Honestly, I haven’t even gotten to my goat research yet! I am still working on my organic gardening skills, and THEN I was going to move on to the chickens and goats. But there is a local goat farmer here in Tampa who has a booth at my favorite organic farmers’ market on Sundays, Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, and I periodically buy milk from her. Her business is called The Dancing Goat, and she also has chickens, quail, rabbits, a couple of horses and an organic farm on her property. I follow her on Facebook, and the other day she posted about an opening she has for a relief milker to fill in on Saturday evenings, and possibly 1 or 2 other nights per week. So I jumped on it! What better way to learn the goat ropes than first hand from someone who has been doing this for 16 years?! It was serendipitous!
So that’s how I ended up with this job a little before I was ready. I am a researcher, and I haven’t had a chance to do that yet so I feel unprepared! My experience with goats is nonexistent. When I worked at The Florida Aquarium, we had some Nigerian dwarf goats in our Animal Programs Department for awhile, but I never handled them. They obviously weren’t dairy goats either. And my very FIRST experience with goats was traumatic! I was on a field trip to Busch Gardens with my elementary school, and I had just received a certificate for being the only kid in the audience who was brave enough to hold a 20 foot snake in the reptile show. I was SO proud of that certificate! Our next stop was the petting zoo, which of course had a bunch of goats. As soon as I entered their pen, a goat ran up, snatched my certificate out of my hand, ran off and gobbled it up! I was absolutely devastated. In hindsight, it is a funny story.
But that didn’t affect my opinion of goats. I still think they are cute, and their mischievous nature adds to their appeal. Frankly, it was my fault for carrying a piece of paper into their pen anyway, especially since they were being fed. There really isn’t an animal on this earth I don’t like, except maybe Florida cockroaches. But exotic cockroaches are cool! 🙂
So my first training shift was last night, and I had a blast. The owner, Pam, gave me a tour of her property that includes the goats, chickens, quail, rabbits, a horse, another miniature horse, some dogs, cats and an organic farm in the front. Then I observed the two girls who were on milking duty that night for the first half hour or so. There are 38 goats to milk right now. That number changes of course depending on who is pregnant or just given birth. And they had a great little system going – one girl fetches the goats from their pens and prepares them for milking, and the other did the actual milking. There were 3 stands, so they could do 3 goats at a time.
And then I got to try hand milking one of their better behaved goats (there are a couple of feisty ones in the bunch, so I was grateful for that). Okay, milking is a lot harder than you think! It took me a little while to get the motion right. You can push the milk back up into the udder if you don’t grasp the teat correctly. Finally, I switched to my left hand, which worked much better for me despite the fact that I am right handed. I never attempted two handed milking. It took me FOREVER to completely milk this doe. She wasn’t complaining because she got to eat a lot more than she normally would had I been speedy! Luckily, I do not have to hand milk if I don’t want to, and I am sure they don’t want me to. There is a lovely machine that milks both teats at once that was quite speedy.
Oh, and one of the best perks of working there – Pam shares her super fresh milk and eggs with her employees. 🙂
So I go back tonight for another training session! It will just be myself and one other girl, so I hope to learn how to use the milking machine. I bet it has a name other than “milking machine”, huh?