Barely Enough Milk

And it’s all our fault. Well, maybe partially our fault. We’ve been trying to have year round milk for several years now. This is the closest we’ve come so far, and if we make it this year, we will barely squeak by if we do. There are a number of factors that contribute to having year round milk, or not. Here is a run down of our situation this year.

We had four does in milk this year, starting in January, two experienced and in April two first fresheners. As a general rule a doe will not give full capacity milk the first year since her udder is developing. The second year will be a better indicator of full milk production for a particular animal.

Obviously, if you want to have year round milk, there have to be animals capable of producing at particular times of the year to meet your needs. We have tried to accomplish this by breeding at least two does in the summer to provide the ‘carry over’ milk during the winter. A lot of folks don’t like to milk in the winter. It’s cold, it requires more feed, and it means scheduled breeding and birthing twice a year instead of once. All of this has to be considered to see if it will fit the lifestyle you choose to live.

We attempted to breed two of our does in July. Yes, it’s hot then, but we’ve had animals breed then before, which resulted in surprise babies we weren’t planning. Our Nubian does originated in Africa and definitely prefer hot weather to cold, so summer breeding is not out of the question for them. Our July attempt didn’t work, so we tried again in August with success. One oldest doe, who is seven this year, bred and is due in January. We planned to breed a first freshener as well, but it didn’t take. We found this out three weeks later when she came back into heat. On a whim, we also bred our other older doe when she came into heat thinking we would have three does due in January and three due in April. What we ended up with is two experienced does pregnant, dried off and providing no milk, and two first fresheners not bred and providing very little milk.

These two first fresheners may be producing more milk than we are getting, though. The problem there is that they are still letting their seven month old kids nurse. Yes, I know, they should have been weaned months ago. The pasture we use to wean the kids has now turned into the pig pasture. The first set of kids we had in February were weaned there successfully. The second set of kids we had in April were there for one month, but then we had to get ready for the pigs and they took over the pasture. We crossed our fingers and put the kids in a pasture next to their mothers with an adjoining fence, but that didn’t work. The does let their kids nurse through the fence. We temporarily put the does in the pasture that now has the water storage tanks, but it wasn’t long enough to break that cycle of allowing the kids to nurse.

So, why are we getting barely enough milk? We ended up relying on two first fresheners that are still letting their kids nurse. Not a good choice on our part. We have already discussed successful weaning with the next kids that will be born in January. Now that we have become familiar with the pigs, the weaning kids will go back into that pasture with them. We will pen off the kids at night, with their own little barn and feed them there. In the mornings we will let them out to graze with the pigs. Training Liberty, our gilt, to go into a pen by herself to eat has worked out very well and gives me confidence that we can juggle pig and kid feeding just fine. I will feed the pigs first and get them situated, then feed the kids in their pen and close them off from the pigs. Then we won’t have to worry about competition for feed, housing or water between the kids and the pigs. That’s the theory for now anyway.

I hope to get these two first fresheners to provide enough milk to get us to about January 10th, which will be five days after the first doe is due to kid and the milk will be drinkable. The second doe’s milk will be ready for consumption around January 16th, which means we’ll have more than enough then. That may be perfect timing since we are guesstimating that Liberty may have piglets by then. Some of that extra milk, especially the first milk with colostrum, will be excellent food for Liberty and her babies. There are some things that work out just right.

There are always so many things to learn when raising livestock and trying to meet certain goals. Sometimes things work out just like you want them to, and sometimes they don’t. Speaking of barely enough, our 17 hens have been giving us around 5 eggs a day for a while now, which isn’t enough. We’ve had to buy eggs to fill in the gaps. Sometime this month our young hens should begin laying which will be great. After their production becomes enough to keep us in eggs, the older hens will fill up more jars on the shelf. It all usually works out in the end, one way or another.

Lessons learned, whether from successes or failures, are always valuable. The more we learn now while failure is still an option, the better off we will be. 

Until next time – Fern

14 thoughts on “Barely Enough Milk

  1. That's my plan, Kathi. I hope to breed two does in May this year instead of July. Then we can have October babies instead of January, which is much better temperature wise. Then our second breeding can be in October for March babies. Thank you for the recommendation.Fern

  2. We have kept some colostrum in the freezer before, C.M, but not for a few years. We usually have more than one doe in milk at a time, so if we ever had an orphan, I hope we would have a milk source to feed it. So far, we have never raised any bottle babies, I don't plan on it either. I think the doe would do a much better job than I would at raising a kid. If we did have an orphan or one that needed bottle raising for some reason, I would probably give it away or sell it. Interesting comment that many can learn from. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  3. Hi, Sandra. It's a lot colder where you are. We have folks around here that don't milk in the winter. The ones that do make cheese and other dairy products make then in the warm months. If I could find a way to make preserved, frozen milk taste better, I'd just store more frozen milk. You've got some very pretty wool products. We tried spinning our own wool a number of years ago. I admire the quality of your yarn. you for your comment.Fern

  4. Hello, Alissa. We are aware of this technique, but have never used it. After our unsuccessful weaning techniques this year, it might be something to seriously look into. Thank you for your recommendation, and I hope other livestock owners read this also. Thank you again.Frank

  5. Hi Everett. I like a wooden baseball bat better than the metal ones. I've just never been able to get used to that 'ping' of a metal bat. And, yes, I have tatooed a few goat heads. It sure felt like a dinger to right field to me. Sometimes it takes a time or two to get their attention. I actually bought a couple of t-ball bats just for that purpose. You get the same effect.Yes, you can make butter and all of the other dairy products from goat milk. It just takes a little bit longer for the cream to rise.As far as the pictures go, Everett, some of the pictures point south and the rest are in the other directions. Everett, thank you for your comments. Take care.Frank

  6. For now, the chickens stay in their pen. Once the older hens are butchered and we make a few adjustments to their part of the yard, the young hens will be let out in the afternoons to range. Waiting until early afternoon gets them in the habit of laying eggs in the nest boxes instead of out in the grass somewhere. We have only had a problem with hawks once, but that was when the chickens were out free ranging in the yard.Thank you for your questions.Fern

  7. Fern, in the past I've had Nubian does breed successfully in May and June, but that's about the latest. Sometimes they'll be back in heat in August but definitely by late September. Maybe you could try moving your summer breeding a month or so earlier.

  8. Fern, I recently read in the archives of a youtube homesteader I found, that one exceedingly cold winter (she lives in Canada) they had one billy and two does die for unknown reasons. Before the last doe was euthanized the vet delivered her two little kids by caesarian (spelling?). The mother was too weak to survive. Anyway, the homesteader happened to have some colostrum saved in her freezer which she was able to give to the kids as she bottle fed them and kept them in the house until it warmed up a little. I just wondered if you'd ever considered keeping some colostrum in your freezer in case it was needed in an emergency. I'm not sure if you've prepared to run your freezer during a power outage by solar energy. Thank you both for all the very helpful and interesting articles.

  9. Have you ever considered the little nose blabs for the kids that allow you to wean without having to separate? A friend uses them very successfully for his cattle and I know they make them for sheep/goats but have no personal experience using them. It's a plastic spikey ring and you attach it (painlessly, though it might be annoying at first) into the calf (or kid!) nose. The spikes poke the mothers in the udder when the kids try to nurse and so she refuses to stand still for them. With the calves they're generally weaned within a week and the blabs removed after 2-3 weeks. Does not seem to have a negative effect on nursing with future calves. I know my friend uses EasyWean blabs, but there are several different manufacturers that make them. He's been using the same ones over and over again for several years. Likes them because while the calves can no longer nurse they still have the comfort of being right there with mom. Less crying and distress.

  10. Hi Frank And Fern, You ought to find some \”young person\” to climb up your antenna pole and and take a few pictures of the homestead from up there!! I have a hard time figuring out how it all looks with random pics. LOL As I was reading your post about figuring out all the breeding times to have milk all the time. We always had only two cows to contend with all the time I was growing up and we never seemed to be out of milk!Do you make butter out of the milk? Or is there not enough butterfat in goats milk? The only goats around here in my day were not very friendly ! The old Billy with a big set of horns would run me right out off the pasture every chance he got. I took to carrying a baseball bat and after clocking him with it once, he would just stand there and watch me instead of chasing me. Must have \”ring his bell\”.Keep up the stories, you have become my first stop of the day when reading about 20 different blogs. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Fern, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. I have learned so much. I love how you explain the nutritional values of different foods. I was wondering if you have a recommendation of a particular book that you use? I thought I had seen a list of books you use on the blog at one time, but I couldn't find it.Thanks so much for everything you and Frank teach us.Valerie

  12. How do you keep animals from getting to your chickens without a guard dog in with them? Do they stay in their fenced area 100% of the time? Do hawks get to them? Thanks 🙂

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