect and say hello before you grab a teat.

3. Treat your goat's skin like you would your own. Do not use harsh chemicals on udders, keeping that skin soft and supple is a joy for you and a comfort for your milkers. If something is too hard on your hands, just imagine how it feels to your goat.
Henna and Harley are my current yearling milkers.

4. Keep a regular schedule. You know how off you feel if your morning routine is interrupted? Same is true for your goats. For both of your sakes, establish a routine and follow it as close as is humanly possible. You can make that routine your own. I have a friend who milks at noon and midnight. That works for her. I have another friend who leaves the kids on the goats and only milks once a day at about 7:00 p.m.

5. Realize you are committing to a relationship when you have milk animals. Being a steward of milking animals is a commitment. What ever schedule you establish, you are committing to milking once, or twice or three times a day, every single day. Few human relationships require this level of commitment.

6. Enjoy milking. This is a time you need to truly enjoy. The rhythm, the feel of an udder emptying under your hands. The shush of the milk. The sights and sounds and scents. Enjoy milking.

7. Don't keep dairy goats that you do not like. An animal whose personality does not mesh with your own, is just going to be an irritation during your peaceful milking time. Try to work it out, but then give yourself permission to pass that animal on to another herd. She might just be the next person's favorite goat. I've had that happen more than once.

8. Don't play games you don't enjoy. A week or so ago, my two little yearlings decided that jumping the fence into the front yard was far more fun than going from the goat pasture to the milk barn. The first morning's tour was interesting, and they did end up going into the milk barn without hurting themselves on any fences. But when they decided to play that game again that night, I decided we needed leashes to walk to an from the pasture to milk barn. Now I'm not frustrated, and the girls are learning to walk on lead, something they may need to know for demonstrations or just to go to the vet.

9. Listen to your goats and be willing to adapt to what makes them comfortable. Henna likes her personal space. I sit on the milk stool and milk her. Harley likes to be snuggled. She wiggles all over the milk stand, unless I sit up next to her and put my shoulder against her side. It doesn't matter either way to me, and there is no reason to make an issue out of what makes them comfortable.

I may organize these a little better when I have some time... leave a comment if you'd like to add your own ideas or "rules" to this list.