Got Milk (Written 2/19/21)
Updated: Mar 11
This is the time of year when I begin checking udders.
To the uninitiated, it may seem a little racy. But if you're a dairy-goat farmer, checking your does' udders is essential.
Last November, I began bringing the ladies to visit Cognac. As a quick refresher course, Cognac (officially known as Heritage Song Cognac M95) is my new herd sire. He arrived on the farm last May as a bawling, blundering bottle baby, six weeks old, and with absolutely no clue as to what his one and only purpose in life was to be.
By November, though, he was beginning to get his life goals sorted out.
Priority no. 1: flirt with the girls.
Priority no. 2: flirt with the girls.
Priority no. 3. . . okay, so you get the idea.
But still, in spite of all Cognac's best efforts on the dance floor, I wasn't quite sure that he got it. His heart was in the right place, but as a gawky, goofy, eight-month-old jock, he still had a lot to learn, if you know what I mean.
However, I dutifully introduced him to all twelve of my does, and he did his best to impress, to win and to woo. I wrote the breeding dates down in my records -- and we waited.
Short of an ultrasound, there is really no infallible method to tell for sure whether a goat is pregnant. I'm not going to spend the cash on ultrasounds for twelve does, so in the meantime, I just crossed my fingers and slowly counted down the days. Whatever would be would be.
Starting out with a young an inexperienced buck, you very likely just won't have as many successful breedings the first time out. And honestly, that's okay. It might be nice to have a bit of a slower spring this year.
Fast forward now to later February. Six weeks to go before my first two girls are slated for their tentative due dates. It's about time to start checking.
Making milk is a normal procedure as a doe prepares to welcome kids in to the world. Most of the time, she won't have a full udder until two or three days before the babies hit the ground. But many times, she'll start producing just a little bit of milk four to six weeks in advance. And if that happens, you know for sure and certain that you've got babies on the way.
Ashlar and Gypsum, both two-year-olds, are due first, around the second of April. I started with Ashlar. She's a big, brown girl with an attractive white belt around her middle, and I'd noticed that she had been more vocal than usual in the last week or two. Especially when you're dealing with Nubians, who always have a lot to say, even more vocalization can be a good indicator.
Ashlar featured in the image above.
So I snagged her by the collar with one hand and put the other hand between those back legs. And sure enough, she had milk. Quite a bit of it, in fact. I was surprised and delighted. I went around the circle and confirmed that Gypsum, Novel, Sherry, Velvet, and Quartz were all beginning milk production.
My knee-jerk reaction was a resounding "atta boy!" for Cognac. Wow, he had really gotten his stuff together. Six out of twelve definitely in the family way, and five out of the remaining six were yearlings, who wouldn't show an udder as soon as the older does.
My next reaction was a tummy flip-flop and a few heart palpitations. Six out of twelve. And if he'd done that well with that many, there was no reason to doubt that the other six were also baking buns in the oven.
What had I gotten myself into?
Time will tell, and it will tell quickly. Now that I know for sure that babies are coming, I feel like we're hurtling down the runway at about five hundred miles an hour. There's no turning back now. It's time to buckle my seat belt, secure all baggage, and clear doors for departure.
I have six weeks of freedom left before the spring storm breaks. Cognac has done his job extremely well. In six weeks, it'll be time for me to do mine.
Reyna is an author, hobby farmer, and dog trainer who lost her sight when she was a toddler. She lives independently in the Kansas Flint Hills. Discover more about her at: www.reynawrites.com and @reynabradfordauthor on Facebook.