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dairy goats: "part time" milkers?

Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
I confess I adore goats and we've been thinking about getting some. But I know I don't want to be chained to a routine of milking every morning (I am so NOT a morning person) all year round (and without providing milk I can't really justify keeping them around as pets). I also have an issue with separating young mammals from their mothers so that I can have the milk. So I've been thinking about a more "natural" way of having dairy goats and wanted to run some ideas by someone who has actually owned a dairy goat.

I call my idea "part time dairy goats". My idea is this: breed a dairy goat, kid(s) born in spring, after milk has come in I start helping myself to a batch of milk each day; the kids are nursing. My experience as a lactating mammal shows me that we make as much milk as is demanded so I can't see why I couldn't share with the kids without putting them on bottles. I can stop taking my share whenever I please and thus end my milking commitment. After the kids have weaned I could breed the goat again and start the cycle over or give her a year off and do the same with another female goat, or not breed any because maybe I need a break from it.

Would this work? Are there any obvious flaws I'm missing here? Note this is just milk for personal use, for making some cheese, so I'm not concerned about how much I'm going to get. More concerned about not having to milk every day I own the goats, separating kids and mamas, and keeping females in a perpetual state of pregnancy/lactation. Seems a way to have goats but without the commitment to milking year round. Any thoughts?


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Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
kinda

you will need to separate the young from mama for 4-12 hours prior to milking in order to receive an amount worth cleaning your gear.

on the topic of morning I am also not a huge fan of early mornings I milk about 10am and 10 pm

consistent schedules up to 14 hour between milking are cool so long as they are consistent so you could go noon and 10

if you have the time for bottle feeding you only have to keep the babies separate from mom for a few days one of the wire dog kennels right there in the pen with mom both protects the babies (sometimes mom or another goat will lay on the babies by accident) and keeps them from nursing after a few days of getting their milk form a bottle they wont go to mom, and they will always be bonded to you.

one thing I will add if you are the sort of person who becomes attached to critters, make sure you have a plan you can keep to for getting rid of the exess babies keeping everyone cause they are are "all just too cute to see go" is a good way to destroy your land.
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
Thanks, both of you.

Fiveandahalf, as a breastfeeding counsellor for humans I'm well aware of the difference between bottle-feeding and nursing - so much more than just getting adequate nutrition! So I suspect that all mammalian young benefit from nursing vs. bottle feeding. Nice to see some personal experience to back that up. I have no wish to bottle feed the kids, and would really like to not separate them at all from the mama.

I know with humans it's no big deal to add a pumping session at a set time of day between the baby's feedings and that soon the body will make extra milk for that session. So it was my thinking that just going it at the same time each day to milk (which I would do by hand, given only 1 or 2 goats) that soon the goat would produce a decent amount for my milking while still allowing the kids to nurse freely 24/7.

Thanks so much for the link, too. While I'm quite okay with eating meat from farm-raised animals, the issue of milk has recently reared its head for me as I realize that the practices involved in getting the milk often mean stressing the animals, not to mention the offspring.

Good point, Brice, about making sure we have homes for any kids we bring on.
                              


Joined: Dec 27, 2010
Posts: 30
Location: Many-snow-ta
A goat will only produce as much milk as it's genetics allow. They do have limits.
If you have an animal with a poor production, you might have to save every drop for the kid(s), no matter how often you milk. Or, if you have an animal with a heavy production you can take all you need and never have to separate the offspring from the mother.
They will produce more if you milk them twice a day, but that defeats your purpose anyway.

If you do get an animal that isn't a heavy producer, after the kids are about 3-4 weeks old you can separate them during the day and then milk in the after noon, leaving a bit left for the kids, and return the kids to her for the night. They will adapt, it just takes patience.

Sometimes heavy producers will have to be milked regularly even if the kids have access at all times, such as when a kid will only nurse from one side.

Most of the time, a doe will naturally wean her kids off after 3-5 months. If you continue milking after that, you will not want to stop whenever you've had enough, as the animal will need to be correctly dried off to prevent mastitis.

Hope that helps! What kind of goats are you planning on getting?

Zone 4 in Central Many-snow-ta
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
Really good points, Blackbird. All the better reason to have two or three does in this system; often there's one whose kids prefer one side of the udder, or who is naturally heavy with milk and needs some "robbed" for her own well-being. And I was speaking more in terms of, say.. extending lactation a few weeks beyond weaning for cheesemaking in the fall, rather than milking the doe until she develops mastitis. There's only so much detail one can go into posting from a mobile device, and you have to assume (or at least hope) that someone raising stock of their own has a general idea of acceptable practices in dealing with the variety of animal they're rearing.
                              


Joined: Dec 27, 2010
Posts: 30
Location: Many-snow-ta
Oh sorry, my response was in reply to the original post. I have no issues with milking after weaning. I have a doe that gave over 1 1/2 gallons at her peak and her lactation lasted about 18 months. She was finally dried off because she was bred. What I meant was maintaining an animal's lactation and then stopping whenever one pleases can cause mastitis. But as a breastfeeding counselor I'm sure the original poster realized that - just wanted to be clear for others that want to learn and find this thread.. Sorry! No worries.
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
My misunderstanding.
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    2
fiveandahalffarm wrote:

2. The kennel idea sounds like some sort of horrific reverse-farrowing crate; I can't imagine the goats taking kindly to it.

3. I think it's debatable whether abandoned kids are better bottle-fed and reared by humans or left to die as they would in nature; having only taken the former route in my personal experience, I can say with conviction it is something I will avoid at all cost in the future. It is beneficial neither to the abandoned kid nor the human surrogate, and given the choice I would -never- do it purposefully, regardless of how much spare time I might have.


I prefer the damn to raise them herself but if seperation is needfull this is the best way I've found it also keeps the big girls out of the baby's solid feed later on

If I ain't gonna see the kid fed I'd rather pop it on the back of the head and cook it up like a rabbit than let it die slow and my experience with bottle raising hasn't been half bad
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
brice Moss wrote:
I prefer the damn to raise them herself but if seperation is needfull this is the best way I've found it also keeps the big girls out of the baby's solid feed later on

If I ain't gonna see the kid fed I'd rather pop it on the back of the head and cook it up like a rabbit than let it die slow and my experience with bottle raising hasn't been half bad


Abandoned kids birthed naturally in the field die literally in the blink of an eye; if the mother doesn't take to them and they don't get a shot of colostrum within the first couple hours of birth, it's game over before the sun has set on the day - not a lot of suffering involved. My argument for not intervening is this: Besides the obvious time investment in bottle raising an animal, the goat will be overly dependent on you, even long after it's been weaned. It will not integrate well into the herd after being raised by human surrogates, and goats are extremely social animals; as such, they will continue to look to their "mother(s)" for the attention they need to live happy, productive lives. Just.. not.. worth it. Unless you fancy yourself a doe, I suppose.
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
Blackbird, you are correct, I would gradually wean off milking so as not to induce mastitis. Good advice for any lactating mama.

So this has been really informative and I appreciate all the responses. Not sure what breed we would use but given my scheme I would certainly look for good milk producers, and the idea of having 2 or even 3 goats lactating is even better in case one is low on supply or just to mix it up a bit and not milk the same one every day could even get away with less intervention that way. I love it!

We went to a couple ag fairs around here last fall and spoke to goat breeders. At that time we weren't wanting dairy but just "land clearing employees". Husband and I were both taken with the Toggenbergs. So pretty and the man's does were so gentle and sweet.

Then later I realized - what to do with them when the land clearing is done? So put that idea on hold. Next ag fair we'll ask about milkers!

By the way, out of curiosity...in our old town was a community farm and the calves were bottle fed. When our tour group asked why the calves couldn't nurse, the guides said that these were industry-bred milkers who made way too much milk for the calves, and that (interestingly) calves don't have satiety mechanisms to stop nursing - they nurse as much as they can, for the cows used to produce just the right amount. When the industry-supersized milkers have calves, the young overeat and get diarrhea. Their goats all nursed so presume they don't have the same problem?
            


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 177
Location: California
Less invasive - absolutely. Another great boon is that in a small, closely knit herd, some does will even share nursing duties; so if one is lost or for some reason cannot feed her own, the responsibility doesn't fall on you to rear them (if you're lucky).

So far as milking breeds, I've had experience with Nubians, Alpines, and Saanens. I'd recommend either of the first two.. Nubians would probably be the more prudent decision unless you have superb fencing or plan on investing in some. Saanens are the caprine equivalent of the Holstein cow. Big producers, but the milk is of lesser quality (lower butterfat ratio = not near as rich or sweet).

In regards to the last bit, I know that calves/kids are taken off their mothers in big commercial operations and raised on formula because it's of lesser value than the mother's milk, which can be sold again as usual (I think, roughly) a couple days after birthing (once the doe/cow has stopped producing colostrum and flushed it out of her system). So far as goat kids getting the scours from drinking too much milk, I've never seen or heard of it.
                              


Joined: Dec 27, 2010
Posts: 30
Location: Many-snow-ta
Both my parents were raised on dairy farms (cow) and I almost want to say that whatever the guide told you is a load of crap, probably to try to sound better to those who know nothing about cows.

Lambs, kids, and calves CAN definitely scour from milk replacer/powder forms, but from their own milk I've never heard of it happening. Many small farmers/cow owners still raise their calves with the mother.. engorging themselves on milk seems unlikely, no matter how much it produced.

As 51/2Farm said, it is much cheaper for farmers to raise their animals on powdered milk than real milk that they would otherwise sell. I'm guessing that's why you were told that.

I only have experience with Nubians, Alpines, and Saanens as well. Nubians are a favorite because of the colors and ears, as well as the high butterfat content.
Mariah Wallener


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 144
Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
Ah, Blackbird, good to know. This was the only working farm within miles and miles of city and suburb and none of us knew any better. I do believe the calves were being bottle-fed milk from the mother cows, however, rather than formula. Hmmm. Well, I'm not planning on having any cows and I'll chalk my story up to "this is what I was told but...". he he he.

The fencing is what kept us from jumping in on an offer to adopt some dwarf goats last year. We had just got our first livestock - two pigs, and our jerry-rigged electric fence kept us busy enough but was mostly sufficient to keep the pigs from wandering. Goats, OTOH, seem to be for expert fence-builders only so until such time as the budget allows for professionals to come in I think I'll start researching local nubians and other milking breeds.

Yay! I really wanted goats but had to find a way for them to "earn their keep" (that I could live with). Thanks!!!

 
 
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