That’s how long Sienna was in milk for. 642 consecutive days of milking. Over one and a half tonnes of milk.
Not bad for an undersized Anglo Nubian doe with dangly teats.
It all began on 11th July, 2013, when she kidded her second set of triplets. I had been in hospital having my pacemaker replaced only a few hours before Sienna went into labour, and it was a very long night waiting for her to kid, but she eventually got all three kids out without any drama. Thankfully this time one of them was a doe kid, a very cute little spotty brat who we named Juno. Twelve days later I thought that doe kid was lost when Sienna came back to the barn without her baby. I assumed a fox had taken her and I was devastated. The next morning my neighbours brought a very hungry Juno home after finding her in with their Suffolk lambs.
Sienna’s kids were all bouncy and healthy, and after the two boys went to another home as bottle babies, she settled into life with her doe kid. She came in with loads of milk, producing a huge five litres per day in the beginning. Her body condition fell away due to her being such a fussy eater, and by the time she was balanced again she was producing a steady 4 litres a day. I left her kid on her and took whatever excess milk she had in the morning.
This was my first attempt at herd recording, which requires monthly reporting of milk production and testing of butterfat and protein. Sienna’s herd recording results slightly edged out her bigger half-sister Meredith’s in the first six months of her lactation.
I took Sienna to the Ballarat Show that year as a second lactation doe, and mentioned to judge Alda Jackman that I was planning to give her a year off to grow out a bit more after the huge effort she had put in birthing six kids in 13 months and milking heavily. She suggested running her through; continuing to milk without kidding. Sienna had shown a tendency to milk on in her previous lactation, so I figured it would be worth a try.
Meredith and Sienna were still very close in their herd recording results when, in kid again, Meredith stopped milking after about nine months. She achieved her standard for age in herd recording, and in her following lactation she gave over five litres at an official test, qualifying for a * award and just barely missing out on a *Q* award.
Sienna kept on producing. When the other does were drying off, she dropped her production to around three litres and continued at this rate for the next five months. Over the winter she dropped back to two litres, which she kept up until recently when she started to dry off. Having fresh milk through winter was wonderful.
In the first twelve months of her lactation, Sienna produced 1152 kilograms of milk, achieving the production award F115.
With that award to her name, and my A-team of does sidelined due to illness and injury, Sienna did the rounds of the shows with me in the spring of 2014. She did Type and Production – Herd Recording classes, where she was not only the only Anglo Nubian entered, but often the first doe to receive that prize at a particular show in several years. She won the special award at the Branch Show in Bendigo for Type and Production Anglo Nubian. Sienna brought home her first tricolour sashes since being Champion Kid at the Branch Show three years earlier.
She stood beautifully to be milked out, and paraded like she wasn’t having a completely terrible time. This was a huge improvement from the sour, crabby, stompy little goat she had been in her first lactation.
While the other does were birthing kids, Sienna milked on. Her coat was glossy, she maintained good body condition, and developed into a much more mature doe with good bone and depth of body. She was giving the same amount of milk to the house as she would have if she had kidded, but without the burden of producing a litter of kids. Her daughter Juno kidded twins and raised her own daughter, a sturdy yet feminine kid with great Nubian type, who we call Lizzie. Lizzie is now nine months old.
Towards the end of her lactation, with her milk volume dropping, the protein and butterfat content rose. This resulted in me creating some amazing cheeses and fabulously creamy yogurt. Where four litres of milk would normally yield about 800g of chevre, I was getting closer to 1200g. My hard cheeses were turning out bigger too, and I made some amazing camembert. Late lactation milk is great stuff to work with.
So finally, five weeks after being bred, Sienna has dried off. I definitely intend to run her through again. In the meantime, her daughter Juno has been in milk for nine months and after weaning her kid she is still producing steadily. After kidding a few days after her first birthday she will need the year off to grow and catch up, but if she will give enough milk to keep the kefir going through winter that will be a great help.
Not a lot of Anglo Nubians will run through, and I am proud of my little doe and her achievements. I will run her through after this kidding as well, try for a 24 hour production award, and give herd recording another go. Her full sister Hera will kid this season too, and it will be interesting to see whether Sienna’s sisters and progeny also have the ability to milk through.
It just goes to show that it doesn’t take a big, flash doe to produce a lot of milk. And that sometimes a little Anglo Nubian can milk like a proper dairy goat.