How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk

Goat’s milk is a niche market for some consumers. Goat’s forage well on less-than-ideal pasture for cattle and are inexpensive to keep. They’re smaller and easier to handle than cows. Some people with dairy sensitivities can consume goat’s milk safely.

Goats are hardy animals that are easy to keep; they’re also agile and curious, which can make for some fun goat-watching. They’re also highly intelligent, and as highly intelligent farm animals, they’re good animals to have around.

How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk
How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk

Choose a Dairy Goat Breed

Only a handful of dairy goat breeds are commonly used for dairy goats. Alpines, Saanens, Oberhaslis, and Toggenburgs are more adaptable to cooler climates. Nubian goats have more tropical origins and do well in hot summers.

There are more than 500 different goat breeds in the world and the majority of milk-growing animals are milked by goats in a variety of different climates. The first step to raising dairy goats for milk is to…

Getting Started Raising Dairy Goats

Goat shelter is clean, dry, and draft-free enough to provide shelter for your goats. Make sure your goats have roughage year-round, such as twigs, bark, leaves, or pasture roughage forage. Goats are opportunistic feeders and like to eat whatever is available. Goat-proof any areas with plants that might have plants growing that can be toxic to goats, like oleander, yew, and larkspur. Goats should be protected by a high-tensile electric fence at least 4 feet high.

Buying a goat

Good grade or non-registered goats will serve this purpose. A good milker will produce an average of 2 1/2 to 3 quarts daily. Two goats, bred to freshen 3 to 4 months apart, should assure some milk every day of the year. For a variety of reasons you may prefer to buy registered, pedigreed animals, but the cost will be higher. The price will depend on the amount of milk daily and how long the doe will produce before going dry.

Goat breeds

There are five main breeds of dairy goats, including Toggenburg, Saanen, Nubian, Alpine, and American La Mancha. Alpines are recognized as a hardy breed and milk well, producing about 3.5 percent fat milk. Angora and pygmy goats are not good milk animals. Check with your county Extension office or local farm publications for breeders in your area. Consider getting a breed for which you can obtain buck service from a breeder in your community.

Goat Milk

Goat milk is the most consumed type of milk in the world. In fact, between 65% and 72% of all dairy products are made from goat’s milk.    

In many countries, people prefer goat’s milk to cow’s milk. This is due to the simple laying of goats over cows, particularly in developing countries, where goat’s milk is an important source of calories, protein, and fat.    

When you think about drinking goat milk it is important to understand the benefits it gives. Goat’s milk is thicker and creamier than cow’s or vegetable milk and contains more nutrients than offers health benefits. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A. Studies have shown that adequate intake of vitamin A can reduce the risk of cataracts and certain cancers and can help children fight measles.    

Goat milk is not just a special drink. Comparable to conventional cow’s milk, soy milk, or nut milk, goat’s milk contains more protein per serving. Goat’s milk contains more protein than almond milk or rice milk. The protein in goat’s milk seems to be more digestible, which means that your body can use it more easily.    

Some people who have an allergy to cow’s milk may find that goat’s milk does not trigger their allergy. Studies have shown that one in four babies allergic to cow’s milk is not allergic to goat milk.    

If you have an allergy to dairy products, you should ask your doctor if you can tolerate goat’s milk. If you know you have a milk allergy and do not eat goat’s milk, ask your doctor.    

Goat milk can help lower cholesterol levels in people with high blood cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that goat milk helps lower cholesterol levels in the arteries and gallbladder. This could help them control cholesterol levels. 

Which goat is best for milk?

The best goat bread for milk is the Alpine, Nubian, Oberhasi, Saanen, and Toggenburg goats. The Saanen is known for producing the highest producing dairy goats.  There are other things to consider when choosing a goat bread for milk such a temperament and the climate you live in.

How many goats do you need for milk?

While there are many variables such as family size, income, family composition, food habits, etc., let us base the answer on a family of four that mirrors the per capita consumption pattern of the US population. The per capita consumption of dairy in the US is 650 pounds per year as per data for 2019. This includes not only liquid milk but other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt as well.  For a family of four this translates to 2600 pounds per year or 7.1 pounds per day.

A good milker yields about 6 to 8 pounds of milk per day over a 10-month lactation period.

Thus, one good milker would suffice for a family of four. However, as the family’s consumption of milk does not mirror the goat’s lactation cycle, they may need more than one to ensure a continuous supply.

Does milking goats hurt them?

The simple answer in no. Lactation being a natural process, milk gets produced and accumulates in the udder and makes it heavy and uncomfortable. Milking relieves the goat of the built-up pressure in the udder. The act of milking is no more hurtful that that of a suckling young one taking milk. Of course, the person doing the milking should be trained and/ or properly supervised.

Besides, being creatures of habit, goats get accustomed to their routines, like that of regular milking. As milking time is also connected with feeding time, it is also a time they associate with reward. Of course, the milking place needs to be kept clean and comfortable.

What can be painful is if the goat has mastitis, a bacterial udder infection. While milking provides relief, in some cases the condition can be so bad that the goat will kick out when touched. 

Do goats need to be pregnant to produce milk?

Lactation in the female of the species is a natural cycle connected with the activation of the cycle of giving birth, for which they need to be impregnated by a buck. The process of milk production starts at the time they give birth.

They generally continue to produce milk for 8 months after birth but, if milked regularly, they can continue producing milk for about 2 years.

Do you have to breed a goat to get milk?

A doe (female goat) has to go through a cycle of giving birth for milk production to get activated. For the doe to get pregnant she has to be bred by a buck.

Milk production in the doe will start immediately after giving birth to the first baby.

How many times a day do you milk a goat?

Once or twice a day are the milking cycle usually followed. If twice a day, the time should be 12 hours apart. You should ensure that the milking area is clean and that you are able to cool the milk immediately after milking. It is important to keep the milking cycle consistent.

What are the disadvantages of goat farming?

There are no unmixed blessings. Goat farming is no different.

Goats eat anything. They will eat up your favorite plants and shrubs. This can still be recovered from. Sometimes they will eat toxic plants, and not survive.

They don’t like to follow rules. They will climb your car, on your porch, anywhere, when the fancy strikes them. They will damage and destroy. They will also make good an escape every now and then.

Goats are parasite catchers. They are prone to diseases and illnesses. These diseases can be passed around to the other farm animals too.

Male goats are a part of the equation. Without them the lactation cycle cannot be triggered in does. However, male goats are smelly, noisy, disgusting creatures.

While nutritious, and tasty when fresh, the longer you keep the milk the taste rapidly deteriorates, and a smell also sets in.

Milking is a responsibility. It needs to be done at the right time, day after day. It can become a chore unless you have fallback options available.

They are easy meat, or prey. They can be preyed upon by dogs and other animals and also stolen pretty easily.

How hard is it to raise milking goats?

It is perhaps as hard or as simple as any other activity. You need to go in with adequate information and having taken a conscious, thought-out decision. After all, there are thousands of people who raise milking goats, profitably, enjoyably. So it can be done.

The reasons for raising milking goats are well known. The milk is healthy. The creatures are cute. They don’t eat much and for that can eat pretty much anything. They can even help you clear out bushy areas by grazing on them.

However, the downside is perhaps what you should know more closely, so that you go in with your eyes open, if at all.

Goats are loud creatures. They are social. They like to show off. All that requires management and time. And often repairs. Two are often better than one so they can socialize with each other than with humans.

A male is a necessity that you don’t want to keep. The female goat needs a buck for insemination (of course now it can also be done artificially). However, a male goat is an obnoxious and smelly creature. You need to know how you will arrange for your doe to be impregnated if milk is the objective.

A local veterinarian who does goats is a necessity, especially since goats are creatures prone to trouble and disease.

While insemination results in milk after a few months, it also results in kids, young goats that get born. You need to have a plan for the kids as well.

Of course, raising a goat is like raising a baby. It is a responsibility. As is milking. Not milking once the process has been initiated will cause distress to the doe. It is a daily event. Maybe even twice daily.

You need to have a plan for the milk that gets produced, as well. Will you sell it? Will you use it for making products like cheese?

How long will a goat produce milk?

Goats are able to produce milk well into their senior years, generally in the teens. Most goats should be able to produce milk till the age of 9 or 10.

Milk production will typically start with the first birth cycle which is recommended not before the age of 1, which will lead to the birth of a calf at about 18 months.

Thereafter, each cycle of milk production can be elongated by regular milking. Production of milk stops when milking is not done and when they stop getting bred.

How much milk does a goat produce per day?

A good dairy goat provides between 6 to 12 pounds of milk a day for about a 305-day lactation. Milk production can go up and down during the cycle.

Is goat milk farming profitable?

The fact that thousands of people do goat milk farming should be proof enough that it can be done. Like any business it can be done well and it can be done badly. Some variables in your equation may play out adversely leading to unprofitable results.

Here are a few reasons why goat farming for milk can be a profitable venture:

The investment requirement is fairly small. The price of a goat can also be considered to be small. 

Goats forage for food and even help clear up messy bushy areas. They eat all kinds of grass and weeds. They don’t need much by way of specialized feed.

Goats are a breed that multiply fast. This adds rapidly to your stock and can have a multiplier effect. You could even become a net seller.

Goats produce natural manure that is used in organic farming. Again, if enough is produced, you can even sell some.

Overall, goats are a low maintenance animal, and can be raised with far less effort than many others.

Can all goats be milked?

All healthy female goats should be able to produce milk, subject to the lactation cycle being initiated at the right age through impregnation by a buck. Dairy goats are bred to produce enough milk for their young ones as well as for the use of humans.

There are three primary objectives of goat farming – production of milk, production of meat and production of fiber. There are different types of goats more suited for each purpose. For milking, Alpine, Saanen, Oberhasli, and Toggenburg are the varieties favored. These goats originated in the Swiss mountains and prosper in cooler climates. The Nubian variety is more suited for hot climates.

Can you drink milk straight from a goat?

There are two parts to this question:

1. Can you drink raw goat milk, without any processing?

Of course, is the simple answer. It has been done for thousands of years and many people swear by it. However, equally, there are those who vehemently argue against it. Some states in the US even ban the sale of raw milk. Here are the pros and cons based on different sets of beliefs:

  • Goat milk is a rich source of vitamin and minerals in its unpasteurized form. It promotes digestion and is beneficial to the gut microbiome.
  • Goat’s milk has hyperallergen properties. Individuals allergic to cow’s milk may be able to consume raw goat’s milk.
  • Its constitution being closer to that of the human breast milk, and contains a lot of nutrients desirable for humans.
  • Unpasteurized milk can carry harmful bacteria like E.coli and salmonella that could promote disease
  • Pregnant women could suffer complications on account of L isteria bacteria

2. Can you drink goat’s milk straight from the udder?

This would depend on your ability to get into a position where you are able to do this. However, recommended to collect milk in a pail or container.

How much does it cost to raise dairy goats?

Whatever be the reason for raising dairy goats, it is a good idea to know where you stand with regard to the expenses that need to be incurred in the enterprise.

Set out below are some essential requirements for raising goats. Where possible, they have been converted to a dollar value. In other cases, you may need to arrive at your own estimates.

Outdoor space – A rule of thumb is to provide 15 square feet of pasture land per goat. It will also vary based on the other spaces they have access to.

Indoor space – Indoor housing is important for ensuring long-term health of your stock. This will also impact the production of milk. It could be a barn with specific amenities or just a simple covered area where they can shelter when needed.

Normal expenses – Some of the items that may be needed are Bedding ($10), Food ($20), Supplements ($5), Vet visits ($10) and other expenses ($10). Figures in parentheses are approximate monthly expenses per goat. Total for the month works out to $55.

Labor cost – This is perhaps the most expensive part, as it involves humans. A weekly estimate for milking, cleaning manure handling, feeding, and other tasks is estimated at 17.5 hours. This can be converted to a monthly figure by multiplying by 4.3, which makes it 75 hours. In many small farms, most of these activities are done by family members and not normally accounted for. Assuming a cost of $5 per hour for a farmhand, this translates to $375 per month. This estimate is for a farm with 10 goats. Hence, manual labor cost per goat works out to $37.5 per month.

Hence, for a farm with 10 goats, the monthly cost per goat works out to $82.5 which translates to $990 (round off to $1000) annually. This is a simplified exercise made for a farm of 10 goats.

How much do dairy goat farmers make?

A dairy goat produces about 2000 pounds of milk per lactation cycle, which lasts about 10 months. Let us assume that is the amount of milk produced in a year.

The cost for raising the goat, as we have seen elsewhere, is about $1000 a year.

Hence, the cost per pound of milk works out to 50 cents. The dairy farmer stands to make money as long as he is able to sell the milk for more than 50 cents per pound. Or $4.17 per gallon.

How long can you milk a goat for?

Dairy goats are known to produce milk for 8 to 10 months in most cases. Even after the calf is weaned off, many goats can continue to produce milk for 2 years, and even longer, if milked regularly, and thye have not been impregnated again. 

Goats are able to produce milk well into their senior years, generally in the teens. Most goats should be able to produce milk till the age of 9 or 10.

Milk production will typically start with the first birth cycle which is recommended not before the age of 1, which will lead to the birth of a calf at about 18 months.

What happens if you stop milking a goat?

The immediate outcome of stopping milking, if done suddenly, is that the udder swells with milk, causing extreme pain. It could also be followed by mastitis (an infection in the milk glands) and more extreme pain. Unlike humans, animals cannot express milk that is left unused in the udder.

However, stopping milking can be done as a planned process. The goat’s body is unable to distinguish between the kid taking milk at the mother’s teat or being collected through the milking process. It continues to produce milk in the belief that it is needed. Similarly, reducing milking will send a signal to the body that milk is not needed and production will come to a halt.

It is recommended that this be done gradually. First reduce the quantity of grain in her diet. This will initiate the reduction process. Increase the milking gap. From one to two days, then a week. Once you notice milk production stopping, you can stop milking.

How often do dairy goats need to be milked?

Dairy goats are raised to produce milk that leaves enough to be collected after taking care of the needs of her young ones. The frequency usually followed is either once a day, or twice a day 12 hours apart.

If the goat has only one kid to feed and produces enough milk, or if you are raising the kid on formula, you should consider milking twice in a 24-hour cycle. If, however, she is feeding more than one kid, or is unable to produce enough, perhaps you should milk only once a day.

How do you increase milk production in dairy goats?

Adequate nourishment – Milk production is hard work for the body. The goat needs nourishment to be able to keep producing milk. Ensure that the feed contains adequate amounts of necessary nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals. Water is also important as goat’s milk contains more than 80% water. You can increase the volume of feed to increase milk production. If feed increase does not lead to an increase in production, the goat is perhaps producing to its maximum capacity.

Keeping them free of disease and infection – Goats being vulnerable to parasites and bacterial diseases, it is important to keep them free from disease to continue optimum milk production. Ensure cleanliness of their surroundings, clean the teat and udder after milking and keep your hands clean at all times.

Milk twice a day instead of one – Collecting milk twice a day as opposed to once has been known to increase the production of milk. It follows the simple principle of being produced by the goat in response to perceived demand. With two milkings, the body will perceive that the demand is higher and respond with higher production.

Allow kids to suck at teat after milking – Allowing the kid, or kids, to suck at the teats after a milking session has also been known to produce results in emptying the teats fully, which instigates production.

Dry off the goat towards end of cycle – Drying off the goat towards the end of the lactating cycle will provide it the time and space to recharge and will result in a cycle of production of healthy quantities of milk in the next cycle.

Do goats produce milk all the time?

Milk production does not start before the first pregnancy. It is triggered when the doe gives birth the first time. Initiation of the first birth cycle is not recommended before the age of 1, which should lead to a delivery at around 18 months, accompanies by the production of milk.

From the time of birth, goats should produce milk for at least 8 months. Regular milking can extend this period to 2 years or even longer.

Milk production will also be interrupted if the doe gets pregnant again, and restart once again at the time she gives birth.

Goats are able to produce milk well into their senior years, generally in the teens. Most goats should be able to produce milk till the age of 9 or 10.

How much milk does a goat produce in a day?

A good dairy goat provides between 6 to 12 pounds of milk a day for about a 305-day lactation. Milk production can go up and down during the cycle.

What is the best time to milk goats?

There are no defined times when milking is done better than others. The schedule should be formed, and adhered to, as goats are creatures of habit and get used to a routine, based on minimizing the inconvenience to both the humans and goats involved in the process.

People who do milking once a day generally seem to favor doing it in the morning before 8 AM. Some people do it as early as 4.30 AM as well.

If the milking is twice a day, the effort being to ensure a gap of 12 hours between the two, will naturally place the second milking at or before the 8 PM mark.

Milking can begin only after the doe has given birth. The starting time would depend on your strategy for raising the kid, whether natural, or bottle-fed or a combination, depending on your situation and circumstances.

What can I feed my goat to increase milk production?

A good feed is an important input for a goat to be able to produce good quality milk in good quantity, apart from a lot of other variables like living conditions, care she received, how hers kids are doing, disease, etc..

Quality hay from legumes, with alfalfa being the choicest, should fulfil a good part of her protein requirement. Alyce clover and perennial peanut are some of the other preferred legumes. While the quantity may differ based on breed and individual requirement, 2 to 3 pounds of grain a day is a good thumb rule to follow. Some farmers use half a pound of grain for every quart of milk produced as a thumb rule. The mix should contain corn, oats and soybean meal, with added vitamins and minerals.

Fiber is another essential component. It encourages chewing and stimulates rumination. This in turn improves the fat content in the milk. Sunflower and cotton seeds are a rich source of fiber for goats.

To increase the milk supply increase the amount of feed. It should result in increase production of milk. When increased supply of feed does not trigger an increase in the quantity of milk produced, perhaps the doe has reached her potential and is unable to produce more.

Why is my goat not producing milk?

There can be a number of reasons for your goat not producing milk. Some common ones are:

Time after freshening – After giving birth the production of milk gradually increases to keep pace with the demands of a growing calf. Hence, at first it may seem like the goat is not producing enough milk. Also, sometimes in case of an early birth, earlier than a gestation period of about 150 days, delays can be experience in production of milk. Also, as the calf weans off, the milk supply can gradually taper off.

Demand inadequate – Milk is produced to keep up the supply when demand is experience, either in the form of a kid drinking the milk or being milked regularly. Inadequate milking could lead to a perception that demand is tapering off and can lead to a reduction of milk supply.

Feed intake – A healthy diet rich in nutrients is an essential input for the production of milk. If you see a decrease in the production, review the diet and make corrections if needed. Making all the milk takes a lot of effort on part of the body.

Health issues – Goats are susceptible to bacterial infections which is likely to impact both the quality as well as quantity of milk. You may need to carry out deworming. A visit to the veterinary doctor might also be required in some cases.

How much milk does a goat give?

A good dairy goat provides between 6 to 12 pounds of milk a day for about a 305-day lactation. Milk production can go up and down during the cycle.

Thereafter, each cycle of milk production can be elongated by regular milking. Production of milk stops when milking is not done and when they stop getting bred.

Milk production will typically start with the first birth cycle which is recommended not before the age of 1, which will lead to the birth of a calf at about 18 months. Goats are able to produce milk well into their senior years, generally in the teens. Most goats should be able to produce milk till the age of 9 or 10.

What is the proper way to milk a goat?

Goats are creatures of habit and get used to routines. Some farmers can develop their own special routines with their flock. Given below is a sequence that most are likely to follow for hand milking:

  1. Ensure the goat is on a milking stand, secured in the stanchion, with grain to feed on.
  2. Wash your hands. Clean the teats with warm water and dry them. Dry your hands thoroughly.
  3. Squirt once or twice from each teat into a cup. This is done by wrapping the thumb and fingers around the teat to trap some milk before squeezing to squirt. This milk, after checking for abnormalities, is to be discarded. Being closest to the teat it also has the highest probability of being infected.
  4. Thereafter, continue milking into a clean bucket. It should be done quickly, otherwise the goat could become restless.
  5. When the milk has stopped flowing, massage the back and bottom of the udder and give it a gentle bump to encourage more to be let down.
  6. When milking is complete, pour the collected milk through a strainer into a clean bucket or jar.
  7. Clean the teats with warm water of spray with a sanitizer. Return to goat to the herd or to its normal resting place. Ensure fresh feed is available for her. She should be eating and drinking right after milking. Also, resting while the teat orifice is open is invitation to bacteria to drop in.
  8. Clean all the equipment that has been used and cool the milk immediately. Equipment recommended that you keep handy:
  9. A milking stand for the goat to stand on and both she and the milker to be comfortable
  10. Stainless steel bucket for collecting milk and jars for storing
  11. Udder-washing and teat sanitizing supplies
  12. Stainless steel strainer and milk filters

What do you put on goats udders?

Some farmers just recommend using a clean cloth or paper towel and wiping them with a cleanser like Vetericyn Utility Spray–a safe and non-toxic alternative. After rinsing your cow’s udders, make sure to dry them thoroughly and wash and disinfect your hands.

Others say that washing teats with an udder wash solution or wiping teats with a cloth saturated in an approved sanitizing solution obtains best results and that washing the entire udder is not necessary unless it is caked with dirt. They recommend the avoidance of washing, especially when udders are clean, so that a warm, moist, welcoming environment does not get created for bacteria.

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