I never thought I would own dairy animals. I just didn’t want the commitment.
But over the years, I’ve befriended dairy goat farmers and I learned that it isn’t that bad. We have one dairy goat and we milk her once per day, in the mornings. When we want to go away, we arrange for someone else to milk her.
Sure, it’s a 30 minute chore EVERY DAY, but I actually like it. Sometimes I turn on a podcast while I’m milking; sometimes I enjoy the sounds of nature. Every day I enjoy the peace of slowing down (there’s no rushing the milk), the rhythm of milking, and the satisfaction of producing my own food.
What to do with all that goat milk?
Our dairy goat, Jessa, is a Saanen. Saanens are the highest producing of all the dairy goats. She gives us at least a half gallon of milk per day during her peak production period. I make yogurt and ice cream on a regular basis. I’ve dabbled with cheese making, but I’ve not done it regularly yet due to the time commitment and complexities associated with it (ice cream and yogurt are fast and easy to make).
Even still, we have a lot of extra milk. So we treat our dogs. Each of our four dogs gets about 2 cups of goat milk mixed with their food. They LOVE their “cereal”, and it’s so good for them!
If I wanted to use even more milk, I could make soaps and lotions… If only there were more hours in the day! The soaps and lotions we sell in our store are from a local dairy goat farmer who specializes in making soaps, lotions, and other body products. And they do a FANTASTIC job!
Our Dairy Goats
Jessa lives with our cashmere goats, and is treated like them except for the fact that we milk her – and give her a lot more grain to support her milk production. We kept her doeling, Faith, from last year.
Faith is half Saanen, half Nubian. We chose to breed Jessa to a Nubian last year to increase the butterfat in her kids. Saanens produce the most milk of all dairy breeds but they also have the lowest butterfat. Increasing the butterfat should make the milk sweeter and the cheese, yogurt, and ice cream creamier.
This year, we will breed both Jessa and Faith, but I will probably only milk one of them since we don’t need the extra milk. We will keep one of the doelings and sell the rest of the kids. Selling the kids helps us to afford the “luxury” of keeping a milk goat.
Milk Goats and Their Kids
Common advice for milking is to stop milking at least 2 months before a goat is due to kid. We learned from experience that we need to stop at least 3 months prior to Jessa’s due date. Our first year with Jessa, we waited too long and she didn’t dry off.
Consequently, she never produced colostrum for her kids. Fortunately, we had some in the freezer to give them. Her milk supply was also lower than normal, so the only milking we did of her was to feed a rejected kid from another doe.
We don’t start milking a goat until 2-3 weeks after she’s given birth. The newborns need the colostrum (first milk) to build up their immune systems and they need as much milk as they can drink the first couple weeks to grow strong. Once the kids are at least 2 weeks old, we will pen them up overnight away from their mom so they can’t nurse. We’ll milk first thing in the morning, then turn the kids in with their mom for the rest of the day. The kids get plenty of milk and so do we.
The kids holler and scream the first few nights of being penned up, but they adjust quickly and even begin to look forward to it because they get a special treat.
The milk supply in the goat we don’t milk will adjust naturally to the demand of her kids.
Maybe I am Crazy… about Goat Milk!
I was always interested in farming; just not dairying. I’ve surprised myself at how much I like having a dairy animal. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be milking a goat, I’d have told you that you were crazy! Now I teach others how to milk goats. My, how things change!…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into our farm life. If you’re interested in learning more about dairy goats, visit our Resources page for a list of recommended books and supplies, or better yet, sign up for our Milk Maid Experience Class where you’ll have a chance to milk a goat for yourself.