How to Keep an Udder Healthy
So, you’ve got your beautiful dairy doe. You know what to feed her, and how to keep her safe. Now, how do you keep her udder (a dairy goat’s MOST important part) healthy and productive for years to come? It’s not nearly as hard as you might think, but many a new dairy goat owner has ruined a dairy goat’s milking career just by not knowing a few simple and basic rules.
Number one, hopefully through research you have been able to choose a doe that has a well-constructed, symmetrical, and well attached udder. This is paramount to set yourself up for success. An udder that is pendulous and is carried too low is going to suffer bruising and constant injury from the animal moving around. The udder needs to be well attached to the belly. While you do want a productive udder, you do not want to sacrifice volume with udder health. It doesn’t matter how much milk she gives if it is constantly streaked with blood from bruising, or off flavored from infection caused by constant udder trauma. Goats are naturally curious and explore their surroundings constantly. They WILL get into the darndest places. Udder injuries can be kept to a minimum if you keep this in mind not just in your enclosure construction, but in the doe you choose to put into the enclosure.
Keep your dairy goat’s area clean. Their mammary system in located on their belly and between their back legs. Every time they lay down, the “milk factory” is on the ground. If it is wet and /or dirty, you are inviting infection. Goats are naturally very clean livestock. Their poop is like rabbit pellets. Dry, round pellets that are easy to sweep up. Goats do not like wet conditions. Keeping them clean and dry is the first step to quality milk, and healthy dairy goats.
Washing and drying the udder before milking, discarding the first couple of squirts of milk, and disinfecting the teats after milking are the simplest and MOST important steps beyond housing, and genetics to assure good milk and maintaining a healthy udder.
When milking by hand or machine everything that touches that udder, and the milk, needs to be clean. You are producing food. Treat it as you would your kitchen counter and dishes.
Be gentle. Proper milking technique is not difficult, but it is learned. Goat’s udders are not as tough as cows. Even those who know how to milk cows are notorious for being too rough with goats and cause bruising. If you are too heavy handed with a goat’s mammary system, even the best-behaved doe will start fidgeting and squirming on the milking stand anticipating discomfort.
Never pull on the teats to extract milk. Milking is a calm time. You are providing relief to the doe and are bonding with her every time you handle her.
So, the doe is on the milking stand She has her grain ration in front of her. You’re ready to begin. After washing and drying the udder, you are ready to milk. Each person’s style of hand milking will be different, but the simple mechanics of the milking process is as follows.
Using thumb and finger or fingers (depending on the size of your hands and the doe’s teats) gently pinch off the teat at the point where the teat attaches to the udder floor. While maintaining this “gentile pinch off” you have trapped milk into the teat. Using the rest of your fingers, squeeze this trapped milk out. Try not to let your grip slacken at the top of the teat until all of the milk has been squeezed out of the teat. If you don’t maintain that closure, milk will be forced back up into the udder. This can damage the udder. Release the teat and allow it to refill with milk and repeat the process. Intermittent gentle massage of the udder during the milking will also encourage a more thorough milk let down.
Milk just doesn’t flow out of the udder. The doe has to release it. This is induced by the washing and massaging process while you are prepping her for milking. Keeping everything quiet and calm will help this process also. When no additional milk fills the teat, you are done milking her. Cover the milk, set the pail aside, and disinfect the teat end with an approved teat spray or dip. This assures that no bacteria are present to possibly enter the udder and cause infection while the teat orifice gradually closes. If she has not finished her grain, let her finish, then put her back in her pen. You have just depleted her system of a large percentage of fluid. She will be thirsty. Take advantage of this by making sure her water is clean and fresh following milking. She will drink more, and therefore produce more milk for you. Make sure her hay rack is full, and she’s set till the next milking time in 12 hours. Maintain regular milking schedules, use clean gentle handling, and provide quality food and water for your doe and you should have a doe with excellent udder health, delicious milk, and general overall good health for many, many years.
Provided by Yvonne Robinson
NYRLE Real Goats Dairy