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My family and I are new to pack goats and just got 3 kids this spring and now have obtained 3 seasoned veterans.
My husband 'bhmntpacker" grew up on a farm and loves genetics and breeding programs and all the other skills that you pick up farming. I grew up in the city so it is all new. We love the wethers, they fit perfectly into our outdoor lifestyle. We are going to be in 4-h one way or the other but we have options. We have an ag tax exemption so our 35 acres has a $28 tax bill annually. Without it, it is over $1,200. You got to love Wy. We figure about 2-4 does will produce enough sales to keep ag status. The day and night chores are no problem and we bottle fed our kids for 3 months, I am glad it is over but very doable. We have 4 children that are homeschooled and will be involved in the chores.
My husband says this is an awesome site for getting good information. Here are my questions:

What sort of time commitment is involved in kidding goats?
How long does it take to milk the does?
How long do you have to milk the does in months?
How much extra milk is produced and what do you do with it?
Can bottle calves drink goats milk?
How much of an investment in equipment is needed?

Thanks for your help,
 

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bhmntmama said:
My husband says this is an awesome site for getting good information. Here are my questions:
What sort of time commitment is involved in kidding goats? How long does it take to milk the does?
First off, welcome to the forum! You sound like you have a very smart husband...lol The time commitment varies and you can spend as much or as little time as you want. At a minimum you can put hay in the feeders for the does that will last several days and a big water tank so you'd only have to deal with mature breeding stock every few days. Trimming feet every 2 -3 months will take about 10-15 minutes per goat. Once the does are pregnant then daily grain rations help with fetus development so you'll have more time there. Once the kids hit the ground the real commitment starts. Milking a doe varies greatly from doe to doe based on the teat size and more importantly how big the teat orifice is. Milking by hand you can expect anything from a wonderful to milk doe taking 5 minutes to a hand killing 20 minutes. Since we were breeding for strictly packgoat qualities, ease of milking didn't figure heavily into our list of genetic priorities. The best thing to do it buy a used one cow milking machine. You can find them at farm auctions and in the money saver ads for $100 - $200. They still make new ones but they are pretty spendy. After the milking, which is twice per day as close to 12 hrs apart as you can manage, you have to feed the kids. You'll probably need to pasteurize the milk to kill any possible CAE virus. Thats going to take the better part of an hour. If you have real kids to do the feeding then I'd suggest pasteurizing a batch of milk you got previously so they can feed the goat kids while you milk. Then pasteurize your new milk and refrigerate it till the next feeding. Just make sure to heat it to the correct temp before feeding to avoid any digestive issues. You can use individual bottles to feed which will take around 5-15 minutes per bottle depending on how old the kid is and how fast they eat. If you have a mob of kids then you can save yourself a lot of time by making a bucket feeder with 10-12 nipples.

bhmntmama said:
How long do you have to milk the does in months?
Some does can milk straight through to the next freshening. Personally we wanted to hit the trail as soon as the kids were weaned so we began drying them up as weaning time approached. In total we milked does about 4-5 months out of the year. Many people advocate feeding kids much longer so that would mean 6 to 8 months milking does. There is no denying that raising any dairy animal that needs milked is a HUGE time commitment. Many people enjoy it. Our biggest issue was finding someone to milk for us if we needed to be gone.

bhmntmama said:
How much extra milk is produced and what do you do with it?
Depends entirely on the goat. We have had does that barely fed two kids and does that could have fed 6 or 8 kids. Goats milk is good to drink if chilled immediately after milking. Letting it set around for 20 minutes or more before you get it cooled will start to give it a goaty flavor. It also makes great cheese. If you search the forum there are some cheese recipies already posted. Skimming the cream makes good butter too. Left over milk was sold to people raising orphan calves and foals. The rest was fed to our 4-H pigs.

bhmntmama said:
Can bottle calves drink goats milk?
Yes

bhmntmama said:
How much of an investment in equipment is needed?
Housing and fencing are the big things. Spend you money there and you will never be disappointed. Other necessary items would be grooming supplies, including hoof trimmers. A milk stand is a necessity but you can build one yourself pretty reasonably. Grain buckets, water tanks, milking machine, milk strainer, a pasteurizer or double boiler and thermometer for pasteurizing the milk. The list of needed supplies can go on and on with medical and health related supplies but I think you get the picture.

Having a breeding program is a very labor intensive commitment. The monetary cost for hay, grain and veterinary bills can be daunting as well. It sounds like you will have plenty of pasture so you are in an ideal situation to cut way back on feed costs. I hear people complain all the time about packgoat kids costing $200 or more. If they only knew what all was involved they would see that it is largely a break even deal even at that price.
 

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You could look into the Boer meat type goats.
I do not think you milk them. Still have feet to trim.
And would need to make sure about the CL and CAE free
herd.

That could be another option.
 

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Bhmntpacker said:
Rex,

Thanks for scaring us straight. We are unsure what we will end up doing but I do know that I would rather be packing than milking. Maybe a couple of bottle calves.
You can let the kids drink off the mums and just spend lots of time with the kids- or else milk them and feed straight to the kids. Not pastuerizing is not so awful as it sounds - it doesn't get pastuerized when they drink straight fron their mum's does it?! Not that I want to put down Rex's opinion, as pasteurizing makes raising kids a lot less risky. To reduce risk, you can feed each kid only it's mum's milk, which may not be neccesary if the mums are all CAE tested neg..
We breed dairy goats, and bottle feed, but have raised wonderfully tame kids without bottle feeding.

Fencing for does is the same or less than for wethers.
Housing for does is similar/the same for does as good housing for wethers.
Feeding is reasonably the same as wethers - once daily during 'off' season, and twice during milking season.
Bottle feeding kids from the milk from your own goats doesn't take longer than bottle feeding replacement.
If you leave the kids on the mum but handle VERY regularly, then they will end up nearly/just as tame as bottle fed kids, or milking a good doe (5 mins or less when you are practiced) and feeding it straight to kids is not time consuming - the time-wasting playing with kids happens whether or not you have the mums. ;)
If you choose a doe who doesn't give heaps, then you won't have any extra milk to bother about using. On the other hand, choosing a doe with lots of milk gives you milk for yourself (great for cereal, cooking, drinks, SMOOTHIES!!!) or for calves/lambs/piglets. The milk is just great when the does are healthy.
All in all, I'd say a doe is not much harder than a wether. Your decisions on leaving kids with the mums and handling or bottling the kids, getting a doe/does with a small amount of milk or extra, and getting does that are easy to milk for hand milking or not mattering if leaving kids on the mums will decide how much time you take and if you get milk for yourself or not.

Feed: Lots more than wethers, a general goat mix is normally fine, or extra protein for high milkers. good quality (or mix of really good and low) hay such as oaten, or a lucerne/grass mix. (I think you guys call lucerne alfalfa? Am I right?)
Housing - you guys will know what wethers need over there, over here we just need two/three sided roofed sheds. A milking shed or pen with part roof is also a great help, and is needed if you have a lot of does.
Infrastructure: Milking stand used for wethers, two-three stainless steel pots, measuring jug, + glass jars, 2 normal wire strainers and fine cloth if you use the milk for yourself.
Milking:
For kids/animals only:
Put doe on stand, give her feed, brush udder a bit with your hand to shake of loose hairs, squirt away first squirt from each teat (contains germs from the dirt she lays down in etc.) and then milk away. When you can't get any more, hold the pot away from the goat and massage both sides, 'butting' with your hand like a kid and pushing in and around, use almost a squeezing motion with your whole hand and then smooth off any hairs dislodged and milk some more. Give another massage or two (each massage takes about five-ten seconds, not a prolonged job) and when you've gotten the last squirts and the udder feels empty, loose and floppy, pour teatdip over the teats or spray with a hair-spray bottle of teatdip. Let the doe out - done!
For human consumption:
Get milking pots ready on sink. Put kettle on to boil. Fill bucket with very warm water an add a clean rag and some disinfecting soap.(must be suitable for skin - a few squirts of liquid handwash is good) Pour the boiling water from kettle all over milking things, make sure they are entirely rinsed. Take stuff down to goat. Put doe on milking stand and feed. Brush the udder, then get bucket with water, rag and soap, (udder-wash) and wash the does udder. Get some paper towel (I use three layers of heavy-duty) and dry the udder, then place the paper towel wet-side-down where the milking pot will sit. Put the milking pot on the papertowel (to keep the bottom of it clean and hygenic) and squirt the first squirt from eash teat away or into a container. (to check for blood - not needed normally as you can feel when the does have mastitis and shouldn't need to see the milk) Milk away. Massage etc., making sure to hold pot away whole you do. (to avoid excess amounts of hair falling in milk) when finished, teat-dip and put down off the stand. Measure milk, then either strain immediately or put in the fridge first.
Straining: Get glass jars and lids. (we use empty pasta sauce bottles) Place them and large jug, pot/pots of milk, whisk and two strainers with fine cloth inside on the sink. (we line our strainers with double/triple layer chux cloth, with the pieces facing opposite to make the holes smaller) Put the kettle on to boil. When boiled, rinse everything except the milk. Whisk the milk (the cream gathers on top) with the sterilized whisk, then pour milk through first sterilized strainer into the sterilized jug. Pour the milk from the jug through the second sterilized strainer into the sterilized jars and place sterilized lids on top. Place jars in fridge - done!
Feeding kids
You can either feed each milking, not feed at all (dam raise) or share care - let them rin with their mums all day, you don't have to feed them or milk the mums that night, then seperate overnight. Milk the mums in the morning and bottle feed kids - this is a time-saving and acceptable way to raise friendly kids. You have less feeding kids than if you didn't have the mums, and only one milking! If you stay away a few days, you don't need any one to milk the does - just let the kids run with them. A very satisfactory arrangement, as you get milk when you want it, less work, and tame kids.
Bottle feeding the kids straight after milking the mums means you don't have to warm the milk. Bottle feeding from the fridge doesn't have any real value if you are only feeding the kdis when you milk - if you milk twice and seperate the kids while they need more than one feed a day, then that is the only reason we feed milk out of the fridge. Make sure it is nice and warm (stand bottle in come boiling water) and feed the same.
When actually feeding the kids, you can train them lots of tricks, including rear, kneel, lay, sit, crawl and walk on back legs. Start with kneel and rear, and progress from there. If you want mroe info I'm happy to write out full instructions. :D Using a lambar (as multiple kid feeding devices are known here) is time-saving, but doesn't give you as much contact with the kid, and no trick training.

Other than the things mentioned above, there is not much more to does than wethers - you give hay, grain, water, shelter and fencing. Trimming hooves and drenching is for wethers too, and as I've mentioned you don't need to milk unless you want to. (it is great fun and gives you a close bond with the doe however) To breed them, either have a buck or know someone who does and is willing to have your does taken to him. When in heat you'll know - especially if in with wethers. They choose a certain goat as their target (a buck if you have one, otherwise a wether or doe of their choice) and harrass it, fighting anf bullying and trying to get it to mount them. They wag their tails furiously, or most do, and will be happy with a buck when he snorts and paws and bubbles - if not in heat, they'll run! Breeding is as easy and put the doe and buck together, or if you want no playing around, hold the doe and about ten seconds later she'll be done. Best done twice to be sure.
Feed normal ration for the first two months, increasing to fourth month, and then keeping a close eye on health in the fifth month - grain is only alright for some, but lots of grain for others will give them kidding problems. Know you're doe or play it safe and feed only a little grain until they kid- build them up to a very large ration by a few days after kidding.
Kidding: The very best advice I can give is BE THERE!!! You'll know what to do after the first few problems you encounter, but the main ones are comfort the doe, make sure the kid/kids are coming both front feet with nose on top or both back feet. If nothing happen with much straining, explore with your hand. (not half as yuck as it sounds) Make sure you have got two front or back feet of the SAME kid, then push back any other kids that want to come out and help the kid out with the contractions. Problems are rare with healthy does, mainly just help clean the kids mouth and dry off all the yuck. (and take photos ; ) ) Make sure the kids each get a drink of colostrum (either from the doe or a bottle) and check that they all stand up soon after birth.
Length of milking:depends on the doe, a good doe will milk about eight/nine months. (two months into her next pregnancy - if not pregnant, she should milk up to a year more) You can dry many does off earlier, but the earliest I'd recomend would be four/five months. Some does are impossible to dry off, most will dry off if you give them a sensible lactation length.
I think that's about all. :D
Have fun with your decision. :lol: :p

Cazz
 
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