We believe in participating in DHI testing to have public information on our does’ production. However, we also believe in providing context for those numbers. We do not follow traditional dairy goat management of removing kids at birth and milking twice a day. We both work full-time and the primary milker is on shift work, so milking at 12-hour intervals isn’t possible for us. We also like allowing the does to raise their kids because, to us, it feels good seeing them snuggled up, seeing the kids use mom as a bounce house, seeing her lick ’em and kick ’em. Normal family times. However, this makes accurate milk numbers challenging since her lactation will fluctuate harder with the high demand from kids out the gate that then tapers off as they grow and begin eating more hay and browse. It can also make udder management challenging when kids favor one side over the other. Our practice in 2018 is as follows: kids get 24/7 access to mom for the first 10-14 days. After that we separate at night and milk her in the morning before putting her back with the kids. We usually try to get the kids bottles before she’s returned to them to minimize the abuse on her udder and to convince her not to hold back so much milk on the stand. The milk hoarding by our does is the biggest hurdle we have in getting accurate stats on production. As the kids get older we increase the separation until, at 12 weeks, we go a full 24 hours either away from mom or with her but with her teats taped. Stubborn kids can nurse through four layers of tape. But, we still try. Kids are given a bottle a day to slowly wean them off milk. At this point it’s a pacifier for them but it helps make sure all our kids are friendly. After 12 weeks we are milking a 24-hour fill. Pholia Farm did a great study on OAD milking that determined a doe suited for this schedule will produce 80-85% of her twice-a-day production, but with an increase in components. We’ve found that OAD milking has worked very well for us and breed with a strong eye towards does that can maintain a strong lactation on this unique schedule.
Regarding our nutrition, we are in flux currently, looking for a system that allows us to waste less hay since the gals love alfalfa leaves but turn the stems into extra work by pulling them out and creating bedding from them, which we then need to remove from their house. In 2019 we will be experimenting with free-choice Eastern Orchard hay (what we’ve always fed, a nice high protein grass hay), browse and pasture come spring, and a mixture of Chaffhaye and alfalfa pellets in their overnight suite. Currently we feed generic pelleted 14% grain with BOSS on the stand but are hoping to soon transition to spent brewers grain from a local brewery.