Brooding On

Post-Milking Goat Video

A common question I get about milking during this season is "How do you have milk to sell when babies are young and being raised on Momma?"

This is a great question.  Much like in breastfeeding women, so long as Momma has a pretty good and healthy diet, supply tends to increase to meet demand.  That way as babies grow and their nutritional needs increase, momma's milk supply increases, too.  Goats are much the same way.  So, we just have to get the goats' bodies used to the idea that more milk is needed, and their production steps up. 

For the first two weeks after kidding, we leave mommas with babies 24 hours a day and only milk if mommas look engorged and need a little relief (this is especially common in mothers of single babies).  Once babies are two weeks old, though, we begin to corral all the kids together in the kid pen overnight.  First thing in the morning, Mommas are milked, relieving them of all the milk they've accumulated while they've been away from their babies overnight.  (The first few days of this, I do not milk the mommas dry, being sure to leave enough for hungry babies.  But, after a few days, the mom's bodies learn to hold back milk for baby and even though I milk them dry, babies will miraculously have milk to drink when they are reunited with momma only minutes later.) 

To be sure that babies are still getting enough milk, we do weekly weigh-ins and calculate the babies' growth from week to week.  So long as they are growing at a rate of at least .33 lbs. per day, they are good to go.  Our thumpers this year have been growing steadily, most of them at a rate of at least .5 lb. per day! 

During this time of year, I only milk once a day -- in the mornings.  Once babies are weaned later on, I will begin to milk twice a day. 

Below is a video taken just after I finished morning milking.  Hungry babies are released from the kid pen and happy to see their mommas.  In their excitement, some of the little ones get confused about which is their momma, but the mothers do their best to keep things straight.  They know which babies are theirs and will only allow their own to eat.  Also, in the video, you can see Shake, our little bottle baby, eating from her mother!  Over the weekend, we sold one of her brothers, leaving Izzy only two of her triplets to feed.  Since then, she has been much more accommodating of little Shake's attempts to eat.  We will continue to supplement with bottles but are pleased the mother/baby bond seems to be strengthening.