questions about goats

Discussion in 'Goats' started by Deb&Al, Jan 27, 2005.

  1. Deb&Al

    Deb&Al Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2002

    i posted the question about chicken pox and goat milk. my husband and i would like to get our own goats, and i think this chicken pox thing has tipped the scales.

    i looked through this site this morning and could not find answers to these questions.
    1) which of these two options is best, and why?
    starting with a mama goat and her babies?
    starting with weaned babies, two females?

    we've already figured that starting with a mama means we would have milk, but being new to owning goats we wonder if that would be too quick of a learning curve too fast.
    2) if we went with lamanchas for the reason that we've read that theyhave the hightest butterfat...i've been making cheese from goat's milk for several years now....this is going to be a math question....

    right now i get four gallons every two weeks. two is fresh and two is frozen.

    out of the fresh i pour one gallon of the milk into pint jars and freeze for daily thawing for drinking for the next two weeks, and the other gallon is made into yogurt and buttermilk. the buttermilk is used for baking and the yogurt is divided into eating fresh and making yogurt cheese.

    the two gallons of frozen milk is thawed friday night and on saturday i make cheese. so, twice a month i make cheese, depending on what i'm running low on. it could be motzerella or colby or cheddar, not to mention all of the soft cheeses that you can make. then, when i've made hard cheese, i use the whey for making ricotta.

    the whey is saved for breadmaking, and what's left goes to the chickens. they love their "soup" with the whey and bits of leftover bits of vegetables and bread scraps.

    so, mathmatically, knowing that goats don't milk all the time, would i need two, three or four goats to have approximately 8 gallons a month, or two gallons a week?

    i've asked the folks i get my milk from, and they have about a dozen goats, and they they showed me the barn and where they milk and i've watched them. sometimes i've gotten there early and they are just milking and cooling the milk. they milk into stainless pails and sometimes it might take two or three goats to fill a pail. the girl said she's never estimated what each goat gives, just milks it into the pail. then she strains it and puts it in jars that float in a tub of cold water to cool it.

    now, i understand that goats are not a mechanical spigot, to be turned on and off at our convenience. if they gave more at any one time i could freeze it for later use.

    i guess it's just trying to understand the cycles of managing goats that's got me purplexed.


    then there's the matter of having a billy....but i'll let that go for another post.

    thank you for taking the time to read all of this. i appreciate any help you can give.

  2. moosemaniac

    moosemaniac Well-Known Member

    Mar 7, 2003
    North East, PA in Northwestern PA
    Congrats on your decision to own goats. I did the same thing a year ago. I started with a dry yearling and a fresh 2 year old. That WAS the plan, but goats are addictive. I then got another doe...then a buck...then a wether to keep the buck we're waiting for the kids...what next...


  3. AnnaS

    AnnaS Well-Known Member

    Nov 29, 2003
    Verndale MN
    1) I started in goats with twin doe kids, 5 months old. This gave me time to learn how to handle goats and for the 3 of us to get used to each other. In Oct. I added a milking doe to the herd and that was a battle- she wasn't going to let a STRANGER milk her! She did come around but that could be really discouraging to a beginner.

    2) Its actually Nubians tht have the highest butterfat- though Lamachas aren't far behind.

    Milk is measured in lbs, and a gallon of milk is 8.6 lbs, you said you wanted 2 gallons a week: 8.6 lbs x 2 x 52 weeks = 894 lbs/lactation.

    You'd actually be milking 44 weeks, not 52, but that gives you enough to put in the freezer for the doe's vacation. In a perfect world, a doe should milk 305 days and then be dried off and take 2 months vacation before she kids again.

    If you look at the production chart on the above link, 894 lbs in a lactation is really low. I have good milk records on my 2 yearling milkers- they will be dried off end of Feb and one should go 1377 lbs and the other 1983 lbs.

    So one goat should give you enough milk easily- BUT...
    you should have 2 anyway. You might get a doe that dries off at 150 days, or one who gets sick and has to take antibiotics, or God forbid drops dead. Plus you will need some milk to feed kids.

    Hope this helps!
  4. boren

    boren Well-Known Member

    Jan 7, 2004
    My answer to 1:

    I chose to get the best milking goats I could find. I ended up with a yearling and one milking doe. I had never had goats before and never milked a goat, they hitched a ride up with a friend and when they arrived I asked her to show me how to milk. Ever since then I've been milking twice a day.

    The last sentence is something you really have to consider. They want to be milked at the same time, preferably 12 hours apart, every day. Rain, shine, snow, sleet, 1f. This morning it was 2f out side, felt like my pinkies where going to freeze off. If you want to take a trip who do you trust to milk the goat twice a day?

    I was really looking for at least one mature doe that I could breed quickly or that would be milking. I had no source of milk, but you do. (if you are worried about something in their milk, pasturize it =) )

    Question 2:

    This is going to vary a lot with the animal, but getting 2gal/week isn't asking much at all. AnnaS realy said everything I could say, but better.

    60 days before a doe kids you dry her up. Since you have to keep at least 2 goats anyways, I keep 2 does and breed them at 3 months apart. When I have to dry up one goat, the other has been milking for one month already. This way I have a constant milk supply. Also means I don't get a break from milking.

    If you get some good animals I'm not sure you'll be so frugal about saving every drop of milk. When I make butter each week I end up tossing the skim milk. I get 70lbs/week whether I like it or not. A lot goes into hard cheese, and butter. Butter is 20:1 and cheese is 10:1.

    I don't keep a buck. It's that simple, I have access locally, and within a 2hour drive to some very nice bucks from some very nice herds (thanks SherrieC!) that show and have excellent animals. Why have another hay burner around?

    There's some good books out there, and a lot of good ideas and opinions here. At first I was a bit overwhelmed, but once you get the basics down it's not so bad.
  5. Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians

    Vicki McGaugh TX Nubians Well-Known Member

    May 6, 2002
    North of Houston TX
    What excellent answers!

    I mostly recommend that someone purchases a milker to start with. A milker nursing her doe kid would be optimum. Make sure you visit the doe several times before you purchase her, milk her at each visit. She should with just a hand on her collar jump up on the milkstand and stand to be milked, you can expect a few jitters for the owner on a just fresh first fresheners, but not a rodeo. I would also watch how she disciplines the doe when she does missstep, and continue with this correction when you take her home. Milk her youself, ask for direction, expect for the doe to lift a leg with this new person milking but not much more than that.

    This way you will have a milker, but you will have a kid keeping her empty most of the time, when the kid is a couple of weeks old, go to and set up your management like them, keeping the kid away from mom nights and letting the kid nurse days, after you have milked. Any good doe will give you enough milk, with milk to freeze during your dry period, and since most of the cheese we make freezes nicely, you could take a break during the dry period. Or purchase two milkers.

    Purchasing a kid who will not produce milk for you for 12 to 24 months, being new I would not recommend you breeding early (at 7 months to kid on their first birthday like I do), is a much more expensive than purchsing a milker for $350 who is milkstand ready.

    There are lots of us who get rid of first fresheners bucks the day they are born for cheap to free, $50 here...raise your own buckling each year, get rid of him when your does are bred for sure, or you have his kids on the ground, and get another stink, no special housing.

    I just don't think kids are the way to go for most folks initially. Optimally a bred doe purchase after being bred in the fall is the best deal going, people are much more inclined to lower the price with winter feeding and housing looming, especially when she was a kid that was supposed to be sold that spring! But expect to pay more in the spring.

    Look for disease free stock no matter who you purchase from, tests in hand and paperwork in hand or don't buy. Vicki
  6. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    "The last sentence is something you really have to consider. They want to be milked at the same time, preferably 12 hours apart, every day. Rain, shine, snow, sleet, 1f. This morning it was 2f out side, felt like my pinkies where going to freeze off. If you want to take a trip who do you trust to milk the goat twice a day?"

    This is why I chose to have fiber goats and not dairy goats. I like to camp and backpack; getting the cidery up and running requires seminars, classes, and mountains of paperwork with attorney meetings (I'm actually supposed to be doing paperwork now); on top of all that I don't want to be tied to a milking schedule. With my fiber goats, anyone can care for them in a pinch - if they've got hay and water they'll be ok. A neighbor who keeps sheep and I trade off when one of us wants to get away for a bit. I get milk from a family 3 miles away who keeps saanens (and they get cashmere from me).

    I love the idea of having milk from my own animals, I'm just not willing to tie myself down that way. And my husband isn't willing to commit to a milking schedule.

    I don't want to scare you off or anything. I've just seen several milk goats spending their lives lonely and ignored because milking was more work than the owners counted on.
  7. Deb&Al

    Deb&Al Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2002
    this is so wonderful... thank you all for your responses. i jumped in here real quick to see if there were any responses and all this information is great. i wish i had time to read it slow and digest it.

    i onlyhad time for a quick read, as a certain spouse is concerned about the below 0 temps tonight and is kind of in and out, in and out, plugging in the well light, putting more straw in the chicken coop, etc, etc. plus, he's talking a mile a minute and it's hard to hear myself think. :)

    i'll come back after supper with my cup of hot tea and have a nice, leisurly read. but you've given me so much to think about.

    yes, i see what is meant by starting with kids, and then waiting a whole year and a half for milk. my first thought is maybe i could get a pregnant doe from my mennoite neighbor, and they have several different breeds, i don't think they are pure anything. but then, i could look around for the nubian or lamancha that i would like.

    thank you all so much.

    by the way, i read the post this morning about does kidding, and the baby monitors in the barn and house.

    i'll be back later.
  8. debitaber

    debitaber Well-Known Member

    Jun 6, 2003
    I started out with 2 sisters, and one of them, had triplets, they were 4 weeks to the day, I got them. well, we loved the milk, however, she had never been milked, oh my what a time I had, she yelled at me, and i yeeld at her, she gave me dirty looks, and I gave them back. this went on for about one month. Then I found out, she had never been milked, this was her first babies. so, we were hooked on the milk, and the girls, they each had their own person. the loud mouth ended up my herd queen. then we found 2 more, and bought them , one was dry, the other in milk, so had to have them both.
    then I found two more, and had to have them , and for 25$ they would deliver, well that was a great deal. so, we had them,
    now 2 years later, we sold two. and oh how I wish we hadn't but we did. now, we are going to pick up three more. you see, all of ours, are nubians, and these new ones are mini nubians, so we are building two herds ,the full size nubians, and the mini nubians.
    one goat is never enough, and they are herd animals. so you should always get two.
    but we live on a hometead, and we always keep a couple of hogs, and we have chickens, and a calf or two. so the
    extra milk, is made into yogurt, butter, cheese, and feeds baby animals goats, chickens, calf's. they all do great on raw goats milk. Not to mention that it is good for us, and we have widened, in the waist and hips nicely. ahahahaahaaa
    But I bottle feed all of my babies. and I milk the mothers, and pasturize all the milk, even that I feed my babies. IT is a good way, of preventing any thing from passing from mom to baby, like CAE, and others.
    I have one doe, that decides when she should be milked,
    she opens her pen, and up she comes on the deck to the back door, and lets you know she is here, then she go to the milk stand and hops up and waits for her grain and for yu to milk. we have learned with her, to let her eat a while before you milk her, because when you are through milking, she is done eating. SO we let her eat, until she is almost finished , then we milk Maria, then we milk everyone else. and they have an order,in which they come, the herd queen gives out the order. and she means it. I had to put maria and her sister, in their own pen, because the herd queen had maria last, and she didn't like that , and there was war, so I moved them to their own, and now maria is boss. I hope this gives yu an idea of what you are getting in to. we love these girls very much. and you have too, when you get them, or it will never work. they are an extension of your family. .just like kids.
  9. Deb&Al

    Deb&Al Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2002
    oh deb,
    i just loved your post. and yes, our animals are like an extension of our family. they do have their own personalities.

    the only ones i stay neutral about are the meat chickens that we raise.

  10. billooo2

    billooo2 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 23, 2004
    There have been great ideas posted here. I would just add a few things from my experience.

    Buy at least 2. A single will be too lonely by itself, and will spend all of its time trying to escape, and find some company!! :) (And they usually succeed in escaping. If there is more than one, they do not expend the same amount of evergy on getting out)

    I bought milkers in the spring...from the same herd, so that they already knew each other. You also don't have to worry about raising kids to begin with.

    Buy from a herd that is CAE saves you potential heartache later.

    Don't bother with a buck to begin with. In the fall, get a "buck jar," and when you check them....and their tail is flagging....they will be delighted to go for a ride to visit someone else's buck. Also, if you don't keep the buck the necessary distance from the does, the milk and cheese will likely carry the smell and taste of the buck. (not good :))

    I have Alpines, and they average 6-8 lbs, and one hit 12 lbs. for a while. Years ago an acquaintance of mine started, successfully, a goat cheese dairy. He found that the Alpines were the most cost effective for him. The lower butterfat, was compensated for by the increased volume of milk. For him, it was more economical to go with the Alpines. And, he said that the butterfat was not the most accurate predictor of how much cheese he could get from milk...but I do not remember what all he tested for. (Food for thought :)

    Since I was working full time (often 10-12 hour days), and being single, I only milked once/day. Their production drops to a little more than half of what it was by milking twice/day. If you have 2 goats, each giving 3-4 lbs/day times 7 days/week, then that would give you 21-28 lbs/week. That would translate into 3-4 gallons/week. Since goats are addictive, and you get more, you may want to add a calf to your farm to consume the excess milk.....or use it to raise pigs. (There are now a few commercial cow dairies that are going to once/day milking....and, in spite of lower production, are making more money....and the cows seem to be healthier.) ....more food for thought...

    I have milked during the winter in the past...when I lived in New Hampshire....minus 20 degrees, and trying to clean udders, and not get them chapped... Now I do not milk in the winter. I dried them off in November-December. I bred them to start freshening the end of March-April....when the grass should be about ready to graze. I did have a couple of "OOPS!!! How did the buck get in there?" (If you don't keep a buck, then you don't have to worry about those things...:) ) I will have a couple freshening a little earlier, but I decided I could put up with a opposed to 10-12.

    Good luck!!!! and be forewarned that they are addictive!!!