Table of Contents
Introduction – How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk
By Sereena Liess
Dairy goats are raised on farms and homesteads around the world for their rich, sweet milk and friendly personality. Years ago, when my family had a mini-farm of our own, the goats were definitely a favorite, for several reasons. For one thing, they were just so fun! Watching those kids play was almost as fun as playing with them yourself! Another big plus was the milk: nutrient-rich, creamy, and pure white. Let’s explore the basics about how to raise dairy goats for milk and all the benefits that come with it.
Health Benefits of Goat Milk
Goat milk is actually the most commonly consumed milk in the world. Chock full of vitamins and minerals, it is a nourishing and rich food source. Producing your own goat milk for you and your family to use is one of the greatest benefits when you’re learning how to raise dairy goats for milk.
Goat Milk for Skin
For centuries, goat milk has been known to improve overall skin health. In fact, it is said that Queen Cleopatra bathed in pure goat milk– quite expensive, I’m sure! Goat milk is rich in vitamin A, which can improve your complexion, fight acne, and make your skin glow. It also contains high levels of lactic acid, which strengthens your skin while removing dead skin cells.
The pH level of goat milk is similar to that of humans, which means our bodies can absorb it easily, with less irritation than “regular” (cow) milk. It also helps keep bacteria at bay.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit from drinking goat milk is moist skin. Goat milk lotions and creams are becoming more popular because the fatty acids and triglycerides in goat milk are a deep moisturizing agent, excellent for dry, sensitive skin.
Goat Milk for Babies
Goat milk has been used as a substitute formula for orphaned puppies or other animals for years because it is packed full of nutrients, probiotics, prebiotics, minerals, and vitamins, and it is so easily digested. But could it be beneficial to your baby as well?
Many baby formulas today are made from cow milk, which is actually acidic, whereas goat milk is alkaline, just like breast milk. The pH levels of goat milk and breast milk are similar, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal infections in your baby.
Goat milk is also rich in iron, similar to cows milk. The difference here is that the iron from goat milk is much more easily absorbed.
Over 50% of the iron content of goat milk is absorbed by the human body, in contrast to 13% from cow milk. Big difference! Goat milk also contains more calcium than cow milk (33% of the suggested daily amount in one cup compared to 28% in cow milk) Because of this, goat milk improves bone strength and can prove helpful for anemic babies.
Goat milk has anti-inflammatory properties which promote good bacteria growth, soothing colitis and other gastrointestinal infections. It is comprised of short-chain fatty acids (1/5 the size of cow milk) which break easily, and its protein is less dense than that of cow milk. This makes it more easily digested. In fact , your body can digest goat milk and begin distributing those necessary vitamins and minerals in 20 minutes!
Goats Milk for Dogs
I mentioned orphaned puppies earlier, but recent studies have shown that goat milk is highly beneficial for adult dogs as well. It’s actually becoming quite a fad. It’s another side benefit goat raisers discover when they get started learning how to raise dairy goats for milk.
Because of the many probiotics that exist in goat milk (raw being the best) it can help prevent and heal common dog ailments, such as the ones listed below:
- Liver disease
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Malnutrition (use that goat milk to put some meat back on their bones!)
- Kidney disease/stones
- Diabetes (more on this below)
- GI disease
Goat milk contains less lactose (a kind of sugar) than cow milk, making it much easier to handle for those that are lactose intolerant or diabetic. Using it raw is important though, because pasteurizing milk removes the naturally occurring lactates that break down and help you digest lactose.
Goat Milk Bath
So, do you remember Queen Cleopatra and her milk-baths? It’s actually a thing. Dermatologist Libby Rhee says that you should take a goat milk bath once a week.
Now, pure goat milk for bathing is a little too extravagant for most of us, but just adding two cups of this rich substance to warm bath water has been proven to have many benefits.
The lactic acid in goat milk exfoliates your skin by breaking down the bonds that cause dead skin cells to stick together. It also adds a moisture barrier to soothe dry skin, and soften rough skin.
Simply add 2 cups of goat milk, a few drops of lavender essential oil, and 1/2 a cup of honey to warm bath water and soak for 20 minutes. Rinse well and moisturize ( so you don’t end up smelling like soured milk a few hours later).
Goat milk works wonders for your hair, too. Some people like to add goat milk to their shampoo or conditioner for soft, manageable hair that is stronger, sleeker and more defined (if you have curls).
People using goat milk in their hair have noticed less breakage and shredding, and enjoy overall healthy hair. The fatty acids packed into goat milk also help to heal a dry, itchy scalp. It’s another side benefit of learning how to raise dairy goats for milk.
Goat Milk Soap
I’m sure you’ve heard of goat milk soap before. It’s pretty popular as a shaving soap because of its moisturizing and irritation-reducing qualities. The alpha-hydroxy acids (lactic acids for example) contained in goat milk deeply cleanse and moisturize the skin. Some like to use goat milk soap to remove make-up, as it is a much gentler and more nourishing alternative to chemical laden removers.
Perhaps one of the most surprising benefits comes in the form of a mineral called Selenium. Goat milk is the only milk containing this mineral that is known to fight and prevent skin cancer.
Once you gain some experience making your own goat milk soap, it opens up the possibility of selling your soap. In fact, there are multiple ways you can make a little extra side money with your goats. To learn more, you might want to check out our guide, “Raising Goats for Profit: 7 Proven Ways to Make Money.”
Goat terminology is important to know if you’re wanting to understand how to raise dairy goats for milk. Some of these terms you may already be familiar with, and some may be new to you.
The list below is not exhaustive, but includes many of the commonly used terms in alphabetical order.
- Acidosis = A condition where the rumen ( the first compartment of a goat’s stomach) becomes too acidic, often due to the overconsumption of grains or forage or sudden changes in diet
- Bleating (calling) = Vocalization made by a goat
- Buck = Intact male goat over one year of age (Billy is the informal term.)
- Buckling = (intact) male goat under one year of age
- Butting (head butting) = Act of bashing horns or forehead into another goat or object (including people)
- Caprine arthritic encephalitis (CAE) = Disease that results in inflammation of the joints and brain (similar to AIDS in humans)
- Caseous lymphadenitis (CL) = A highly contagious disease most often characterized by abscesses on the lymph nodes
- Castrate = Removal of the male testes / testicles
- Coccidiosis = A condition caused by a protozoan parasite that destroys the lining of the small intestine causing diarrhea and possibly death. The number one killer of baby goats.
- Colostrum = First milk produced by the doe after kidding. It is full of natural antibodies and minerals.
- Cud = A digestive process that is unique to ruminants. Food is sent to the rumen where it is subjected to bacterial processes, and then it is regurgitated to the mouth and chewed.
- Dam = Mother goat
- Dehorning = Removal of existing horns
- De-worm = Use of chemical or herbal substance to rid a goat of internal parasites
- De-wormer = Substance used to rid a goat of internal parasites
- Disbud = Cauterizing (burning) the horn buds with a hot iron to prevent their growth
- Doe = Female goat over one year of age (Nanny is the informal term.)
- Doeling = Female goat under one year of age
- Dry = Not yielding milk any longer
- Estrus / Heat = Time when a doe is ovulating and receptive to a buck for breeding. Estrus usually lasts 24-36 hours. At its peak when the doe is the most receptive it is called standing heat.
- First freshener = Doe kidding for the first time
- Freshen = Start milk production (usually accompanied by kidding)
- Johne’s disease = Chronic wasting disease of ruminants. A main symptom of Johne’s is diarrhea.
- Kid = Young / baby goat under 1 year
- Kidding = Giving birth
- Lactation = Period of time that a doe produces milk
- Open Doe = Female goat that has not been bred or has not become pregnant
- Orifice = Opening in the end of a functional teat
- Ruminant = Animal that chews cud and has a four-chamber stomach
- Rut = Period of time in which bucks are highly interested in breeding (usually in autumn)
- Scours (scouring) = Diarrhea (having diarrhea)
- Sire = Father Goat
- Stanchion = Also known as a head gate. It is a device used to secure animals in a stall or at a trough for feeding, milking, or care.
- Udder = Female mammary system – the “sac” that holds the milk
- Wether = Male goat that has been castrated
- Yearling = A one year old goat. In shows they can be classed as a “dry-yearling” or “first freshener” depending on if they have given birth or not.
Goats vary based on breed, but on average, a full grown goat will weigh between 100 and 120 pounds. They come in many different colors: tan, brown, red, black, white, and gray. Some sport three colors at once.
Goats have cloven hooves, and are great climbers. The females are usually smaller than the males, however, both males and females can have beards and horns. They are friendly, playful, gentle, and generally tame creatures.
Goats are browsers, not grazers, and love variety. They love to devour your weeds, and yes, they will eat your garden too, if you let them.:)
One of our goats got into the oregano once. let’s just say, he learned his lesson and stayed out of the herb garden after that.:D
Wild lettuce was a favorite with our goats. That and milk thistle. In fact, our goats and cows seemed to enjoy thistles so much, we tried them, and actually, they’re quite good!
Milk Yield Per Goat
If you start reading up on how to raise dairy goats for milk, you will soon learn that the amount of milk you can get from a dairy goat varies from breed to breed, goat to goat, and also depending on how many times a day you milk her.
A first freshener will give you less than a seasoned milker. You could get a yield of anywhere from a half a gallon to three gallons a day (rare). Some people only milk once a day, while some prefer to milk two to three times a day.
Goat Milk vs Cow Milk
Probably the most obvious difference between goat and cow milk is the taste. Goat milk tends to taste…goaty. However, as I will get into later, that is not always, and does not have to be, the case.
Goat milk can also be sweeter, and the cream stays mixed into the milk, rather than separating and rising to the top like cow milk. This can make production of butter and sour cream a bit more difficult, but cheese is an excellent option!
Goat milk is whiter in appearance than cow milk, and contains more vitamins A, B, and C, more calcium, iron, phosphorus, and by far more riboflavin than cow milk contains. It is also lower in cholesterol and lactose, making it easier to digest.
Dairy goats can also be raised on a smaller piece of land than dairy cows. A cow needs about an acre, while you can fit about 10 goats in that same acre.
That means if you have 40 acres, you can raise 10 cows that will produce, say, 4 gallons each a day, or you can raise 400 goats, who give you an average of a gallon a day per head. That’s 400 gallons a day (goats) compared to 160 gallons a day (cows). Now, that’s a pretty big herd, but you see my point.
Where to Buy a Goat
You can buy a goat online, from a local farmer, or at an auction. No matter where you choose to purchase a goat from, there are some things you should know to look out for to make sure you are getting the best return for your money, and will not be disappointed in your purchase later on.
- 1. You will want to make sure your prospective goat has been tested for CAE, CL, and Johnes Disease, and the seller should be willing to show you those records.
- 2. Buying registered is a great idea if you plan on selling any future offspring . Make sure you have the papers with you when you leave with the goat. Do not agree to have them mailed or delivered to you later.
- 3. If buying online, ask for pictures of the goat from all angles.
- 4. Ask for information about the dam and sire. Pictures of dam are especially helpful. For example, if the dam has a good udder, there’s a good chance her offspring will. That’s true for the opposite as well.
- 5. Ask for information about de-worming and feeding habits. You want to make sure your goat has been properly de-wormed
If you’re just getting started with goats, you will probably want to also check out our free beginner’s guide,
How Much Does a Goat Cost?
One important consideration when learning how to raise dairy goats for milk, is the price of a goat. This varies, but a general price range would be anywhere between $100 and $400. Since goats are herd animals, getting only one is not the best idea, so double these costs when planning for your herd.
A goat needs about 250 sq. feet of land, so a five foot fence to enclose that land could cost you anywhere from $50 to $600 depending on the quality of the fencing you buy. Calculate about $15 to $20 per month in feed, and about $30 a year to de-worm and test your goat for diseases. Add in the necessary minerals for around $15 a year.
If you want to breed your doe with someone else’s buck, that can cost about $50 to $250, depending on whether you do a “drive-by” (also called a date), or actually take your doe to live with the stud goat for a couple of months.
Put all this together, including the original cost of purchasing the goat, and you have a cost of about $600 to $1,000. Subtract the initial purchasing costs that won’t be ongoing, and you have the cost of about $250 to $400 a year.
Is Dairy Goat Farming Profitable?
The first thing to consider is normal costs that will be cut by raising goats. For example, you may no longer have to buy milk, cheese, yogurt, or bar soap, as you can easily make these products yourself now with materials you are growing on your own land.
Then factor in the profit you can make off of selling these products and the goats themselves (if you don’t want to keep all the kids each time you freshen your doe).
In most states, you have to get a license to sell goat milk, cheese, and yogurt. Some alternatives to that are herd sharing, selling for pet food, and taking donations instead of charging for your products.
Goat milk can be sold for anywhere from $5 to an exorbitant $24 a gallon. The average price seems to be about $8 to $10 a gallon.
When you research how to raise dairy goats for milk, I would also encourage you to do some research on your specific state to see what the guidelines and average prices are for selling goat milk products where you live.
Dairy Goat Breeds
The goat breeds listed below are all recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association, except for the Guernsey, which is new to the US.
- La Mancha
To learn more about different goat breeds, including dairy goats, meat goats and other types of goats, head on over to our free guide, “15 Best Breeds of Goats for Milk, Meat and More.”
Miniature Dairy Goat Breeds:
- Nigerian Dwarf
- Kinder (The Kinder is a mix between Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy goats.)
- Mini (The mini breeds are produced by breeding a standard doe with a Nigerian Dwarf buck to get smaller kids.)
Best Dairy Goat Breeds
When it comes to learning how to raise dairy goats for milk, and which breed is best, it depends on what you are looking for, but I would put the first 5 goats listed below as the best dairy breeds.
Nubians are one of the most popular dairy breeds, but because they are easy to come by, many of them are not as good quality as they used to be, so be sure to buy from a high quality breeder.
Nubians produce an average of a gallon of milk a day, some producing up to two gallons a day.
Their milk has a 4 to 5% butterfat content. With “butterfat content,” think “cream.” The butterfat content determines the richness and flavor (sweetness) of the milk. Nubian milk is known to have good flavor. Nubians are one of the larger breeds and are very vocal and fairly gentle.
La Manchas are a favorite of dairy goat farmers. They are calm and gentle with a high milk production. They produce 1 to 2 gallons a day with a butterfat content of 4 to 4.5% La Manchas have very small, or no ears at all.
Alpines have one of the longest lactation cycles of all dairy breeds, and they are heavy producers, giving 1 to 3 gallons a day with a 3.5% butterfat content. Alpine milk is known for its good flavor despite its fairly low butterfat content, and Alpine goats themselves are friendly and sturdy goats.
4. Nigerian Dwarf
Nigerian Dwarf goats, though small, produce some of the best quality milk to make up for their lack in quantity. They produce 2 cups to ¾ gallon with a butterfat content of 8 to 10%! These goats are good for those who live in urban areas with a small plot of land. They are excellent mothers and kid more easily and more frequently than the standard breeds.
Saanens can produce 3 gallons of milk a day, though their average is 1 1/2. The milk has a butterfat content of 2 to 3%, so the milk, though plentiful, is not very rich. Saanens are white in color. Sables are actually just Saanens that are different colors.
Other Good Dairy Goat Breeds
Oberhaslis and Toggenburgs both produce 2 to 3 gallons a day, but the milk tends to have a strong goaty flavor, especially the Toggenburg milk, as these goats were bred specifically for the strong flavor of their milk. Oberhaslis have a butterfat content of 2.5 to 3.5%, and Toggenbugs, 3%.
Guernseys, or Golden Guernseys, as they are often called, are rare in the US, but are a valuable dairy breed. They are very well mannered and give about 1 gallon of milk per day with a butterfat content of 6 to 8%.
Kinders produce ½ to 1 gal of milk a day with a rich butterfat content of 7%. They are not a very popular breed, but if you are looking for a smaller breed with rich milk, they just may be the perfect one for you. The does are about the same size or a little smaller than Nigerian Dwarf does.
GOAT VIDEO: Raising and Caring for Dairy Goats
Credit: The Tactical Homesteader
How Much Space Does a Goat Need?
Once you get started learning how to raise dairy goats for milk, you ‘ll need to determine where to keep your goats. As a general rule, goats need 10 to 20 sq. feet of shelter (10 if they have a large pasture, 20, if the pasture is smaller).
Minimum outdoor/pasture space is 200 sq. feet per goat. Keep in mind, goats are herd animals, and need at least one companion.
Shelter is one of the next most important things to get in place when learning how to raise dairy goats for milk. Goats need shelter from heat, cold, rain, and wind. Pregnant does will also need a safe place to kid.
A three-sided barn is sufficient shelter for most goats. Make sure there is always clean water and that all the goats can drink at once.
Feeding bins and hay should also be accessible to all your goats at once. All food should be stored in a separate place unless they are very secure so that your goats will not get into them.
A kidding pen, 4ft. by 5 ft. should be available for kidding does, and sanitized in between kiddings.
When you build a goat shelter for the first time, don’t get too extravagant or expensive. Goats don’t care. They prefer simple. Also, your first shelter won’t be permanent. You’ll want to change it or move it around later.
Most people like to start by building a free, simple shelter using discarded wooden pallets. To get some ideas on different ways to do this, checkout our free guide with pictures and links to ideas, “25 Easy goat Shelters and Sheds Using DIY Pallets.”
Once you’ve begun to research how to raise dairy goats for milk, and you have your goat shelter in place, there are many different options for fencing. Many agree that livestock fencing (smaller mesh) is best.
The 4 in. squares are what you want to go with; 6 in. is just the right size for goats to stick their head through and get it stuck, and 12 in. is big enough for many to squeeze through and escape.
For kids, you can install panels with welded wire where the squares get smaller and smaller closer to the bottom to prevent the kids’ escape. A 4 foot tall fence should be sufficient, but 6 will provide additional protection from predators.
A 4-foot fence should be secured to 7 foot wooden posts. A single wire (electric or non) can be stretched between the posts, close to the top to discourage your goats from climbing on and jumping the fence.
To dive deeper into how you can set up proper fencing for your goats, you will want to check out our free guide that walks you through the details, “Goat Fencing: 3 Most Popular Types.”
Dairy Goats Feeding and Nutrition
Feeding your goats properly is another critical part of learning how to raise dairy goats for milk.
Goats are browsers, meaning they can eat grass, but should have much more forage than just grass. Goats can eat anything from dandelion leaves to small shrubs and saplings.
The greater the variety, the happier they are.
Goats require roughage in order for their digestive systems to work properly. Hay should be supplied twice a day or given free-choice (free-choice means it is always available to them).
Minerals and baking soda should be given free-choice, and individually, not in block form where various minerals are mixed together. Some may need a Selenium boost to keep their bones strong and healthy.
Alfalfa hay, pellets, or flakes, are a good supplement if your goats are not getting much variety in their forage.
No matter what you do, never feed your goats too much grain. It can make them fat and lazy and give them multiple health and digestive problems. Grain should comprise less than 20% of a goat’s diet.
A salt block should always be available for your goats as well.
If you’re new to goats, I encourage you to take some time to learn how to feed them properly by checking out our free guide, “What to Feed Goats: Ultimate Guide to Goat Nutrition.”
Goats are climbers. They love anything they can climb on and jump off of, such as picnic tables, straw bales, and kids’ playhouses. Providing them with things to climb on will insure they are getting the exercise they need.
Keep a record of your goat’s health, and de-worm regularly. Annual testing for disease is highly recommended.
Rotating pastures helps control parasites and gives goats fresh pasture to feed in. A twelve month break from a pasture is best.
Hooves should be trimmed every couple of months. You can do this yourself with a trimmer or a pocketknife.
These are just a few quick tips. But as you’re discovering how to raise dairy goats for milk, you will want to study further to make sure you get familiar with the various different goat health problems, diseases, symptoms and treatments.
For a deeper understanding of all of those things, you can start by reviewing our free guide, “Goat Health Care: Diseases, Symptoms & Treatment.”
Goat Udder Care
Proper udder care for lactating does is an important subject to study as you learn how to raise dairy goats for milk. The first thing to ensure is that the pen/shelter your doe is housed in is clean.
Every time you milk, the udder and teats should be cleaned first. Gently wipe with warm water, then dry with a clean cloth.
As a bonus, add Basic H to the warm water to fight bacteria.
Iodine is a commonly used disinfectant, and should be kept on hand.
In case of infection, surface wounds, (like minor scratches and scrapes) or bug bites, first disinfect the wound. Tea tree oil diluted in a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil can heal minor wounds and bug bites and keep the udder healthy and free of bacteria, on top of fighting infection. Just be sure to remove all the tea tree oil before milking, or your milk will taste like tea tree. Yuck!
How to Breed Goats
You can’t study how to raise dairy goats for milk without digging into the subject of breeding. After all, milk isn’t produced without babies, and babies aren’t born without breeding.
Most dairy goats only breed between August and December. Some, like the miniature breeds, and occasionally, Nubians, can breed all year round. A doe will go into heat every 18 to 21 days during the breeding season, and will stay in heat for a few hours to a few days.
Signs of a doe being in heat are as follows:
- Wagging tail
- Bleating loudly
- Swollen back end
- Mucus discharge
- Interest in buck
A doe should be about 8 months old, and at least 80 lbs. before breeding. NEVER breed a miniature doe with a standard buck. The kids will probably be too big and cause complications or death.
Usually, just putting a doe in heat, and a buck in rut in a pen together is enough, though once in a while the doe will not stand still and will need to be held on a lead. You can tell that your doe has been successfully bred if there is a milky white discharge from her vagina.
A goat’s gestation period lasts 150 day, roughly 5 months. Make sure you calculate and record her due date so you can properly care for her during her pregnancy.
You can dig into more detail about goat breeding by studying our free guide, “Goat Breeding 101: Beginner’s Guide to Goat Breeding Season.”
Caring for Pregnant Goats
A goat’s gestation period is divided into two periods, the first lasting about 3 ½ months, and the second lasting the six weeks before kidding.
In the first gestation period, you should make sure your doe has high quality hay, alfalfa, minerals, and pasture. She really doesn’t need grain at this point unless she is being milked. Her BCS (Body Conditioning Scoring) at this point should maintain a level of 2.5 to 3.
Try to alleviate as much stress as possible, and don’t introduce new animals to your herd at this time. An overly stressed doe can miscarry. Also, your doe should be separated from all bucks at this point.
You can milk a pregnant doe, but two months before her due date, you should dry her up to allow her body to pour nutrients into those growing kids instead of milk production.
In the second gestation period, start to slowly introduce grain into her diet. At this point BCS should be 3.5 to 4. If the BCS level is not properly maintained, your doe could contract ketosis, pregnancy toxemia, or hypocalcemia.
Just in case, it is always best to keep some molasses or propylene glycol on hand.
Try to alleviate as much stress as possible, and don’t introduce new animals to your herd at this time. An overly stressed doe can miscarry.
One week prior to kidding, de-worm your doe again.
Two or three days before her due date, move her to the kidding stall with a companion (preferably a gentle one). Note: the bedding in the kidding stall should be straw, not shavings or corn cob.
At this point, just watch your doe carefully for signs that she is about to kid. Make sure your kidding kit is packed and ready to go, and just in case, it’s always wise to have some frozen or dried colostrum on hand as well.
Baby goats are probably the most exciting part of learning how to raise dairy goats for milk.
The kidding process is not very complicated, and will run smoothly in most cases, with the doe taking the lead, and you there as back up.
Here are the basic supplies you should keep in your kidding kit:
- Iodine in a small bowl (This is to dip the umbilical cord stump in, to prevent infection, and is very important.)
- Paper towels or cloths (to wipe off the kids)
- Towels, puppy pads, or old feed bags (makes clean-up a lot easier)
- Garbage bags (for the dirty towels and one for the placenta, or afterbirth)
- Floss/ string/ clamp (for the umbilical cord, if necessary)
- Scissors, well sanitized (to cut the umbilical cord if necessary)
- Colostrum supplement (in case something goes wrong with the dam’s production)
- Baby bottle (for colostrum supplement)
Be sure to have the number of a vet or experienced goat farmer with you, so that you can have help if there are any complications.
After the contractions start, and you have everything in place (puppy pad to catch the kid), just wait, and encourage your doe. As contractions grow stronger and more frequent, a clear sac (amniotic sac surrounding the kid) will appear.
Normally it will rupture, and the kid’s hooves and legs, and then nose will follow. Once the kid is fully expelled, if the amniotic sac has not broken, gently break it with your fingers or scissors.
The doe should immediately start nuzzling and cleaning the kid. If she does not clean the amniotic fluid off of the kid’s nose and mouth, you can clean it yourself.
Dip the stump of the kid’s umbilical cord in the iodine, and let the kid and doe bond. It’s typically about a 20 to 30 minute wait for the next kid.
Once all of the kids have been successfully delivered and cleaned up, remove the puppy pads and clean up the kidding stall, putting down fresh straw if necessary.
Your doe will be hungry, so warm water with molasses and grain or hay should be provided. Make sure the kids have found the doe’s milk supply and are nursing. The colostrum is vital to them in their first few hours.
If it is still cold outside, you may want to install a heat lamp.
Raising Goat Kids
Once your kids are born, they can live solely off of their mother’s milk for the first month. You may want to give a probiotic supplement and a selenium boost.
The dam’s diet is what you should be focusing on now, to ensure the babies are getting the nutrients they need through her milk. She will burn a lot of calories while nursing, so make sure she has plenty of hay, protein, and enough grain to keep up milk production.
Clean water and minerals are also required, as always.
If you only have one kid, you may need to make sure that your kid is nursing from both teats, and not draining one and leaving the other to fill and get sore. If this is happening, you can milk that side to empty it somewhat, then show the kid that he has another option! After you’ve milked that teat a little, he should smell the fresh milk and latch on.
Bottle raising your kids is an option, if you want the milk for yourself early on, your doe rejects the kid, or the kid is too weak to nurse on its own.
Some also choose to bottle-feed so that the kids bond well with their owners and are people-friendly. However, it is very time consuming to bottle raise your kids, so it may actually be easier to let the doe raise her babies for the first two months if all is going well.
Some also choose to bottle-feed so that the kids bond well with their owners and are people-friendly.
You will want to keep your dam and kids separate from all bucks at this point. They can be way too aggressive and can kill the kids.
You can make sure your kids are getting enough milk by checking their belly. If it rounds out slightly past the ribs, you’re good. If you can see ribs, however, your kid is not getting enough to eat, and you may need to supplement with a bottle.
If you have a buckling that you want to castrate, most say it is best to do it on days 2 to 21. If you wait till the kid is 4 to 6 weeks old, complications may arise, and you will most likely have to use anesthesia.
However, some studies suggest you wait to castrate till the buckling reaches puberty to better avoid the possibility of urinary stones, which are often deadly.
Weaning Goat Kids
Intact bucklings must be weaned at three months, so that they don’t mate with their mother and sisters.
The normal weaning period is when the kids are 60 days old.
A few weeks before weaning, it is ideal to move your dam and her kids to the area where your weaning kids will be, so they have time to get used to their new home. Slowly introduce dry feed (you can start doing this at two weeks old, to minimize stress at weaning time).
Make sure your kids have access to clean water. Adding electrolytes to the water can give your kids a helpful boost.
Make sure your kids are doing well with eating solid food, and provide plenty of quality hay and minerals before moving the doe to another pen.
Coccidia treatments can be added to the water to prevent your kids from contracting this disease.
The pen and pasture your kids are housed in needs to be kept clean, as Coccidia is spread through feces.
Keep your weaning goats separate from already weaned kids for a couple weeks to reduce unnecessary stress.
How to Milk a Goat
Once you begin learning how to raise dairy goats for milk, milking your goats will soon be part of your daily routine.
Milking a goat can be quite a comical or frustrating experience until you’ve got it figured out.
Goats have only two teats, as opposed to a cow’s four. Most dairy goat farmers use a milking stand for the doe to stand on, especially for smaller goats.
It is definitely recommended, though not absolutely necessary. A stanchion, or at least a bucket with grain, will keep your doe standing still for you.
Always clean the udder and teats first, then place your milk bucket under the goat’s udder and seat yourself on a stool to begin.
Wrap your thumb and index finger right above the teat, a couple of inches into the udder and squeeze. This traps the milk in the teat.
Then squeeze with the rest of your fingers, starting with the one closest to your index finger, going down to your pinky, while gently tugging.
Some does have teats too small for this method. In this case, use your thumb and index finger, gently squeeze the top of the teat, starting barely into the udder, and pull your thumb and finger down, still squeezing the teat all the way down.
After you have drained her of milk, massage the udder and do it again. You will know you have milked her dry when her teats are shriveled.
Clean the udder and teats again to ensure there is no infection and your goat stays healthy. Release her back into the herd and make sure she is supplied with food and fresh water.
GOAT VIDEO – How to Milk a Goat 101
Credit: Big Family Homestead
How to Process Goat Milk
You’ll want to strain your milk into glass jars as soon as possible. You can use a mesh strainer for this, or a cheesecloth.
Your milk should be refrigerated immediately after straining. The desired temperature for freshness and longer shelf life is 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why Does Goat Milk Taste Goaty?
After you’ve learned how to raise dairy goats for milk, and you’ve been milking your goats for awhile, you will sometimes notice the milk flavor being a little “off”. It’s usually referred to as a “goaty” flavor when that happens. This only happens occasionally, and most of the time your milk will taste wonderful and creamy.
The first thing to consider if you have strong tasting goat milk, is the buck.
If you have a buck in your herd, his scent will affect your doe’s milk. Separating your buck from the milking does may fix your problem.
Another factor to consider is proper chilling. If you are refrigerating your milk right away, and it still has a strong musk flavor, here’s a trick I learned from some very experienced homesteader friends who had the best goat milk I have ever tasted.
Put an ice block in the bottom of your milking pail, so that you are milking directly onto the ice, cooling the milk as soon as it comes out. Have your jars sitting nearby in a cooler of ice, so you can immediately strain the milk when you are finished into already cooled jars. Your milk should be rich and sweet.
One last factor to consider is the quality of your goat. Unfortunately, many Nubians have been carelessly bred, and are not all good quality milkers. Try to make sure before you buy your goat that she is from high quality blood lines.
How to Dry up a Doe Goat in Milk
Drying up a doe is a fairly easy process.
- First step: reduce the amount of grain you are feeding her.
- Secondly, don’t milk her dry. She will be tight and uncomfortable, so milk her till she’s comfortable, but not empty.
- Her production will start to decrease. Do this for about two weeks.
- The third week, milk her out once a day.
- The following week, only milk her out every other day. By this time, her body will have received the message and will stop producing milk.
Goat Milk Cheese
One other wonderful benefit when you’re learning how to raise dairy goats for milk is the cheese.
There are many different goat cheeses, and some are very easy to make.
Here is one such recipe that can be made with only 20 minutes of prep time.
Author: Analida Braeger
- 1 qt goat milk
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Dried herbs of your choice
- 1. Line a colander with two or three layers of fine cheesecloth.
- 2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, heat the goat milk until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir frequently to ensure even heat throughout.
- 3. Remove from heat immediately; add the lemon juice, and stir a couple of times until combined.
- 4. Add the vinegar, stir briefly until combined and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes.
- 5. The curds will not be large, on the contrary they will be like tiny specks.
- 6. Slowly ladle into the cheesecloth. Add the salt and stir lightly.
- 7. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth, and tie them with kitchen string. Tie to your faucet. Allow it to hang and drip for about 1 hour.
- 8. Place on a cutting board and shape. Sprinkle with died herbs of your choice.
- 9. Refrigerate and serve when set.
Other recipes for harder cheese are made using rennet and a starter culture, which can also be done at home.
Goat cheese packs all of the rich nutrients, vitamins, and probiotics in goat milk into a smooth, creamy protein source.
Chev’re, soft goat cheese, (the recipe above) can be used much like cream cheese. It is excellent mixed with honey and spread over crackers or bread!
The hard cheeses can be used as a salad topper or mixed into quiches and fritatas. Goat cheese adds a rich and unique flavor to soups and sauces as well.
Goat Milk Soap
Goat milk soap is another enjoyable side benefit of learning how to raise dairy goats for milk.
Making your own goat milk soap can be a very fulfilling experience. Of course, it has its dangers, so use caution.
You can make soap with or without lye, but in order to make it truly from scratch, you must use lye.
Since I don’t really have room to put an actual recipe in this post, I will just give the basic steps.
- Freeze your goat milk the night before, so that it does not scorch when you add the lye.
- Chop your frozen milk into smaller pieces and put them in a bowl. Put this bowl in a pan or sink of ice. C
- Add the lye slowly and carefully to the frozen milk and mix thoroughly with a potato masher. (It’s best to wear gloves and goggles for this step.)
- Melt coconut oil and mix it with olive oil.
- Add the milk and lye mixture to the oil and blend till the soap reaches the consistency of a thick pudding.
- Add fragrances, essential oils, and fresh herbs.
- Pour soap into molds and let sit for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, dump the soap out of the mold and cut it into bars.
- Let your soap cure for a month before using it.
- Your soap is ready to use when its pH levels are between 8 and 10.
Other Goat Milk Products
Cheese and soap aren’t the only benefits that come with learning how to raise dairy goats for milk. Goat milk is very versatile and can be used to make so many nutrient-rich and healthy products, like the ones listed below:
- Lotion and Lip Balm
- Baby Formula
- Ice cream and Gelato
- Cajeta (caramel sauce)
- Caramel Candy
- Egg Nog
- Smoothies and Milkshakes
- Butter (possible, but very difficult to make)
Conclusion – How to Raise Dairy Goats for Milk
Learning how to raise dairy goats for milk is an educational and rewarding experience – something I doubt you’ll ever regret. Whether you decide to raise just two, or a whole herd, you will reap so many amazing benefits, and grow so much in the process. You can become a self-sustaining, productive, and hard-working homesteader with a whole flock of little friends. Enjoy your goat-raising adventure.
Author: Sereena Liess
Sign-up for FREE Goat Tips & Advice
Our FREE regular digest includes:
- Tips for beginners
- Latest dairy goat updates
- Strategies for showing your goats
- Making your goat farm profitable
- How-to info for soaps and cheeses
- Goat health warning signs
- Lots of other helpful goat hints