Blog written by Sarah Klapstein
Part of my morning and evening chores routine, every day, now includes milking a goat. Milking twice a day, by hand, in the pasture. Something I never saw myself doing. Never say never, I should know this well by now. A few years ago I taught myself to milk with one of the first goats to come to BGC. Since then I had only tried my hand at it again a few times when the babies born at BGC this spring couldn't keep up with their former dairy mama's milk production. Now, it's second nature and another thing added to the seemingly never ending daily to do list. I certainly don't need anything else added to the daily to do list but there isn't anything I wouldn't do for Ruby.
There are some goats that instantly grab a hold of me. Jitterbug, Evangeline, Renata, they are perfect examples of goats who instantly made their mark on my heart, and now, there's Ruby. There are some goats that come into the rescue that need us in a different way. Yes, they all depend on us for their daily care and love but there are some that need more. More comfort, more focus, more care. The girls before Ruby that had that same hold on me, they all needed me more, just as Ruby does.
Ruby was a part of our Golden Girls rescue although technically, Ruby isn't quite in her golden years just yet. Ruby is 6 years old and this year she had to have a C section to deliver her big, giant baby. When I first met Ruby she was just a few weeks post-op and not in the best shape. Her surgery scar was still very apparent but she was thin, oh so thin, her coat was rough and she walked oddly. Her body had clearly suffered some trauma and although she could get around just fine, something clearly wasn't right. The dairy knew she shouldn't be bred again so asked if we would take her along with the Golden Girls. When I went to meet the Golden Girls I was greeted at the gate by Ruby and she never left my side, looking at me with those sweet, sweet eyes and that trademark Ober head tilt. In that moment I knew, we were taking her and she had to come to BGC.
Her trust in me was immediate and her affection was, and still is, over the top. Not only is she like a puppy following my every step and wanting snuggles, she loves to lick me. Especially on my face and especially when I'm milking her. I wasn't planning on having to milk her, in fact, I didn't know the dairy still was until she had been home a few days and wouldn't stop crying. She wanted to be milked and no wonder, her udder was huge. And so it began.
Yes, I could let her dry up but that process wouldn't be easy given what we're feeding her to help her gain the weight she so desperately needs and not to mention, we need the milk. Between our 2 farms we are feeding 4-5 gallons of raw goats milk to our bottle babies everyday so why not milk her? And why do I milk her in the pasture where Yumi's babies use me and Ruby as a jungle gym, yank mouthfuls of hair out of my ponytail and try and steal sips from Ruby non-stop during the process? Well, getting into the stanchion is a struggle for her due to what Dr. P believes is a spinal injury.
Dr. P was out not long after Ruby arrived so I asked him to take a look at her. He had me walk her in the pasture so he could watch her. She often drags her back feet along, Dr P noted that she didn't lift her back legs past her hip joint. He felt her muscles and pointed out how muscular she was in her front versus her back. What does it all mean? She likely sustained a spinal injury during kidding the year before. That forces her to lean forward, carrying more weight than normal in her front and her inability to fully move her back legs properly. That also explains why she had to have a C section this year and is unable to continue to safely be bred. Thankfully, her pregnancy test came back negative, we tested her too, just to be sure.
Ruby is on medication to help ease any pain or discomfort the injury causes her, she's likely been living with it for over a year. She gets around well though, she has even started standing on the gate to cry for me if I'm 5 minutes late to feed her grain or if I've switched up the routine of when I now let Yumi's kids out for a playdate with the bottle kids so I can milk Ruby in peace. She is still quite needy but even on the longest, hardest days, the days where I just simply can't get it all done before 9pm and still leave things unattended to, even on those days, I don't mind. I always make time to not only milk her but to sit with her and give her cheek scratches, let her lick my face and have sweet conversations with me. What I wouldn't give to know what she's saying. She has affectionately become known as "Aunt Ruby" as Yumi's kids absolutely adore her. Keiko & YoYo climb on her, go out grazing with her, eat with her, it's really quite sweet. The bottle babies have taken to her as well when she spends time with them, she can get them access to branches they can't get on their own. She is so patient and kind with them, it makes my heart hurt that she didn't get a baby of her own to keep....but those days are thankfully in her past.
We can never erase their past. Sometimes, no matter what we do, no matter how much money we are willing to spend, no matter the time, energy and heart we're willing to commit, it isn't always enough to make it better. Luckily for Ruby, her injury is one she can live a long, healthy life with and she is now somewhere that her health will never be at risk for a baby or for milk.
This rescue life has made me many things, a milkmaid was certainly unexpected but every time I milk Ruby and she turns around to lick my face while I do, I am reminded that some of the best things are the unexpected things.