The goat kids are now over a week old, and I’ve begun trying to milk Queen Anne’s Lace The Goat again. The results have been mixed: the first time, I got a few squirts. The next time, her udder was like a basketball; I got nearly three cups, and my hands were sore by the time I finished. Yesterday, it was less than a cup. This morning, a little over two cups. My goal is to accumulate enough to make a batch of fil mjolk for our children, who haven’t had any cultured dairy products since the goat dried up in late January. I expressed my frustration this morning that I haven’t been able to get more milk.
My wife’s response was interesting, and helped put things back in perspective. According to our goat book, each of the kids should be nursing over a quart of milk per day. Soon, they’ll each be nursing two quarts per day. Multiply by two, and that’s a gallon of milk, just for the kids. “Queen Anne’s Lace is a good dairy goat,” my wife reminded me, “but she’s not a cow. You can’t expect to consistently get five or six quarts a day from her.” Not to mention that just a week and a half ago, she was dry.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that today. For the next few weeks, anyway, the goat kids need her milk. I suppose we could separate them from her and put them on milk replacer, and take a gallon of fresh goat milk for ourselves each day. But, besides being incredibly labor intensive (both in bottle-feeding the kids and milking out two quarts of milk twice a day), and besides not being as healthy for these growing kids, it would disrupt the whole natural order of things. Yes, we need to manage our animals effectively. But we do not want to exploit the animals. Sometimes there is a fine line between management and exploitation, and that line is something we try to think about a lot and make sure we don’t cross. I resolved to continue milking what I could from Queen Anne’s Lace The Goat, trusting that the extra demand on her udder — and the good grain we’re giving her at each milking — will gradually increase her milk supply enough. She is starting from zero, after all. That’s management without exploitation.
Another example of good management that is not exploitative: in the winter months, we leave a light on in the hen house at night, to stimulate the hens enough to keep laying eggs. Without that light, we would have no eggs for many months at a time.
But back to the goat. In a few weeks, the kids will be able to start eating some hay and grain, to supplement the milk. At that point, we will begin separating them from their mother at night. We’ll milk Queen Anne’s Lace The Goat in the morning, then put her back with the kids all day. At eight weeks or so, we’ll wean the kids entirely, milk her twice a day, and hopefully start getting that whole gallon for our own children. That’s the balance I need to remember.