Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Score another for the self-milking goat

A while back I blogged about making an Elizabethan collar to try to stop Poppy-the-thirsty-and-determined from milking herself. At the time a reader asked about the possibility of using a similar device for the udder end of a goat. As it turns out, there are various strategies that people use to protect goat teats. There are special ways to wrap each teat using gauze and tape, for example. This approach is sometimes beefed up by soaking the wrapping material in various noxious-tasting substances. Suggestions we’ve received include alum, bitter apple, and mushed up goat manure. One can also purchase an udder sling like this described on the Hoegger Goat Supply website.
Quality-made, adjustable udder support protects udder, prevents milk leakage, eliminates congestion and caking and discourages self-sucking and kid nursing. Heavy-duty canvas straps and durable 1/8" nylon mesh transfer the weight from udder to goat's back. Available in 3 sizes.
3 Sizes:
Small - (Heart Girth 30"-38")
Medium - (Heart Girth 39"-44")
Large - (Heart Girth 45" and up)

Apparently, though, all of these physical barrier techniques are no match for determined goats. Nimble as they are, it seems thirsty goats are able to remove wraps and such like with their stronger-than-they-look prehensile lips.

Searching the net, it seemed the best success was had by restricting the ability of the goat to turn her neck by using one or another design for a goat throat straight-jacket. One of the suggestions was to get a pail from Wallmart’s paint department, cut a hole in the bottom, and fasten put this over the goat’s head and neck. This made me think that one of the large ice cream pails I’ve got kicking around (which I used this year for tomato plants) might work. I measured Poppy’s neck and amazingly enough discovered it to be almost exactly the same length as a large, commercial ice cream pail. With great difficulty (the plastic is tougher than it looks) I cut a series of slits in the bottom, radiating from a small hole in the middle. These I bent back inside the pail so they would, in theory, give Poppy a poke if she tried to reach around back for a slurp.

What I hadn’t figured on was how hard it would be to slip this ice cream pail contraption over a ticked off goat’s head. Even though I had her confined to the milking stand, she was able to fling her head from side to side vigourously enough that I was seriously worried that she was going to poke her eye with a plastic triangle tip. Fortunately, this struggle took place in complete darkness at the time of the night milking, so I peeled off my shirt and put it over Poppy’s head as a kind of protective shield and lubrication system. She was less than impressed with this idea, but it allowed me to push the bucket over her head and into position without causing any damage to delicate (and surprisingly bulgy) eyeballs. Once it had slipped over her head, I secured the bottom of the pail to her plastic chain collar with some ever-so-handy binder twine.
It looks like this goat is heading for an appointment with the hangman. So far, at least, appearances are deceiving. (Having trouble figuring out what you're looking at here? This is Poppy with her head inside my t-shirt. Her ear is poking out over to the left of the picture, sticking out sideways through the sleeve of the shirt. In order to get her 'dressed' like this, I had to secure her in the milking stand, which is the wooden frame you see behind her cloaked head.)

After ensuring she could both eat and drink with the new device on her head, I turned her loose (after first retrieving my shirt). Sure enough, in the morning we had a full load – just over a liter of fresh, delicious goat milk!

The afternoon milking was likewise bountiful. By the night milking, she had figured out how to work around her new headgear and left us with a scant half cup of milk!

Back to the drawing board… Stay tuned for chapter eight hundred and fifty-seven in the great Goat Milk Challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment