Pint-size Goats = Gallons of Milk
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Keep the milk supply flowing by breeding your does once a year, starting when they are 8 months old or when the does weigh at least 80 pounds (for regular-size breeds). Dairy goats are usually bred in the fall; however, they may be in heat any time from August to January. Does remain in heat for three days, usually on a 17- to 21-day cycle. Put your does and buck together at this time. Once bred, the buck should be separated from the does to ensure fresh-tasting milk. Kidding (giving birth) will occur about 145 to 150 days after breeding. Does usually have twins – sometimes triplets, depending on the breed. The doe will “freshen” and give milk after the kids are born. If kept milked, she will continue producing for up to 10 months. Allow her a dry period of about two months before she delivers new kids and begins producing milk again.
During the milking period, you and the kids can share the milk; the doe should provide plenty. The best plan, says Gail, is to confine the kids overnight after they are 2 weeks old and milk the doe in the morning. After her morning milking, leave the kids with the doe to nurse at will. Some people milk the does twice a day and give the kids bottles, which is labor-intensive but helps accustom kids to human handling.
Milking is easy to learn: Just ask anyone who’s ever milked a cow or goat to show you how. Milking is easier if you feed the does grain as you milk them. Milk out both udders completely and milk about the same time each day. If you milk twice a day, separate the milking time by about 12 hours. Keep your milking equipment and area clean.
Once you’ve finished milking, cool the milk-filled container as quickly as possible by placing it in a large pan filled with cold water and leaving it for about 15 minutes. Occasionally stirring the milk with a clean utensil will help it cool evenly. Once the milk has cooled, pour it into glass containers and refrigerate immediately.
Goat milk differs from cow milk in that the butterfat globules are smaller, so they disperse more easily, making goat milk naturally homogenized. Unlike cow milk, the cream will not separate on its own, so goat milk products will be much smoother and creamier. If you want to make butter, you’ll need to buy or borrow a cream separator. Another difference you may notice is goat milk appears whiter than cow milk.
You can keep your goats healthy and avoid a lot of potential problems, such as pneumonia, diarrhea or parasites, by keeping the goat house and bedding clean and providing draft-free housing with adequate ventilation. If you check your goats daily you’ll be able to identify minor ailments before they become serious. Most likely, you’ll need to worm and vaccinate your goats, although the amount and frequency necessary will vary depending on your location and your goats. Your county extension agent or breeder can give you valuable advice.
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