Size Is Not So Important

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Those who saw the 10.30am milking demonstration at the Dairy Goat Society of Australia (Vic. Branch) stand at the Ballarat Rural Lifestyle Expo yesterday will have met my little brown doe Elcarim Sienna.

Sienna was the first doe kid to receive the Elcarim prefix, as she was born in my first year of kidding registered goats. She was a twin, born just after her brother Victor, out of Traybonne Rianna and by Capricorn Cottage Tazzy.

She was a jolly, bouncy little bundle of fun. As a kid, Sienna went to one show, the Daylesford Agricultural Show, which also happened to be the DGSA Victorian Branch Show that year. And on that day my noisy little girl was sashed Champion Doe Kid.

sienna callum small

She went out a few times as a goatling, but it soon became apparent that she wasn’t going to end up as tall as the others her age. It didn’t take long for her four months younger half-sister Meredith to catch up and then outgrow her.

Sienna kidded triplets first time around, three big bucks, and it didn’t go well. The first kid born was weak and did not survive. The second was found to have his elbows tucked up, his front feet under his chin, and I had to help him out. The third I pulled out by his hind legs.

The second kid was vigorous, up and feeding by himself, but the third did it tough. He was found very cold on the morning after his birth, and was brought inside to be re-warmed. He was tiny and grey, with massive ears. He looked like a baby rabbit, so he got the nickname ‘Thumper’. He was bottle raised, has grown to be the tallest goat in the yard, and remains a family favourite pet.

After her assisted kidding Sienna was given antibiotics, but after a couple of days she was obviously not well. She stopped eating, her milk dried up, and she seemed to be preparing herself to lie down and die. Another round of antibiotics and some pain killers for good measure got her back on her feet, to my great relief. She was able to raise one of her kids.

Even once physically recovered from her difficult birthing, Sienna was an unhappy goat. She objected greatly to being put on the milking stand, hated being milked, and was an absolute nightmare to milk at shows. I stopped taking her out as a first lactation doe, partly because of the theatrics involved in milking her out, but also because she was small and lightly-framed compared to the others in her classes.

Sienna at towards the end of her first lactation.

Sienna towards the end of her first lactation.

Once her kid was weaned, Sienna proceeded to out-milk my other does. She was the last one producing, despite being the first one due to kid. She was eight weeks into her pregnancy before she began to dry up, which she did very quickly. I fed her and rugged her and kept up her minerals.

She kidded for the second time early in the morning of July 11th, 2013. Triplets again, this time two bucks and a doe. I re-homed the bucks and managed to convince Sienna to raise the doe kid. She started off producing five litres of milk per day, and I wondered how on earth I was going to keep the nutrition up to her to sustain it. By the end of the first month she was sustaining just over four litres per day, which she kept up for nearly seven months.

With her second set of triplets.

With her second set of triplets.

She went to the Royal Melbourne Show with her nine-week-old kid Juno. And much to my relief, she was no longer the sour, milk-bucket-kicking fiend that she had been the previous year. When the judge at the Royal asked for the does to be milked out in the show ring I had a moment of panic. But my little brown doe, and her taller sister, stood like rocks.

These days I consider Sienna my best milker. So far this lactation she has produced 900 litres, and I hope she can get to 1050 litres and become eligible for Type and Production classes. Her udder is not ideal; her teats should be smaller and her front attachment could be a lot better. But she milks her little socks off and consistently has the highest butterfat content in my herd.

Sienna's udder

Sienna’s udder

At a mere 78cm tall, she is my smallest adult doe, and one by one I watch my goatlings and kids outgrow her. But she holds her own as a respected member of the group. These days she leaps up onto the milking stand twice a day. She stands like a rock while I set her up with the hand pump and leave it running while I milk Meredith on the other stand. She is the goat I use to teach visitors how to milk, the one I will get my helper to milk at a show, as she now stands so calmly and reliably.

Yesterday she excelled herself as the demo goat at the Rural Lifestyle Expo. She jumped up onto the stand, in the middle of the busy livestock shed, without hesitation. She stood without moving a foot, munching her grain, while a dozen children and a couple of grown-ups had a go at milking her. I got comments on the fact that I could leave the milk bowl under her while I talked to the people around me and trust her not to stick a foot in the milk.

My goats on display.

My goats on display: Thumper, Sienna, Victoria and Meredith

She hasn’t been an especially successful show goat, and she is definitely not the stand-out among my taller, more exotic girls, but Sienna holds a special place in my heart. She is quietly stoic and endlessly good-natured. She calls out to me morning and night, just in case I have forgotten that I need to milk her. She isn’t a fussy mother, doesn’t object to having her blanket on, and happily eats what she is given. A ‘meat-and-potatoes’ milking goat, my little farmyard companion.

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