To milk or not to milk when a goat is nursing babies seems to be the question on Facebook goat sites of late. The answers I saw given were simplistic but one can not say definitively one way or another until several factors are first considered.
1. How many kids did the doe have?
If the goat had only one kid then you will most likely need to milk the doe during the entire time she is nursing. Kids tend to favor one side or the other of the udder and that leaves one side producing less milk. The udder becomes lopsided and the non milked side more prone to mastitis. After the kids is not longer nursing, you have lost the milking capacity of the none nursed side for the rest of the year or at the least it is greatly diminished. Demand is the most important factor in how much a doe will produce within her capabilities. That is why some dairies milk three times a day.
When my does are through raising kids I want all the milk I can get for us. If I don’t keep the doe’s production up then it will dwindle with demand. So I milk sometimes once and sometimes twice depending on how many kids she gives birth to. I’ve also found that different breeds of goats eat differing amounts of milk. On average my Nubian kids drink far less than my Saanen.
A goat that gives birth to twins will produce more milk than one who gives birth to a single. And that holds true with triplets too. With quads I have not seen an increase in production. My goats just can’t produce any more than they are with triplets. Keep in mind that I am raising dairy goats of standard size. If my does can’t feed triplets then they definitely go down the road especially on the feed program I have.
2. Kids personalities.
I have seen kids who happily switch sides if one teat is empty but they still go for their favorite side first. So I always check the doe’s udders twice a day who have single births. Of course they had better not single after their first year or they go down the road. Besides the switcher side kids, I have seen kids who would only nurse from one side.
2. Breed of goat and quality.
Different breeds produce different amounts of milk. A Nubian produces on average less milk than a Saanen for instance. Therefor a Saanen will have more milk and need checked to make sure she is not producing more milk than her twins can drink especially in the first few weeks. Presently Comedy’s twins are a week old and she gives over a half gallon extra milk a day. I milk her out completely about noon when the kids have definitely had their fill. At this time the kid’s tummy looks full and they are not asking pressing her to remain still so they can nurse. She then can nurse them throughout the afternoon and evening which pushes her milk demand up and therefor production.
Comedy is seven and a Saanen of high milking capacity. That is where the quality comes in. An excellent quality goat will simply give more. Udders are fifty percent of a goats conformation score since after all they are a dairy animal. So the story will change if your animal is not of a quality level that produces a large amount of milk. Shortly after kidding last year Comedy was producing 11 pounds of milk a milking. 8 pounds is a gallon. So of course you have to milk her.
3. How old is the goat? The younger the goat, the less milk they produce. So with a yearling, they may only be milked for the first week to push the production up faster. then when you are wanting to slowly wean the kids them then you start milking the doe once more. Or the yearling may not be milked at all depending on the quality and breed. There are exceptions in every breed though as I had a Nubian doe that at one years old fed her twins and volunteered to feed another kid that’s mother rejected it. Since the orphaned kid was very young when she took him in, I thought before long she would not be able to keep up when all three were asking for far more milk but she kept all three fat and happy until they were weaned. She also kept her own body conditioning too. That is a rare exception to the rule for a yearling. A two year old should produce more milk but not as much as a three year old. By four they should be up to full capacity.
A doe may not be able to handle more than a single kid. That doe in my herd would hit the road. I sold a doe that had twins her first year. I expect my does to twin the first year but on rare occasions they do not and are given another chance to twin. The problem was the twins were tiny while she remained fat and sassy. She was a poor mother in every way and her milk production was low leaving me supplementing the kids with bottles. This doe was purchased as a kid and I don’t care how well her mother scored in confirmation, I was not keeping these genetics as performance is even more important than looks in my book.
I’ve found that when does turn three, they should be able to feed there twins and help feed us for at least the first few weeks. Then the kid’s demands may take over or if she is a really good one, then you will remain with a little milk the whole way through. Typically I wean at two months but with triplets I may go a bit longer. I want full production at this time so I keep milking while weaning kids.
When a doe reaches old age then she may not be able to feed as many kids. She also may not produce as much milk. Her body is simply wearing out. This is when you have to decided if you need the genetics more than the kids and milk. Or you might just allow yourself a pet. That will probably happen with Comedy.
4. What is your own personal schedule?
When my goats were 3/4 of a mile away from our home, I often milked the does partially out in the mornings because I was also milking does that were in a different time in their milking cycle so I could not wait until noon. At night I always milked them out completely as the sun was going down.They would be bedding down anyway and not nursing.
If you work outside the home. Your schedule may dictate that you do things a certain way.
So as you can see the answer just is not that simple. Do you milk out completely or do you milk out partially? Or do you milk out at all? Most like the answer is yes to partial or completely milking a doe out at least during the very beginning of her milking cylcle and when you are weaning the kids off.
If asked whether to milk out or partially milk out what would be your answer?