Stone in the Teat – Calcium Deposit in Goat Udder

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.

Hi Starlene,
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.

Click here for all the Wisdom of Irene Ramsay articles

Irene asked that I include her email address for anyone that has queries. Her email address is shown below in an image, you may also use this contact form.

I am acquainted with Irene Ramsay through the Holistic Goats list on Yahoo Groups. I read all of her posts as they are always full of wisdom and natural remedies for healing. I am honored that Irene Ramsay has agreed to allow me to publish some of her articles on my website. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Thanks, Irene! Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name. Copyright 1974-2020 Irene Ramsay. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without express permission of the author. Thank you. Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name.

Pink Milk Isn’t Mastitis by Irene Ramsay

Irene responds to an oft-asked question: My young doe has blood in her milk, why is this happening, is it mastitis?

First off, this isn’t mastitis, it’s usually referred to as ‘pink milk’. Pink milk, in all its shades, is a metabolic disturbance and is usually caused by lack of available blood calcium. Blood in the milk can be a sign that the doe hasn’t enough available blood calcium. Usually this is because she has drained her skeleton to the limit and hasn’t yet started storing more calcium from her feed.

In my experience, most forms of mastitis in goats are also metabolic or traumatic, in which case antibiotics don’t mend them, because they are not caused by bacteria. Even when mastitis is caused by bacteria, antibiotics often don’t work on goats nearly so well as the good old-fashioned remedies goat people and midwives have been using for 1000s of years.

Pink milk can happen any time in lactation if there’s lack of blood calcium for some reason, but most usually in the first 3-4 months of lactation, when the goat’s skeleton is at its most drained of calcium.

It can also happen, along with thickening udder tissue, if the doe needs a bit more cobalt to process the calcium. My experience. [Extra cobalt can be by bolus, 1% solution or using B12 injections.] The ideal treatment for pink milk, in my experience, is 1 tablespoon of limewater twice daily until the milk shows no residue at the bottom of the container after standing for an hour or two. However, trying to find limewater these days is pretty hopeless. The simplest way to treat it is to give the doe 1 teaspoon dolomite (powder) daily, mixed in the ration.

You can also offer the doe one pint of her own milk after each milking, if she’ll take it. This helps the calcium level, too. It’s tempting to let them drink more than that, but from personal experience, I’ve found more than a pint at a time gives some goats acidosis, so I’m stingy with it.

Keep up the dolomite for about a month after the pink stops. Some stop right away, some take several days. It’s a waste of effort to give more than 1 teaspoon a day as that’s about the limit the body will absorb efficiently in 24-hours.

Goats that are normally on a high calcium diet are less efficient at absorbing calcium than those with less diet calcium. If the diet is calcium-rich (more than 2:1 ration with phosphorus) use DCP (di-calcium phosphate) instead, dose by weight on the container. It’s used for bitches mostly.

You need to consider whether the low blood calcium level could be due to a cal:phos imbalance. If the phosphorus isn’t high enough, you can give yeast instead of dolomite, same dose of 1 teaspoon daily.

Deficiency in copper and/or cobalt may also affect the blood calcium levels, as both minerals a required in minute quantities to absorb diet calcium into the system.

The milk won’t hurt the kids. The reason you have the blood in it, is that milk is made by processing blood, and the manufacturing process is not quite up to par, so some of the blood is coming through unprocessed. You can use it yourself, if you want to. After the milk has stood for a while wherever you cool it, the pink material sinks to the bottom, so you can pour off the top level and use it without having pink colour/blood spots. The bottom layer can prove quite thick, and is slightly salty to taste.

How long does your young doe have to go between the night milking and the next morning? Try and make her 3 milkings 8 hours apart, or even go to 4 milkings 6 hours apart. Yeah, it’s tiring, but I’ve had to do it. In another month, her udder will have adjusted better to the amount it has to carry, and you can drop back to twice daily. My experience. And you’ll be pleased to know, it shouldn’t happen her next lactation, she’ll be an old hand by then.

The clumpy bits you can get from pink milk – irregularly shaped pieces of tissue? These also commonly occur in traumatic damage to the udder, including some forms of mastitis. It’s the damaged tissue coming away and exiting through the teat sphincter. This is a good sign as it shows healing is taking place. The damaged tissue has been sloughed off by new healthy tissue. Just like if you graze or cut yourself, the damaged surface finally comes off when healing has taken place underneath.

Wormy solid, cheese-like milk you may squeeze out of an unhappy udder – and sometimes out of a perfectly healthy udder if the butterfat is high: these worms generally come out at the start of milking. The more solid part of the milk has sunk to the bottom of the milk reservoir by gravity, so it has to come out first, and what has sat in the teat canal since the last milking has simply congealed. If it is followed by normal milk, it is NOT disease, just maybe you should milk oftener or test the butterfat and solids-not-fat to ease your mind. Where the solid material in the milk is more like fine grit, most usually called sub-clinical mastitis, this in my experience is an indication of cobalt deficiency. You can’t always feel this coming out, you just see it in the strainer or strip cup. You can also find more solid material at the bottom of milk that’s been standing a while. This generally happens when a doe is starting to dry off. She’s cut down the volume of liquid being produced but hasn’t yet adjusted the butterfat and solids-not-fat content, so it’s thicker. Makes good yoghurt.

If you find such solid material at the bottom of milk from a doe in full milk, her intake of calcium is too high for her needs. If I’ve been giving dolomite to mine over the kidding and early lactation period because of very lush pasture, or no pasture at all (drought), when I see the solids at the bottom after the milk’s been standing, I know it’s time to stop the dolomite till next time it’s needed.

– Irene Ramsay.
Click here for all the Wisdom of Irene Ramsay articles
Irene asked that I include her email address for anyone that has queries. Her email address is shown below in an image, you may also use this contact form.

I am acquainted with Irene Ramsay through the Holistic Goats list on Yahoo Groups. I read all of her posts as they are always full of wisdom and natural remedies for healing. I am honored that Irene Ramsay has agreed to allow me to publish some of her articles on my website. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Thanks, Irene! Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name. Copyright 1974-2020 Irene Ramsay. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without express permission of the author. Thank you.

Drying Off Your Milker – We Don’t

The common practice is to dry off your pregnant doe when she is three months along in her pregnancy. However, we ended up doing something different, and feel more comfortable not forcing our does to dry off.

Some believe that if you don’t force dry the doe, you will negatively affect her next lactation. However, there is another camp that believes if you force the doe to dry off, you will negatively affect her next lactation. Both camps say the next lactation will be less if you dry off, or if you don’t dry off. Which do you believe? I guess you just have to do what you are most comfortable with. A recommended method for drying off your doe is to restrict her grain, water, and just stop milking, period. Many believe that the udder must get tight and full, in order to signal the body to stop making milk. This can cause mastitis, and some prophylactically “dry treat” with antibiotics infused into the udder to prevent mastitis. We are not comfortable using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and certainly not into the udder “just in case”.

We originally intended to follow popular method of drying off at 3 months.

64 days gestation: We started a month earlier, to slowly ease Lightning into drying off. We began on December 20th by cutting down on her grain.

66 days gestation: December 22nd, I am not milking her out totally. She is giving us just over 5# daily with two milkings.

76 days gestation: On January 1st, we stopped the morning milking. With 1x a day milking, she continued to give us 2 to 3 pounds. I was very hesitant to follow the popular rule of “just stop milking” the doe in order to dry her up. I discussed my concerns with Irene Ramsay, who explained to me that if a doe has not dried herself up by this time, Irene does not force the doe to dry up. I was mostly worried about causing mastitis, as a common cause of mastitis is the udder getting too full. It doesn’t make any sense to me to force drying up. I know the common theory is the doe needs this time to produce healthy kids, but humans lactate while pregnant and even tandem nurse. Most of the time, the body knows to cut down on the amount of milk being produced.

So we decided to see what would happen, and continued to milk Miss Lightning. Over the next few weeks, her production slowly dropped.

103 days gestation: By January 28th, she was under 2 pounds.

112 days gestation: When she dropped to 1.1# on the 6th of February, we went to milking every other day.

121 days gestation: She gave us 3/10th of a pound on the 15th, and at this point we stopped milking her.

Lightning’s first lactation lasted 339 days. She produced 1704# of milk. Her daily average up to milking once daily was (1704 divided by 293 days) was 5.81#. Note: We pulled Lightning’s first kids, and bottle fed them, so we were able to get accurate amounts of her milk production from day 1.

Milk Testing – Taking a Clean Sample

These are the materials I take with me to the milk parlor for testing.

* unscented baby wipes
* bottle of alcohol
* roll of paper towels
* rubber gloves
* udder/teat salve

Step 1: Get your first doe on the stand and stanchioned in. Wipe her udder and teats carefully and thoroughly with one or two baby wipes. Get your strip cup and milk several streams of milk from each teat. You are going to take a sample from one teat at a time.

Step 2: Put your glove(s) on.

Step 3: Next, pour some alcohol onto a paper towel and carefully wipe the entire right teat, including a careful, gentle scrubbing of the teat orifice.

Step 4: Allow the teat to air dry. This is a VERY important step. Alcohol works by evaporation, and a wet teat can still harbor bacteria, which will contaminate your sample.

Step 5: Get another paper towel with alcohol and again clean the teat and orifice carefully. Again, be sure to allow the teat to air dry. Taking these steps helps to ensure your milk sample is perfectly clean. There’s no sense in sending in contaminated samples and getting all worried about the results just because you weren’t clean enough the first time.

Step 6: It helps if you have a helper about now. But if you are doing this alone, what I do is retrieve the Right Teat tube for this doe. I put the lid of the tube in between my front teeth carefully, and pull the tube away from the lid. Now you are going to express milk from the right teat into that tube, being careful to not touch the tube to any surface, and also trying to squirt the milk perfectly into the tube without touching the milk to the sides of the tube. Don’t worry if you didn’t do it perfectly, it is probably good enough, but that is what you are aiming for. When you replace the lid, be very careful to not contaminate the tube or lid opening.

Step 7: Replace the tube into the sandwich bag.

Step 8: Remove your gloves and go back to Step 2, this time substituting the left teat for the right teat.

Your samples should be refrigerated or chilled on ice as soon as possible, especially in warmer weather. Talk with the dairy lab guy about proper shipping methods if you need to ship. We are lucky that we live close to a dairy that he services, so he will stop by and pick up our samples but usually we drop them at the dairy early the morning that he is picking up samples.

If you find that your doe has a subclinical infection, the next step, if you are planning to use antibiotics, is to test for antibiotic sensitivity. This is the best course to follow, because then you are treating the doe with the proper antibiotic to kill the specific bacteria with which she is having problems. Otherwise, you are wasting money on antibiotics that might not work, and needlessly exposing your doe to antibiotics, which are detrimental to the body because they kill off ALL the bacteria, bad or good. Additionally, you are causing bacteria in her body to build up a resistant to this specific antibiotic. The concern about treating with antibiotics is that supergerms are being produced, and we are finding more and more that our old standby antibiotics are no longer effective at treating illness. It is actually quite frightening when you learn that there are some supergerms that cannot be treated with antibiotics, and it is possible to die if you are afflicted with these supergerms.

The dairy lab technician will be able to tell you if the sample appears questionable, or contaminated. If it is, you may want to do a second test to make sure the doe really has an infection, before treating with antibiotics.

Step 9: Lastly, the udder salve. This is optional, but you might want to rub a bit on your doe’s teats, as alcohol is very drying.

Testing for Subclinical Mastitis – Home Tests

There are three ways to “test” for subclinical mastitis at home. [If you suspect subclinical mastitis, you may want to keep the milk from the house supply, it is safe to give to your chickens, dogs, cats, etc.]

1. Milk the doe, keeping her milk separate from the others, strain the milk, chill quickly and then allow to sit untouched in your refrigerator for several days. Make sure your refrigerator is keeping your milk cold enough. A direct quote from Organic Pastures “It is essential to remember that raw milk only tastes fresh if it is kept asleep, that means cold at about 35-38 degrees.” Organic Pastures sells cow’s milk, but this is good information for those of us using goat’s milk.

If the doe has subclinical mastitis, the milk will begin to go “off” by the 4th or 5th day. If I’m doing this test, I usually milk each side of the udder into separate containers to test both sides. If the milk is still good to 7 to 10 days, it is almost certain there is no mastitis involved. Reason being if your doe has subclinical mastitis, she has an infection in her udder, which is sloughing bacteria into the milk. An overabundance of the wrong kind of bacteria will produce an “off” or bad tasting milk. If there are no signs of mastitis in your does, but your milk goes off by 4-5 days, consider that your refrigerator is not keeping the milk cold enough.

2. Another test is to let the milk sit at room temperature for 48 hours, then examine the bottom of the jar. If there is sediment, that could mean subclinical mastitis. It is a good idea to test a healthy sample of milk as well as the suspected milk, for comparison.

3. Finally, a really good way to home test your doe’s milk is to try making buttermilk. Purchase a quart of store bought buttermilk. Place one cup of the doe’s milk in a jar, and add 2 Tablespoons of buttermilk to that. Mix well. Now, let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours. After twenty four hours, you should have fresh smelling, delicious buttermilk. The texture will be thick and creamy. If instead, you have something that seems slimy, you more than likely have a problem with bacteria – meaning that your doe has subclinical mastitis. (Although it could just be your milking practices are not clean enough and you are ending up with a lot of bacteria in your milk from the milking process).

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#4 Chill the Milk Quickly

4. CHILL THE MILK QUICKLY When we had our first goat in milk in April 2003, we would strain the milk immediately after milking into a jar, then set the warm milk in the freezer to cool. I learned that this was creating *Grade D* milk. As a result, this milk had a shorter shelf life. After five days in the fridge, this milk would start to have an off taste, a slight “goaty” taste to it, and if we made cheese, it would also taste off. I do NOT like the “goaty” taste, and if that is what our goats’ milk tasted like, I would not bother to have them.

We learned that chilling the milk quickly (using a water and alcohol mixture) ensures the milk will last from seven to ten days (and sometimes a few days longer) with a fresh delicious taste to it. When we weren’t chilling it properly and it came time to make cheese on the weekend I had to taste test every single jar to make sure none were tasting like store bought cow’s milk yet (because that is how it tastes first before tasting “goaty” in my experience) before I could even start making cheese.

Nowadays we try to freeze the milk within 12-24 hours if we aren’t planning to make cheese, so we don’t have to taste test as much. I code the bags with the date , as well as how long until the milk was frozen. (Sometimes I don’t get the milk into the freezer for three days, so the shelf life would be shorter on that bag, than one that was frozen 12 hours after it came from the goat).

We keep a three gallon plastic bucket in the freezer, mixed with part alcohol and part water. The ratio is approximately 1/2 part water and 1/2 part alcohol. The mixture should be slushy. If the ice is frozen very hard, you need more alcohol. If it does not turn to slush, you need to add water. The way it works is it pulls the heat from the jar of milk. I like to shake the milk jar gently to move the milk around in the jar so it gets colder faster. I did a test once on how quickly the milk chills using this mixture. The “slush” registered at 5°F. I put 3 pounds of milk in a half gallon jar. The temperature of the milk was at 89°F. When twenty minutes had passed, the temperature of the milk was down to 37°F.

I read someplace, sometime that the “goal” is to lower the temperature of the milk to under 40°F within 20 minutes of leaving the udder. That is supposedly to make “Grade A” milk.

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