Monday, August 29, 2011

The eternal struggle to dry Missy off

Missy was bred to make milk. Never mind that she is also a sweetheart with the brain of a criminal mastermind, and that she's one of the world's cutest creatures, and that she defied death and came back from the edge of the grave last year. She has many skills, but her powers of lactation top the list. She just won't quit.

Missy kidded a few years ago (Was it four?) and lactated for 22 months straight. We finally forced her to stop, milking her less and less over the course of a few weeks, because she was a little underweight and we really wanted her to bulk up over the winter. Her body didn't want to quit, and her rock-hard udder needed daily relief for many weeks before it finally admitted defeat and resorbed the rest of its milk. Her next pregnancy resulted in another abundant lactation, but that one was cut short by her terminal (we thought) illness. Because she was down for two weeks, lying on her sides and being manually flipped every two hours, her udder was virtually inaccessible. Luckily, the powerful steroids we used to combat her inflammation also reduced her body's urge to lactate, and she dried off after a mere week of gradually decreasing milking.

Triumph! "Never again shall she produce milk," we thought, and, once her survival was assured, "won't she enjoy her retirement." Not so, it turns out—as soon as her daughter B.G. produced triplets, Missy leapt to her aid and began feeding the spare kid at every opportunity. When we removed B.G. from the company of her weanling-aged children this month, intending to save her milk for human consumption, Missy kept feeding the kids. I assumed it was a trivial amount of milk, more of a treat than true nourishment, since it has been almost two years since Missy kidded herself. I was wrong! Last night, after having been separated from the triplets for 24 hours, Missy gave 5 pounds of milk from her over-full udder. More than half a gallon, which is not a trivial amount for such a little goat.

We want to dry her off, and dry her off we will. Her weight is good, her attitude spunky, and her desire to come on in to the milking stand apparent, but she should save her calories for herself. Her weaker legs (one hind one, which collapses when she bears weight for too long, and one front one, which she uses out front and to the side like a crutch to counteract the lopsidedness of her hindquarters) make her uncomfortable on the milking stand, and we want to see her live a life of ease and comfort. We have to fight some serious milking genetics, but we will prevail. We will stop her from lactating, and we will protect her from exposure to any future kids. She relactates too easily. LaLeche League would be proud.

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