I used to do all the tricks you hear about to force my goats to do what I wanted. Coming from a cattle background, the entire process of “working cows” is nothing but trauma for the animal and it took a while to learn a different way.
Now, I cringe when I read people advising hobbling, tying, or other force measures to milk a goat. I did those things too, until I learned how to do it differently in a way that requires no head gates, no locking or forcing (energetically it’s not much different than rape, is it?), just free will.
Instead of looking at it as a battle of wills, I began to approach it as a business transaction where I am a paying customer, exchanging my really yummy grain for their really yummy milk. The pay is equal to the milk – as long as I’m milking, I’m paying in grain. I don’t limit what they consume and I don’t fret if they’re ‘eating too much,’ because the universe has abundance for us all and my income has a habit of increasing to fill the need to ensure we have all our needs met. A spiritual tangent I’m happy to go down one day. 😁
This business exchange works on young and old, completely wild to completely tame goats. First fresheners who have never been on the stand before are standing milking with no force, no threat, no head gate, nothing, in a couple of days. I have a doe I can’t approach outside of milking who lets me do anything I need to on the stand and she jumps up there willingly when it’s her turn.
Always I observe free will. If a goat doesn’t want to finish milking, she doesn’t finish milking. I am not in this to get the highest milking numbers, though I breed for does who can produce, but if a doe is done, I respect that free will and keep enough goats to ensure I can get what I need….willingly. The doe also has the natural consequence of a full udder next time around and either willingly stands the next time or starts decreasing in production. I’m cool with that and if you aren’t, this method might not work for you. Generally I’m done milking in the season before my does are though and for the most part, a doe not wanting to be milked has something else going on, like a cut on the teat for example. Really good pay makes for really enthusiastic milk providers.
I’ve used this method for the past few years with a 100% success rate, even on the absolute blow through the fence if you looked at them wrong psychotic couple of does I wound up with. I freshen 10-20 does a year, with as many as 50% of those being first timers, and all are milking with no coercion. I dam raise and don’t have in your pocket pet types, it doesn’t matter how much they love me because they love grain.
The process is simple. They’ve all known grain in their lives and are familiar with how much they love it. I rarely routinely grain, but everyone has had it at some point.
We separate kids overnight, then start running does through to be milked. The young ones see how enthusiastic the old ones are and they’re curious. It helps if you’ve ‘accidentally’ let them into the milking area before and they’re familiar with where to find the good stuff, which of course can only be found on the milk stand.
A first freshener might not want to be milked at first, but she’s no dummy and if the grain goes away until the milk gets milked, she’ll quickly learn that she has to tolerate that annoying milking hand to get her pay. The fact that her udder is full from being without kids helps in some ways, because the relief is wonderful, but the pressure of fullness can make it uncomfy to touch, so we don’t separate for as long at first to help keep them comfortable.
If they bolt off the stand and want to leave, we let them leave. Once in awhile, if we really need a doe to be milked (engorged, feed kids, whatever), my husband will hold them like you might when picking them up, with an arm around chest and an arm around hindquarters, talking soothingly and scratching itchy spots while I milk. If there’s no need, the door is opened and they leave, but gosh, that grain is tantalizing and you can bet they’ll be back tomorrow.
The process repeats until they’re standing fully through milking, never forced and never traumatized. Milking is only positive for them and they are eager and willing to be milked in exchange for a fair rate of pay.
I have found that the more cooperative my management style is, the more cooperative my animals are. ❤