Halting milk on dairy goats


When it comes to goats, dairy goats are one of the most productive, lucrative, and beneficial parts of goat farming. Milking goats is a process that has multiple steps and cycles which we will help explain in this article.

Halting milk on dairy goats is a process that involves reducing the amount of grain-based feed the doe eats (to reduce energy) and replacing it with grass hay and other high-fiber feeds. Next, you start milking less each day, from twice a day to once every 24 hours. Finally, milk the doe one last time without milking again until the next season.

The time it takes to dry them out depends on the type of goat and how long they have been lactating as well as the goat’s individual needs.

It takes longer to dry out a goat just a few months after it has its kids than it does to dry out a goat that has been lactating for 6 months.

Raising dairy goats for the milk that they produce is a great way to provide milk for your family as well as producing enough milk to sell at the market.

dairy-goat-doe-and-feeding-baby

Glossary of Terms

Before we go into details on the steps involved let’s look at a few of the words and terms associated with halting milk on a dairy goat.

Doe (Nanny) – A sexually mature female goat.

Kidding – When a doe gives birth it is called kidding and baby goats are called kids.

Freshen – When a does gives birth and starts to produce milk.

Lactation – The period in which a doe produces milk; the secretion or formation of milk.

Dry period – The time when the female is not producing milk.

Settled – A female that is pregnant.

Udder – The mammary gland of sheep and goats that secretes-milk.

Drying off – Also known as drying up or halting, is the process where you stop milking the goat and allow them to recuperate.

These words and terms should give you a better understanding of milking and halting a goat.

milk-goat-nanny
A milk goat doe/nanny.

The Process of Milking Goats

The milking process involves kidding/breeding the milk goats so they will have more kids and produce more milk through lactation.

In order to produce milk, the doe must first get pregnant, and give birth to kids of her own. A goat that is pregnant is referred to as “settled.” This allows her to produce milk to feed her kids and also produce milk for you.

The baby goats (kids) are weaned off their mother’s milk after about 6 weeks and then they are separated from the mother and fed only hay.

It is best practice to milk in the morning, keeping that milk for you, and leaving some milk to be milked later in the day for her kids.

The mother will continue to produce milk for up to 10 months, although the exact amount of time varies depending on the needs of the goat.

Having a dairy farm takes a little bit of work but is very rewarding.

Milking a goat is easy, so easy in fact, that a child can do it. At first, it takes time to get the muscles in your hands strong enough to keep squeezing the udders, after a while, it gets much easier and takes less time.

8-year-old milking a goat.

Why You Must Dry Up A Goat

When a doe is milked the act of milking takes a lot of energy away from the animal.

You must allow them to dry up for a period, so they may regain their energy and health for the next season of kidding and milk production.

The reason you reduce the amount of grain-based feed is because it is high in energy, which is needed to produce milk (not so great when halting).

Giving them grass hay and water reduces their energy levels and allows them to dry up.

Drying off (drying up a goat) is a part of the milk production process and is beneficial to the goat’s health.

goat-kid-feeding-from-udder

When Do You Start the Process?

You are able to milk the goat for about ten months, and then you must dry them up and let them recuperate for around two months before the next kidding season.

High energy feeds such as grains and alfalfa are used during the milking season to give them enough energy to keep producing milk.

You change the goats feed from the grain-based feed and alfalfa to grass hay and lower energy feed about two weeks before you start to reduce the milking.

You do this so the goat’s energy levels will decrease, causing them to produce less milk.

Now that you know when to start let’s look at all the steps involved in the process.

goat-doe-two-kids

Step by Step Process for Halting Milk on a Dairy Goat

You can begin the milk halting process with 4 easy steps listed below:

  1. Change the goats feed.
  2. Begin reducing the milking.
  3. Milk one last time.
  4. Give them time to recuperate.

One important part of this process is learning what your goat needs and when to start the halting process. Some goats will naturally start the process about 6 months into milking and can be halted abruptly after.

You will know they are ready when they go from producing a couple liters of milk per day to only a few cups.

Others will go a full 10 months and will require you to reduce the amount of milking, forcing the drying up process, until you milk them one last time.

Halting milk on goats

Step 1 Change the goats feed

Two weeks before you begin to dry off your goat change their feed from high energy grain-based feed (grain and alfalfa) to grass hay.

This reduces their energy levels and helps reduce the amount of milk produced.

Step 2Begin to reduce milking

You can now force the halting process, if they have not started on their own, by reducing the number of times you milk them per day.

You can go from twice a day, to once every 24 hours.

The time it takes for this part of the process depends on different factors, but you will know when to stop when they start producing only a few cups of milk per day.

Step 3Milk one last time

Once you have determined that your goat is ready to stop, milk them one final time to halt the milk production. This will be the last time in the year you will milk them.

Step 4Give them time to recuperate

After the halting process, your goats need time to recuperate and build up the nutrients to give birth next year.

You will not milk your goat after halting until she gets pregnant again the next year/season. This recuperation time takes around 2 months if your goat produced for 10 months.

Some goats produce less, and every goat is different but keeping up with the needs of your goats will help you to keep in tune with their production and health/management.

Halting milk on goats

Why Halting Milk Goats Improves Their Health

Animals who give birth yearly need time to recuperate. This is true for any animal and even humans.

The goat’s body needs time to rest and build up the nutrients it needs to start the kidding process over again each year.

Having a healthy goat is an important part of birthing, milking, and raising goats.

Make sure to keep a goat book (a book to write down how much your goats eat and how much milk is produced). This helps to monitor their health.

If you have a stubborn goat who will just not stop lactating there are ways to induce the halting process, such as feeding them sage.

sage-help-in-halting-lactation
Sage helps halt milk production.

What Can Go Wrong in the Halting Process?

When you start the halting process it can be a good time to consult a veterinarian, as there are a few things to watch out for.

If you do not abruptly cut off milking (the final milk of the year) and keep milking them every now and then they could develop inflammation of their mammary glands, which is caused by bacteria and viruses.

This is called mastitis.

goat-health-bacteria
Source.

Early signs of mastitis include modified milk texture, color, smell and/or taste.

livestockathome.com is not a veterinarian and the information we provide is how we raise our goats and is not medical advice. If you have any signs of your goats being unhealthy consult a veterinarian immediately.  

A few more resources for raising dairy goats:

Milk production – PDF

Starting a dairy goat business – PDF

Related Questions

Do you feed them less when changing their feed? Even though you change to low energy feed such as grass hay you do not feed them or water them less. They need to still get the feeling that they are getting full and satisfied.

How do you know if your doe had a healthy halting? After the final milking you monitor the does behavior, looking for signs of fatigue or stress. If she starts to rest more and relax then it is a good sign that you’ve had a healthy halting.

Chad Kilpatrick

Chad Kilpatrick is a writer that is passionate about farming and livestock. He has experience in raising goats as well as cows, pigs, and chickens.

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