There are a couple reasons that a doe’s udder may be lopsided. Mastitis is also another reason; if you see your doe severely lopsided, you should probably get a test just to make sure there isn’t anything fishy going on there.
However, with dam-raised kids that are nursing, it’s often because the kids are nursing unequally. This is especially prevalent with only one kid, but it happens with two kids, too.
For example, about two and a half weeks after Blackberry kidded with Magnolia and Aztec, I noticed that one side of her udder was smaller than the other. Not by a lot, just noticeable. I’d been putting her up on the milk stand and milking a little in the evenings so a) she’d become used to the milk stand, and b) her production would keep up no matter what the kids were doing. The next time I had her on the stand, I inspected and discovered that the smaller side had less mammary tissue, especially up in the back.
After some research, there looked to be two possibilities about what was happening. Either the kids were drinking mostly on the smaller side, making the “milk memory” smaller as it was constantly being depleted (the other side more prone to filling up and expanding the milk memory). Or, the kids were drinking off the bigger side more, and the smaller side was drying up due to less use.
My research also cautioned that lopsidedness can become permanent really fast, so you needed to jump on it as soon as you noticed it.
That evening I taped up the smaller side to a) see exactly how much she produced without kid interference, and b) convince the kids to drink off the other side. The next morning she’d gotten the tape off, but her udder looked even.
Which meant it was the first reason. So I spent probably a week taping the smaller side in the evenings to give it time to expand and fill out the “milk-memory.”
By this time Blackberry was getting annoyed with the kids nursing, too, so she was only letting them nurse for a few moments when she felt like it (which meant they had no time for pickiness on deciding which side they liked better).
Overall, her udder is almost exactly even now. When you milk her out you can still tell there’s a little difference in the development of udder tissue, but she looks good:
Now cue Sari kidding. I was being more watchful of the issue this time around, but I barely had time to prepare for this one. The kids ONLY drank off the one side, and within two days, that side was about a third of the size of the other side (which they were not drinking off of). I’m not sure what that’s about.
But, the same protocol as before. In the evenings I started taping up the smaller side to give it time to expand and create “milk memory” while encouraging the kids to drink off of the other side.
There was definite improvement, but she was still pretty lopsided. Worried about how much I had to try to fix this problem, I ramped up my efforts, and taped her up during the daytime, too.
This is where you have to be careful: make sure you fully milk out the side that you’re working with if you decide to tape up 24/7 (even if you tape only for 12 hours, milk the side out). You don’t want to create the opposite problem and have the smaller side dry up because she’s full too often!
The morning after I did that (several days into the night-time taping up) her udder was pretty even, milk wise. The smaller side was still tighter than the other side and obviously had less “milk memory,” even though they both had about the same amount of milk. The next morning, after only a 12 hour tape up, she’s looking much better. There’s only a little difference between the halves.
I wonder if being only a week from kidding helped with allowing her udder to be flexible. She also has such a strange udder that completely disappears when she’s not milking, the super-malleable quality probably helped. I also wonder if it’s hindering as well though, and that’s why the lop-sidedness was severe so fast.
My strategy for now is to rotate which days I’ll tape up that side for 24 hours (with every 12 hours milkings) vs. 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Hopefully as her production naturally increases and the kids become better at nursing (and she gets more impatient with them like Blackberry and only allows them to nurse at certain times and not be picky!) it will be all even.
I think the key thing to keep in mind is to pay attention. If you catch it quickly enough, it seems to be decently fixable!
Do you have any lopsided udder stories? What about tricks to keep the babies nursing off of both sides? Anything to add?