Many people are looking to become self-sufficient.
This means different things to different people.
For many of us, we want dairy products. The two main choices are between cows or goats.
Cows are big. Cows eat a lot. Cows give a lot of milk.
Cows are also destructive of the ground where they spend much of their time, purely because of their size.
Goats are much easier to handle as they are physically much smaller. They eat comparably less. They don’t overwhelm you with milk. They are less destructive to their surroundings as they are that much smaller & lighter.
I will focus on milking goats as that is what we have on our farm. Much of the same holds true for cattle – just think much bigger!
To have milk, goats need to have babies. The natural order is for them to kid about once a year. Some are capable of kidding twice a year but that is generally unfair on them as their body doesn’t have time to recuperate its’ strength.
Goats are pregnant for 150 days – about 5 months. They should be “dried up” at least two months before they kid so that their body puts its energy into the growing kid & not into milk production. They can then be milked for about ten months before needing to be dried up again before they kid.
This is a general rule of thumb. Many goats can be milked for a longer period, but they will give progressively less milk. Some goats dry themselves up within months of having kidded. Not great in a milking goat!
For a household looking to have a continual supply of milk throughout the year, it makes sense to have at least two milking goats. You can then plan to have them, kid, at different times of the year which means that you will have a year-round milk supply. Sometimes a bit more & sometimes a bit less. Excess can be made into cheese & many types of cheese store well or can be frozen.
It is really simple to milk by hand. It’s a good idea to have a milking stand to secure the does head. Most goats will stand to be milked quite happily, while there is food in their bowl!
A milking machine comes into its own if you are milking more goats than your hands can cope with & if there is no one to act as a backup milker if you injure yourself! It doesn’t really take any shorter, but your hands will thank you!
Be sure that you get goats that will give the right milk for your needs. Some have higher butter-fat content & others give more milk. There is a balance between the two. I will talk more about the different milking goat breeds in another blog.
Milking goats is a daily commitment.
It isn’t a chore you can do when you feel like it. It needs to happen at more or less the same time each and EVERY day! You can choose to milk once, twice or even three times a day. You won’t get 3 times the milk but the more you milk the more you get.
I choose to milk once a day, in the morning. Then the herd goes out to play for the day – they free-range – and I can have a few hours to do other things before the evening routine & locking them up for the night.
There is no right way.
Only the way that works best for you & your goats.