Whether you already have goats or considering buying one, it’s important to understand the milking process.
Thankfully, it’s easy to find out how long your female goat, also called a doe, will produce milk and at what age they will no longer be able to produce milk.
Once you understand the relationship between a goat’s pregnancy, the milking process, and their age, you’ll be able to confidently milk your goats and have a steady supply of goat milk!
After a doe gives birth, she will start producing milk. Does can produce milk for eight months after giving birth, but if you milk a doe daily, she may continue to produce milk for two years! Assuming pregnancies continue, does produce milk for eight to ten years; there is no definitive age cap.
By understanding how pregnancy timing and milking seasons work, you will get the most milk out of your goats while they produce milk (and make some unique and delicious goat ice cream!).
One doe may provide over a gallon of milk each day for many months if you commit to milking her twice each day.
Consider the following factors to better prepare to milk your goats for longer periods!
How Goat Milk Production Works
The first step for a doe to begin producing milk is for a doe to become pregnant.
This requires either a buck or a male goat to impregnate the doe or a professional to artificially inseminate the doe.
To naturally breed goats, simply put a doe and buck together in a pen (ideally at night) while the doe is in heat (she may become noisier, act rowdier, or urinate more).
For artificial insemination, you only need to contact a professional to inseminate your doe, and they will take care of the injection.
Goat owners should not attempt this unless they are trained in the process.
Once a doe is pregnant, her body will prepare for producing milk.
By the time she gives birth, the doe will be ready for milking.
If you are already milking a doe and she becomes pregnant, be sure to stop milking the doe about two months before she is due to give birth.
You will give her body time to produce the milk necessary to feed her kids by ceasing milking the doe.
After a doe gives birth, you may begin milking her.
If you want the goat to produce the most milk for the longest time, then milk her each day.
Even better is for goat owners to milk the doe twice per day, both in the morning and evening.
This will let you have some fresh goat cheese for a couple of years!
Just as if her baby goats continued to need milk from their mother, her body will receive the signal to keep producing milk.
This is how does can produce milk for many months following their pregnancies!
Does are ready to become pregnant within their first year of life.
Some are even able to become pregnant five months after they are born!
Further reading: Can nursing goats get pregnant?
At What Age Do Goats Stop Producing Milk?
There is no certain age at which does become unable to produce milk; it is typically just a matter of continued pregnancy.
While some do continue to become pregnant for about five to seven years, some goats still become pregnant at the age of fourteen and higher!
Of course, this depends on the individual goats, but the general rule holds.
Do Goats Need Certain Foods To Produce Milk?
If you aren’t currently wanting a particular momma goat to produce milk, you may feed her a fiber-based diet with foods such as hay and grass.
However, when it’s time for a goat to start producing milk, goat keepers need to pay more attention to the nutritional value of the doe’s feed, paying particular attention to protein, energy, and nutrients.
Extra food and nutritional value are necessary to support kids and milk production.
Creating milk requires dietary energy, and if you don’t increase their food, they may lose body weight and produce less than a gallon of milk per day.
More fruits may also help with nutrition and keeping your goat healthy and producing milk.
Learn more about the best fruits for goats in our detailed list.
Do Goats Produce Milk If Not Pregnant?
A doe will not produce milk until her body has kids who need it.
Because of this, your females will not produce fresh goat milk until they have become pregnant and will not be ready to milk until after they’ve given birth.
However, if you milk goats daily and continue to do so if she becomes pregnant again, she may continue to produce milk while she is pregnant with litters following her first.
Just be careful to stop milking the doe two months before labor.
You’ll need to keep a goat pregnant and milked frequently if you want milk year-round.
This will increase the quantities of milk you receive.
Most professional farmers who keep a whole goat herd keep a rotating schedule for pregnancy to get peak production for milk.
Can I Have Goat Milk All Year Round?
There are two ways to have goat milk all year round.
Typically, farmers will time their goats’ pregnancies so they are impregnated in the fall and have their kids in the spring.
If you milk your goats daily, this method may allow you to have goat milk for ten months of the year.
Another way to ensure goat milk production for the year is to have your goats get pregnant at different times.
If some does are impregnated months after the others, there won’t be a gap in production when you factor in lack of production and ceasing milking before labor.
While this method may work for you, goats typically prefer to breed in the fall.
It might be best to limit your breeding to the months where goats typically breed (around September to February).
What Happens If I Don’t Milk My Goat?
If your goat still produces a notable amount of milk, it is often harmful to the doe to stop milking her.
You will notice swelling around the udder as the doe fills with milk, which puts the doe at risk for pain and infection.
An infection may require some goat medicine to cure, and some breeds of goats are more prone to these infections than others.
Only stop milking your goat if you intend her to enter a dry period.
How Do I Let My Goat Dry Up?
To let your goat dry up, start decreasing the extra energy and protein in the doe’s diet.
This will signal her body to say it doesn’t need to produce as much milk.
Start milking the doe once a day rather than twice, and after two weeks of this lower frequency, continue with two weeks of milking only once every other day.
Once your goat has stopped producing much milk, you are ready to stop milking the doe.
While drying up a goat, monitor for swelling or symptoms of mastitis (a breast tissue infection).
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