You might be confused if you notice your female goat produces milk despite not being pregnant.
It goes against everything you learned in biology class.
Don’t worry; there is a simple explanation for this.
Goats can develop a precocious udder, producing milk without ever being bred. This is usually not a cause for concern, but discuss the best plan moving forward with your veterinarian. A precocious udder is uncommon but not unheard of.
Keep reading for more information on precocious udders and how goats typically produce milk.
What Is a Precocious Udder?
Dairy goats can develop a precocious udder.
When this happens, the mammary gland develops without the goat being pregnant.
If your goat is producing milk but is not bred, don’t panic.
A precocious udder is not usually a cause for concern, but you need to keep a close eye on the udder to ensure there is no mastitis or other bacteria infection.
Hormones are the most common cause of precocious udder because of prolonged exposure to progesterone, hormonal imbalances, high estrogen concentration in the feed, or the goat being intersex.
Goats should not be milked if they develop a precocious udder since this perpetuates the issue.
The goat will eventually stop producing milk until she is bred and has kids.
If it does not clear up on its own, your veterinarian may prescribe an effective treatment.
There are typically no other risks or complications for goats who experience a precocious udder.
Similarly, a milk goat can develop a false pregnancy, also known as cloudburst.
This pseudopregnancy is characterized by fluid accumulation in the uterus, giving the impression of a pregnant belly.
Another potential symptom is a swollen udder, also due to excess fluid.
The incidence of pseudopregnancy is higher in older does.
However, this is different than a precocious udder.
How Goats Produce Milk
All female mammals produce milk as food for their young to drink, so all female goats, also known as does, can produce milk after being bred and giving birth to kids.
A female goat is typically ready to breed when around a year old.
Some goat farmers breed as early as 9 months, and some wait longer.
When a doe becomes pregnant, her body’s hormones kickstart the milk production process.
The average gestation period for a goat is 150 days or about 5 months.
After she gives birth, she will produce milk to feed her baby.
The first milk she gives contains colostrum, which is full of nutrients and antibodies to boost the newborn baby’s or babies’ immune system.
The colostrum will switch to normal milk after a few days.
While humans can drink the colostrum, it’s best to make sure the kids drink their fill.
While all do have the ability to produce milk, the breeds of goats play a huge role in milk production.
A milk goat produces larger quantities than meat goats or fiber goats.
Factors in milk production also include:
- Food nutrition
- Udder and overall health
- Genetic predisposition
- The number of kids she gives birth to
Do Goats Produce Milk Before Giving Birth?
A female goat’s udder and milk production depend on the specific doe and circumstances.
Generally speaking, a fresh doe will develop her udder earlier than a doe who has given birth before.
- New Mother: A goat without kids will start developing her udder roughly one month before she gives birth. This can vary by a doe, though. Keep in mind a new doe’s udder will be smaller than one from a doe who has been nursed before.
- Experienced Mother: A doe who has previously kidded has a more unpredictable timeframe for filling her udder. She could start filling it a month before she has kids or waits until a few days before. In rare cases, she may wait until a few hours before kidding.
In both cases, pregnant goats might produce milk shortly before giving birth, but remember, the first milk will be colostrum necessary for developing the kids’ immune system.
Don’t milk a doe for your consumption before she has given birth.
How Long Do Goats Produce Milk?
After kidding, a mother will produce milk for 284 days.
Your goat will provide a constant milk supply for 9 months to a year, and some goats’ lactation period can last up to two years.
Goats who have only given birth once usually have a shorter milk time than mature goats who have had multiple sets of kids.
A goat will stop producing milk due to natural drying or inconsistent milking.
Some goat farmers will stop milking their goats to purposely dry them up.
This is done to give them a rest period before they give birth again.
It also increases the milk’s quality in the future.
Genetics and diet are other factors for the volume of milk produced and its nutritious composition.
If your goat has stopped producing milk, she’ll need to be bred again to restart the cycle.
For more info, check out our detailed article on how long goats produce milk.
How Do I Get My Goat to Produce Milk?
The only sure-fire way to get your goat to produce milk is to breed her!
Depending on her breed, her breeding season is either all year or only for part of the year.
Most milk goat breeds can be bred in late summer through the end of the year.
Watch for signs of heat, which include personality changes, wagging her tail, and becoming talkative.
Female goats can only be successfully bred during this period.
If you have a male goat, also known as a buck, make sure they’re together when she is in her heat cycle.
Another option is to work out an agreement with another goat owner to rent their buck for breeding services.
Afterward, keep your doe in as comfortable and stress-free of an environment as possible.
Keep her in a separate goat pen with a friend to reduce stress from other goats.
If she’s stressed, it will be harder for her to become and stay pregnant.
Give her a high-quality diet during pregnancy, as her body will be spending more energy growing a kid.
In a few short months, you’ll have a steady goat milk supply!
If you are raising goats for milk, you need to check out our guide on how much goat milk costs.