April 19, 2019

Trying Again for Year Around Milk

A year around supply of fresh goat milk has been one of my self-reliance goals. I know some folks like to take a break from milking, but for our chosen diet, I need fresh milk all year long. This is mostly for my kefir grains, which need milk to stay alive. If I don't have my own source, then I have to buy milk. Seems better to always have my own available!

There are two ways to accomplish year around milk. I've blogged about these before, so I won't go into a long explanation (see "Year Around Milk" and "Dry Days Ahead"). For me, the best option is to breed at opposite times of the year: in the fall for spring kidding and in the spring for fall kidding.

Standard size dairy goats can't do this because they are seasonal breeders, but Kinders are aseasonal breeders. Even though they are half Nubian, they inherit the ability to breed in any season from their Pygmy genetics. This is one of the reasons I chose the breed, and one of the reasons I think they are the perfect homestead goat! (Pardon my prejudice, LOL. Just ask me and I'll tell you all the reasons!)

Unfortunately, this isn't as easy as it sounds! Fall heats are always the strongest with the rest of the year being more subtle. So far my several attempts to produce fall kids have been unsuccessful. But this spring I'm going to try again. Hopefully, I've learned more about detecting subtle heats and will have success.

My candidates are:





The best way to guarantee success would be to leave the girls with their prospective suitors for at least three weeks or more. The boys love this but I find it upsets all of the does terribly with a whole lot of hollering going on. It's less stressful for them to just visit for an afternoon for a couple of days in a row with a followup visit three weeks later. More predictable kidding too. But, since that hasn't worked well for me for spring breedings, I may try extended visits instead. Wish me Good Providence!


Gorges Smythe said...

I hope it works out for you.

Powell River Books said...

Sounds tricky. - Margy

Ed said...

Have you ever tried dehydrating milk and then reconstituting it later for your kefir grains? I don't know what in milk you need for the grain.

I don't have any experience but have had dehydrated milk before on backpacking trips. I imagine it is probably very energy intensive unless you could do it in your solar oven perhaps.

Susan said...

Oh, I don't envy you all the hollering! I think having fresh milk all year around would be great. We will be cheering you (and the girls and boys) on! Where did you get your kefir grains? I have been trying to bolster my probiotics but find that kombucha and even jun tea do not agree with me.

Harry Flashman said...

I had some goats up here on the mountain, and we liked them a lot. But they were incredibly destructive and we couldn't control them. So I gave them to a petting zoo, I knew the owner and I knew he wouldn't sell them to the Mexicans to get eaten. We missed them but they were happy at the zoo.

I keep a lot of dehydrated milk up here in the store room but it doesn't keep well and has to be replaced fairly often.

Leigh said...

Gorges, me too!

Margy, I've gradually gotten better at detecting when a doe is in heat. Some of them stand at the fence and holler for the boys, others are subtle. Most of my guesses have been correct, except for springtime. One of these days I have to get it. :)

Ed, I've never tried dehydrating milk, but I think you're right that it would be very energy intensive. Dehydrating eggs were (plus took a very long time) so I imagine milk would be worse! Easier to buy milk; just not my optimal situation.

Susan, next time I need to thin out my grains I'd be happy to send you some. They grow well so I end up giving the extras away or feeding them to the chickens. The kefir has been the best source of probiotics ever. Plus the protein and calcium from the milk. I'm happy to share them.

Harry, yes, goats can be very destructive without proper fencing! Sounds like an excellent solution for yours.

I don't store dried milk, but now seem to recall about it's poor shelf life. That's a shame, but I'm sure can't be helped.

Frank and Fern said...

I hope it works for your Kinders, Leigh. You're right about Nubians, I can rarely get any of them to breed this time of year, but I still try so we can have year round milk. In fact, I turned one of my does in with the buck this morning. I don't think she is in standing heat, but maybe this will help? We'll see. I'll be interested to see how your efforts proceed.


KathyB. said...

I did not know that about Kinder goats. I just assumed domestic goats were all seasonal breeders. I had a herd of Nubians for awhile a few years ago and remember the milk production tapering off and disappearing just before kidding. I sure hope your goats assist you in your attempt to produce milk for your family year 'round ! ( BTW, I love looking at your pics of goats. I miss mine.)

Rose said...

I do hope you have success this time around!

Leigh said...

Fern, a long time ago (when I had Nubians( I read something about breeding them out of season. I know it does happen (one of my Nubian does had been born in December) but it didn't sound like an easy proposition. Maybe estrus inducing drugs would work (?) Kinder kidding is common all months of the year, I've just not had success yet!

Kathy, the miniature breeds (African Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf) are year-round breeders. Kinders were developed from a Pygmy/Nubian cross - the best of both worlds. :)

Rose, thank you! :)

Mike Yukon said...

I'm guessing getting milk year-round from goats is similar to selecting chicken breeds that lay almost year-round. The name of them escapes me at the moment. :-(

Goatldi said...

OK you know me Leigh I need to jump into the pool.

It may be more challenging to breed for year round with standard dairy goats who for the most part are August to April or May seasonal breeders but many a breeder has done it and mastered it. Just a wee bit more complicated then with non seasonal goat breeds.

Often times if one just breeds in a staggered fashion for example. If one has 9 does in the herd to breed. 3 would be bred in April / May heats , let us pretend April breeding settled all 3 (lucky us) those does would freshen in September for a 10 month lactation that would have them on the downside of their production beginning in February.But potentially still milking through to July.

The next 3 does would be bred in August/ September and if our 3 does took and settled in August they would have January kids. Therefore coming into full production around June leaving them 5 more months of a down slide on the lactation and drying off November.

Our last 3 does would then be bred in the October/ November area we will have them settle in October ( we are a very optimistic bunch) and they will kid in March giving us another 10 month lactation that is giving us that extremely coveted summer/early fall milk. Those does will be on the downside of their lactation beginning in September (just when our first group kids again) and finally dry off round February.

The ideal with dairy goats (standard size breeds) is a 10 month lactation with a two month dry period to refresh from raising kids and a ten month milk production period.

There are a lot of different methods tried and there are also a lot of road blocks. The most significant in the 20 years is with changes in the environment and weather patterns we are seeing swings in the beginning and end of heat cycles . Where our does were coming in like clockwork August to April then taking a summer break some of us find our does don't even have their first heat until October.

If anyone is interested there is an amazing breeder of Nubians by the name of Karen Smith in Willits California who has been pretty successful with "off season" breeding. Karen and her family have one of the premier Nubian herds in the county and have had for a long time.

And then there is always the issue of using lights and injections to toy with mother nature. But there are a group of us who find staggering with in the normal cycle a fine answer to having year round milk.

If any of my thoughts on the above example are in any way erroneous to anyone please jump in and correct me. It has been a long day of cleaning barns and other fun stuff so my mind may be muddled. Not that doesn't happen any other time. Just nice to have an excuse.

Leigh said...

Mike, you're right! Some breeds definitely have more tendency than others. And then some individuals do too.

Goatldi, as usual you add so much to the conversation! I think the staggered breeding is an excellent solution for most people, especially once one knows each doe's typical length of lactation. So far (with my bunch) I haven't gone longer than 8 months, although I know some Kinders can have extended lactations of up to two years. I just don't have one(!) and mine lean more toward their miniature genetics on that score. (Udder improvement and milk production is next on my breeding goals, however).

Your observation on changes in heat cycles is especially interesting. In Kinder circles there is discussion about absence of or later heats, but I don't think anyone has correlated it to changes in weather patterns. Definitely makes sense! One of the reasons I ended up with January kids is because I jumped at the opportunity when those girls went into heat. Not an ideal time for the kids, but it worked well with the only ones caught with chill born in April.

Goatldi said...

Agreed Leigh.

The funny thing about standard breed kids is they actually grow out better in cool to cold weather. There also is the push for January or December kids as the show circuit begins around May. And if you want to show in all the kid classes you need those senior kids. Except in Florida the show season starts earlier as they generally have warmer weather sooner then the rest of us.

Kids , especially younger ones who can’t regulate their core body temps as well as older kids, can succumb to excessive heat as well as very cold temperatures.

Opps sorry someone must of turned on the encyclopedia of goat breeding and kid care.

You are most welcome and thank you for your kind comment.

Leigh said...

Goatldi, that's an interesting observation about kids developing in cool weather. Also about the heat (which we have!) I'll have to observe my mid-sizers and see if there's a correlation. I know a lot of folks prefer cold weather kidding to avoid coccidiosis. I worry about hypothermia, but this year I've been observing when the forage puts on good growth spurts as it seems logical to coordinate numbers of kids with generous pasture. BTW, you can turn into a walking encyclopedia of goat care and breeding any time you want!

Chris said...

Long time, not visit from me. Glad to finally leave a comment again. I've been busy, but it's always great to read about your progress. I didn't know there was a difference between standard, and dwarf goats, when it comes to the ability to breed. And is Hudson, new breeding stock? Colby sounds like a familiar name though.

Well, I really wish you good-fare with the autumn breeding schedule. Not just for your milk supply, but because I get to see more cute kid pictures, lol.

Leigh said...

Chris, it's definitely good to hear from you! Life on a homestead can get very busy indeed. I got Hudson about a year ago, but haven't blogged about him much. The bucks usually don't get their fair share of blog coverage; just not as cute as the kids, lol.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Hudson looks very noble.

Leigh said...

TB, he does indeed. He's the more dignified of the two bucks, but then, he's older too.

Fiona said...

Late to the conversation but its an awesome read for information. Fresh Milk year round is a problem for cows as well. Not the actual breeding but logistically. You need to dry a cow off for at least two months before she calves. So to have continual milk you need two cows and a bull or access to one, a big commitment in space and resources. With our old cow not breeding back we are just milking her with no dry off, as long as we can. Her production would be too low for a family or butter and cheese projects but its great for us right now. She has dropped a bit more since we weaned but seems set at a gallon and a half per day.

Leigh said...

Fiona, never too late. Low production at a gallon and a half! To a goatherd that's a lot of milk! lol

I definitely think it would be harder to accomplish this with a cow, but I think all of us with dairy animals are used to dry spells. If it wasn't for my kefir, I wouldn't even give it a second thought. I usually have a good supply of cheese for that dry spell, in fact, that's why I'm only milking one goat at the moment.