If you’re new to raising goats, the excitement of seeing your first kids arrive on the scene can easily distract you from the more important task at hand – managing your doe’s milking routine.
You don’t want to starve her babies, but at the same time, you’ve been waiting for that first taste of fresh milk for six months or more!
When it comes to the right time to start milking, opinions vary wildly.
Some recommend you should wait until the babies wean themselves naturally at around 12 to 16 weeks of age, and others saying you can start as soon they’re two weeks old.
I would recommend being flexible with your start date and make a decision based on the health of your kids.
If they’re putting on weight and have good body condition, there’s no reason you shouldn’t start milking once a day as soon as they reach two weeks old.
If they still seem a little weak or unsteady, you might have to wait until they’re a little stronger.
There are two basic milking regimes, and each one comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Once-a-Day Milking Regime
Sharing is caring, and this regime means your baby goats get all the milk during the day and are then separated from the doe for 12 hours at night, allowing you to commence a morning milking routine.
This approach has obvious benefits for the kids and gives you more flexibility as you won’t be bottle-feeding the babies and can always leave them in charge of the milking should you need to go away for a couple of days.
The only downside is that you’re sharing the milk supply so, you won’t get quite as much. This isn’t an issue with a dairy breed known for its high milk production.
With a less productive breed, however, it makes the whole process futile.
We attempted this approach with a couple of our Boer goats, but as this is a meat goat breed, we were battling our way through a 15-minute milking process and getting only a couple of mouthfuls of goat milk as a reward for our labors.
Dairy goats, like the Saanen or Nigerian Dwarf, however, are high producers, so will give you plenty of extra milk to share around.
Things to Know When You Milk a Goat Once a Day
- Baby goats get all the milk they want during the day
- Flexible as you won’t have to bottlefeed the kids
- Kids will look after milking for you if you need to go away for a couple of days
- You won’t get as much milk
- Only suitable for dairy milk goats that produce a lot of milk
Twice-a-Day Milking Routine
Although I’ve never taken this approach, many goat breeders prefer it as it makes the babies easier to handle and causes less damage to the doe’s udders.
You’ll also get more milk and be able to manage the health of your goat kids more effectively.
You will get a larger quantity of milk per day for your own consumption, but then again, you’ll probably need it as you’ll be so busy bottle-feeding your babies that you’ll need the extra energy!
You also need to ensure your baby goats are getting the right amount of colostrum, or colostrum replacer, as well as milk.
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There’s very little flexibility in this approach, and you need to commit yourself to milk your goats twice a day, as close to every 12 hours as possible.
You’ll be rewarded for your efforts, however, with a higher yield. In some breeds, that could be as much as a gallon of milk per day.
Things to Know When You Milk a Goat Twice a Day
- Baby goats are easier to handle
- Less damage to your doe’s udders
- You’ll get more milk
- Babies need bottle feeding. You need to make sure they get the right amount of colostrum (or replacer) and milk.
- Less flexibility – you need to milk twice a day, as close to every 12 hours as possible.
Once or Twice?
As with any dairy animal, a goat needs regular milking.
While meat goats only produce just enough milk for their kids, dairy goats make excess and therefore need milking to maintain their health.
Of the two options, the once-a-milking regime is the less-demanding and more flexible, requiring you to separate the kids at night only, but it also means your yield will be lower.
Milk twice a day, and you could be enjoying a gallon of raw milk, which is an ample reward for your efforts.