Milking Season 2013

May 14, 2013 · 9 comments

fresh chévre draining // Wayward SparkMy 2013 milking season is shaping up to be somewhat different that the past six years of milking goats. It’s been complicated by a few different factors, but mainly a little goat creature named Bow.

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.

bottle fed goat kid // Wayward Spark

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.

fresh milk in a pail // Wayward Spark

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.

unbalanced goat udder // Wayward Spark

unbalanced goat udder // Wayward Spark

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. 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa May 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Enjoyed this a lot. And it made me miss my goats. On the flip side – I’m excited to do things more seriously next time around.

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Camille May 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Live and learn. By choice or not. I do hope you’re able to have some goats in your life again sooner or later.

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Erika May 14, 2013 at 9:27 pm

:/ 7 cups a day? So jelly. I didn’t get my milking set up right until 2 months after my sheep started lactating and i’ve paid the price: from a half gallon the first few days of lactating (had to milk them out), to once quart from Ash and 1-3 cups from Polly. Of course, I leave a fair amount to the lambs.

Its interesting because your goats don’t seem to have much fuller udders than my sheep, yet you get 7 cups out? is that just one milking a day?

ug. not fair.

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Erika May 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Also, i had uneven udder issues: one udder was producing 1/2 gallon the first week, but mom was so engorged she was having trouble milking!

The last uneven udder turned out to be a sneaky lamb who figured out how to milk one side while his mom was locked up for the night.

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Deb May 15, 2013 at 12:52 am

We found making out own milk replacer with cow’s milk, buttermilk, and condensed milk works much better than any commercial replacer available here- they just thrive on it whereas the commerical stuff they always seem to lack condition. I’m sure you know this too, but make sure it is a replace made for goats, and not a universal replacer. Universal replacers don’t have copper (because copper will kill a sheep) and goats need quite a bit of copper in their diets. :)

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TJ May 15, 2013 at 7:45 am

We have a bottle baby this year, too. She’s as sweet as can be and was the first one sold, although she will stay here for another month since she is only 3 weeks old. We are blessed with a Saanen who produces lots of milk. We pull her from her kids at night, just like you do, and she gives me 3/4 gallon every morning! That gives us enough for the bottle kid and our family. She even lets the little bottle baby sneak drinks from time to time during the day. I know Nubians give creamier milk, but I wouldn’t give up the Saanens production capabilities unless it was for a S’Nubian. We love that ‘breed’s’ production and milk, too!

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Taryn Kae Wilson @ Wooly Moss Roots May 16, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Hi Camille,
When we were milking our goats, we did a similar method where we separated the mothers from the kids at night. In the morning we milked and then let the kids back in with their moms throughout the day. It worked really well for us.
Some of our goats were much better mothers than others, which was interesting to see.

Enjoy your cheese and goat’s milk goodness!!

Love,
Taryn

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Kristy@SeeMyFootprints May 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

interesting stuff… I never really thought about it all (being that I didn’t think about goats themselves much, beyond my time with them when I was little)… so thanks

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Margaret May 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Just found this blog and loving it. Your dilemma about feeding milk replacer reminds me of the hard decision of supplementing my (human) kids with formula when I couldn’t keep up production. Don’t feel too bad. As you say, you got him started out on the right foot with a momma’s milk. Replacer is better than being hungry. Also, is it possible one side of the udder gets nursed more? From my experience with my kids, the side they nursed better on always produced more….more demand equals more supply. Have no experience with goats, but just had these thoughts while reading. Thanks for the great blog!

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