See how the teats point straight down? Each are placed squarely in the middle of their half of the udder. What does it matter? It is a big deal as to how easy she is to milk, predictability of udder and teat damage, ease of offspring nursing, disease probability, and longevity of milking years.
You milk a doe for 9 to 10 months of every year which is 304 approx. twice a day which gives you 608 milkings. Choose problems and some problems you have to deal with it 608 times. Others you will have a much higher cost and time on repairs. In other words, you are going to pay for it dearly. As for me, I have enough problems I don’t ask for, I don’t need to add on purposely. So for this discussion let’s talk teats.
- Teat placement is a good place to start. You want each teat in the center of each half of the udder pointing straight down into the bucket. I’ve had ones that were pointed forward and if not serious, then you just shift the bucket ahead. Not a big problem. I’ve never had one with teats facing backwards but they do exist. In that instance you might be milking from the rear.
- Teat Size is another consideration. Too large and low hanging and the udder and teats catch on things and rip. Know that the older a doe gets the lower her bag hangs and the larger her teats get. So if her teats start out large and her bag hangs as a young doe then it will greatly increase with age. Yes, they make udder slings. There are of course extenuating circumstances but for the most part it is terribly sad that we even need them. It means we are breeding garbage. If you want your does nursing kids keep in mind that their mouths are little. They need appropriate sized teats on their mothers. Also it has been proven that large teated animals have large milk canals and are prone to mastitis. You also want teats that are matching, not different sizes, different shapes, or pointed in different directions.
- Teat shape – Too small a teats and you are milking with two or three fingers- takes forever and is hand cramping. Saanens that I’ve raised seem to have this problem when one year olds. Buttermilk started out the first week this way but within a few weeks they have developed fast through hormones and are just right. If I have a short teated yearling doe that is uncomfortable for me but genetically shows promise to having proper teats then I leave kids on her for the first year and milk her each day to make sure the kids are keeping her evenly emptied. Nursing and hormones will do the trick of lengthening them. But genetics are the key in this case.
Orifice placement and size – You can have perfect placement of teat and yet the orifice is incorrect. You want a hole that is also squarely placed in the bottom of the teat so the milk flows down into the bucket or into the tube of the electric milking machine. It is something you don’t readily see when you are looking at a doe. It is what comes evident when you milk.
This photo is a great example of an orifice that is off to the side instead of at the bottom of the teat. It requires some tilting of the teat to hit the bucket. I had a doe that had too small an orifice hole. Leah was a contest of my hand strength. I had to squeeze with all my might to get milk out. Not a pleasant experience but the only doe I’ve encountered with this extreme a problem. You can not imagine how many times I wanted to take a hot needle and poke a bigger hole. Would it have worked I wondered? But I’m sure Leah would never had let me come near her again. I’ve also encountered does with more than one hole. They usually shoot in different directions. Not fun!
But beyond my milking pleasure there are serious reasons why you want correct teat placement, size, and orifice position and size. The wider the diameter of teat typically means a larger canal and studies repeatedly show they have more intramammary infection than narrow teat canals. There simply is a bigger hole and area for germs to enter. It comes from cow studies because face it, they aren’t doing many studies on dairy goats. I also look at beef cattle studies and have learned a great deal. I’ve made changes this past year because of a beef cow study and so far are super pleased at the results.
I’ve milked goat teats of about every shape and size over the last 35 years. Not including cows, pigs, sheep, and horses. Many were not my own. With my square, short fingers, and small hands, I definitely have my preferences to what I like. Others don’t always like what I do but there is a perfect teat shape and placement by the American Dairy Goat Association, http://adga.org/seeing -a-dairy-goat-by-the-numbers/. Perfect is determined by far more reasons that it looks good.
Too small a teat means a smaller streak canal that requires more sucking to get milk out. Kids will gravitate to the teat that sucks the easiest. Pay attention to this because it is one of the reasons why one side gets emptied and not the other. Because of Leah, the hard milking doe, I test each yearling doe to see just how much flow she has especially if her teats are small. If the flow is too small, then she needs culled. If the flow is good and the teat positioned right but she has small teats, then I keep kids on her, or am patient, the size will quickly increase as with Buttermilk this year. Only a real pain for a couple weeks. Too large a teats and the kids can’t get the teat in their mouth to nurse.
I hate to even mention it but NO, NO, NO, does with multiple teats. I had one once with an extra teat. It was on a Boer/ Saanen. It was very small teat so I always sold the kids right away for meat since I bred her back to a Boer and she was a good milker. It was all I wanted at the time. I loved Pudge. You can remove the extra teat but it is genetic and to breed her is to perpetuate the problem. If the extra teat or teats are large enough, the kid wastes time and energy nursing and getting nothing. I’ve also seen one doe that actually produced a little milk off of the extra teat but it was pitiful and once again a waste. We could have a country full of sweet tempered, good milkers if our emotions wouldn’t interfere. To do otherwise is asking for problems, for higher costs, and increase of poor producing livestock.
The American Dairy Goat Association has a program where they will send out judges to help you with rating your goats and teaching you of what you have and what you need to do. It costs and requires a certain number of goats so in the past we have pulled goat herds to do it but well worth the time and money. One of these judges with vast amounts of experience including growing up in a family which had a commercial dairy goat herd, said allow yourself one emotional pet goat, but the rest you need to harden you heart a bit and cull, cull, cull if you wish to improve your herd. So take a hard look at the teats on your goats. Are they typical for the breed. Yes, different breeds have a different looking udder and teats to a degree. Do they score high on the American Dairy Goat Association chart?
Making progress but still working on transferring videos from my phone to this blog.