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Drying off goats

Goats and barn

Goat owners often dry off their goats two months before the next kids are due...assuming they feel confident milking that long. Alternatively, you can stop milking when you think your doe is getting too skinny or when your fingers start getting too cold. Or, in our case, when you're sure your other doe isn't pregnant and won't need a backup milk source just in case the worst happens.

Goat udder

Since we're now sure that Artemesia doesn't have a bun in the oven, I socked away a couple of quarts of milk for Thanksgiving pies, then started drying Abigail off. She's currently producing a little less than two cups a day during once-daily milkings, so I felt confident that she'd survive the cold-turkey method.

The scientists say that stopping milking all at once is actually the gentlest on your goat since letting her udder fill up without relieving the pressure halts milk production very quickly. In contrast, if you ease that pressure, you're setting back the dry-off process so she has to go through the discomfort all over again. With a medium-to-low producer like Abigail, I don't worry too much that just stopping milking will do harm to her udder, so cold turkey it is.


Actually, in a perfect world, we would have started drying our goat off two weeks ago by downgrading her food supply to simple hay. But, the weather mostly did that for us when it nipped back all of the happy wild foods and reduced our goats' diet to hay plus a bit of daily oats and honeysuckle. I still give Abigail daily concentrates (about two cups of alfalfa pellets plus a cup of butternut squash, carrots, and/or sweet potatoes), though, so I hope that won't gum up the works of her dry-down.

The other factor I took into account when deciding when to stop milking was Abigail's heat cycle. Her milk production always drops by about a quarter when she's in heat, and she cries like the world is coming to an end during that time. I figured I'd doubly depress her and hope she gets over both discomforts fast.

I'll keep feeling her udder every morning in search of lumps or heat that could mark mastitis, but I have high hopes she'll start reabsorbing the milk soon. We'll miss our homegrown dairy. But like most farm products, it's best to enjoy what's currently in season. More brussels sprouts, kale, and lettuce for us!

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