When a female goat has freshened (given birth) how soon can you begin milking her to supply your own family’s dairy needs or to improve the dairy production of your farm business? The answer to this question varies depending on a number of factors. In this article, we explore these variables and provide sound advice on when to start milking a goat after kidding. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- How Do You Plan On Raising The Baby Goats?
- What’s The Best Method?
How Do You Plan On Raising The Baby Goats?
The time to start milking your goat depends on how you plan to take care of the baby goats. There are several different ways to raise baby goats.
You can simply leave them with their mother until she weans them, wean them early, allow them access to mom on a schedule or hand feed them using a bottle (which means you can start milking the goat almost immediately). You may also choose to use a combination of these methods.
There are good things and bad things about each of these methods.
1. Allow the dam to raise the babies naturally
Some goat raisers simply leave the babies with their mother and begin milking her after the babies are naturally weaned. This usually happens when the kids are two or three months old. By this time, they should be eating grain and hay without trouble and will no longer need their mother.
Allowing the babies to be raised by the mother saves you time and effort, but you will have a significant wait before you can make use of the goat’s milk, and your doe’s milk production levels will have diminished after the babies are weaned.
2. Allow the dam to raise the babies on a schedule
With this method, after the kids are about four weeks old, you begin separating them from the mother during the day. They should not be left alone, but if they are with other kids and have plenty of starter grain and hay to eat, they will be fine.
At the end of the day, milk the doe and then put the kid back in with her. She will still have enough milk for the baby during the night. At the age of eight weeks, the kids can be weaned, and you can begin milking the doe two times a day.
3. Hand feed with a bottle
Large commercial dairy operations do this automatically to prevent the possibility of any disease transmission. You might choose to do this if the doe has any sort of disease that might be passed on to the babies through the milk.
If your doe has been diagnosed with an illness such as Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) or Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL), you should remove the babies immediately after birth and bottle feed them with formula or milk from a healthy doe. You can begin milking her right away as these illnesses do not affect humans.
In addition to preventing disease transmission, bottle feeding results in friendly, easy-to-handle adult goats, but some people feel that bottle babies do not thrive. In this case, engaging the help of a nanny goat may be in order.
4. Combine allowing the doe to raise the baby with bottle feeding
With this method, you allow the kid to nurse freely for the first few days, ensuring that it gets a good dose of first milk (colostrum) which is essential for a strong immune system.
After a few days, you begin separating the doe and kid during the daytime, and you bottle feed the baby while it is separated from its mother. With this method, you can begin milking earlier, and the kid can be weaned from the mother completely within a few weeks, as long as bottle feeding continues.
If you show your doe, this is a good method because it allows the doe to enter the show ring with a stretched udder, which is more impressive to the judges.
What’s The Best Method?
The method you choose depends on your purpose in keeping goats, your goals, your schedule, the weather and your personal preferences (among many considerations).
If you are keeping your goats mostly as pets, allowing the mother to raise the baby naturally is easy and fun to watch. Likewise, if you are experiencing inclement weather in your area at kidding time, letting mom do the work may be the most practical choice.
If you are keeping goats for dairy production (here’s an article on goat cheese), bottle raising or a combination method may be all in a day’s work and may result in a significant increase in production.
You may use one method one time and a completely different method another time, depending upon your situation. It is perfectly reasonable to make this choice on a case-by-case basis.