Well, that time has arrived again. The time to work on drying off our does in preparation for winter. Many goat owners keep their does in milk until about 2 months before they are due to kid in the spring. It is safe to do so as long as they are having their nutritional needs met with feed, hay, and appropriate mineral supplementation.
We, however, do not like milking in the cold of the winter. We are milking wimps.
In the cold of the winter, we would prefer to enjoy the warmth of the fire in the fireplace (ok, so it is a propane fire place, but it is fire and it is warm so why quibble over the facts) in the evenings and decrease the stress on the bodies of our faithful does during the most miserable time of year for them. So around this time of year, we start working on drying them off.
Our wonderful does continue to produce milk as long as we ask it of them. And if we are late for a milking, or if we were to miss one milking, they start to get quite uncomfortable. So as we start to work on drying them off, we decrease the amount of grain that we give them by feeding them just once a day instead of twice a day for about a week. Then since we already transitioned to once a day milking in the end of the summer, we now decrease to milking once every 36 hours. We made this transition this weekend, and those poor girls were really uncomfortable yesterday. Twice today, they have gone running for the barn thinking that for sure it MUST be time to be milked, only to be thwarted yet again. This evening, our work will be in coaxing that first bit of milk out of a very tight udder and teat.
As God designed, after a few days of these 36 hour gaps between milking, the milk supply will drop just a bit, and they will not be nearly so uncomfortable. Then, we will go to every 48 hour milkings. The ladies will again be a bit uncomfy, but again, after a week or so, they will adjust, and again we will increase the amount of time between milking. Finally, we will only milk when they seem to be full, and after about 3-4 weeks of this process, their bodies will shut off the message to make milk, and they will be ready for winter.
This is all a process that I dread in some ways. We must watch closely for any sign of complications during this process, and even though we have never had any problems, I know that mastitis is always a possibility as are clogged milk ducts. We also must make sure that we are meeting our does nutritional needs without making them chubby. So we watch, and wait, and keep an eye on their body condition, and love on them, and enjoy them as usual.
In the mean time, our milk supply is in wonderful shape. We have two freezers absolutely chock full of goat milk that is just waiting for soap making.
Now, we wait for spring, for new kids to arrive, and for the yearly cycle of the dairy goat owner to start again.
Addendum: Apparently the ladies are ready to dry off, too. They were none too full tonight after 36 hours. The decrease in food must be doing its job. Perhaps this won’t take too long after all. Good thing for this wimpy milker because cold weather is coming.