How To: Raise & Milk Your Own Dairy Goats

DaNelle Wolford

DaNelle Wolford › DaNelle is a former nurse, mother of 2 children, and creator of the blog Weed 'em & ...

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There is a lot of information out there about raising your own chickens or ducks, but what about raising your own dairy goats? More and more people are thinking about diversifying their homesteading menagerie and creating a super-local source for fresh goat’s milk, but so many questions about dairy goats immediately come to mind. How much work are they? What do they eat? Are they worth the investment in the long run?

Well, it just so happens DaNelle Wolford at Weed ’em & Reap has created a fantastic overview of everything you need to know about raising and milking your very own herd (however small) of dairy goats!

Since I know all you guys are just {dying} to own some goats and since I know all your husbands/boyfriends/fiances/girlfriends/wives are like, totally begging you to please move to a farm so you can milk goats every morning….I’ve decided to compile my simple guide to raising & milking goats.

When I first was interested in getting a goat or two, I had NO IDEA how it all worked. Hopefully I can assist some readers out there in their research and maybe I’ll even convince you naysayers to get a goat yourself! Then you can be a weird goat person like me! And just think, next year you can send out Christmas card photos of you & your goat. (Don’t worry, you won’t look weird AT ALL)…

If you want to check out why we drink raw goat’s milk and how it helped reverse my son’s asthma click on the links, yo.

The Basics:

Female goats are called DOES or DOELINGS as babies. Male goats are called BUCKS or BUCKLINGS as babies. If a male goat has been castrated(neutered) they are known as a WETHER.

The ONLY way to get milk from a goat is to get a female DOE pregnant so she can have babies first. Each time a goat has babies, this kick starts her milk production and is known as a FRESHENING. It’s very similar to humans. At first the mother has a lot of milk, but then gradually over the course of about a year, the amount of milk reduces.  Typically, goats have their babies in the spring, then at 8 weeks you can sell the babies and enjoy milk for almost an entire year. You’ll want to breed your goat again in the fall if you want to freshen her milk again in the spring. Don’t worry, you can still milk a doe while she is pregnant, but you’ll have to let her dry up 2 months before she is due so she can build up some nutritional reserves for her offspring.

Here’s a pic of a fabulous Nigerian Dwarf goat who looks like she really needs to be milked. Ouch. (image above)

Debunking some Myths:

Goats will not eat your lawn mower, or your outdoor furniture, or your trampoline, or your kids toys. They may chew on the bark of a tree and will eat the fruit off a tree (although not citrus) but that’s about it.

Female goats (or DOES) are not mean and won’t try to head butt you or bite. Male goats that are castrated (WETHERS) are nice too. Male goats that are intact (BUCKS) can be agressive and bite/head butt but I’m sure there are some nice ones out there too 🙂

Purchasing your very first Goat:

First thing you need to know is that there are many different breeds of goats.
There are dairy breeds — Nubian, La Mancha, Alpine, Oberhasli, Toggenburg, Saanen, Sable, & Nigerian Dwarf goats.
There are meat breeds — Spanish, Tennessee, Boer, & Kiko goats.
There are some fancy pantsy breeds that produce fibers for fabric — Angora & Cashmere goats.
And then there are the fun pet breeds — Pygmy & Fainting goats.

I’m sure I forgot a couple breeds here, but you get the idea that there are special jobs for certain breeds. Since I don’t know much about any other breeds than milking breeds, that’s what I’m going to talk about today. (Although it would be pretty fun to have a couple fainting goats am I right?)

When I started looking at the different dairy breeds, all I cared about was the flavor of their milk. I tried a couple different breeds milk and there were some that had that all too familiar musky/goaty flavor. Yup, not gonna drink that! When I tried the Nigerian Dwarf’s milk, it was amazing! Very smooth and fresh, and a bit sweet without any sort of aftertaste. I learned that Nigerians were bred for this purpose, to have milk that tastes similar to cow’s milk. So personally, I would recommend Nigerians for the best tasting milk. Nigerians are also smaller and eat less hay, so bonus there. Full grown, Nigerians are about 75 lbs.

When starting out, you should purchase TWO does or doelings. Goats are herd animals and they will be super sad {and LOUD} if left alone. {Ask me how I know} Yep, we bought just ONE goat at first and that dang thing was always bleating and calling out for a friend. So you’ll definitely want to find that goat a friend. And a dog or some chickens won’t cut it. Any other hoofed animal would though. A cow, a sheep, a horse– they find friends in these creatures too. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a buck or buckling yet, unless there are not many already close by to breed with in the future. Bucks can stink A LOT when they are older and are pretty disgusting and aggressive. If they are kept in close quarters with a female DOE, the flavor of your milk can actually taste really bad! They give off strong pheramones that change the female DOE’s hormones too. In the end, unless you want to really start a herd of goats, you can just borrow a buck once a year for breeding time (or take your female DOES over for a visit to Mr. Bucks house) and be done with it.

Click here to read the rest of the article and get more great tips over at Weed ’em & Reap!

This article originally appeared on Weed ’em & Reap. It is partially posted here with permission from the author.

Have you been thinking about getting your own goat? 

Photo Credit: DaNelle Wolford