Monday, February 22, 2010
All Teats Are Not Created Equal
A teat in the hand is worth... Close encounters of the udder kind... So many teats, so little time... Udderly ridiculous! I was so ignorant of goat anatomy that at first I thought the udder was one big milk bag with two faucets. Discovering that the two sides did not empty at the same rate, I found that there are actually two separate compartments, called cisterns, filled with milk glands and ducts that feel like clusters of peeled grapes. Teats come in all shapes and sizes, another surprise. I guess I thought that if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Lucy, my first milker, has teats as big as yams. Engorged after kidding, those teats were too big to get my hand around. Ruthie started with teensy teats and it took forever to get her emptied, squeezing with just thumb and forefinger. Her teats improved with time and/or I'm more experienced, and she's my favorite milker now. Cindy's nippies are just the right size, but she has tiny orifices, and it takes quite a lot of pressure to get a pencil-lead thin stream of milk. Inga's teats are a nightmare, about an inch long and two inches wide at the base...nothing to grab onto. Milking her means violating a prime rule, which is not to squeeze above the teat base so as not to damage the glands. She requires some finesse to avoid those grapes. I used to babysit a goat named Miracle, whose teats stuck out to the side like handlebars and had to be bent down toward the bucket. I couldn't resist a few vroom-vrooms like a motorcycle rider every morning. Her stallmate had long banana-shapes, and if it weren't difficult enough lifting them up and over the bucket lip, she tried to "help" by squatting during the process. Sheila's teats look promising, but only delivery will tell. Variety is the spice of life, and it sure makes milking challenging.