Dani, one of my four milkers, got what is called a stone or pea in the teat. Apparently it is a calcium deposit and they are sometimes still connected by a “string” up into the udder.
I could feel something in her teat, a small lump. A very small lump, but Miss Dani just happens to also have very small teats connected to her very capacious udder.
She has had calcium deposits before, but they always popped out easily without any concern. This time however, the stone was blocking the teat to the extent that I could not get her milk out! The stone was in her teat on Sunday, and since her udder can hold a lot of milk easily, I wasn’t too concerned about not milking her out for one day (we milk once every 24 hours). I figured the stone would come out the next day, Monday. When it didn’t, I started to get a bit alarmed, and went to my favorite online goat resource list, Holistic-Goats to share what was happening. I got back some advice from my favorite goat mentor, Irene Ramsay.
A ‘pea-in-the-teat’ is the pits. It’s a calcium stone that has a tail on it attaching it to the wall of the teat canal. Vets have a nasty thing like a corkscrew they use on cow teats for this, but it’s not safe for soft goat teats – our vet told me to take a jump when I asked, he didn’t like using it on cows!
What does work on goats is a very fine metal crochet hook – the kind that’s fine enough to hook up a run on a silk stocking. Sterilise it and introduce through the teat orifice, feeding gently up the teat canal, rotating slightly as you ease it up, then just as slowly rotate it out again. Your aim is not to hook the ‘pea’ but to break its thread, so that next time you milk, it will come out. Or it will retreat loose into the milk reservoir so you can get the milk out. Sometimes you have to repeat this manoeuvre if it doesn’t work the first time.
I haven’t had to do it myself – my doe’s ‘pea’ lost its tail when she dried off, and flew out so fast when I milked her at freshening that I couldn’t find it in the bedding straw (very annoying, I’d have liked to see it). But the method was described as above by several on the WSU list some years back. If you do it right, there’s no infection, swelling or blood, so no need for medication. The goats seem to be fairly co-operative, I guess it beats having the pea running up and down tugging on the inside of the teat canal, which must hurt.
I could feel what seemed to be a “string” and I did have a tiny metal crochet hook on hand.
The next morning I boiled it for ten minutes, then went out there to see what I could do. I was surprised how easily the crochet hook went inside the teat. There is truly a “canal”. I was unable to hook the string or tail, however.
I was very upset because I didn’t want Dani to dry up on that side, but if I couldn’t get the stone to stop blocking I wasn’t sure what else we could do. I did manage to milk out about a cup or so while holding the crochet hook inside the teat with one hand, and milk with the other.
Actually I was milking with my fingers, as that is what it takes to milk Dani since her teats are so tiny. I will have to post some pictures sometime of the difference in size of my girls’ teats.
The crochet hook kept the stone from blocking the orifice, so I could milk her but it was too strenuous to keep up. I milked her out on the one side and went to bed feeling bad about the other side which was still full.
Goat owners let their does’ udders fill with milk all the time when they force dry them. But I don’t like to do that. Like Irene is fond of saying, Goats are dairy animals, they are designed to milk, why dry them off?
So now she’s not been milked out on that side for 48 hours.
By the way, Dani was being very wonderful throughout all this. She didn’t really kick, except she would sometimes lift one back foot and try to scrape my hands away. Otherwise the probing with the metal hook didn’t seem to bother her much at all.
Finally on the morning of the 30th, Wednesday, I managed to get the tail of the stone to break.
I think I’d been trying to get the hook around the tail and break it, but what ended up working was to press the teat as if I were milking to engage the stone down into the orifice as tightly as it could go. Then move my fingers down to the orifice to hold the stone there, then insert the crochet hook past the stone and twist the hook around the stone as if trying to grab hold of the stone and remove it.
The metal hook against the stone was like scraping glass. With that last manuveur I think I pressed the stone against the inside of the teat canal which caused some minor cuts as some blood came out with the milk.
But it also seemed to break the tail from the stone.
I didn’t think I’d done anything, and decided to just milk her out. I was very upset, shaky and crying and praying.
I milked the one side, and decided to just go ahead and milk the other side and at least try. I figured I’d give up now and just let that side dry up.
And then POW, into the bucket the little stone flew!
What a relief! I was able to milk her out completely. In the next few days her production was a little lower than normal but then rose again.