Saturday, February 13, 2016

MIlk Your Goat All Winter

Everyone that knows me knows that I LOVE milk...and yogurt and cheese and well just about everything dairy.  I have to admit that I am still working to like kefir but my husband loves it.  Our love of dairy is the reason we started with dairy goats in the first place.  Now that we have enjoyed these fabulous, amusing creatures for several years, there are so many more reasons to love them, but I digress.

Generally, standard-size goats kid in the winter/spring, are bred in the fall while still in milk, and then dried up after about about 10 months of milking.  Kids arrive again in the winter/spring and the cycle is repeated.  Many homesteaders however, want and need year around production.  One way to do that is to have Nigerian Dwarf goats that breed year around.  We have those.  Another way is to use hormone implants with standard size goats to regulate their estrus cycles,  We don't do that.  What one can do though is milk those big (and little if you want to) goats through the winter and not breed them in the fall.  This is a pretty common practice but this is the first year I have tried doing so.

I have one standard goat, a LaMancha and now that she is mature I thought I would try "milking through" or do an "extended lactation" as the practice is often called.  I consulted with my friend Becky at 5 and 20 Alpines who has been using extended lactations for a while.  In general the idea is to have two (or more) goats and breed them every other year (or even every two years).  This way, when one is still milking, the other is dried off and pregnant.  Once the second doe kids, the milking doe is dried off to prepare for her pregnancy and so the cycle continues.  I really didn't want to buy any dairy products this winter (well except butter) so I thought I would try "milking through" to see what happens.   I am so happy to report that my beloved Starr (I have to put the beloved in there) has been in milk for 12 months and is milking the perfect amount for us.  Her spring/summer production is over a gallon a day which keeps me very busy in the cheese kitchen.  Her winter production is about half that (5 pounds now) or a little more than 1/2 gallon a day.  Generally production will increase as spring approaches but never reaches peak production levels.  I'm sure there are exceptions. And right on cue with the approaching longer days, my beloved Starr is slowly increasing production.  Also some does will do a very extended lactation and milk for years.  I believe Becky has an Alpine that she expects to milk for 27 months.  Fantastic!!  Becky mentioned that she feeds sweet potatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, kale, and turnips in the winter months to help maintain production.  I think her goats eat better than we do!  Luckily we grow lots of sweet potatoes and also we grow butternut squash that I feed all winter.

Oh yeah I think we have squash covered!  They are ridiculously easy to grow, store well and the goats love them.  Of course I cut them up in to bite-sized pieces for my beloved Starr and I feed a quart container of them to her at milking time.  She gets her grain but she LOVES her sweet potatoes and squash.  If I am milking and forget to add them to her dish she ever so gently snorts at me until I give her squash.  I hope we don't have any squash crop failures in our future.

1 comment:

  1. I've never tried milking through. 27 months is a long time. Very cool. This morning I'm wishing I could bring my cow inside to milk. I'm not looking forward to going out in the cold wind.