- Published on Friday, 11 February 2011 19:19
- Written by Christine
When the wind chill is -5 degrees outside the last thing you want to do is leave your warm, wood stove heated home to go outside and do chores...........Well welcome to the world of homesteading where the chores must be done regardless of the temperature outside.
Included in those chores is the milking of the goats. Oh sure! You can ask well why didn't you just breed your goats so that you wouldn't have to milk in the dead of winter? The simple answer is - then we wouldn't have milk in the dead of winter either.
I look at it like this, If the goats are willing to get up on the stand to be milked in the dead of winter than who am I to complain to take the few minutes it takes to collect that wonderful milk they give to us. Okay that may not be what I am saying when I am trudging out there with 3 layers of clothes on and the sleet is pinging off of my two hats and a cowl but it is what I say when I am making a nice pot of oatmeal with thier milk the next morning or making butter or cheese or any of the other wonderous things that we make with the sweet goat's milk our girls provide us with.
Milking is the plus side of the chores that still have to be completed in the winter for the homestead animals. You must not forget that they must always have fresh accessible water which is not easy when the water freezes as fast as you pour it.
There were several days this past week that there was no busting ice on the water it was a matter of taking hot water out of the house and pouring it over the frozen solid water in the water bowls.
In return for keeping the milk flowing I must go out into the wicked weather roughly every hour to make sure there is water accessible. Oh sure if we had more money we could get heated water troughs and such but we must do what is affordable....Me! During these cold days I also make sure the goats have additional bedding and give them additional alfalfa hay each day. This keeps them munching happily in the goat house and ensures they have plenty of water to drink with that lush hay they like so much.
In the summer I feed hay only in the morning after milking since they have plenty of greenery to munch on in their little goat kindgom. In the winter I usually give them hay at least 2 times a day but sometimes even more than that if they seem to need it. After a while with your goats you will learn when they are wanting something and when you have fufulled their needs you will know that too.
Another thing I love is going out in that cold every evening after dinner to do the second milking. Yes, that was a sarcastic love. It's not that it takes that much time to milk the goats, it takes about 15 minutes or less to milk out both of the girls. It's the preperation to go out into the cold one more time. Layering on all the clothes, preparing the sanitation bucket and preparing the grain rations for the evening milking. Then I strap on the head light so I can find my way to the goat house. Once at the goat house there is solor lighting that works great on all but the rainiest, darkest of days. The girls eagerly jump up on the milk stand to be milked so they can have their evening rations.
I am often asked how you milk a goat when it is below zero or even just freezing outside. It's really simple. The goats udders are warm. I keep my gloves on until the last minutes and sometimes even wear fingerless gloves that I knitted. I make sure the sanitizing solution I use on them is warm when I go out so when I put it on the cleaning cloth for then it is warm. I quickly wash their udders, dry them and prepare to milk immeditately. Once you start milking it is not cold at all. The hairy little goats actually put out quite a bit of heat. I do have some chickens that roost in the goat house for some reason and they definitely put out some heat that helps to warm the goats.
I keep a thick layer of bedding on the goat house floor that helps to retain heat from the earth. Our goat house has an earthen floor for all but the kidding area. The kidding area is raised just the height of a pallet with plywood flooring and then bedding on it, but that is a whole other subject.
The point to all of this is that it must be taken into consideration the extreme temps that can and will be encountered. These weather variations have to be dealt with if we like it or not if we choose to have animals on our homestead. Of course if you have money to spare you can always build a heated barn but that is far outside of our reach and I don't know that I would unless I could find a way to heat it off the grid for a reasonable sum.
So on the beautiful spring day when you are standing there looking at those adorable little Nigerian Dwarf goats that are going to provide you with buckets of milk you must think ahead to the bone chilling mornings and evening you will be spending with your adorable little Nigerian Dwarf goats. As I have said, my philosophy is if they are willing to get on the stand and be milked at sub-zero then who am I to complain?