Saturday, August 2, 2014

Let's Talk about Udders!

Let's Talk UDDERS!

So you like this one?


But maybe not this one? 


Why not? What's the difference? Obviously, the second doe has more fill on the left side, and her teats are not perfectly plumb. She is not symmetrical either with teat position, and the trained eye would see that her attachments are not perfect. She is also a few years older than the first doe, probably had kids nursing on her (who tugged and pulled and changed the udder structure a bit), and has a 'clip' job that is not as nice as the first doe. All of those things come together to make one wonder whether she's getting the bad side of the deal here. Maybe she is as nice as the doe on the left and just hasn't had the opportunities to prove it? Maybe not?

Over the next few weeks, I want to take the time to break down the parts of the udder and examine them, not only to further educate myself, but to help anyone else out there who is interested in learning about it. I want to start with information I've been collecting over the past two years on two important topics-- teat diameter and teat length in Nigerian dwarfs. We'll start in this article by discussing diameter.

Teat Diameter

Teat diameter is the circumference of the teat where it attaches to the udder. Diameter is important, obviously, because 1) if a person is handmilking, the diameter will affect how the hand is positioned and how much effort it takes to extract milk from the udder; 2) if a person is machine milking, size could call for the use of various size inflations and possible teat damage if using improper sizes. A doe with small diameter, even if she has larger orifices, will take longer to milk--hand or machine--because not as much milk fills the teat at each expression. Is this a buying/selling point for owners? It can be, especially if you own a dairy or your main goal is to have a productive (and fast) milker. 

Teat Length

Teat length is the length of tissue beginning where the udder joins with the teat and ending at the orifice. Again, like diameter, it is important for comfort for the handmilker, for more 'fill' and faster expression of the milk into the pail with each expression, and importantly, for protection from invasive bacteria and bacteria already in the udder. Anyone who has ever tried to milk a goat with tiny teats knows how difficult it can be, especially if you are a man or if you are a woman with larger hands. Sometimes a Henry milker or some other milking device or machine must be used because handmilking can become painful. At the same time, longer teats mean that more milk (especially with larger diameter) is able to fill the teat and re-fill quickly with every milking stroke. This enables the udder to be emptied much faster than smaller teats. Lastly, during milking (and kids nursing), bacteria can easily enter the orifice into the udder. If there is already bacteria present, it usually settles into the lower portion of the teat; this is why it is advisable to milk out a few test 'squirts', check for blood, etc, and then continue milking. If teats are short, it seems that less distance would make it easier for bacteria to attain access into the udder tissue or settle into the udder, possibly making the animal more susceptible to infections, including mastitis. 

So, we want diameter, and we want length! However, we are talking Nigerians here, not Alpines, LaManchas, Saanen, or Obies. Everything about a Nigerian is little, right? Especially in first fresheners. And the teats don't really grow, do they? Hmmmm.... 

Come back for MORE to come in the next article! 

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