Confessions of a Fledgeling Milkmaid
Tulip’s my goat. To be exact, she’s a doe, as in "doe, a deer, a female deer." As are most cloven-hooved, XX creatures called. Tulip’s great ... mostly. But lately, she’s making me want to wade into a river with rocks in my pocket.
In case you never ran across an ornery doe, I’ll let you in on a secret: Does can be bitches. As in the derogatory term inspired by female dogs.
Forget all those placid pictures of milking time, with milkmaids sitting on their little stools while the cows languidly chew their cud. This is more like playing a speed-milking video game, where you’ve got hooves to avoid and udders to keep ahold of as the doe speed-eats.
Sometimes Tulip has her say by bucking her back legs up in unison. Other times she stomps a foot — lightning fast — right into the milk bucket. Ruined! And when she’s feeling especially frisky, she’ll do a "can’t touch this" dance I’d never imagined possible of a prey species. It would be drop-dead funny if it weren’t so infuriating! Here she is getting only a teensy bit riled up (I call this pic "resistance is futile," which of course it's not).
But things are getting better. Here’s what I’ve tried:
- Giving her as much food as she wants to eat while I’m milking her. And this works. But I’ve worked so hard to get her thin I’m scared of getting her all fat again.
- Adding golf balls to her food so she eats more slowly (a Brake-Fast bowl of sorts). It worked until she realized she can flick the golf balls out. So much for that.
- Tying her leg to the stanchion. I swear I thought the whole thing would fall over. Instead of submitting as I’ve heard other does do, she succeeded in thoroughly freaking me out by half tossing herself off the stanchion.
- Adding alfalfa pellets to her grain to get less grain into her during each milking (less fattening) — and yet she deftly avoids them, whipping herself into a frenzy when all else but the pellets have been consumed.
No, Tulip’s not a doe you can reason with. And here’s the trouble: I’m going out of town next month and it'll be impossible for anyone else to milk her unless I get a perfect system down.
In fact, when the first person arrived to learn how to milk her, she kicked up such a stink you'd think it was the devil laying hands on her instead of my mom's mild-mannered Cuban housekeeper. After she was released from the stanchion she even headbutted the help to boot. So much for that. She's been spooked for life (the housekeeper, that is).
Finally, I tried adding calf manna — a tasty, high calorie supplement — along with the alfalfa pellets and the grain, and voilá! It seems she’s so excited to eat the calf manna she’s no longer avoiding the alfalfa.
Now that I’m faster, I can get her milked in ten minutes flat. But I’m hoping that time interval goes up now that I’m feeding the calf manna (since only yesterday). It’s purported to increase milk yields, which means more time at the stanchion. Here she is in front of the object of her love/hate:
Next up: the hard-core vet tech with roots in the Colombian countryside. If she can't milk this doe for $10 a throw (plus the milk) while I'm out of town, I'll be canceling my trip. But I have high hopes for Colombia. Stay tuned for more caprine adventures in suburbia. In the meantime, I'll take any suggestions you might have to offer.
Dr. Patty Khuly
Pic of the day: "Milk" by me.