Why Is My Goat Drying Up. Mystery Solved!

You guys, I’d given up.

The milk goat we got a little over two weeks ago had dried up. I couldn’t figure it out! I’d gotten the hang of milking her and was confident (well, pretty sure) I was doing it right. We’d supplied the goats with all the fresh hay they could ask for, grains, and free forage…

What else was I missing? I’d tried to do everything right, and still the goat was giving less and less milk every day.

Yesterday, I got about 4 tablespoons of milk. No joke. I thought, “Great. She’s dried up. Now what do I do?”

So today I resorted to phase 2: Separate the kids from the other doe (affectionately named Smiley, ’cause she’s always showing her teeth), and try milking her once a day until we are able to completely wean her little ones.

I rounded up the little buckling and doeling, and put them in their own pen for the day. They didn’t like it, and called for their mama every so often, but eventually they settled in and enjoyed the fresh forage. Smiley had the entire day to build up a good supply of milk for me.

Tonight at milking time I milked both goats. I really hoped to get more milk than the few drops I’ve been getting over the past week.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, Smiley has really small teats. Which makes it very difficult to milk her. (One of those things I should have paid attention to before buying her!)

I gave it my best, and she did good for her first time letting me milk, but most of what I got either ran down my arm or squirted in some random direction, completely missing the bowl. When you can’t get a good grasp on her it’s hard to do a thorough job.

I got a little out of her, but not as much as I would have liked. I didn’t sweat it though for tonight. I’d be returning her kids to her soon and they could finish the job for me. I thanked her anyway, and she jumped down off of the stand.

But what I surprise I got when Blondie (the dried up doe) jumped up on the milking stand…  very noticeably engorged and ready to be relieved of all that milk!! I couldn’t believe it!

I prayed it wasn’t a cruel joke, and began to milk her. I milked, and I milked, and I milked! It just kept coming!

I ended up getting a full quart of milk out of her.

Granted, it’s not that much compared to what most goats give in a day, BUT compared to the 3/4 of a quart for two milkings I was getting in the beginning, and then the laughable dribbles I’ve been getting for the past several days, I felt like I’d hit gold!

What the heck had happened? Why did she all of a sudden have milk overflowing, when just yesterday she was as dry as a sack of flour?

Maybe she’d just loosened up around me. Maybe the increased feed had finally kicked in. I didn’t know, but I was not going to complain about it.

Once I’d finished milking Blondie I took the milk back inside the house, let it strain, and then went back out to return the kids to their mama for the night.

But when the eager little ones got back into the larger pen with the does, I decided to stand by and watch to see if something I had been suspecting might possibly be going on.

And then my suspicions were confirmed. I could hardly control myself as I shouted, “I knew it!! I knew it!!”

The kids were nursing Blondie- NOT THEIR MAMA!

Ah-ha!! So THAT’S what’s been going on. That’s why Blondie was dry every time I tried to milk her. The little rascals were stealing my milk!

Is this normal? I have no idea. But now that I know it’s nothing I’ve done wrong I feel so much better about it. And now I know how to fix the problem!

Tomorrow, I’ll separate the little ones again in the morning and milk both does in the evening. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that we start getting some good milk production going on around here! I’m ready to play with this stuff and see what else I can make from fresh goat’s milk!

Does anybody know if it’s normal for kids to nurse a doe who’s not their mother?

And will Smiley’s teats get larger as she gets older and is milked more often? I sure hope so!

21 thoughts on “Why Is My Goat Drying Up. Mystery Solved!”

  1. The Queen will only allow her own kids to nurse but all other does will accept any of the herd kids to nurse within about 10 minutes of them trying. My does almost dry up as they enter their heat (Nigerian and in heat every 23 days.) So I go from a pint to less that 1/2 cup and sometimes only a tablespoon. I use MoMilk from Fiasco Farms and add things like banana’s and peels as well as apple slices to their ration. They usually reverse the process and I get more milk until I am back up to a pint and then we go through the whole thing again. At about 6 months post kidding, they sta rt to dry up on their own as they are ready to breed again. But that is Nigerian. Other goats can go a couple years before they dry up in preparation for breeding. The Nigerians are very funny as heat starts and tease us, come to the staunchion and then “change” their minds, play instead of eating, rub all over the fence, staunchion and us.

  2. Hi, my doe had triplets last week but two were stillborn. At first she was so engorged that I milked her bit just to reduce the pressure. Now only after a few days one udder is almost completely unproductive and the second only gives me about a half cup of milk. I’m only milking her now ,since the surviving kid is only 8 days old, to simply stimulate her milk production. Any ideas?.

    • Hi Jill, I asked my friend who is a goat expert what she thinks. Here’s her reply…

      Sounds to me the goat was not so much engorged as she was swollen. I am thinking there is more going on with this doe because of two dead babies. Also when a doe is first fresh there may just be a few cups of colostrum, but as the babies suckle the swelling goes down there is more milk. So she would have to be milking quite often to get that milk production the the babies would stimulate. I would watch this doe closely eyelids for worms, temperature and stool for signs of infection. I hope this helps.
      Blessings Hope

  3. Our goat Calpurnia had twins the first time she kidded and she didn’t have quite enough milk to satisfy them. Her mother Calliope apparently realized this and let her twin grandchildren nurse her also. I thought that was unusual enough. This summer our doe named Sela did not have enough milk for her babies and we put Calpurnia on the milk stand after her babies had already been weaned. Sela’s babies nursed Calpurnia on the milk stand and later on I saw her allowing them to nurse in the pasture also. Then Calliope got in on the act and allowed them to nurse her in the pasture too. These two twin doelings were so spoiled — they nursed their mother and two other does and thought they were the princesses of the world! They are weaned now at last but are the friendliest and most confident little does I have ever had.

  4. We only ever milked our nubian doe – but that was because she would avoid nursing on one side, so when she had triplets, I had to milk her and feed the baby.

    Anyway, our other goats had pygmy in them, and I was very surprised to see that they had almost no teats compared to Jewel. But the babies usually stayed with their Momma’s. Wishing back 8 years ago, that we had known more about milking and keeping the milk, but now we’ve butchered out the Billy (killed all of our babies but 1 one year – we raised that one in the house – and she is 5 now!)

  5. That’s just crazy! Glad you figured it out though!

    Ok… you need to know that I know nothing about anything! But I’m left wondering now if those babies also find it difficult to get milk from small teats? Just wondering! 🙂

      • You know something funny, I THINK this just happened with one of my does. She’s my smartest, loudest, fussiest doe — and my full Nigi, with itty bitty teats. I sold her babies about 3 days ago (she hated me) and was getting 2 cups twice a day milking when suddenly the last two times, overnight, I’m getting mere teaspoons… I have a sneaking suspicion she’s taken to nursing someone else’s kids, as there are no other signs of anything else going on.

  6. LOL. The exact same thing happened to me. My goats both went into labor at the same time, and Daisy birthed first. While Nellie was in labor she was busy licking off Daisy’s babies. And so now all three of the babies, (Nellie’s 1 & Daisy’s 2) just switch mama’s and nurse both. It’s a pain, because Daisy has tiny teats too and is hard to milk, so I’d rather have her babies nurse only her. Funny! I’m thinking of separating Daisy and all three babies at night, so I can get more milk from Nellie. The babies are only 1 wk old now, so I’ll separate them from both mama’s after they are 2 wks.

  7. Well cows will do that. My jersey cow will steal anybody’s calf. She even let a full grown bull nurse her. (He was soposed to breed her not milk her 🙂 It is common in dairy cows. I seperate my calves at night and then milk the cow. I then let them run all day in the pasture eat, drink, and be merry. Just keeping them away for the night provides us with about 2 gallons of milk and then the calves get what they need during the day and I don’t milk her in the afternoon.

    Farming is live and learn…well sometimes a lot less living and a whole lot of learning (sometimes the hard way). Sounds like you are on top of it.

  8. Hi Kendra! I’m so glad you got this so quickly. 🙂 The fiasco site says that weaning should occur around two and three months of age. My personal opinion is that the longer they are on their mother’s milk, the healthier they will be. I feel this gives them a strong nutritional foundation. Of course, that’s within reason! You don’t want a one year old still nursing, and I’ve seen that happen! LOL!

  9. I’m so happy for you that you’ve figured out what the problem is! Now… how to deal with the problem? Who is the mother of the kids? Are you milking her? How old are the kids? The answers to these questions will figure into the solution to your problem. This is a quote from Fias Co Farm: “Please note that if you decide to milk once a day and put the babies up, don’t lock them up during the day. The kids need to spend the days with their herd and especially their mother learning how to be goats: how to graze, interact with others, play, etc… Goats sleep at night, so if your kids only get to nurse at night, they will keep their mother up and this will start to create a lot of stress on everybody.” I feel this is extremely important, and wanted to tell you about it ASAP. The full article is here: http://fiascofarm.com/goats/milking.htm#onceaday I hope you find it helpful. Fias Co’s site has been the single most helpful website I’ve found. I hope you enjoy it, too. 🙂

    It’s very rare to have a doe who will take another goat’s kids, and I think it’s a blessing. But it’s helpful to know when you have one like that, as you’ve learned! LOL!

    Teat size is hereditary, but you can do some to help things along, too. My goat, Perle, has small teats. When I milk I grasp the teat between my thumb and index finger, and slide them down the teat. This stretches the teat a little bit. I did it last year to get the teats a little longer, and I’m doing it again this year to try to get them to aim more straight. Last year they were aimed perfectly, but this year her kids have caused her teats to point out more than straight down/forward. I am trying to get them turned back in some. HTH!

  10. Yeh… when we had milk goats we got a drop calf. Soon it seemed as though the goats were drying up and we couldn’t figure what was happening. We had all pastured together. Soon it came to light that the drop calf was feeding on the goats. Once we separated them out is was fine and we were back to lots of goat milk and a very disappointed calf 🙁

    Good call. What I say about farming… “live and learn”.

  11. Wow! I have heard of that but I don’t think it’s very common.

    I think the teats will get a little larger but it also depends on their breeding. My friend owns a doe that has small teats and the breeder said they probably won’t get that much bigger because her mother had small teats too. My friend has to use only her two fingers to milk her. You get used to it.

    Glad the mystery has been solved 🙂

  12. Is the goat with the small teats a first freshener? That means is this the first time she had babies? If so, they will get a little bigger next time. Oh, for the love of teats you can get your hand on!!

    People have made hand milking machines out of tubing, sprayer and shot syringe. that helps the small teat problem supposedly. look for a hand milker called udderly ez milker I think. it will give you the idea then you can figure out how to make one yourself.

  13. Ok, so I’m dying to see what the other goat owners say!
    I’ve tried and failed several times to graft babies onto different mamas, my goats seem to know EXACTLY which baby is which…
    But I’m intrigued now. Maybe other goats are different?

    I’d like to think so, especially since sometimes I have bottle babies that I would love for another doe to “adopt”.

    Yay for you getting more milk, though! Feels so good to figure those kind of problems out! 🙂


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