Friday, November 9, 2012

Time To Dry Off The Goat Mommas!

Dot will miss her fresh milk daily!
We're hoping that Randi the Buck has done his job, and that our Goat Girls are now pregnant.  He's been with the ladies 24/7 for over a month, and was very enthusiastic to get on with his work!  We are currently still milking the does, but the time has come to dry them off.  Once a doe has been pregnant and produces milk, theoretically you can keep milking for a long time: we've heard of does that milked for more than two years steadily!  That is, as long as they're not pregnant again.  Making milk takes a lot of energy, making babies takes a lot of energy so it's either one or the other.  Apparently, you can milk a doe through the first three months of their five month pregnancy, which means we could milk until the end of December.  However, two considerations for us: first, we had a Randi 'break-out' before we put the buck and the does together and Choco may have gotten pregnant early.  Second, we're about to get so cold weather-wise, that we'd rather give the girls a longer, healthier break from milking.  And us, too; we'll actually be rather happy to have a break from the routine of milking.

Drying off a doe - getting them to quit making milk - is going to take us about six weeks.  Like everything around here, we're going to do it fairly naturally.  We have started this week by going to milking just once a day, in the morning.  The first night was quite amusing - we went up to the barn at our usual time but instead of taking out a doe, we just gave them a little grain ration to share, right in their pen.  Mabel, always first to get milked, stood up on the gate, watching and waiting.  She didn't head for the grain, she kept waiting to be taken out of the pen.  From there, usually, she would go on the milking stand and get her own (private) grain ration to enjoy at her leisure.  As we gave a little grain to the kids, tossed a little scratched for the chickens in the barn and fed the cats, Mabel continued to watch our every move from the gate.  She seemed to be in disbelief.  Feeling sorry for her, we put a little more grain ration in the girls' bowl, taking the scoop right past her to entice her, then said good night and turned out the lights.

The next morning we went up a little early, not sure what to expect.  None of the does seemed in any discomfort, although all three were very enthusiastic about heading for the milking stand when their turn came.  There was no bulging milk bags, no cries of pain - all things we thought possible.  Mabel and Chocolate produced about the usual amount of milk, Goldie produced a little more than usual.  Again, in the evening, we just put everyone to bed as usual, giving the does a little grain ration in their pen.  During this week, this has easily become the new normal with no problems.  We'll do this for a couple of weeks, lessening the grain ration that they receive each morning, which will also help with the transition.  In a couple of weeks time, we'll go to milking every second morning, then milking every three days, then we'll just stop.  And with that, the does will be dried off, ready to grow beautiful, healthy kids!

We'll miss our fresh, raw milk.  We're an all-goat-milk-all-the-time household right now.  We do have milk frozen, which will get us by for a while.  Probably late winter, before the new kids are born, we'll have to buy commercial milk.  We're not looking forward to it: our fresh milk is beautiful and delicious!  Probably, the one who will miss it the most is our little barn kitty 'pet' Dot, who is in the habit of following us to every milking and getting a little bowl of fresh, warm milk to enjoy!


  1. Glad this is working out for you. Seems you have those girls trained pretty darn well. Can you really drink frozen milk? or is that for soap making?

    1. Marguerite: I have milk frozen for both purposes! Some in heavy glass jars that we'll unthaw for cereal/coffee/baking etc. Some is already frozen in ice cubes - which is what I use for soapmaking!