Our Zuri and Eysha were that way, both milking for almost two years before we chose to rebreed them. Our Davi is from those same lines, with a little Antares thrown in to increase milk production and improve the medial suspensory ligament.
Knowing that the milk bar needs to be replenished occasionally, we have our own methods of doing this that we would like to share.
This year however, we are changing our ‘normal’ routine due to our hot and dry weather. We want out does to have the best chance of producing healthy kids and we feel that keeping them in milk during their pregnancy may not be the best course of action this year. Grazing/foraging just wasn’t as healthy due to the stress of the drought and heat.
We try to keep everything as natural and stress free as possible. That means letting the does dry up slowly, with minimal stress. We’ve spoken about grain feeding our animals in an earlier blog: Measuring milk vs. grain so many of you know that we expect our does to produce twice the amount of milk than we feed them in grain. Is this the ‘law of goats’? No, just our thoughts. Why feed a doe tons of grain to get a small amount of milk. Though we think grain is important, it isn’t a normal food for goats. We also want to know how thrifty, or healthy, our does are when in milk.
So when it comes time to dry up a doe we do it over a period of time, watching each doe individually to maintain their health and happiness. On a yearling, mature buck, or dry doe, we feed ¼ cup of grain twice a day.
Knowing that, we still have a method, or our way, of doing it. Our goal is to get our milking doe down to ¼ cup of grain, twice a day, without stressing her. Letting her milk gradually decrease by at least half her average production over a period of time until we feel we can just stop milking her. Simple right? Each doe is different, so even though it’s simple, it can take a month or more to do it – this means it does take a little planning on our part.
Our first step in the process is to start decreasing the milking grain ration of each doe. Remember, we said each doe is different, so some may decrease in production faster than others. That’s perfectly ok for us, it lets us know which does we may have over fed or which does are better producers than others.
Such is the case between Davi, Adal, and Naavah. We started reducing Naavah’s grain ration quite a few months ago and have had her dried up since the beginning of September. It didn’t take as long to dry her up as it is our Davi and Adal. Naavah is more grain dependant for milk production, meaning she quickly dropped down on production with just slight reductions on her ration. Davi on the other hand, is still producing 40-50 ounces of milk on a reduced grain ration of 1 cup of grain, twice daily. Adal is producing 30 or more ounces on ½ cup of grain, twice a day. It is taking far longer to dry up our Davi and Adal than it did with Naavah. Because of this, we are finding that two of our does are more consistent in milk production. Nice to know, don’t you think?
In simple terms it means that we could safely feed Davi less grain, if we had too, and she would still maintain a healthy production in milk. It lets us know that so far Davi is right where we want her line to be as far as milking capacity. But repeated breedings will be the key to see if we did get what we want for this line. Davi and Adal have proven they have the consistency that we love! It also lets us know that Naavah’s line needs some improvement in the production area. Is Naavah a bad producer? No, she’s average, but we want more from her line than average – so this is where breeding options come into play.
By tracking how much milk each doe is producing, it gives us a clear indication of when to dry them according to ‘our way of doing things’. As their production decreases, we wait for it to somewhat level off. This could take two days to 2 weeks depending on the doe. Than we decrease their grain ration again, by a ¼ cup twice a day. Remember our goal is to get them to ¼ cup of grain a day and milk production cut in half before we stop milking our does. To us, this allows them to dry slowly without stress, gives us an idea about how well they handle it, and lets us get a clear picture of what kind of milker they really are. This helps us make better breeding choices. Once they reach the levels we want, we do a quick Mastitis test, milk them for the last time, than dip their teats an iodine solution.
For the next few days we monitor our does for stress. We check their udders to see if their hot or overly warm, indicating stress and possibly needing to be milked out a little. Though that has never happened with our ‘slow mo’ method of drying up our does, we still watch to see. Within a week you will notice that their udder isn’t as full, meaning that they are drying up in production. This method seems to work the best for us – maintaining a milk production, and preventing our does from getting uncomfortable with the whole process.
Now knowing that Adal and Davi is taking longer, we could speed up the process a little by using Sage oil, 10-20 drops on her grain ration, which will assist in drying up any does. However, we don’t mind her taking a little longer than the others just as long as she is healthy that’s all we can ask for.
Whether we dry them up prior to breeding them or milk them during part of their pregnancy, this slower method seems to work very well for us and we will continue to do it this way.
What works for you?