How to Milk Your Goats Once a Day


Lark in the kid pen.

There is a secret to goat keeping and not being tied to a 12-hour milking schedule.

You can let your does raise their kids, have fresh goat milk in the refrigerator and still have a life by milking once per day. And this secret made my husband very happy!

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. Everyone has their own way of doing things and I'm sure that their choice is the best choice for them, just as I've made the best choices for my situation.

For the most part I've let my does raise their own kids, although there have been exceptions. Sometimes a doe will reject her kid, or one of her kids if she has multiples. Occasionally a doe dies after kidding. Sometimes you just don't have a choice.

But when you do have the choice, dam raising is good 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. Being tied down was my husband's objection to my milking goats.

Although if you buy a bottle baby to add to your herd, you're tied down to that bottle schedule anyway. But you knew what you were getting into when you brought that adorable baby home, right?

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, as well as a less-than-pretty udder.

To prevent this from happening, check udders daily on newly-freshened goats and milk one side if needed to keep the teats relatively even. Usually as the kids get a little older they start nursing from both sides.

How and why to milk your goat once a day.


When I begin milking


Here's the secret: I only milk once per day. And I don't have to milk if I don't want to.

It works like this:

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 settle down and go to sleep. Best of all, there is a dish of grain and their own hay feeder in the kid stall.

By morning, the goats' udders are full and I can milk them. This is usually more than enough milk for our family's use with some left over for the cats and dogs. (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.)


Here's what you'll need equipment-wise to milk your goats:


How to separate the goat kids from their dams


Use a separate stall in your barn or shed where the kids can spend the night. It might be as simple as blocking off a corner of your goat shed. Whatever you rig up, be sure it's safe for the babies, and impossible for them to get out of.

And use fencing that the kid can't poke his or her muzzle through. Many a goat kid has nursed through a fence. The doe will scoot up right next to the barrier, the kid reaches through the fencing wire and you have no milk in the morning.

Provide clean bedding and fresh hay for the babies, and entice them inside their stall with their own dish and a bit of grain. After a night or two, they'll willingly go inside their new bedroom and their mothers will want to follow them.


Goat doe on milk stand.

OR...

If you work a day job or, for whatever reason, you'd prefer to milk in the evening, you can do that instead. Separate the kids from their mothers during the day, milk in the evening, and let them cuddle together all night long.

This isn't quite as ideal as milking in the morning, but you can make it work if that's the only way you can milk goats, right?

The advantages of milking once a day


There are three advantages to milking just once a day:


  • You don't have to milk in the evening. The kids have taken care of that by nursing all day. Just separate them at bedtime and milk the next morning. Then let them out together for the rest of the day.
  • You don't have to bottle-feed. The does produce enough milk for your use and enough to grow their babies. Even after being milked in the morning, the does "hold back" enough milk for the kids to have breakfast, and they have a ready supply all day long.
  • If you have to be somewhere early in the morning, you don't have to milk at all. Simply leave the kids with their moms overnight - or separate them as usual and open the gate in the morning so they are reunited. All that good milk that was stored up overnight becomes the kids' breakfast.



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Weaning

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'll need 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.

I believe that this longer period of nursing gets doe kids off to an even better start on a life of producing kids and milk. I've waited as long as six months to wean doe kids, depending on what else is going on in my life at the time, and how the doelings are growing.

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.

Another benefit of once-a-day milking


You can go on vacation! Seriously! I've gone out of town for several days and not had to hire a goat-milking friend. I do need a farm sitter (or else my husband stays home) but farm sitters are much easier to find than someone who can milk goats.

Simply leave the goat kids with their mothers while you're gone. There's no need to have someone do the milking when the kids can do it themselves.

If you plan to go out of town after you wean the goat kids you'll more than likely be milking daily and would need someone to milk goats for you. So plan your vacation between kidding and weaning seasons - and plan your breeding season around your vacation. Here's how to figure out when to breed your goats.

It's the perfect answer for my family, and maybe for yours too


I've found once-a-day milking to be the perfect answer for me and my family.

  • Hubby is happy that I'm not tied down to a rigid scheduled in the evening (we don't have to rush home by 5:00 pm so I can milk the goats). 
  • I can skip the morning milking if I need to be somewhere early, such as a medical appointment. 
  • In the hot summer months I can milk during the cool morning hours and not milk during the hottest part of the day. 
  • My does raise the kids, which gets them off to a great start in life.
  • I'm not tied down by bottle feeding.
  • I can go out of town if needed.
  • And we have fresh milk in the refrigerator!
Looking for more goat info? I've rounded up all my goat posts in one place, including a set of free printables for your herd records.


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Yes, you can milk goats and still have a life! Here's how to milk once a day or even not at all!


This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


~~~~~

My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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38 comments

  1. Thank you for this! We just got our first milk goat, and we were talking about using this approach when it comes time to kid her. I'm pinning this for later!

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  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:21 AM

    You're welcome, Abigail! Thank you for the pin!

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  3. I've really been enjoying your posts since finding you through the Homestead blog hop! :)
    Aubrey

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  4. This is the approach I'll probably use, when it's (finally) my turn, too. It's also a viable approach with dairy cows. I think it also promotes good mothering, in the doe kids - as in, what they do as mamas is most likely going to be what they experienced as kids. We all learn from our parents, right?

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  5. It's always nice to hear how other folks arrange their milking routine, Kathi. We do some things similar and some different, but I always let my does raise their kids. I agree with you, I don't want to be tied to a bottle baby, and besides that, I think the doe will do a better job of raising the kid to be a goat than I will. Thanks for sharing this information.

    Fern

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  6. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead6:54 PM

    Carla and Fern, I think you are both right, that a doe kid learns from her mother how to be a mother herself.

    My doe Phoenix, who was the first to replace my goats lost in the fire, was two weeks old when I got her. She lived in the house for several weeks until we got a companion for her. She still thinks she is NOT a goat.

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  7. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead9:14 PM

    Aubrey, welcome! I'm so glad you're here!

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  8. I love this post! So interesting and the goats are precious! The photo with the kitty is so cute too!

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  9. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:23 PM

    Thank you, Kelly, I hope it was helpful. I almost didn't use that picture with the cat but decided it was "real life" around here. They're always "helping" me with whatever I'm doing. Thank you for your comment!

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  10. Thank you for this information. We're hoping to be able to get goats soon and this sounds like a very doable schedule does us.

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  11. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:31 PM

    You're very welcome, Rose. I'm glad it was helpful to you.

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  12. Very good information! We have recently added Nigerian Dwarf goats to our farm and are really enjoying it. Reading how others do things is so helpful, and if they are doing things naturally (like you seem to be), that's even better. Thanks for showing us that raising goats doesn't have to be as difficult as some make it sound!

    Kristi @ Stone Family Farmstead

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  13. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead3:51 PM

    Kristi, congratulations on your new goats. They can be challenging but are a lot of fun. Enjoy!

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  14. Wow...very interesting! I've recently started looking into getting some goats. Thanks for the info!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday! I hope you'll stop back again this week!

    Lisa

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  15. Thank you, Lisa. I've already been there today and done that! LOL!

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  16. This sounds like great advice and very similar to how we handle our dairy cows. We only milk once a day - in the morning and allow the cow to raise its calf. We find then that the calf is bigger and stronger and grows much better on mothers milk. We also don't wean our calves we let the mother do that and it usually happens just before the next calf is born. Thanks for sharing this great post with us at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

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    1. I agree, Terri. I've let the does wean their daughters most years too. Thank you for visiting from the other side of the world.

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  17. Thank you so much for sharing this balanced, interesting post with us at the Hearth and Soul hop. Although I don't keep goats myself I really enjoyed reading more about it - and I loved the part about fishing the kittens out of the milk bucket! This post would be so helpful for anyone who keeps (or is thinking about keeping) goats and it's also a thoroughly enjoyable read! Tweeting :-)

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  18. Thank you, April! I'm so glad you enjoyed it even though you don't have goats. And thank you so much for sharing the post!

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  19. Our goat has slowed down a lot in the last couple months. Like, 1 cup per milking. We aren't planning on breeding her for a few more months. Can we go to once a day milking without her drying up more? Or is it better to continue with every 12 hours?

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    1. If you dry her up now you might end up with about one cup per day instead of one cup twice a day. I usually do go to once-a-day milking about this time of year, just because I'm ready for the break. If you want to keep getting that amount of milk though you'll be better off milking twice a day for awhile longer.

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  20. This is a very helpful post, and I'm pinning for later! But also, oh my gosh, the pictures are so cute!

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    1. Thank you, Laura. Baby goats sure have "cute" down pat!

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  21. Thank you for writing this. In my past, I raised goats and this brought back a lot of memories. I love goats. Sometimes they are too smart for their own good. They are wonderful animals.

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    1. They are such wonderful animals. I love what you said "too smart for their own good." Very true! A friend's husband says "they have too much personality."

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    2. Anonymous8:29 AM

      I agree with the does raising their kids. I do the same thing. However, I separate during the day and milk in the evening. It's easier for my schedule.

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  22. Hello and thank you very much for posting this article! We are under contract for purchasing land now and hope to have our home built by June of next year. We'll be bringing our pups with us and are planning on chickens, Nubian Dwarf goats and maybe even some rabbits :) I was wondering if there is a way to milk our soon-to-be goats once a day each evening just after we feed our pups instead of in the mornings? Will it work to let mom's be with their kids during the day and still get a bit of milk each evening? We only need enough for drinking and a little soap making...nothing fancy here. Thanks and looking forward to returning to your site often!

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    1. Congratulations, Tracy! Yes, you can milk in the evening instead. Separate the kids from the does during the day and milk as early as you can so they'll have plenty of time to nurse before they all go to sleep.

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  23. Well, it looks like goats on our horizon. Might be this tear, or next spring, but we're starting to prep by building a goat barn and pen-
    Cheers!

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  24. We only milk once a day too and leave the kids with their mother. It works for us and sure makes life easier! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Homestead Blog Hop, please come back again soon!

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    Replies
    1. It really does make life easy!

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  25. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Just curious, after the kids are weaned can you continue to milk just once a day or do you have to switch to twice a day?

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    1. It depends on how old the kids are when they're weaned. I tend to let my doe kids self-wean, so there's no need for me to milk twice a day. I wean buck kids at two months though, so I do milk the doe twice a day for a short time. By not milking her out completely, she makes less milk and I can go back to once-a-day milking pretty quickly (sometimes just a week after weaning, but more likely 2-3 weeks).

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  26. Great blog! Question- I have a Nigerian dwarf goat. We are going on vacation for a week and I cannot find anyone with milking experience to milk her. She is still nursing 2 doelings (that are almost 5 months old). I usually separate them at night, but occasionally I’ll leave them together..when I do leave them together, they completely empty her. Will she be okay if I leave her for a week? Will she maintain milk production?
    Thank you!

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    1. Yes - leave the kids with her while you're gone and you'll only need someone to feed and water them, no milking experience required. As for milk production, the doelings are on the older side so her production might go down slightly; then again there are two so it might not be affected at all. And once you are home and milking regularly again, it will all even out. Have a great trip.

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  27. This makes me so happy because as really want to have goat milk, but I am a teacher and have to leave for work very early. If I want to do evening milking, how far in advance should I separate the kids from the doe during the day? I usually leave before the sun is up and I’m worried I won’t be able to separate them early enough to do an evening milking.

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    1. Hi! It is possible to separate them in the morning and then milk as soon as you get home. Then turn the babies out with the moms and let them stay together all night.

      This is harder to do, since the kids are without mom during the day, but you can do it if the timing works out for you. Try not to have them separated for more than 12 hours at most. Also, only do this if you have more than one kid; one on its own would be very, very lonely.

      Good luck! I hope it works out for you.

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