Glimmercroft - Milkstand Manners

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Laura Workman, Glimmercroft, Lynnwood, Washington

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During the last couple weeks of pregnancy, your doe should be getting up on the milking stand for a daily handful of grain.  Once she’s OK with that, and with having her head locked into the stanchion, you should begin to place her feet and handle her udder so she can get accustomed to it.  If she fusses, DO NOT stop.  She needs to learn that you’re going to do what needs to be done, regardless of what she does.

I find it MUCH easier to train first fresheners by milking from behind.  From behind, you’re in an ideal position to use your arm to block a stepping foot.  There can still be accidents, though.  I just plan to not have drinkable milk for the first two or three weeks after a first-freshener kids, because they’ll step in the pail or knock it over from time to time, and even when the milk stays clean, it’s not very tasty until about the second week anyway.

It seems the vast majority of milk goats do understand that they are MILK goats, and are very good on the milkstand from the start.  There are the occasional ones, however, who just do not want to cooperate, and it is these that cause untold grief for their milkmaids.  So, in the interest of reducing grief, we share any information we can find that will help in dealing with these "very special" goats.  Recently, I discovered what seems to be an elegant solution - Goat Hobbles.  Here's how they work (also see pictures below):

Grab your goat just above the hock, squeeze, and you will notice that her leg straightens out.  That's what a goat hobble is supposed to do.  It's not necessarily supposed to tie the doe's legs together.  Instead, it's supposed to make it darned uncomfortable for the doe to bend her legs, which is what she has to do in order to squat, kick, dance or otherwise try to avoid being milked.

I recently read about how to apply a hobble on a goat and it was truly an epiphany.  (Many thanks to Molly at Fias Co Farm!)  Since I didn't have the hobbles, I took two pieces of baling twine about two feet long and tied a knot in each end so they wouldn't fray.  Then I tied a small loop in the center of each piece, and tied each piece around one rear leg.  (See the pictures below.)  I wouldn't consider the twine a long-term solution, but rather something you can use to try out the concept.

The twine worked pretty well but was a pain to apply.  Plus, I wanted something wider (more influential on the goat, but also more comfortable for her).  I found an old ankle brace that had two wide velcro straps, cut the straps off, and those are what I'm using now.  Eventually, I'll buy compression wrist straps or something like that.  The true goat hobble as it is manufactured wouldn't work for me because I milk from behind.  The doe's legs can't be tied that closely together and still leave room for me to place the milk pail between them.  I just use the individual straps.

I don't put the hobbles on very tightly.  When I did try it with the hobbles tight, I found that the doe was uncomfortable even when she was behaving and so fought constantly.  The object was to make it unpleasant for the goat to misbehave, and comfortable for her when she was being good.  At the start, when the doe did misbehave, I just pulled the pail out of the way, kept my hand massaging her udder, and waited patiently for the hobble to persuade her as to the error of her ways.  After a few tries at being naughty, the doe wound up standing very nicely.

Please note that I've just started doing this, and it's working very well for me.  Your results, of course, may differ.  But heck, it's worth a try!  Now for pictures:

Here's how it works when you compress the tendon that connects to the hock, the goat's "Achilles tendon."

Hobble Page Picture  Hobble Page Picture

This is a picture of the baling twine "hobble."  I started out with a piece about two feet long, maybe a bit less.  I tied off each end, then tied a loop in the middle.

Hobble Page Picture

Here's how I tied on the loop.

Hobble Page Picture  Hobble Page Picture

Hobble Page Picture  Hobble Page Picture

Hobble Page Picture  Hobble Page Picture

Hobble Page Picture  Hobble Page Picture

Hobble Page Picture

And here's the Velcro strap I'm using now:

Hobble Page Picture

Hobble Page Picture  Hobble Page Picture


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This page updated March 17, 2007.

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