The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

When to stop milking goats

Mini-Nubian goat
"How long can you milk Abigail? Will you breed them both this fall?"
--- Deb

A lot of factors go into how long you decide to milk a goat. First, there's body condition, which I've discussed previously. If your goat has lost too much weight, you need to stop milking.

Lacation graph

The other issue is whether it's worthwhile for the human to keep milking as production slowly declines. The chart above shows Abigail's lactation curve to date (starting three weeks after Lamb Chop was born, when we started locking him away for the night). There was a lot of human learning involved in our first effort, so this curve doesn't look like they usually do --- with low production slowly rising to a peak at around 4 to 6 weeks post kidding, then declining back down. However, you can see that production is already dwindling markedly so we're now averaging about three and a third cups per day. I suspect that when I'm only bringing home one or two cups per day, I'll decide the milk is no longer worth the squeeze.

Goats on logs

One thing to keep in mind is that Abigail was a cheap starter goat. Artemesia's genetics are more high-brow, so there's a good chance our doeling will produce more milk for longer than Abigail has.

Why bother with a goat who doesn't give very much milk? I figured it was worth learning on a cheaper goat, and I stand by that decision as a good one. It would have been a shame to decide we didn't like goats after sinking much more money into the project, and Abigail has also proven to be an easy keeper, which might be better than an amazing milker in the long run. So I'm happy with what I've got...but am looking forward to much more milk next year.

Goat battle

And, in order to get that milk, we're going to have to breed both goats. You can read my thoughts on our options here, with the caveat that I'm leaning more toward buying a cheapish buck whom we can use and then eat in the fall. Now that I'm pretty sure we'll need to breed both goats (rather than milking Abigail through), the hassle of bringing two separate goats to be bred when they come into heat at two different times seems larger than the hassle of dealing with a buck for about a month.

Miniature goat in the woods

At the moment, though, we're just enjoying our happy little herd and our delectable milk products. I'm still thoroughly in love with our goats!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What will he taste like? Do you have a particular way to process the buck to maximize tenderness, etc.? Thanks, just curious :)

Comment by Lucy in Virginia Mon Jul 27 14:45:50 2015
Lucy --- You can read about our first goat taste test here. He was delicious!
Comment by anna Mon Jul 27 15:24:36 2015
Thanks for the data. On the fence about getting a little doeling.,.. this will give me time before having to think about breeding and kidding and milking!
Comment by Deb Tue Jul 28 19:18:06 2015

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