There are two groups of people who milk dairy goats: those who "pull" the kids at birth and bottle feed them, and those who let the does raise their kids. I'm not going to say that one method is better than the other; that's almost as bad as jumping into the horns vs. no horns debate. I try to stay neutral in both arguments. Everyone has their own way of doing things and I'm sure that their choice is the best choice for them.
For the most part I've let my does raise their own kids, although there have been exceptions. Dam raising is a good choice for someone with an unpredictable schedule; you're not tied down to feeding bottles at four-hour intervals throughout the day and milking the does every twelve hours. (Although if you buy a bottle baby to add to your herd, you're tied down to that bottle schedule anyway!)
By letting my goats raise their own babies, the only milking I have to do is to keep their teats even - new kids often choose one teat to nurse from and ignore the other. This would result in an engorged teat, a very uncomfortable goat, and possible mastitis, not to mention a less-than-pretty udder. To prevent this, I check udders daily on newly-freshened goats and milk one side if needed to keep them relatively even. Usually as the kids get a little older they start nursing from both sides.
When I begin milking
When the kids are about three weeks old, I start separating them from their moms overnight so that I can milk in the morning. I don't separate a single kid unless I have no other choice; I wait until there are two or more that are old enough. Twins are easy, they have a "built-in buddy," but if I have a single kid I wait until there are others that are old enough so the kid will have company.
The first few evenings can be a bit of a rodeo to catch the little ones, but eventually they realize that it's fun to have a slumber party every night where Mom can't tell them to "go to bed!" Best of all, there is a dish of grain and their own hay feeder in the kid stall.
By morning, the does' udders are full and I can milk them. This is usually more than enough milk for our use with some left over for the cats and dog. (This year my current cats are finally all trained to wait until I'm finished milking. I've had to fish an eager kitten out of the milk bucket a few times, and then the animals get all of it. That milk isn't coming in the house.)
The advantages of milking once a day
There are three advantages in my opinion to milking just once a day:
- I don't have to milk in the evening. The kids have taken care of that for me by nursing all day. I just separate them at bedtime so that I can milk the next morning.
- I don't have to bottle-feed. The does produce enough milk for our use as well as to grow their babies. Even after I milk in the morning, she has "held back" enough milk for the kids to nurse, and they have a ready supply all day long.
- If I have to be somewhere early in the morning, I don't have to milk. I can either leave the kids with their moms overnight or else separate them as usual, opening the gate in the morning so they are reunited. All that good milk that was stored up becomes the kids' breakfast.
I usually wean the buck kids when they are between two and three months old. It's safer for the doe kids to be separated from the boys, plus buck kids can be quite hard on their dam's udder. I let the doe kids stay longer with their mothers, and continue separating them at night so I can milk in the morning.
If I have a doe who only has buck kids, she needs to be milked twice daily for awhile after her boys are weaned. A doe who had a pair of buck/doe twins can continue to be milked in the morning after her boy is weaned; the doe kid is happy to have that extra milk.
Usually after a few weeks I can stop the twice-daily milking of the does who had buck kids and go back to once-a-day milking. By that time our hot summer weather has usually set in and I'm happy to be milking once a day again.
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