- Kendra R. Shatswell
Training a Doe to the Milk Stand
Your does have kidded. Hopefully all has gone well, and now it is time to start milking!
For those does new to milking, spending some time getting your doe accustomed to the process BEFORE actually milking usually saves you time and headache and diminishes stress on your doe. Training a doe to the stand might be incredibly simple or a bit of a circus, depending on the animal.
First, get her used to jumping up on the milk stand. Most producers choose to feed grain rations while the doe is on the stand, even if the doe is not yet being milked. It teaches her that the stand is a good place. Letting her wait calmly in the stand a bit after her grain is finished will also teach her patience and that the stand is a place to behave. Give her some pets (especially if it is a doe that appreciates affection) and get her accustomed to your hands on her rump, belly, rear legs, and udder. If the doe stomps, kicks, or crouches, you might move your hand back to an area she is comfortable with, rubbing in circles or petting closer and closer to the “problem” area. This approach, coupled with soothing tones and praises when she handles contact calmly, might work best for does that are just a little nervous or a smidge irritable.
Some does, though, might just pitch an angry fit and do a river dance on the stand. In most scenarios, dealing with does wild or troublesome on the stand is a matter of patience and perseverance. Goats are typically quick learners.
Be advised that this means you might accidentally teach a doe bad manners as quickly as good.
Some unruly does might respond to just a sharp, quick verbal reprimand or a swat on the rump. Others might just need time to throw a fit but realize it her bad behavior isn't going to get her what she wants - off the stand. For does not yet in milk or used to having their udder handled, the breeder can do something as simple as rest a hand lightly on the udder until the doe calms down. Initial training sessions need not be long, but should end on a good note, where at least some small progress is made and the doe is not as nervous as she was and/or is no longer acting out.
For does that lay or crouch down, a second bucket or large bowl under her belly might dissuade her. For bad kickers, some folks opt for hobbles or holding a doe’s back leg with one hand while milking with the other. When trying the former, instead of dropping the doe’s leg or letting her jerk it out of your hand when you are finished milking or finished with the training session, sit the leg down on the stand. Otherwise, the doe will likely think she’s won the battle and finally managed to kick you away. Many folks have opted for milking through no matter what, even if that means milking on the ground or onto a towel – sometimes particularly stubborn does need out-stubborned. Stopping because the doe is acting up can teach her that acting up is effective.
Does that finish their ration long before they’re milked out might be slowed down by putting large objects such stones or rubber balls in the feed trough so the doe stays occupied for longer. Just make sure it is something that will not contaminate feed and is too large to be accidentally eaten. Others have added edibles like Chaffhaye or alfalfa to the feed pan, as well.
Finally, make sure that the doe being difficult to milk isn’t doing so because she is in pain or ill. Check for mastitis, teat or udder injuries like cuts or tears, milk stones, infections like staph, or for udder congestion.
What tips and tricks have you used successfully training does to the milk stand?