Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Milk Once or Twice A Day

You are keeping me busy answering all the questions that you have. I appreciate your vote of confidence that I can be of assistance. I'm still behind but I'm pedaling fast so readers please be patient and Barb, this post is specifically for you. The rest of you readers please chime in with your opinions and facts if you have them. As you know I'm quite opinionated and I can't always be right. lol So keep the comments coming. It's up to you to keep me in line.

Today's question is whether to milk once or twice a day. Actually, I do both. Part of the year I milk twice and part only once a day. Let me explain. When the goats first freshen, I milk twice a day as the demand for milk is high. I feed the kids all the milk they can hold. I've yet to have scours with this method. In fact, one blog post I just read said they have scoured calves on cow's milk but never on goat's milk. I don't know about cow's milk since I don't have a cow but as for goat's milk, I haven't scoured a calf giving all I had. I've fed up to 10 quarts a day to a single stout hungry calf. The goat kids on the other hand eat until they can't eat anymore up until they are six weeks and then I ration their amount of milk so they will start eating more solids hay etc. I figure a kid eats all they can get off their mom. I feed four times a day to weak kids which includes a night feeding and then quickly taper off to three times a day and then twice a day by a week and a half. Those night feedings and three times a day takes more out of me than it use to.

After the goats, I'm usually feeding a calf and later when it's weaned, I might feed pigs with the milk. This year, I don't plan on feeding a calf or pig and hope to get more in to making cheese. I'm not very skilled as my experience being mozzarella a few times, Feta - lots, a Mexican cheese - quite often, cottage cheese - sometimes and that's about it. Oh, yeah, rubber cheese once. I didn't use a recipe from a cheese book and tried one out of a self-sufficient cookbook. Casein in cheese is what gives it the rubbery texture but mine went way beyond to rubber ball level. The kids had fun throwing it at each other and bouncing it around the room. This year, I want to learn to make an excellent cream cheese, perfect my cottage cheese, and learn to make a thicker yogurt if it's possible to do without adding powdered cow's milk-YUCK, (tried it once) or gelatin. My experiment last week with making goat milk yogurt in a crock pot, I'd consider a failure but that's another story. And that's not including making as much butter as possible. So Elaine yes, I milk twice a day most of the year.

Since you mentioned that you had four Nigerian goats that means that you will be getting on average according to the Internet 2 - 4 pounds of milk per day compared to 8 in the typical dairy breeds. I'm getting far more than that. Your yearlings producing far less than your older does. I have found the goats peak in milk production between two to three months after freshening. Don't know if that is due to my milking habits or what because I couldn't find out the statistics on the Internet. Okay, I did find information from the University of Florida but I'm questioning the data just a mite since in the same breath they said that at this peak of 45 to 60 days when the goat is producing the most milk, you breed her, and she kids twelve months after having the last set of kids. Moo...! Sounds more like cow to me since the gestation for goats is 145 - 155 days. Everything else that I read seemed correct on the site but I didn't read the whole article.

Can't you just hear Chicory say, "Hello... aren't you going to milk me. Quit taking pictures."

The biggest reason for milking twice a day is the more demand for milk, the higher the production. When my daughter was having trouble producing enough milk for her daughter the lactation consultant said nurse, nurse, nurse every couple hours and drink, drink, water,and that would stimulate production. That's why some dairy's milk three times a day. It uses up the dairy cows far more quickly and the nutrients in the milk are not proportionally greater milking three times a day for it is mainly water output that is increased because of the stress on the animal.

So, I'd say definitely don't milk three times a day unless you are trying to quickly increase milk production. I did just that when one of my Saanens aborted twins. This was just a few weeks before full term and the one twin was normal in size, the other one must have been dead in the uterus quite some time. I milked three times a day to bring her up to production (she milked very little at first) then when she was milking well, I backed off to two times a day. It was this choice or going months without milk since it was April and she normally didn't come in to heat until October or November. Then there was 150 days pregnancy time plus almost two full months of the kids taking most all the milk. That's a lot of time she would be eating and not producing milk.

As the lactation progresses less milk is produced. It is particularly noticed when my goats milk output drops dramatically when they come into estrus. Then again my Saanen's become quite emotional and cycle hard. They about run you over when you open the gate and then they take off on a run to find the nearest buck with me calling, "Slow down!" while trying to catch up. When they've gone across the road to Michelle's and I've made a grab for their collar, they then head across the other way and head out a couple rows over to the last known buck territory. I usually corner them some where in this vicinity.
This dramatic milk production drop lasts from two to three days. Since Nigerians are cycling 12 months a year, I don't know how that effects them. Could be partly why they produce less milk that the traditional dairy breeds if my goats are any indication.

Consolation prize is that as the milk level drops later in their lactation, the butterfat level increases. It can go up to as much as double what it is in the beginning months of production. That is why I love to make butter at this time of the year when my girls butterfat levels is highest and... the ice cream and the... I've some great statistics on this that I will share next week.

In the cold winter months when I breed my does is when I drop my twice a day milking. The girls aren't producing as much and so it's comfortable to skip the night milking. It means I can get back to my warm house quicker since chore time is shorter. Yeah!, especially when the temperature is in the single digits like it is suppose to be this weekend.

My production is dropping now and I'll dry the does up for two months before kidding. Sometimes I do three months on an older doe if she's been producing lots of milk all year. I might change my mind on milking once a day when I learn to utilize my milk better. Especially since I learned these interesting facts from the Journal of dairy Science. When pregnant, a doe does not drop in milk production for the first 8 weeks. Then that story changes significantly at 10 weeks and increases as the pregnancy progresses. The scientists are guessing this is because of the increase of estrogen, also the competition between the kids and milk for glucose. More kids the doe is carrying the more her milk production will decrease. Also, goats bred at 29 weeks lactation decreased in milk production far more if milked once a day than if milked twice a day. I'm sure this has to do with demand.

Chicory is trying to tell you that if I don't milk as often then she gets gypped. In other words she doesn't get as much grain.

Nigerian goats produce 2-4 kids normally and 5 is not uncommon. That's a lot of estrogen increase and glucose demand. Not to mention a goat population explosion. Some breeders I read, breed their does for 3 kiddings in 2 years. Of course with does cycling every month of the year, it might be hard to prevent this. Yup, good thing they aren't a beef. Now that Tinker Bell has started cycling, she's learned to jump fences, out of ours and in to other people's.
Now that I've done my research, I just might change some milking habits around her. Especially when I learn to use my milk more efficiently making cheeses, ice cream, etc. etc. But the best advice I could give you I think is to keep your doe numbers down to where you can utilize the milk best, whether it is feeding pigs, calves etc. or even the chickens and of course the two of you. I hope this gave you food for thought Barb. It certainly did for me. Thank you for asking me the question of whether to milk once or twice a day.


  1. I am on dhi, Nigerians and Nubian, been milking twice a day, would like to only milk once a day but so afraid ... Please tell me more on the somatic cell count,possible mastititis, any other information .. most of my herd have been in production since Feb...

  2. To milk only once a day requires bringing milk production down so that the bag fills to full only once a day. In that manner I've never had mastitis if the production is reduced. There are several ways of doing this but it naturally occurs in the latter part of a doe's lactation. This is during the early winter months for us so is when we reduce the number of milkings. We always slowly dry off our does by placing our milking further and further apart which at first is just a matter of a few hours and then it is reduced to once a day, then every day and a half. We reduce the amount of grain they eat; and put the does on a whole oats and hay pellet to munch on when we do milk. Grain fed while in full production is a much hotter mixture. These three things together always dry our does up gently and safely.

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