Cheese. Butter. Yogurt. Ice Cream. All these delicious products brought to you by milk. You can get milk from many animals, from cows, to goats, to camel and yak. Cow’s milk is most common here in the United States, however world wide goat milk is the most consumed milk. No matter what kind of milk you’re talking about, there are certain steps that have to be taken to get it. You have to have a female animal, in my case, a doe (a doe is a female goat), who has given birth to a kid (a kid is a baby goat). You cannot get milk without an animal having had a baby. So, now I have a doe with a baby, a udder full of milk, what’s next?
The industry standard calls for removing the baby at or shortly after birth. Usually the baby will get colostrum, the first milk from the mother. This colostrum is immensely important, and contains a plethora of nutrition, along with antibodies to keep the baby strong and healthy. Once the baby is removed, you’re dealing with a lot of milk, about 6-7 gallons a day for dairy cows, and about a gallon a day for dairy goats. On a commercial farm this can mean milking up to 3 times a day, depending on production. Most small dairies milk twice a day. Depending on your schedule and lifestyle, twice a day milking works for most. It’s also more profitable for the farmer, because more milk equals more money.
The obvious downside to this practice, is removing the baby from the mother. It’s viewed as stressful and inhumane to put both mother and baby through such a traumatic experience. If you ever look up a YouTube video on the practice, you’ll soon understand why. There are no sounds more heart wrenching than that of a mother calling and fighting for her young.
Although most may be unaware, there is another option. One that is not well known outside of agricultural circles. It’s called milk sharing, or once a day milking. The big difference is that the mother gets to keep a baby to raise. The process looks like this. Doe has kid, doe keeps and tends to kid. Once the kid is about 2 weeks old, the kid is placed in a nursery, along with the other kids from other does. The kids spend the night together, playing and getting into mischief, while the does stay in their stalls. The first few nights can be stressful, but once the does and kids understand what’s happening, the dynamic changes completely. The does are happy to get a break from constantly being assaulted by kids, and the kids enjoy playing and special treats. The next morning, the does are milked, and are reunited with their kids.
Less you are concerned we leave no milk for the kids, do not worry! Animals are smart, and hold back milk for their kids. Not to mention any farmer worth their salt would never milk so much as to leave a baby hungry. I love milk sharing as it’s a win-win situation. Not only does the doe get to raise her young, and I get milk. In addition, it also makes my life slightly more flexible. Whereas most farmers must milk twice a day, I am only committed to one. Even better, if for some reason I can’t do my morning milking, I can let the kid stay with mom and handle the milking for me.
Question of the day: Have you ever milked an animal?