While less common to most dairy lovers, goat milk can be consumed as a beverage or alternative to cow milk. Goat milk is nutritious and contains vitamins and minerals similar to cow milk. Some people even prefer goat milk to cow milk.
If you have dairy goats, you surely have tasted the sweet delicacy. If you are newer to raising goats for their milk or are considering adding them to your farm, you have a few factors to consider to ensure safe and effective care.
How often should you milk a goat?
The frequency you can milk your goat depends on whether they have a kid to feed. You should milk your goat twice daily if she produces enough milk, if she has just one kid, or if you are raising the kids with formula. You should milk your goat once daily if her kids are relying on her milk completely or if she does not produce much milk.
With frequency in mind, what other factors determine the rate at which you milk your goat?
Can you increase or decrease how much milk your goat produces? Let’s consider the many aspects that can affect proper, healthy milking of goats.
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Milking a Goat
Factors That Determine How Often You Should Milk a Goat
First of all, you need to understand that a doe, or female goat, will not produce milk unless she recently gave birth. Whether or not your goat is a dairy breed, female goats begin producing milk to feed their young.
How much milk goats produce is determined by age, breed, feed, and other traits. However, there are some key factors to consider when deciding how often you should milk your goats.
Does Your Goat Have Kids?
If your goats have kids who feed on her milk, you have to reduce how often you milk her so that her kids can have enough milk.
If your dairy goat has just one kid or if you are raising her kids with formula, you can milk her twice a day because she can produce enough milk for her kid and you.
If your goat has more than one kid, you have to milk her just once per day.
Is She a Dairy Goat?
Dairy goats, just like dairy cows, are breeds that produce large quantities of milk to feed their young with extra milk that you can collect.
Goat breeds that have other purposes (such as meat production) only produce milk sufficient for their young and do not produce a lot of excess for collection.
If your goat is a dairy goat, you can collect milk from her up to twice daily. If she is not a dairy breed, you should not collect her milk so that her kids will have sufficient milk.
You can only harvest milk from non-dairy goat breeds if you will raise the kids with formula.
How Often Have You Been Milking Your Goat?
The more often you milk a goat, the more often they will produce milk so long as there is sufficient feed.
A goat’s milk producing organs cannot tell the difference between you collecting milk and her kids feeding on her milk. Milking a goat creates the same response in her body that she needs to continue to produce milk as if her kids were feeding.
As long as you continue to milk, the goat will produce milk. It is important to not overmilk and deplete the milk supply if the goat is also caring for kids.
Is She Freshened?
Remember that a goat will not produce milk if she did not recently give birth. Freshening a goat is the practice of mating her with a buck, or male goat, some months after she gives birth to maintain milk production.
Goats will continue producing milk typically for up to ten months after giving birth. The length of this period is usually determined by the breed and can vary. You have to freshen the goat to continue collecting milk from her.
If the lactation period is ending, the goat will start producing less milk. You will need to monitor this timing and milk her less often to accommodate this change. If you allow for freshening, wait until she gives birth and starts producing milk again before you resume milking.
With just one doe, you cannot get milk every day of the year, so you need at least two or three does that breed at different intervals to have a constant milk supply.
Increasing or Decreasing Milk Production
To encourage your doe to produce more milk, increase the amount of cereals and grains in her daily feed ration. You can also milk her more frequently to encourage more frequent lactation.
To decrease how much milk your goat produces, reduce the amount of cereals and grains in her feed, and begin to milk to taper how often you milk her.
As milk production slows, milk her once a day for 2-3 weeks. Then, cut back to milking her only once every 3 days for 2-3 more weeks before you stop milking her entirely.
How to Milk a Goat
The first thing to consider is the number of kids the goat has to feed. If she has kids relying on her for feed, you should milk her at night so that she can produce enough milk for her kids before the next day. To do this, separate her from her kids at night. The kids should have access to water, hay, and grains.
If your goat only has one kid or or if you are raising the kids with formula, you can milk the goat twice daily with an interval of 12 hours.
You should not start milking a goat immediately after she gives birth. Allow her kids to feed on her milk for eight weeks before weaning them off to allow for proper care. If you plan to introduce the kids to formula, wait at least one week before milking and separating the kids from their mother.
Before you milk a goat, wash her udder with warm water (usually 110°F) and clean her teats with a cleansing solution made for lactating animals. When you are sure that her teats are clean enough, rinse them with warm water, and then start milking her.
Your doe should stand on a higher platform (a stanchion) to reduce the pain and stress of bending down while you milk her.
Hold the upper part of her teats, gently squeeze the area, and press downwards (toward the end of her teats). Continue this session for 20-30 minutes or until her udder is empty.
What Happens When You Do Not Milk a Goat as Often as You Should?
If you allow the goat’s udder to fill and remain full without milking, she will become very uncomfortable and start to feel pain. Goats produce milk according to the demand and need to be milked or feed their kids to empty their udder.
You should milk your goats regularly or allow her kids to feed on her milk so that her udder does not remain full and cause her pain.
Dairy Goat Breeds
Are you thinking of getting dairy goats for your farm? Here are some recommended breeds known for their milk production:
- Nigerian Dwarf
Depending on the breed, age, and health of your goats, you should milk your goat once or twice daily. Goats with kids should be milked once per day so that her kids can have enough milk.
You can influence milk production by increasing or decreasing the amount of grains in her diet. Remember to freshen your goats to continue milk production over longer periods of time.