Since constructing our Mini Dairy Goat Barn last fall, we have certainly gotten some use out of it! We have added three new does and Karen is due to kid next month. While we got it constructed and set up "good enough" to get us through the winter, we have have taken the past several months to work on the finer details. Because it's mini, I have to maximize every bit of space I can for storage and to allow me to be more efficient...but still have room to move around. I have to walk a fine line between storage and efficiency, and making it over cluttered Since my last post, additional stalls have been built, shelving put up, sliding doors added, and a milk stand constructed.
Aside from some finishing trim work, adding a roof extension/canopy, and running electricity (aside from my ghetto extension cord) down and installing some outlets, I am calling it "done". I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can do a lot in a small space with a well thought out design! I am more than happy with how this has turned out, and the girls seem more than content in their new digs.
I have been milking Audrey loyally everyday, three times a day now for about a month. We have developed a nice little routine that I truly enjoy and look forward to. I bounce out of bed first thing anxious to get down to the barn, and am chomping at the bit to get started in the evening. It may lose that new feeling after a while, but that whole fresh milk everyday part will never get old.
When you first start milking a new dairy goat or cow, it can be stressful. You may have issues with them being uncooperative, or you fear did I milk them enough? Am I taking the proper precautions? You don't want to inadvertently cause production to drop by not emptying their udder, and of course mastitis is always a concern. Because we drink our milk raw, sanitation in the process is of the upmost importance because I don't have pasteurization as a safeguard. I have to prevent it from getting into the process in the first place, and this is where a routine comes in very handy. If you take the necessary steps and precautions everyday, two or three times a day, it becomes muscle memory and eventually you don't even have to think about what you're doing. The routine becomes second nature, and I take comfort knowing I can safely drink my raw milk, while doing everything possible to keep up maximum production and Audrey healthy.
My dream of having my own goat to milk has come true! I recently welcomed home a doe in milk that I purchased from my friend/goat mentor/dairy goat breeder. Last Thursday I welcomed home Audrey, a second freshener Nigerian Dwarf who sadly lost her kids at birth. I milked Audrey at my friend Angelas the night I brought her home and she was a dream on the stand. She would give the occassional foot stomp, but that was it! She stood like a champ and quietly munched on her grain while I emptied her udder full of creamy milk. Talk about a breeze!
I brought her home afterwards and was already looking forward to waking up the next morning to head down to my own barn, bucket in tow and milk her on my stand. Well, morning came, the bucket was in tow, and what ensued was total chaos! Bronco bucking, kicking, handstands, at one point she actually sat down! Who was this goat and what did she do with Audrey?! I couldn't even touch her. I was frustrated to the point of crying and didn't understand what was wrong with her and why this was happening to me. I called the woman who lives up the street from me and asked her to come down to help me and hold her legs. It was ugly and stressful, certainly not this picture perfect vision I had in my head, but we got the job done. Friday night she came to help again, and now here I am a mere two days later typing this and happy to say that I am milking her solo without issue. So, how did I get to this point? Read on friends.
Since I made the decision last spring that I was going to breed Karen I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of breeding season. I have been biding my time, "prepping her" for her upcoming pregnancy by making sure her selenium, copper, and other vitamin levels are where they should be. Deficiency in such nutrients can not only affect her ability to be bred, but also the size and health of her litter. I also started paying attention to her heat cycle to know her signs, so I could track it and anticipate when she may potentially go into heat as the time got closer to arrange a date with her boyfriend. Animals certainly are unpredictable, and despite my best efforts to track her cycle and know her signs of heat, it proved to be more of a challenge than I thought.
When we first got Karen and Alan last summer, the intention was to use them to clear our land. Milking goats was nowhere near being on, or even in the vicinity of my radar. But, it didn't take me long after getting them to jump on the goat milk train and decide that I wanted to expand my herd and start breeding for milk. For the past year we have kept them in a dog house with a door we could close them in. This set up is not suited for kidding or raising kids, and although we knew it was temporary anyway, the plans for breeding pushed us to get moving on a permanent solution.
There is an existing concrete slab on our property, adjacent to the one side of the goat's perimeter fence. This is where some sort of barn used to stand, and the slab is roughly 11x50 feet. Due to financial and spacial constraints, we decided on a 11' by 16' structure. Because this is going to exclusively be for small dairy goats (and Annie of course), this is a good size to grow into and if designed right, can provide more than enough space for the amount of goats we need.
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