Friday, February 19, 2010
Marie Antoinette and Me
The only thing I have in common with the Queen of France is that we've both taken milk baths. However, I do believe hers were planned. Mine were not. I just finished a lovely little book, given to me by another high school classmate, Judy, called Goat Song, by Brad Kessler. It chronicles his first year raising dairy goats (Nubians), and for me it was reading and reliving a lot of the same experiences. I agonized with him the frustrations of a first-year milker, the kicked-over buckets (always the full one) and the foot in the bucket that you can't get the girl to raise out again. Time is a great teacher, and I've learned over the years to anticipate a goat's reactions. They do not like change of any kind, so any alteration in schedule, room, etc., has to be made in small increments. Even putting the barn rake in a different corner is cause enough to spook the girls. They thrive on routine. Brad waited until his doe had delivered her kid before putting her on the stand, and then wondered why she danced and kicked and didn't want her udder touched. I've said before that you can get a goat to do anything you want, as long as it was on her agenda anyhow. The trick is to put your wishes into her routine. That first year, I took my share of impromptu milk baths and expanded my vocabulary of cuss words. In time, I learned to start putting a first-year doe on the stand from the day she's been bred, and that is her routine for the rest of her life. She learns from day one that is where the goodies are, and she gets brushed every day. This is done not only to make her feel and look good, it is when I check her hide for cuts or sores, and it keeps the odd hair or piece of grass from falling into the milk pail. I really like the hands-on bonding, too. Coming to the stand also makes giving yearly shots and monthly hoof trims much easier for both of us. Sheila is due to deliver next month. She already knows her place in line and comes eagerly to breakfast. I've been brushing her and "feeling her up" (and, yes, I do feel a little perverted) for over three months now, so she's used to being touched while she eats. This week, I've started putting an empty bucket under her, sitting beside her and really massaging her little beginner udder. She danced and gave me that look at first, but I'd rather have an empty bucket kicked than a full one. In a week's time, she's now settled into the new routine, and I really don't anticipate any problems when we go for real. Milk baths never did anything for me, anyhow.