We wean our kids at six weeks, at which time they are stuffing their faces on all the alfalfa they can cram down their greedy little craws. This not only cuts down on the workload (no more pasturizing), but also encourages the production of a healthy, mature adult. Remember that hay is the food that Nature meant for ruminants. Get your babies eating grain, but the hay is the main course, as it were.
Most of our time and energy have been spent raising our babies, but we must not forget our milking does. As soon as the colostrum is out of her milk - about 3 days - we worm the doe. This is very important, as there tends to be an upsurge in the parasite population right after the doe kids. The chemical changes in the doe that produce a kid and milk also favor the growth of parasites. Obviously, we want to quash the parasites in their tracks. A heavy-milking doe needs all of her resources to be spent milking - not fighting off disease. And we want our beloved does to have long, healthful, level lactations. We worm with either water-based Zimecterin or Safeguard. We do not follow the dosage given on the label, as this has proved ineffective here in hot, moist Tennessee. We recommend that you consult your veterinarian for dosages specific to your area. Shortly after she kids, we also trim the doe's hooves and shave her udder again. If the udder is clean-shaven, you're less likely to get crud in the milk. No amount of pasturization will make up for unsanitary milking habits. And if you're sloppy and unsanitary with your milking, you're more likely to have your doe develop mastitis. Does with mastitis take up lots of your time and financial resources. You lose milk that could be swilled down by your kids, other livestock, or yourself. So do yourself a favor and be clean while you're milking.
I'm going to briefly describe what to do if you do get a case of mastitis. You should have on hand a California Mastitis Test Kit. We got ours at our local Coop, but one can be procured from other sources, such as Caprine Supply. If your milk is not filtering as well as it could, you have some blood in your milk, or you find clots in the strip cup, you should whip out that test kit immediately. As a matter of fact, you should test your does periodically whether or not you think you have a problem - just to be on the safe side and to guard against a case of subclinical mastitis. The test kit consists of a "paddle" with four cups (it was designed for cows) and a purple test solution. Put a couple squirts of milk from one teat into one of the cups, and add a squirt of purple solution. Swirl the mixture - if the mixture clumps up to varying degrees, you might have a problem. What that would mean is that the somatic cell count is higher than it should be. The doe could have an infection, or she could be in heat or a number of other scenarios are possible. That's why you should have been testing her regularly - so that you know what a "normal" response is for your doe. If the test is positive, it could be prudent to take a sample of milk to a lab to have it cultured. We're lucky to have a lab about 5 miles from us. The lab will see if they can get a growth started, and if so, what medicines will be most effective in treating the infection. The results should come back within 24-48 hours. You then go out and buy the most effective (but cheapest while still effective) medicine that will kill off the case of mastitis. You don't want to fool around with mastitis - you can ruin a doe's udder by not treating her promptly (and correctly). Remember - you can go a long way in preventing mastitis by simply milking in sanitary conditions.
Next month, we'll talk about safely shipping your kids to customers all over the country.