Overview of the Process and Cycle

Overview of the Process and Cycle

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In this lesson, you will learn the overview of the process and cycle of milking goats.  Most goat owners start with raising cute goat kids and at some point want to produce milk for either animals or for their family to drink.  Another option is acquiring a doe in milk.  In order for a doe to be a milk producer, she must have a kid. Most doe owners will use a buck service, though having a buck on premise is an option, but that has it’s own challenges.  Breeding usually starts in September and continues on through January. The doe’s gestation period is five months, with kids arriving in the Spring. A common question is what breed will be the best for milking. This is subjective, as most dairy goats provide great milk! The variables include – the age at which the doe can start lactation, the volume of production, and the levels of butterfat/protein.

                                                                        Breeds of Dairy Goats

Alpine dairy goat is medium to large in size with does standing 30 inches tall at the withers with an average weight of 130lbs+.  The Alpine originated in the French Alps and was first imported in 1920 to the US.  Alpines have erect ears, a straight face and several color patterns and produce a large amount of milk which makes them popularly recognized as the leading dairy goat for dairies.

LaMancha dairy goat stands 28 inches tall with an average weight of 130 lbs.  LaManchas originated in Oregon from crosses of short-eared goats and Nubians.  The LaMancha is more docile than other goat breeds and has ears so small it looks like they don’t have ears.

Nigerian Dwarf is a smaller American dwarf goat deriving from the West Africa dwarf breeds.  The does stand approximately 22 ½ inches at the withers and have a slightly curved or straight face with medium length erect ears.  The Nigerian Dwarf has either brown or blue eyes and is the only breed to have the blue eyes.

Nubian dairy goat is a larger breed standing at 30 inches tall and weighs on average 135 lbs.  These goats are known to be a little more stubborn than other dairy goats and most in the US derive from English lines from crossing African and Indiana lop-eared breeds with English dairy goats.  Nubians have a convex nose and very long floppy ears that extend an inch past their nose. They are known to produce a little less milk than other breeds but their milk is higher in protein and butter fat content.

Oberhasli dairy goat is a medium-small breed standing at 28 inches and average weight of 120 lbs.  Oberhasli dairy goats originated from central Switzerland and are now a modern American breed but until 1978, Oberhaslis were called Swiss Alpines and have specific colors.  Oberhaslis are a bay color known as “Chamoise” and have a black dorsal stripe down their back, black under their belly, the udder and below the knees.  Some does will be all black.  Oberhaslis have erect ears and almost a completely black head.

Saanen dairy goat is the largest breed standing at 30 inches tall and average weight of 135 lbs.  Saanens originated in Switzerland, have a white or a creamy white color.  They have a dished or straight face and medium erect ears that point downward.  Saanens have become the second most popular dairy goat breed in the US and are popular with dairies because of the quality of milk they produce.

Sable dairy goat derives from the Saanen breed from Switzerland.  Sables can be any color or combination of color except white.  Sables result from recessive genes interacting between the sire and dam.  If the offspring has a dominant gene for white color, the goat would be a Saanen.  Sables have a straight or slightly dished face and erect ears.

Toggenburg dairy goat is the oldest registered breed of livestock and is small standing at 26 inches with an average weight of 120 lbs.  Toggenburgs are a light fawn color to dark chocolate and have white on their legs, ears, sides of the tail and two stripes of white down the face.  The have a shaggy coat and erect ears.  Toggenburgs are less docile than other dairy goat breeds and also rank in the middle for milk production.

Dairy goat breed choice depends on each owners’ goals

The following table is from data collected on these dairy goats in milk production from 2018.  Note that breeds with higher butterfat, tend to give less milk.  Butterfat is what gives goat milk sweet flavor.

Does (275-305 days in milk) Ave. Age

Start of Lactation

Milk (lbs) B-Fat

% / lbs



% / lbs

Alpine 3y 6m 2620 3.3/85 2.9/75
LaMancha 3y 6m 2349 3.2/74 3.2/74
Nigerian 3y 6m 813 6.2/50 4.4/36
Nubian Dwarf 3y 5m 1963 4.7/92 3.8/75
Oberhasli 2y 6m 2101 3.8/79 3.0/64
Saanen 2y 5m 2765 3.3/92 2.9/80
Sable 2y 5m 2574 3.3/84 2.9/75
Toggenburg 3y 6m 2232 3.1/68 2.8/62

Data from ADGA – 2018


General costs:  $75-$300 is a basic range for a doe or doeling.  A goat kid who will be a better milker is usually $250-$500.  It is highly recommended to buy from a knowledgeable breeder who has testing records to show you. Paying more for a well-bred goat upfront will be worth it, as the likelihood is higher at avoiding possible health issues and vet expenses.

Care and upkeep cost:  Most health care issues can be resolved by learning from other goat owners in the goat community.  It is important to build a relationship with veterinarian. Keep in mind a lot of money can be saved on vet bills by learning and doing tasks that don’t require a veterinarian.  This will depend on your personal level of comfort in taking care of your goat.

What does a doe in milk cost?  A doe ready to milk will cost $250-$500.

Pros and cons buying a doe in milk:  The pros and cons of buying a doe in milk depends on your experience.  If you are not experienced in raising goats, there is a big learning curve, and poses a higher risk. Our other courses on this site have valuable information on general care of goats. You can also find many books written by knowledgeable people in the industry.  It is recommended to buy a younger goat to get hands-on experience in the care, nutrition and other basic needs of a goat. This will give a strong background in goat care to prepare for caring for the more complex doe in milk.

Year Round Milking

In order to have fresh goat milk all year, staggered milking the way to accomplish this.  It  is recommended to have two to three does at one time.   Cristen Sullivan explains how she staggers her does and breeding.

The biggest challenges of milking is being able to leave home, and have someone else milk for you. The milking machine, Simple Pulse, makes it easy to teach others to do the milking for you.

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