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  Keep one eye on the udder
By Kalynn Sawyer Helmer - AgriNews Staff Writer

MONKLAND -- Have you ever been in a situation where you start thinking, what is that smell? And then all of a sudden you realize that you are that smell. No? Maybe? Well I have, and the smell in question was goat. As I drove home on a swelteringly hot day I realized I smelled like a goat and was trapped in my car unable to escape my own pungent aroma.

The idea to try my hand at different farming jobs came about after a month of working for The Eastern Ontario AgriNews and my realization that agriculture is a completely new language to my foreign ears. The up for just about anything' type of person that I am rationally suggested that I volunteer my services on a farm and see what it's like. My first challenge -- milking goats.

When I asked a friend if I could milk the goats at his client's farm he jumped at the chance for a helping hand. The farm's name is Mylyn Farms owned by Charlie and Tammy Jack. Mylyn Farms milks about 210 goats, has around 50 milking cows and is working 500-600 acres of land. Not to mention the lumber business in winter time and custom baling and wrapping. A fair-sized operation and I'm told one of the highest producing goat farms in Eastern Ontario. A good place to start.

Confession time -- while mentally preparing for my stint on the farm, I kept having trouble imagining myself actually doing the milking. I pictured the pasture, a bucket and myself perched on a stool tirelessly milking these 210 goats with my own hands and just could not shake the icky factor. Whoops. What a surprise when I saw that 15 or 20 goats can be milked at one time. Duh. I obviously would not be spending the afternoon yanking on goat udders, this is the 21st century after all. While I kept my embarrassment concealed behind scarlet cheeks (clearly the result of a hot day and not my own naiveté), my teachers for the day showed me around.

Staring at a full lineup of udders for the first time is completely unsettling. The only thought crossing my mind while I stood eye to eye with a row of teats is that I wished I had brought goggles. Those things have a mind of their own and I was legitimately scared that I was going to be squirted in the eye. It also did not help that my guides for the day thought this was hilarious and squirted milk at me while I hooked the goats up to the machines. It was like water guns with udders.

I got the hang of attaching the machines to the udders fairly quickly and believe I was a good helper, making the time go by faster. With three of us working together to get the milking done, the process was fairly easygoing. However, I cannot imagine doing it alone. The constant flashing of the machines letting you know another udder is done would be too hectic for me to handle. The farmers who do this everyday are real pros.

The whole process took about two and one half hours. While I was quite exhausted by the time we were done, I noticed that the rhythm of the work is actually calming. The job had a pattern, one that when you knew what was coming next it became almost relaxing. Like the slow rocking of a wave, each time I climbed up and down the ladder, I became more familiar with the motion and got my sea legs.

While I did not love the way the work made me smell, that's what showers are for. Who knows what job I will try next but I sure am ready for another challenge.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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