Milking your goats can be a rewarding yet challenging endeavor for those venturing into the world of small-scale dairy farming. While goats are known for their hardiness and adaptability, maximizing milk production requires a thorough understanding of the challenges involved. In this blog post, we’ll explore the common hurdles faced by goat owners during the milking process and provide valuable insights on how to overcome them to ensure optimal milk yield.
Establish a Routine
The first thing you’ll want to decide is if you want to milk once or twice a day. This will depend largely on how long you’re keeping your does with their kids, or if you plan to bottle feed kids exclusively … Most people who do at least partial dam raising will begin to separate moms from kids at around two weeks, overnight. This allows for you to milk your does in the mornings, then return them to their kids. This helps with the weaning processes and gives you access to milk. Once kids are fully weaned after at least 8 weeks, you can then decide if you want to add evening milking as well.
Whether you’re doing once a day or twice a day milkings, it’s important to try to keep your milkings at the same time each day. Goats thrive on routine. This is especially important if you’re milking several does, as it ensures everyone gets comfortable with the routine and you get a feel for the time milking will take daily.
Set up your milking stand in an area that is comfortable for both you and your does. This means room for a comfortable seat for you, and enough room for does to get on and off the stand comfortably. You’ll need a clean area for all of the equipment you will need as well. A good cabinet to store your supplies makes life a lot easier as well.
Making sure you have the right equipment to milk your does is key. A lot of that will depend on if you hand milk or choose to milk with a machine. The most important piece of equipment to start with is a clean udder. Clipping the hair from your udder regularly will make sure they stay clean and dry, and excess hair doesn’t get into your milk. Before each milking you’ll need to make sure you wash each udder well. You can make your own udder wash, or buy something to clean your goat’s udders with.
A good milking stand is essential. This makes sure your goat has access to food and is held in place for easy and routine milking. Make sure your milk stand is the appropriate size and height to comfortably milk your goats while you’re seated.
We prefer to milk into a stainless steel bowl or large glass measuring cup for our Nigerian Dwarfs because they have a lower profile to fit underneath them. If you have a standard sized goat, they make several varieties of milk pails to milk into. We then pour off our milk into large glass mason jars fitted with a reusable filter. In the heat of summer, these jars are in an ice bath to cool the milk immediately before it’s refrigerated. Milking into a smaller bowl first and dumping the collection into a mason jar also prevents your whole milling from being ruined if you have a bratty doe step into your milking bowl. Once milking is complete, you need to make sure your doe’s teats are cleaned thoroughly, especially the open orifices. You can do this with a teat dip or a spray.
When your does are feeding kids or being milked regularly, it’s important they receive additional nutrition to support their milk production. An easy way to do this is to feed them additional grain when they’re on the milk stand. Additional calcium in their diet is especially important. You can help support that with feeding alfalfa hay or a product like Chaffhaye as well.
Additionally, our Milk Money Bites help give an added boost to their typical feed with herbs like raspberry leaf and blessed thistle to support lactation. We like to feed these out to our milking girls every time they get on the milk stand.
Common Ailments with Milking
Udder health is the key to sustaining good lactation. Keeping a close eye on your goat’s udder and any changes in their milk will help let you know if there are any issues you should be concerned about.
Mastitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the udder, commonly caused by bacterial infections. This ailment can significantly impact milk production and the overall health of your goat. Symptoms of goat mastitis include swelling, heat, redness, and pain in the udder, accompanied by changes in milk appearance, such as clots or discoloration.
To test for mastitis, a California Mastitis Test (CMT) is commonly employed. This simple on-farm test involves mixing a small amount of milk with a special reagent, causing changes in consistency or viscosity if mastitis is present. Additionally, bacterial cultures may be conducted to identify the specific pathogen responsible for the infection.
Treatment for mastitis often involves administering antibiotics to combat the bacterial infection. It’s crucial to promptly address the condition to prevent its spread and minimize potential long-term effects on milk production. Alongside medication, supportive measures such as proper hygiene, regular udder cleaning, and ensuring a clean and comfortable environment for the goats are essential for effective management of mastitis. Massaging the udder with peppermint essential oil in a carrier oil, applying heat with warm towels, or applying a good balm can help relieve the congestion and move out the infection. Regular monitoring and preventive measures can help reduce the likelihood of mastitis occurrences in goat herds.
Topical staph infections on a goat’s udder present as a skin condition characterized by the formation of pustules. These infections are often caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and can lead to discomfort and reduced milk quality. Recognizing symptoms early is vital, with indicators including the presence of pustules, redness, swelling, and tenderness on the udder skin.
Preventing topical staph infections involves maintaining excellent hygiene. Regularly cleaning the udder and ensuring a clean living environment for the goats are essential measures. Adequate ventilation and dry bedding contribute to minimizing bacterial growth. Additionally, practicing proper milking techniques and regularly sanitizing equipment help prevent the introduction of bacteria onto the skin.
Treatment for topical staph infections typically includes topical antimicrobial agents, such as antibiotic creams or ointments. Isolating affected goats to prevent the spread of infection and ensuring a clean and dry environment can aid in the healing process. It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to determine the most effective treatment plan and to identify any underlying factors contributing to the infection.
Regularly monitoring the udder for signs of infection, implementing preventive measures, and seeking prompt veterinary attention for proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for maintaining optimal udder health and preventing topical staph infections in goat herds.
Understanding your Breed’s Milk Production
Different goat breeds have varying milk production capacities. Understanding the specific needs and traits of your goats can help you tailor your approach for optimal results. Additionally, recognizing individual variations in milk production among your herd allows for targeted care.
Getting to know average production values for your goat’s breed can help you determine if your goats are producing to the best of their ability. Weighing your doe’s individual daily production can help you figure out where/if changes need to be made in your herd.
Successfully milking your goats for optimal milk production involves a combination of routine, proper nutrition, equipment investment, health monitoring, and a deep understanding of the unique characteristics of your goats. By addressing these challenges, goat owners can ensure a consistent and abundant milk supply while promoting the well-being of their valuable dairy herd.