Milk - DHIA and Info

A few years ago, at one of the local fairs, my granddaughter wanted to taste some milk fresh out of the goat. Although she was only 6 years old, she handled her sample as if she was examining the finest wine. Smacked her lips and declared "It tastes just like milk." I can't vouch for store bought pasteurized milk, but nice creamy milk fresh from a Nigerian Dwarf is the best. It does not taste "goaty". The goatiness of cheese varies with the type of cheese, and you might check Pholia Farms website for more information on goat cheese. I don't sell milk because my dairy isn't licensed, but I do sell some nice family milkers.

Milk Production

The average amount of milk per day for a Nigerian is about 2 1/2 lbs. (a little over one quart) per day. Younger and small does will produce a bit less. A yearling milker under 19" will average just under 2# per day. A 4 year old over 22" will produce almost 3# per day. Feeding high quality alfalfa can increase milk amounts.

At Blythmoor, the does have free access to pasture, which includes some nice browse opportunities. Because I want them to browse the keep the pasture maintained, I don't feed them a lot of alfalfa. My milk production is a little lower because of the free choice grazing, but my goats are in good condition. They do get grain and alfalfa pellets while they are milking or waiting to be milked. And in the winter, they get supplemental grass hay and alfalfa, in addition to their grain during milking.

My does are milked twice a day, once every 12 hours. Kids are weaned within a week of birth, but most of the early milk goes back into the kids by bottle feeding. The does (and their kids) are not as stressed if the kids are taken early, and the milkers settle into the routine. No worries about lopsided udders from un-even nursing, or one kid of multiples not getting enough because greedy littermates are getting it all.

I use several tools to gauge my milk production, because I am breeding for dairy quality. My milk and production are tested monthly through the Dairy Herd Improvement program. This tells me how much milk, how much butterfat and protein and gives me projections on their total production for the year. In order to earn an ADGA Milk Star, a doe must produce 600-690 lbs. of milk in a 305 day lactation (or less) depending on their age OR butterfat must be 21-24 lbs. and protein 18-21 lbs. A doe can earn a star for any one of the three components. Butterfat is the lightest component, so a doe with high butterfat will have fewer pounds of milk. If you are looking for a milker, look for does with those *D or *M designations. If there is a number before the star designation, it indicates how many generations of star milkers that doe represents.

Milk testing also tells you if the doe will milk consistently over the year. Some does will peak early and then have big drops in production after just a few months. The milk test data tells you which does maintain their milk. For both the production doe and the family milker, it's good to have milk throughout a milking cycle of about 10 months. My does are dried off and rested for a few months before their next kidding cycle.

So, how much milk can I expect? (1 quart is about 2 lbs.) It varies widely. Some will lead you to believe that you can go buy a doe kid and get 2 quarts a day. But the size of the doe, the age of the doe, and how many times she has freshened will all impact that. A doe will generally peak a few months after kidding -- and maybe at that stage she does give a lot of milk, but she's going to taper off as the year progresses. A little first freshener can cause you to be discouraged. Give them time to grow up. Nursing kids will also impact production. You can milk and have the doe feed kids at the same time to keep production more level.

High in Butterfat

Nigerian's milk is higher in butterfat than any other dairy goat breed, averaging around 6% but often much higher. The queen of butterfat in dairy cows are the Guernsey's, who average about 3.5% and in goats, Nubians come the closest with an average of about 4.8%. High butterfat and good protein levels make for good cheesemaking. I like does that produce at least 6% butterfat because I get a better yield on my cheese.

Goat milk does not separate quite as readily as cows milk, but the milk itself from Nigerians is rich enough to make good ice cream and for cream in your coffee (or on cereal). It makes great flan or Creme brule without the addition of any extra cream.