Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts on the Feeling of Udders

(No pictures in this post, so you can use your imaginations when considering the udder and the feeling thereof!)

I haven’t had a lot of experience in udder assessment. For a while, when I was in University, I had a roommate who milked cows at an ungodly hour, and sometimes I accompanied her. To this day, I’m not sure what she did to convince me to do that. I learned how to attach the milking suction tubes and how to dip the teats and all the accompanying things one must do for cow milking. That was the extent of my udder experience.

Cow udders, when they’re in milk, are huge. Positively enormous. I’m sure many of you have either seen cows on television or in person, or perhaps you’ve even milked them, so you know what I mean. It’s like a basketball (or 2) hanging off the poor cow. There is no mistaking a full cow udder.

Goat udders are a bit different. I’ve seen plenty of pictures of full Nubian and Alpine goat udders. Not unlike cow udders, although smaller, they are still in the basketball category and there is no question when they are full.

Stuffin, our pregnant goat, is a pygmy goat, and several of our pygmy goats are actually bigger than her, so she’s a small pygmy. Her sister, Puffin, is about the same. When I feel Puffin’s non-active udder, it just blends in to the contour of her underside. The only hint that you’re dealing with an udder area is the teats. Strangely, she has four of them. Two are slightly larger than the others, but they are not large at all and the area is quite flat and non-contoured.

Stuffin’s udder began to change about 3 weeks ago I’d say. When I first felt the changes, it was as if her udder had gone from being like Puffin’s non-contoured udder, to being a little soft pillow. It was not what I would call swollen, or full, or even bulging. It was merely “puffy” I suppose. Perhaps comparable to what it would feel like if you laid a good wool sock on the carpet, and laid your hand on it such that you could feel the carpet on either side. I became all excited at this slight puffiness, because of my udder inexperience, and thought she was “bagging up” as they say.

Every day, I went twice a day and felt her udder. Was it different? Was it puffier? Was it firmer? Minute possible changes seemed to register in my mind as monumental, suggesting impending birth. Over these weeks though, I have become jaded. I have done less udder prodding and palpating, because she wasn’t really changing much, and after all, she wasn’t popping out a baby. A slightly puffy udder became a slightly puffier udder, but otherwise, it was just Stuffin, teasing me with her silence.

Today, I felt the udder again. I think I last felt it 3 days ago. I really think it might have changed now. Before, it was a puffiness that I sensed with my palm, more than my whole hand. Today, it was a handful. Still, it is not firm or taut or approaching basketball status. Her teats are about 1 inch long, maybe 1 and ¼ inch, and about the width of a thick pen. Puffin’s are tiny and not as long or wide.

I do not know what a full pygmy udder looks like, really. Is it baseball sized? How do I know the difference between “puffy udder” and “bagging up udder?” How do these slight changes in her udder correspond to her possible delivery?

She was purchased on Oct 2 as being bred (and he said she would kid “sometime in December” which was clearly wrong).

Oct 2-31 = 29 days

Nov 1-30 = 30 days

Dec 1-31 = 31 days

Jan 1-29 = 29 days

Total: 119 days

Goat gestation is about 150 days (145 to 155). We have roughly 31 days left, then, if she was bred on October 1, for example, although why he would have said she would kid in December is beyond me if that was the case. I suspect she was bred before October 1 because she would have been being transported on that day. So it's probably less than 31 days...

Anyway, this whole experience is very interesting for me, and I’ve learned a lot, most notably that a slightly puffy udder is not a sign of imminent birth.

Got any udder wisdom to share?


Lola Nova said...

Woefully, I am barren of udder knowledge. I only know of my own birthing experience and I'm afraid that would be over-sharing.

The waiting is the hardest part.
Or so says Tom Petty.

Hang in there.

Deb said...

Each goatie is so different and I can only tell you about our goats. Some of our pygmies would start to bag up 3 weeks before they kidded and others wouldn't show any sign until the day before. On our pygmies, a full bag would be the size of a baseball. A full bag on a goat ready to kid will be firm and full to the touch -blown up like a balloon and the udders themselves will be swollen. You will be able to see a noticeable difference.

The anticipation of kids is so exciting - I'm sorry the man you purchased her from didn't give you better information - that makes it even harder.

Sometimes our pygmies get very loving just before they kid. They were friendly to start with- they would get that nesting instinct and want to be petted and stroked and in your lap all the time :)

Can't wait for your babies !!

Mom L said...

It's a good thing you've got expert bloggie friends because I am at an udder loss. I've never even felt a cow's udder, much less a goat's!! Now if Mom (Diane's Gram) were still with us, she could tell you all about cow udders. I hope Stuffin becomes extra loving for you as Deb described! I can just see her in your lap as she begins to kid.....

Diane L. Dodd said...

i'm with lola- i am udderly clueless.
i can't believe there are no pictures of the famous goat boob!!!

Don said...

like lola, i am udderly at a loss for you. i thought you did a great job with your description and details.

i'm glad i don't have to handle that job!

Shiloh Prairie Farm said...

Not knowing the date she was bred and watching the udder can be frustrating. Some of mine, especially the first time mothers seem to start uddering up a month before their due dates. Hope she gives those kids up already for you soon!

Anonymous said...

Waiting is definitely the hardest! Shortly before she kids the udder should get very swollen, just like Deb said. The udder will also be warmer to the touch then previously and the teats will get full. Some of my sister's goats would drip milk a day or two before kidding - she has Nigerians. This is our 7th year lambing and some of them still surprise me :)

Carol Bator said...

My guess is that your goat is indeed pregnant, but she was probably bred just shortly before you brought her home. I would guess that her kids will come in late February or around the first of March.

At least with my sheep, the udders begin to enlarge about a month before lambs are due. Right before the lambs are due, the udder will become full, round, and firmer. The teats will also fill out.

It is also not unusual to have 4 teats. On sheep the "extra" two teats are non-functional and do not get large or fill with milk.

I really don't have any experience with goats, so my guesses are based only on my sheep. But I truly do know that feeling of waiting for weeks and thinking that lambs could come any day for that whole time.

Maybe the December due date was based on the earliest possible breeding of your goat. This obviously did not happen until later.

Mare said...

I can be of no help at all, but i am fascinated! Can't wait for the baby to come!!!

IsobelleGoLightly said...

My mom Narcissa says that Puffin is a good girl to let you touch her udder. Mom was discharged from dairy goat service because she doesn't like her privates touched! She said that her udder was very full and big and she sort-of walked like a cow for a time. She had a lot of milk for me! Best wishes to your goaties from Isobelle!

Claire said...

Thanks so much to all for your comments! Lots of useful information in there! You are all right that the waiting really is the hardest part.

I think I'll take udder pictures this weekend, partly for Diane, and partly to see changes for myself by comparing photos over time.

Isobelle - these goats came from a petting zoo apparently, so that's probably why they don't mind being touched.

The seller in this case is the same guy who told us that Muffin was due on Thanksgiving day when she actually gave birth on (we think) December 28 and because by then we thought she wasn't pregnant, that is why we lost the babies, because she was outside and it was too cold. We brought Stuffin and Puffin inside at that time, because he'd said 'sometime in December' for them, so we figured maybe 'sometime in January' was more likely. Now it looks like maybe 'sometime in February'!!

We live and learn.