Grit Blogs > Rock Creek Ramblings

How to Milk a Wild Goat

By Jacqueline Wilt, R.N., C.E.M.T.

Tags: goats, milking goats, kidding,

Jacqueline WiltMy day ended with the quip from my husband: "Looks like Kate got some placenta on her shoe." It was true. I looked over the side of the bathtub where I was trying to soak away the day's latest misadventures and saw what he was talking about…a bright red blotch of blood smeared across Kate's little white tennis shoe. Kate, at 15 months, is frequently part of our farming activities and today's crazy day was no exception. So, here's what happened:

I spent the majority of the day working at my parttime job as a home health nurse. I came home, tired and ready to sit down for a while. Doug and his Dad were outside working on our old tractor, which had recently decided to go on strike after a particularly hard day of hauling hay.

"Have you checked the goats?" I asked, knowing we had three left to kid, and one of them was a first-timer.

"No we've been stuck here since early afternoon," came the reply. I handed Kate off to her grandpa and headed toward the doe pen. I fulled expected to return shortly, so didn't even bother to change out of my scrubs. However, when I approached the pen, I could clearly see one of the does was ready to kid … NOW.

My heart did a little leap (as it does every time I see a new baby!), and I gently entered the pen, so as not to scare the new momma. It was our last first-timer left, a fullblood Boer doe named Polly. She had afterbirth visible from her backside. But I didn't see any babies. Maybe she hadn't had them yet, and what I thought was afterbirth was really waterbag? As I approached Polly, who was nonchalantly munching on hay, I noticed a small white thing at the far corner of the pen. Yikes!!! She already had a baby, and she was nowhere NEAR mom! I jogged to the baby, who looked remarkably good considering she was dry, meaning she was at least a couple of hours old. She was bright-eyed and sitting up. Then another spot of white caught my eye, nearly buried in the deep hay. Another one! I scooped up both babies, healthy adorable does, and took them into the barn. I put them, squirming and squalling, into a kidding stall and went out to grab Polly. She wanted nothing to do with the babies. She scampered away, trailing afterbirth after her as she expelled the remains of her birthing process. About that time, Doug came into the barn with Kate in his arms.

"Polly had her babies and doesn't want them," I said.

"Great," came the reply.

"Well, let's get your dad to take Kate and …" Doug interrupted me.

"He's already left."

Now the situation was a little trickier. I needed Doug to help me wrangle this doe. But our own little kid needed supervision, I noted as she slid around the barn floor on the recently dropped afterbirth.

"Oh, gross!" I picked her up and moved her out of the mess. I took a minute to evaluate the situation.

"Ok, well, put Kate in that kidding stall," I said, indicating the one right next to us, "and put Annabelle in with her…maybe they will keep each other happy."

Annabelle was one of the first kids born and Kate really liked her and her sister, Angel. They were particularly gentle baby goats. Kate was already happily "feeding" hay to Annabelle in the stall, so we just closed the door.

Doug entered the stall I was in, dragging Polly along. Doug cornered Polly against a wall. I picked up a baby and tried to get the little goat to nurse. Polly wanted nothing to do with this invasion. She bucked, ducked, kicked, snorted, and did anything possible to rid herself of the humans trying to hold onto her and the strange little sucking beasts trying to attach themselves to her. Clearly, this was not going to work.

I decided to run to the house and get a bottle and container so I could milk Polly then give the babies her milk via the bottle. Should be easier, right?

I reentered the stall and positioned myself to start milking. Now to help you envision this, we are in a dark stall, about 4 foot by 6 foot, Doug wrestling with Polly to hold her still and me, practically standing on my head, trying to milk her. My first several attempts ended with the container being kicked out of my hand. Luckily, no milk was in it yet to waste. I finally was able to get a stream shooting out about 8 inches away, far from the reach of her flailing hooves, into the awaiting vessel. I was constantly pushing hungry babies aside and dodging well-aimed kicks by Polly.

Then, when I had gotten about 1/2 inch of milk in the container, Annabelle's mother figured out she was missing and started calling for her. Annabelle, still in the adjoining stall with Kate, begain to cry out in reply. Startled by this loud call, Kate also began to cry. The whole scene had to be out of a sitcom: momma goat, baby goat, human baby all wailing while my husband and I wrestled, grunted, huffed and puffed, and swore quietly at a very disgusted new mother goat. Doug had to give up his role as goat wrangler to comfort Kate and Annabelle. I still needed more milk.

Well, when times are hard you buck up and give it your best, right? I decided to go at the reluctant mother myself. I shoved her into a corner, up against the stall wall, planted my knee in her chest and my body against her torso. I proceeded to milk her, jabbing her in the ribs whenever she tried to bolt away. I was able to dodge kicks and she horned me several times and managed a good bite or two, but I succeeded in getting about 6 ounces of life-giving colostrum from her for her two hungry babies. They readily accepted the bottle and drained it dry in seconds. Still huffing and puffing, I glared at Polly.

"Shame on you," I told her. She snorted at me and tossed her horns my way. We let her out of the stall, fearing she would harm the babies.  "Guess we have bottle babies," I said with a sigh.

Later that night, after a good soak in the tub (Kate got a good scrubdown, too!), we watched the news as the weatherman tracked a thunderstorm bearing down on our area. The day's weather (VERY windy) and impending storms may have contributed to our new mother goat's fear and rejection of her babies.

As a topping to the night, we lost electricity for a while. However, we dodged the worst of the storm and gained some much-needed rain. And Kate now has two little bottle babies to grow up with … their names are Hope and Faith.