Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

Hi All,

Maple kidded last Thursday, 5 May with triplets. This is her 2nd freshening, and she's 3 years old. I was initially worried about the fact that kids were only staying on the teat for about 5 seconds at a time, but they are starting to increase that.

They now seem to be showing a preference for one side, as Maple has been lopsided a couple of times. I've milked her to even her out and checked the other side for any clogging. Now 2 things are concerning me, and I'm again going back through the forum, Googling, and looking in all my books without easily coming upon the exact answer I need. Here are my concerns...

1. Are udders that feel warm to the touch always a concern? Maple's is warm but not hot. 

2. If you can feel the mammary glands (hard, fibrous structures) up high in the udder (closer to the body), is that a sign of congestion? Or possibly mastitis if warmth + hard glands = infection?

I've taken her temperature, and it has been normal. She has been acting a bit depressed at times, like not gobbling up her grain but picking at it. Last night I tried to milk her out right before bed just to see if I could get a totally soft udder (since the kids don't usually drink all night), and one side became impossible to milk quickly... teat completely flaccid but hard, fibrous feeling right above. Maple also became less and less willing to have me try to milk that side, and I did see her walk away from her nursing kids twice last night as well.

I would really like to stop worrying, but I've only milked a couple of goats in my life, and this is my first kidding. I just don't know what's normal. I know how to deal with engorgement in a human, but I don't know whether this is what I'm seeing in my goat.

Thanks in advance.

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I wonder if since the kids were nursing so briefly at first that she isn't a bit engorged. Will she allow you to put warm compresses on her udder? You may have to nurse her 3 times a day for a little while. Massaging the congested part gently (if she lets you) should help as well. It's a good thing her temp is normal, but you may want to keep an eye on that. It's odd that she's picking at her grain, that may be a sign of pain.

Thanks so much for your reply, Julieanne. I'm totally thinking what you're thinking. 5-second nursing, even by 3 kids seems the perfect recipe for engorgement. I've experienced that myself, so I know she must be uncomfortable. 

Here's the scoop after this morning's chores. Did some reading here and elsewhere, and decided to do warm compress massage + peppermint oil. Maple ate her grain just fine while I did this, and udder was only a tad warm to the touch, but I'm sending her with the kids when they get disbudded this afternoon, so I'm going to have the vet look at her while she's there. I first did the compress & just massaged while holding the warm cloth on the udder. Then I had mixed peppermint oil (about 8 drops) with coconut oil (what I use to do on-skin essential oil treatments for my family), and I massaged her with that. She seemed completely fine with the massage, and didn't act like she was in actual pain. I checked both teats, and milk is coming out normally. Then I watched the kids to check nursing duration and side preference. They are still favoring one side and they're only up to 15-30 seconds duration when I'm observing them. She didn't walk away from them this morning. Instead she seemed to be encouraging them to nurse more. I'll keep all this up today and see if I can get on top of things.

Do you think I should keep trying to milk her out at bedtime, or just let the kids help her unless she looks totally uncomfortable or shows signs of infection? Maybe go ahead a test for mastitis? 


Julieanne Cook said:

I wonder if since the kids were nursing so briefly at first that she isn't a bit engorged. Will she allow you to put warm compresses on her udder? You may have to nurse her 3 times a day for a little while. Massaging the congested part gently (if she lets you) should help as well. It's a good thing her temp is normal, but you may want to keep an eye on that. It's odd that she's picking at her grain, that may be a sign of pain.

This doesn't sound all that unusual. Kids normally nurse for very short spurts, and does often walk away when kids are nursing, if they nurse more than a minute or so. It's hard to know what you mean when you say the udder is warm but not hot. The udder should be warm as it has blood flowing through it. Hot, as you know, would be a sign of infection. The udder can be firm the first few days. However, since you don't know this doe, it could simply be how her udder feels all the time.

When you see descriptions on websites of does that have a buttery soft udder, they're pointing this out because not all does have it. The buttery soft udder is MUCH more important in a doe with short teats than in a doe with longer teats. If this doe has short teats and a firm udder, milking is more challenging. That is definitely my least favorite combination. In fact, I'd say that a soft udder is more important than teat length. Don't ever describe your doe's udder as "hard" as many people associate that with CAE, as it is a symptom. But if you really think it is hard, then you should have her tested for CAE.

If a doe looks uneven, it's always a good idea to milk out the side that's bigger. And don't assume that just because she has three, they'll keep things even. We've made that silly assumption ourselves and regretted it. You just don't know what's going through those cute little heads!

Forgot to mention -- on the subject of mastitis -- it is usually only on one side, so one side would be obviously much harder and hotter. Also, you might see chunks in the milk or blood. Chunks would filter out. Blood sinks to the bottom of the container after an hour or so. The one side would be harder to milk than the other side. You also know the milk is chunky if you're trying and trying to get milk out, and suddenly it squirts out forcefully because you just finally pushed a chunk through.

Milk with mastitis tastes salty, although I still haven't tasted colostrum, so not sure how that would be different.

The CMT does NOT work on colostrum, so using it would probably give you a false positive for quite a few days after birth.

Awesome, I feel better.

Husband is on the way back from the vet with kids (just got disbudded) and mama, and udder looks good.

Eek! I'll remember not to use the adjective "hard" in the future. Maple is from a very well-known breeder with a small commercial Nigerian-only dairy, so of course she tests regularly and has a closed, negative herd, and all 3 of our does come from her farm. The firmness, if you will, feels no different than human milk ducts when very full. She's still super easy to milk except for when she felt empty in the teat but still fibrous just above.

The warmth is like skin that's been in the sun for a bit, not skin that is feverish. Milk looks and tastes normal.

And yes, I think these triplets had a meeting to decide which side they thought was best and went with that. ;-)

Thanks, Deborah!


Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:

This doesn't sound all that unusual. Kids normally nurse for very short spurts, and does often walk away when kids are nursing, if they nurse more than a minute or so. It's hard to know what you mean when you say the udder is warm but not hot. The udder should be warm as it has blood flowing through it. Hot, as you know, would be a sign of infection. The udder can be firm the first few days. However, since you don't know this doe, it could simply be how her udder feels all the time.

When you see descriptions on websites of does that have a buttery soft udder, they're pointing this out because not all does have it. The buttery soft udder is MUCH more important in a doe with short teats than in a doe with longer teats. If this doe has short teats and a firm udder, milking is more challenging. That is definitely my least favorite combination. In fact, I'd say that a soft udder is more important than teat length. Don't ever describe your doe's udder as "hard" as many people associate that with CAE, as it is a symptom. But if you really think it is hard, then you should have her tested for CAE.

If a doe looks uneven, it's always a good idea to milk out the side that's bigger. And don't assume that just because she has three, they'll keep things even. We've made that silly assumption ourselves and regretted it. You just don't know what's going through those cute little heads!

I was having your same freak out a couple of months ago when my ff, and the second goat I've ever milked, kidded.

I was able to get maybe an ounce of colostrum out and then could barely get more than a dozen squirts out at a time for the next three days.  Unlike my other doe, her udder felt very fibrous, and I immediately thought, "Oh no, mastitis."

Did some research here and decided it was probably just congested udder, started trying to milk a few times a day with warm compresses and peppermint balm, which helped a tiny bit for a few days but I was still worrying.

The milk that came out looked fine, and the kids were growing, so I kept telling myself I was probably overreacting like I had with multiple new experiences with them for the past couple of years.  And, yeah, I was worrying over nothing.

At two weeks fresh, I separated the kids overnight and was able to milk her fine in the morning.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to relax when everything is probably fine, but you don't know for sure!

Oh, I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who has been overtaken by worry as a newbie. And glad to know it will get better! Thank you so much, Jess!

All is well, and we even got through our first disbudding with one of our great goat-knowledgable vets. Phew!

Nursing actually seems to be evening out now. Kids are all 3 staying on longer, and udder is symmetrical. Must have been the initial adjustment, which I know well as a nursing mama myself. We're at the 1 week mark tomorrow, so I'll be checking weight gain. The kids already look so much bigger and more "mature". I'm looking forward to separating at night and milking in the morning after 2 weeks have gone by! The kids are already giving their mom space to the point where she calls them back to her, so I don't think I'll have any trouble with projecting my own mama separation anxiety onto them when they're in adjoining stalls. ;-)

Thanks again for the comfort!! I'm so glad your FF is doing well!

Jess Johnson said:

I was having your same freak out a couple of months ago when my ff, and the second goat I've ever milked, kidded.

I was able to get maybe an ounce of colostrum out and then could barely get more than a dozen squirts out at a time for the next three days.  Unlike my other doe, her udder felt very fibrous, and I immediately thought, "Oh no, mastitis."

Did some research here and decided it was probably just congested udder, started trying to milk a few times a day with warm compresses and peppermint balm, which helped a tiny bit for a few days but I was still worrying.

The milk that came out looked fine, and the kids were growing, so I kept telling myself I was probably overreacting like I had with multiple new experiences with them for the past couple of years.  And, yeah, I was worrying over nothing.

At two weeks fresh, I separated the kids overnight and was able to milk her fine in the morning.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to relax when everything is probably fine, but you don't know for sure!

If she is nursing three kids, I wouldn't start separating overnight until the kids are two months old. It's a great idea to put her on the milk stand every day to milk out whatever the kids left behind, but there's no way she can make enough milk to feed three kids in only 12 hours a day.

At 2 months I would separate the bucklings 100% of the time because they're fertile, though, correct? The doeling will join the herd of girls, so I assume she'll keep nursing as long as mom will let her, but the bucklings will be in their own space, as I'm keeping both for now to determine which is best to breed to my non-related does in the fall. It does make sense that triplets would need essentially all the milk until they're also eating solids. But not sure what you mean about milking whatever the kids leave behind... do you mean just a before bed milking? If they're on her 24 hours for the first 2 months, I'm not sure how I'll know what they're leaving behind unless I find Maple looking lopsided again.

Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:

If she is nursing three kids, I wouldn't start separating overnight until the kids are two months old. It's a great idea to put her on the milk stand every day to milk out whatever the kids left behind, but there's no way she can make enough milk to feed three kids in only 12 hours a day.

I usually separate the bucklings around 2 1/2 to 3 months of age. They are definitely not all fertile at 2 months. I actually have a hard time believing that any of them are, but I never say never. I've had six month olds that didn't get does bred, and anyone I know who has tried to use a buck under 4 months of age has failed, but Murphy's Law is always hanging around. Just because they know how to mount a doe doesn't necessarily mean that they're really fertile. 

You can try to milk her whenever you want. Timing isn't important if you're just checking to see if there is any extra. But of course you should milk her if she looks lopsided.

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