Someone posted this question on my page:
I wonder how we'll learn to milk her if she's nursing her twins. How long do the twins stay with her and when would we start to milk her?
Since it is such a common question, I thought it would be great to post it in the forum and have others chime in on how they handle this, because I'm sure others have ideas and suggestions!
This is my answer:
You can start to separate the kids overnight at around two weeks of age if they're twins. If they're triplets, I wouldn't try until a month, and if she has quads, I don't do it until they're two months of age. For a single, I start within a few days of birth. First time, only separate for eight or ten hours, then milk the doe. Don't worry about getting a lot of milk. At this point, you're working on your technique and getting her used to the routine. It needs to be as pleasant as possible, so that the doe understands that being milked is a good thing.
Hopefully, you've been giving her grain on the milkstand since the end of her pregnancy, but if not, that's where you need to start. If she's never been on the milkstand before, start by getting her on the milkstand to just eat grain twice a day. After a couple days, start touching her udder. She'll probably kick at your hand, but don't move it. Just leave it there until she calms down. After a few days of that, you can start to separate overnight and milk in the morning.
Keep an eye on the kids and make sure they're continuing to gain weight. If they're still nice and chunky with full tummies, you can separate every night, although very few does will make enough milk to feed more than one kid adequately when being separated every night. In most cases, you will only be able to separate two or three times a week until the kids are closer to two months old. If this is a first freshener, you might need to wait until they're six weeks to even separate a couple times a week, because first fresheners are not usually great producers.
Some people wean kids at two or three months, but others (like me) leave does and wethers with their moms forever (or until sold) and just separate overnight when we want to milk them. We currently have 13 does in milk, but we only have to milk six of them twice a day, because their kids are sold. The others still have kids nursing, so we can decide how many we want to milk every morning, based upon how much milk we need. We are only keeping five doelings, so after the rest of the kids are sold, we will have eight that have to be milked twice a day.
This is a good system for people who are new to milking, because the kids will keep up the supply while you're learning. People who have never milked a goat and try to bottle raise kids often have trouble learning to milk, and once the doe's production goes down, it's tough to get it back up. They wind up feeding the kids milk replacer, and they have no milk for their family.
Added Sept. 18, 2013: Figuring out if kids are gaining adequate weight is virtually impossible for someone who is new to goats or does not have other kids to compare. So, before separating the kids every night, you should also look at how much milk you are getting from the doe. Ideally a kid should be getting 24 ounces per day, but 32 ounces is not unreasonable for a dam-raised kid that is snacking all day long. This means that if you separate her from the twins every night, she would need to be making 3 quarts a day (12 cups or 6 pounds) to adequately feed the kids enough milk while they are together during the day. This would mean that you would get 1.5 quarts (6 cups) when milking her in the morning.