Why Is My Goat Drying Up. Mystery Solved!

If you raise goats for dairy, then there’s a good chance that milk production is one of your top priorities.

There will come a time when you need your goat to dry up (so she can be bred again) or there might be times when your goat starts drying up on her own, for no explicable reason. Why does this happen?

a goat eating some alfalfa
a goat eating some alfalfa

Goats dry up on their own when it’s been about six months since kidding. This period marks a natural decline in milk production since the kid is drinking less milk and eating mostly solid foods. However, other conditions can cause a dairy goat to dry up prematurely, too, like a poor diet or mastitis.

There are some easy solutions to help you identify and rectify these situations. Whether you’re interested in learning why a goat suddenly goes dry or you’re looking for tips on how to dry up a female goat quickly so she can be bred again, this post is for you!

Keep reading to learn more.

The Mystery of the Dried Up Goat – My Story

Let me start by telling you a personal story about my dairy goat. After all, homesteading and raising goats can sometimes be a bit of a trial and error experience – so I’d like to show you exactly what my learning experience looked like.

Here’s what happened…

The milk goat we had 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, 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 surprised me was 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!

Now, of course, we get a lot more milk than that from our goats. But at the time, it felt like a major victory. The next step was to figure out where we went wrong.

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!

This is a common problem – but it’s not the only reason why your goats might dry up. In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the most common reasons for this phenomenon – and tell you how to fix them if they do arise.

two goats enjoying raspberries
two goats enjoying raspberries

What Causes a Goat to Dry Up?

When a goat dries up, it means she is not producing milk. This can be due to a number of reasons, including illness, low feed intake, or change in environment. Let’s take a closer look.

Inadequate Milking or Nursing Schedule

If you have a dairy goat, it’s important to maintain a regular milking schedule. Goats need to be milked at least twice a day, and more often if they are producing a large amount of milk.

When goats aren’t milked on a regular basis, they can “dry up.” This means that their milk production will decrease, and eventually stop entirely. There are several reasons why this happens.

First, the hormones that stimulate milk production are only released when the goat’s udder is full. If the goat isn’t being milked regularly, her udder will never get full, and she won’t produce as much milk.

Additionally, milk is produced on a “supply and demand” basis. The more milk that is removed from the udder, the more milk will be produced. So if you want your goat to produce a lot of milk, you need to milk her often!

Finally, milking helps to keep the udder clean and free from infection. If the udder isn’t being regularly cleaned, it can become infected, which can lead to mastitis (an inflammation of the udder). Mastitis can cause decreased milk production, and in severe cases it can even cause long term health problems.

Poor Diet

If a goat doesn’t get enough of certain minerals, it can lead to problems like infertility and even a decrease in milk production. In extreme cases, a poor diet can cause a goat to “dry up” completely and stop producing milk altogether. This dry period can be problematic and occur once or with regular frequency.

While it can be challenging to keep goats well-fed, it’s important to do your best to provide them with a balanced diet. Otherwise, you may end up with some very unhappy (and unproductive) goats.


Mastitis is a common problem for dairy farmers, and it can cause a goat to dry up. The condition is caused by an infection of the udder, and is known to occur postpartum.

Mastitis is a serious problem because it can lead to decreased milk production, and it can also cause the udder to become hard and swollen.

In severe cases, mastitis can even cause death. Treatment for mastitis includes antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, but the best way to prevent the condition is to practice good hygiene. Avoiding bacteria is the best way to reduce the likelihood of swelling and fever related to mastitis.

Farmers should wash their hands thoroughly after milking, and they should also clean and disinfect the udder before milking.


Any farmer will tell you that parasites are a constant threat to their animals.

These tiny creatures can cause a host of problems, from poor health and reduced productivity to even death. Goats are particularly susceptible to parasites, and infestation can quickly lead to a condition known as “drought.” This is when the goats stop producing milk, even though they may still have food and water available.

Parasites interfere with the goat’s digestive system, preventing them from properly digesting their food and absorbing nutrients. As a result, the goats become malnourished and their milk production suffers. In severe cases, drought can kill a goat. That’s why it’s so important to regularly check your goats for parasites and take steps to control them.

Lack of Calcium

Goats are hardy creatures that can adapt to a variety of conditions, but they still need certain nutrients to stay healthy. One of the most important nutrients for goats is calcium. Calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth, and it also aids in muscle function and nerve transmission.

Without enough calcium, a goat’s health will quickly deteriorate. A lack of calcium can cause a goat to dry up, meaning that it will stop producing milk. This can be devastating for a farmer who relies on goats for their livelihood.

Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent this from happening. Adding calcium-rich foods to a goat’s diet, such as alfalfa or bone meal, can help to ensure that they get the nutrients they need.

Additionally, providing access to a free-choice mineral block or salt lick can help prevent health issues and prevent dried-up milk production.

A Naturally Shorter Lactation Cycle

If you have a goat that naturally has a shorter lactation cycle, it’s important to be aware that this can cause the goat to dry up.

The goat’s milk production will naturally decrease as the days go by, and eventually, the goat will stop producing milk altogether. This is because the demand for milk is simply not there anymore.

What to Do if You Want to Dry Off Your Dairy Goats

The drying off process involves gradually reducing the doe’s milk production until she is completely dry. There are a few different methods that can be used to accomplish this.

Why Should You Dry Off Dairy Goats?

Drying off a dairy goat means stopping the flow of milk, typically about eight weeks before she gives birth. This allows the goat’s body to rest and recover from the demands of lactation, and it also helps to improve the quality of the milk.

There are a number of ways to dry off a dairy goat, including natural methods like decreasing feed and letting the goat’s udder dry up on its own.

When Should You Dry Off?

When should you let your dairy goat’s milk dry up? It depends on several factors, including the amount of milk your goats are producing, the age of your goats, and whether or not you plan to breed them.

If your goats are producing a large amount of milk, you may need to dry them off sooner in order to prevent mastitis or other health problems. If your goats are young, you may want to extend their lactation period in order to maximize their milk production.

And if you are planning to breed your goats, you will need to dry them off for a few months before breeding so that they can produce healthier offspring. Ultimately, the decision of when to dry off your dairy goats depends on your individual herd’s needs.

How to Dry Off Your Goats

There are a few different ways to dry off your goats so they stop producing milk. One way is to stop milking them for a period of time.

This can be done by either weaning the goat off gradually, or suddenly stopping altogether. However, if you do the latter, bear in mind that mastitis may become a problem for you.

Another way to dry off your goats is to change their feed. Goats that are on a higher quality feed will produce less milk than those on a lower quality feed.

Finally, you can also use herbal supplements to dry off your goats. Raspberry leaves or St. John’s Wort are two common herbs that are often used for this purpose.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to give your goats plenty of fresh water and grass hay to prevent them from becoming dehydrated. You can also give them a small amount of grain right before or during the breeding season to ensure good health.

Avoid Lush Pasture When Drying Off Goats

If you’re trying to decrease a goat’s milk production, you shouldn’t put them on lush pastures. Doing so will have the opposite effect and actually increase their milk production.

Goats are able to udder more milk when they’re on lush pastures because of the nutrients in the plants. The plants also stimulate the goats’ appetite, causing them to eat more and produce more milk. So, if you want to decrease a goat’s milk production, keep them off of lush pastures.

Don’t Rebreed Immediately

Many factors play into the decision of when to breed a doe, but interval from kidding and body condition score may be the two most important. A doe in good body condition can rebreed as early as 60 days postpartum, while a doe that is too thin may not cycle until 150 days postpartum.

In general, dogs should be at least 75-80% of their ideal body weight before being bred. If a doe is not rebred within 10-12 months postpartum, her value as a productive member of the herd decreases.

Those that are not rebred in a timely manner may have difficulty conceiving and carrying a kid to term, and may also have lower milk production.

As such, it is important to monitor dogs closely and breed them at the appropriate time in order to maintain a healthy and productive herd.

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! 🙂


Leave a Comment