Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Let's Talk about Udders-- Part 2

Teat Growth: Is It Udderly Possible?

In the last article, I offered some info on the importance of teat length and diameter. Not only do both of these help the handmilker when it comes to comfort, they also offer some aid in the udder's 'health' department when it comes to keeping away bacteria (more on that later). I left off with an important question, one that many breeders and homesteaders, especially those new to dairy goats, often ask: Do teats actually grow more in length and diameter with each lactation?

So, Some People say...

When we bought our first goats, all were doelings, and of course, no one can tell much about teat size on a newly weaned or bottlebaby unless the teats are going to be extraordinarily huge when the animal is an adult (Sometimes bigger ISN'T better-- new article soon!). Nigerians, for the most part, are short, and since they are miniature goats, everything about them is miniature. Yes, this includes teats. Some standard breeds (Alpines, Saanen, Nubian, etc) have teats that are 3 - 4+ inches in length, and diameter in those can be the same and then some larger (3+ inches). 

If you have a first freshening doe, or even if you buy a doe who is a couple of years old that has freshened a few times, are you stuck with the teat size you see at freshening? As a newbie, I asked this question because I saw quite a few Nigerians with small teats. I have small hands, and it would have been difficult (even for me) to handmilk those animals. At the same time, I didn't have the money to invest in a milk machine, and many of the handmilkers did not seem to work very well, and I knew, in that case, that I would end up having to handmilk one way or the other. When shopping for goats, one thing I shopped for was teat size and placement (more on that later). I ran into several problems. Not only were the animals that I found with 'large' teats a LOT more expensive, but there was a controversy over teat growth when it came to those with the smaller teats. Some people said that the teats continued growing after year one, right along with the udder. Others --some from reputable herds, who had been in the business for a while-- said that there would be a lot of udder growth over the years but not a lot of teat growth, if any at all, and if I wanted size, I needed to make sure I 'bought' it from the start. Of course, as I said before, the majority of people who had 'size' also wanted more for their animals, especially does already in milk that could 'prove' their milking ability. 

After getting my herd together and breeding for several years, I saw a range in teat size from tiny to great. I also saw that some tended to have daughters with the same overall 'look' to the udder and others tended to not transmit that as readily (especially when I wanted them to). I did notice a little bit of growth in some teats, but not a lot, and in a few, I noticed none at all. I decided I needed to document this because numbers don't lie. I also figured out a few notable things-- see the **Notes below.

An Experiment

Last year, I decided to record data on the goats I had here on the farm that were in milk. A few have since moved on, and I have also added some since then. Next year, I hope to use comparison data from daughters to see if there's any change when comparing mom's, daughters, and granddaughters--even throwing in corresponding info from the sire's dam and so on when I have it available. I am on milk test this year, so I can also include some of that data next year. When measuring the girls, I measured them full at their morning milking and about 3 months into lactation. Length is measured from the udder floor to the tip of the teat. Diameter was measured around the top of the teat. I will probably also include a 'mid' teat measurement for next year to see if this area also grows in width. After all, inquiring minds want to know!

Following is the information, discussion, and results of what I have seen thus far in my own herd.
TL= Teat Length in inches                    TD = Teat Diameter in inches
Doe's Name #fresh 2013 data and freshening # TL TD 2014 data TL TD **Notes:
NC Promisedland Z Bella 2 1 doeling; freshening #1 1.15 2 2 bucklings; freshening #2 1.44 2.13 Hooray! There's an increase in size here.
On Firestone Creek R Palabra 2 1 kid; dead after delivery. Freshening #1 1 1.75 2 kids; doeling and buckling for freshening #2 1.25 1.85 Some growth, but not a lot. However, Palabra did not milk more than 3 weeks on her first freshening. I had too many others to milk, so I let her dry up. She is currently for sale, but if she is still here next year, (or if the new owner wants to keep a record) we will see if another freshening brings on more changes.
On Firestone Creek Acorn 3 1 doeling; freshening #2 1.75 2.75 1 doeling; freshening #3 1.95 2.85 Third freshener. She has been sold. I do have her daughter and her niece that I can evaluate next year, in addition to a few cousins. I wish everyone had this teat size!
On Firestone Creek Sunnee Day 2 1 buckling; freshening #1 1.25 2 1 buckling; freshening #2 1.5 2.9 Sunnee had quite a bit of growth from last year to this year!
On Firestone Creek P Palisade 4 3 doelings; freshening #4 1.75 2.15 We will record more of Palisade's data next year, and we will have more of her daughters data to add as well. Right now, Palabra is the only data we have.

Results and Conclusion:

So, thus far, I saw an almost 90% increase in one doe in regard to teat diameter and overall growth in both areas for all does. I'd have to conclude from the above data that there is growth from one freshening to the next along with an improvement in udder capacity. The only doe who had very little growth did not nurse any kids, and she was allowed to dry off quickly after delivery.

So should you take a chance on a first freshener with small teats? I would say that as long as you can milk her comfortably the first year, give her a try! She might just surprise you the next time. 

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