In addition, determining when to stop milking is also based largely on personal choice. Milking on cold, wet mornings becomes less and less attractive as the weather changes for the worse and the daylight hours shorten. For some, it is worth milking for only a couple of cups of milk; for others, dirtying a bucket for less than a quart of milk per goat seems more trouble than it’s worth. For both the does and the humans, a few months break is a welcome change for everyone. For more details on how to dry off, learn more here.
For those does that haven’t already been bred, you will be best served by looking at your calendar and putting pen to paper to determine when it will be most optimal for you to be on hand for the birthing of kids as well as scheduling out your milk supply. There are a few considerations when determine when you want to breed your goats:
- How many does you own, a smaller number of does of breeding age limits options.
- How do you would prefer to schedule your milk supply. Are you okay with milking earlier in the season when it may be colder, darker, or wetter. Do you prefer scheduling kidding for later in the season which will shorten the milking season before the doe comes back into heat.
- Your personal schedule during the coming milking season, including any planned time away from home.
- Your goals for what goats you hope to sell, keep and breed . If you breed very late in the season, there is a chance the offspring may not mature quickly enough to be able to be bred the next breeding season.
As stated on my dairy goat overview page, it is important to always own more than one goat because they are herd animals. Some people will have one doe for milk and another goat, like a wether or young doe, as a companion goat. In the first year of milking, it’s common for the doe to not produce as much milk during her lactation cycle and she may dry off a bit sooner than in later years. Also, depending upon the family’s milk consumption, one doe may not be sufficient. The doe’s kids will either require the doe’s milk or a milk replacement for some time. Of course during the first few days, the colostrum from the doe is critical to the kids’ health. Generally, it is less expensive to share the doe’s milk with the kids as opposed to buying and preparing milk replacers.
Two or more does also allows you the opportunity to more evenly disperse the times of year when you have milk available. Inevitably it seems milk demand is highest in November and December as people prepare for the holidays and want milk for cooking and baking. Unfortunately, nature has decided that it is also the time that, at least in North America, your does will be supplying you with the least amount of milk. Although it is possible to have kids born in December, it is not the norm. Therefore, with three or more goats, it may make the most sense to disperse the breeding of your does in increments of about every 6 weeks or so. However, as you near December, you will run the risk that a doe may not come into heat again until the following years’ breeding season, so you will want to do some risk assessment and planning as nature doesn’t always fall in step with even our best plans.