My system before this year was to leave the kids with the mom full time for a month, allowing them free access to nurse whenever they wanted or whenever mom would let them. After a month, I would separate the kids at night, milk mom in the morning, and let them be together during the day. In this way, everyone always seemed to get enough to eat, and I got at least half of the total milk produced after they’d grown up a bit.
Because she rejected him, I was letting Bow nurse on Minnie three times a day, but I never knew exactly how much milk he was actually getting. In the beginning, he would nurse for a while and then lose interest, indicating that he was full, but since I got back from New York, he seemed to want to nurse and nurse without ever acting satiated. I wasn’t sure if he was just being greedy, or he was truly hungry. At a month old, he was eating a fair amount of grass and forage as well as the grain I offered that supposedly helps develop a young kid’s rumen, but a month-old kid still needs a good bit of milk to grow in a healthy way.
I had planned on starting to milk Minnie as soon as I got home from vacation, but I was feeling lazy, so I put it off for a few days. After scrubbing and sanitizing all my equipment, I did a little test run one evening. Minnie had been out with Teela, and Bow had nursed on her a few hours earlier, but I figured I could get at least enough milk to make biscuits for dinner. I only got a little over a cup. That was when I realized that Bow really wasn’t getting enough to eat, and I had to make some kind of change.
I separated the kids that night and milked Minnie out in the morning. She produced about seven cups of milk, and I somewhat reluctantly poured three cups into a bottle and got Bow to drink from it for the first time. He seemed so happy to get a good portion of milk, and Minnie seemed happy that she didn’t have to stand for him to nurse. I was slightly less happy because I was watching my hard earned milk disappear, but I figured it was in Bow’s best interest, so I tried not to worry about it. I still let him nurse again in the afternoon and evening (against Minnie’s will), and we did the same thing the next day, too.
Here’s the thing. I love goats. They are fun and funny with great personalities. BUT I didn’t get into raising goats just to watch them frolic about. I’m in it for the milk and then the yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products. The other thing is that after doing some reading and thinking, I came to the conclusion that Bow needed to be getting more milk. When standing side by side with his sister, he was noticeably thinner (even though he started out bigger), and he acted hungry all the time.
So I made the decision to switch him to milk replacer. I’ve been feeding him four cups of prepared milk replacer twice a day, and I’ve been keeping all of Minnie’s milk for myself.
A few thoughts about milk replacer…
Feeding twice a day is logistically a lot easier than three times a day, and it’s pretty clear that he’s big enough now to handle two larger feedings instead of three smaller ones.
Minnie has been pretty mellow during milking, a lot mellower than when I would let Bow nurse while she’d try to kick him off even with her feet tied down.
Bow gets to eat pretty much as much as he wants, and he seems more satisfied then when he was only getting the dregs of whatever was left behind in Minnie’s udder after his hungry sister had been there first.
I think the fact that I first gave him a bottle of real goat milk and then switched to milk replacer helped him acclimate to sucking on a bottle better than just offering him milk replacer. It was actually easier to get him to take it than I had feared.
I’m getting six to eight cups of milk a day that I can use for anything I want.
Even though I have zero experience bottle feeding any kind of creature (human or caprine), I can see the appeal of formula. It’s pretty darn easy. That said, it’s also know to be less sub-par when compared to mama’s milk. I’m using a brand called Save-A-Kid, which I appreciate for being goat specific, something that can be hard to find, but I know it’s probably not as nutritious as Minnie’s fresh milk. I’m having a bit of “Mom Guilt” about not giving him the best of the best (actually saving the best of the best for myself), but I’ve put in quite a bit of work with the little guy, and I know he got his colostrum and several weeks of the good stuff, so I’m living with my decision as easily as I can.
The milk replacer is probably going to cost me $10-$15 a week, which isn’t a huge amount but is significant. I think many folks when faced with the cost and hassle of feeding a wether would simply decide he wasn’t worth and get rid of him. I don’t necessarily think that’s the wrong decision, but it’s not the right decision for me. We’re here now, doing what we’re doing, and I think everything will work out just fine.
a few more thoughts/observations…
One side of Minnie’s udder is way bigger and more productive than the other side. I’ve seen this before to a lesser degree, but it’s still pretty weird. Please excuse the goat porn, but I had to include a couple photos. Strangely enough, last year, Minnie had an unbalanced udder as well, but it was the opposite from this year. I’m not sure what all I can do to “fix” it other than milking every day.
Minnie also seems to alternate between heavy milk days and light days. One day she’ll deliver a full half gallon of milk, but the next, I’ll only get a quart and a half. This is something I’ve noticed in other milking does before as well.
I’ve already made batches of yogurt and cheese as well as goat milk-centric crepes and popovers. I love the fact that taking a winter break from milking makes me so much more excited about homegrown dairy products every spring.
Going through the whole process of making sure Bow’s had enough to eat this past month has been a total pain, but I lived through the experience. It’s even got me thinking about the possibility of milking my doe and bottle feeding all the kids next year. Bottle-fed babies sure do come out sweet. I guess I have a year to consider it.
If you’re new to this blog and want to learn more about my milking routine and dairy practices, there’s a lot more information in the “Animal Husbandry-Goats” and “Dairy” categories found in the sidebar.