starting to milk

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.

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  • Is one side bigger than the other? The kids could have a favorite side. Is it possible that you are not milking one side as well? I know you don't have other kids to compare, but if she is only making a quart of mlk a day, the kids would not be very big and healthy. You could weigh them -- if they are more than 20 pounds, she is producing more, so you may just need to work on your technique.

    A word of warning - if you wean the kids, her production will probably go down. It is one of the reasons we never wean doelings or wethers unless they are sold.
  • Hey thanks for posting this .... I started separating the kids at 6 weeks when I saw them eating pretty good the alfalfa/orchard grass and  a little of the sprouted grain mix. I have discovered that milking my goat in the morning after the kids are separate all nite yields me a little over a half quart of milk.  I am disappointed but since it is just me not a huge deal.  I plan on milking twice a day after this weekend as they will be 8 weeks old and are healthy and eating great. Hopefully I will get more milk. I am just wondering if anyone has advice on this next issue. One of Pipers teats gives very little milk. I get most of the milk from just one teat. I know Piper has self milked in the past but I see no evidence that this is the case now. Has anyone else run across this?

  • alot of folks give them both - so they have a choice. some with vinegar - some without - mine get tired of one over the other so I switch off. I too, give them "warm" or "cool" water. I notice if it is warm they drink it more heartily.

    Glenna Rose said:

    For what it's worth, my friend I visited two weeks ago is milking three times a day. They have two kids they are feeding (not the milking goat's) so they are doing it to keep production up until they can have their own milk.  She said it has been taking three milkings to keep the kids well fed.  They are all full-size goats (not N.D.).

    The water advice is good. I noticed that Capri has not been drinking much water during the day so I am starting to give her fresh warm water right after work and again at bedtime as well as in the morning whereas I was refreshing it only morning and night (or if it was soiled).  I read somewhere that if we add a tiny bit of apple cider to the water, they will drink more - is that true?

    While I am asking questions, will she ever produce more milk than now or is it equal or less from now on?

  • Glad you posted this Deborah, I was afraid if I just let the kids have all the milk (they are just a month old) the milk production would decrease as they aged. Glad to know if I cant milk in the a.m. I wont lose any milk.

    My doe has been on the milk stand for grain for a couple years. She has had her hoofs trimmed there - so she is suspicious going in....

    This year is her second freshening - when I try to milk her (and still learning the "nigerian technique" with little teats) she stomps, kicks my hand/arm/ even though I have a coffee can under her so she cant lay down - she lays down as best she can anyway.... she fights tooth and nail - I try to wait her out - she wont even go back to eating grain, waiting for me to try again. The kids were born 4/21/13

    Any suggestions patience......

  • I never wean doelings and wethers as long as they are on my farm. Weaning causes stress and all the related issues associated with stress, such as weight loss and a possible increase in parasites. Moving also causes stress. In my opinion, it is pointless to put a kid through such severe stress twice. I especially don't like the idea of removing kids from mom only days before they are sold because that simply creates an extended period of stress. Dam raised kids are eating hay or grazing within days of birth, so there is no need to "teach" or "force" them to eat by separating them from their mother. And keep in mind that many of our goats are accustomed to nightly separation if we are milking their dam.

  • I am sort of new to this forum, so I am still catching up on all the threads.

    Debbie, When you leave the kids with the mom's until sold assuming they are 4+ months when sold do you wean them before letting them go to thier new homes or do they go "cold turkey"

  • Well, I have just been milking her in the mornings because we have had to reconstruct the pen multiple times. Separating her during the day just isn't working, she still manages to get out of the pen. I don't know how and she has already gotten her head stuck in the fencing bad enough we had to move a post to get her out and it took me and my husband both to do it.

    I have been getting about 10 oz average give or take an oz every morning. This morning I barely got 6 oz. I am just of the opinion that she is probably drying up. She was just really empty this morning. I'm telling myself that I'm okay with it and that it will be easier to breed her once she is dried up anyway. Lizzie is still trying to nurse her all day long though. Now that it is getting cooler I'm hoping they will come into an obvious heat cause right now I haven't been able to see any of my does in a heat cycle. I would like to get them all bred this month but we'll see. I was headed to the breeders last Friday when I had to rush my husband to the hospital for kidney stones and eventually surgery so that will be delayed for a bit. I am trying to figure out a way to make a kid pen for next year so they have pasture and can be outside when separated from the mamas. I can see now that the kidding stall is not going to be effective for long term separation.

    At least I have learned from it, right? :)

  • We used a dog crate in with our does to separate the doeling from mom in the evenings and that worked really well... We now have 3 different size crates so we can grow our separating pen with our kids... Of course this worked really well for us since we only have 1 baby and 2 does! But when we have more there will be more kids to keep them company:)

    Patty Meyer said:

    Lizzie doesn't need her mother's milk anymore, and if she doesn't get so much of it you can be sure she'll drink water as long as it's fresh and clean.  I have a doe who still has two daughters born on May 2 with her.  I leave them during the day and at evening milking (7:30) I separate them into another pen.  After morning milking I put them together again for the day.  Now that they're three months old, I occasionally separate them in the afternoon (around 3:00) instead of the evening so I can get more milk at the evening milking time.  I'm sure the little one will be fine if you want to separate longer.  Because this doe also had a buckling, he was separated from the does at two months old and is doing great, growing right along at the same pace as his sisters who are still on the doe.  I know baby will sound like she's suffering terribly, but I'm sure she'll be fine if you stretch out her time away from mom.  Though, if she'll be alone while she's separated from mom, I'm sure she'll get lonely.  That might be an issue.

  • We just got our goats in March but we only milked in the morning and it worked really well! That is correct you get less milk but other than that it is really convenient... I have lots of goat raising friends who only milk once a day:)

    Kelsie Aman said:

    I would really like to milk but can not commit to twice a day...I realize I would get less milk but is it possible to just milk in the morning without it being harmful or causing the doe to dry up?

  • wow this was really helpful...thanks for posting it...

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