Goat Milk Production

Goat Milk Production

The average lactation period for a dairy goat is 290-305 days. The full sized breeds can produce 6-8 pounds or 3 to 4 quarts of milk per day during their lactation.

Dwarf breeds, such as the Nigerian Dwarf produce around 1 to 2 quarts per day if they are from good milking lines. Fat in goat milk tends to be higher than that of cow milk depending on the breed. Saanens generally produce a milk with 3-4% butter fat, similar to cow’s milk.

Dwarfs produce a milk with a higher butter fat content, anyway from 5-9% in some animals and breeds like the Nubian an LaMancha fall somewhere in between the Saanens and Nigerians.

In general, Alpine/Swiss breeds will produce milk with lower butterfat than African derived breeds. The milk of goats is naturally homogenized and so cream does not separate as readily as it does in cow milk.

Read Also: Cow Milk Production

In much of the developing world, goat milk is the primary milk source for humans. Goat milk is often sought for its perceived health benefits and unique taste.

Although a number of health effects have been attributed to consuming goat milk, scientific evidence does not support most health claims. Goat milk is similar in composition to cow milk, but some important differences exist in the protein structure.

Comparison of Average Milk Composition
Nutrient Human Cow Goat

Data from the American Dairy Goat Association

Abbreviations: kcal/100 ml is a measure of energy content. 1 kcal = 1,000 calories; IU = international unit, a measure of vitamin potency; μg = microgram, 1/1000 milligram

Energy (kcal/100 ml) 68.00 69.00 70.00
Lactose (%) 7.30 4.70 4.10
Protein (%) 1.10 3.50 3.20
Fat (%) 4.00 3.60 3.80
Cholesterol (mg/100 ml) 20.00 15.00 12.00
Ash (%) 0.20 0.70 0.80
Calcium (%) 0.04 0.18 0.19
Phosphorous (%) 0.06 0.23 0.27
Iron (%) 0.20 0.06 0.07
Vitamin A (IU/g fat) 32.00 21.00 39.00
Vitamin D (IU/g fat) 0.30 0.70 0.70
Vitamin C (mg/100 ml) 3.00 2.00 2.00
Thiamin (μg/100 ml) 17.00 45.00 68.00
Riboflavin (μg/100 ml) 26.00 159.00 210.00

Because of these differences, people who have allergies to cow milk can often drink goat milk, and the fat globules in goat’s milk stay in suspension longer, which leads to the perception of “natural homogenization.”

Goats are good browsers and allowing them to consume plants containing aromatic or flavor compounds can impart the smell or flavor to the milk or cheese, thus providing an opportunity to generate unique specialty products.

Read Also: Sheep Milk Production


The six major dairy goat breeds are the Saanen, Nubian, Toggenburg, LaMancha, Oberhasli, and Alpine. The lactation period for dairy goats averages 284 days, with peak production usually occurring 4 to 6 weeks after kidding. Representative production data for the various goat dairy breeds can be found below.

Milk production by dairy goat breed

Milk production by dairy goat breed (2003 DHIR data).
Breed Average production (lbs/lactation) Production range (lbs/lactation) Milk fat (%) Milk protein (%)

Note: Individual doe data not adjusted for age (275- to 305-day records)

Alpine 2,266 790-5,470 3.4 2.9
LaMancha 2,100 740-4,320 4.0 3.2
Nubian 1,820 560-4,270 4.9 3.7
Oberhasli 2,146 930-4,450 3.9 2.9
Saanen 2,577 610-5,490 3.3 2.9
Toggenburg 2,115 940-4,380 3.2 2.7

Volume and composition of milk produced is controlled by the goat’s genetics but greatly influenced by the diet consumed.

Dairy goats reach sexual maturity at 4 to 5 months of age. Young does should be bred at a body weight ranging from 70 to 80 pounds, which usually is at an age of 7 to 10 months. The gestation period ranges from 145 to 155 days with an average length of 149 days.

Does normally produce between one and three kids per year (single-born kids weigh approximately 6 to 6.5 pounds at birth). Birth weights generally decline with multiple births and are often associated with increased mortality.

Quality of nutrition during pregnancy influences birth weight and kid survivability. Pregnancy nutrition becomes an important part of good management as twin births are desired in an effort to improve productive efficiency.

Does giving birth to twins produce more milk and have greater total kid weight per maintenance doe unit. Daily weight gains after birth range from 50 to 150 grams per day (0.1 to 0.33 pound per day), but meat goat crosses can exceed 250 grams per day (0.55 pound per day).

Rate of gain will be determined by diet and the end product desired (replacement doeing or various weights depending on the meat market).

To ensure efficiency and productivity of a dairy goat enterprise, the three most important recommendations are as follows:

  • Manage young does to have them ready for breeding at 7 months of age. This increases the total lifetime herd production of milk and meat and reduces the number of non-producing animals in the herd at any one time.
  • Encourage freshening of the does over as wide a time span as possible. This provides the customers with a year-round source of milk.
  • Cull animals to eliminate low producers. This can increase the herd productivity if animals are culled for genetic reasons.

Goat Milk Production

Goat Milk Nutrition

To maintain milk production and good health, goats should be fed a diet balanced for energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins based on requirements defined by the National Research Council.

To reduce costs, forages such as hay, silage, and pasture should constitute a majority of the daily diet. Goats are efficient browsers and can select a high-quality diet from lower-quality forages, especially when consuming nontraditional pasture plants (e.g., weeds, shrubs).

Available forages should be evaluated based on plant species and maturity, with the highest-quality forages reserved for pregnant, lactating, and growing animals.

Supplementing the diet with grain mixes to provide additional energy and protein is important, especially during lactation. Grain mixes may also contain supplemental minerals and vitamins.

Feeding grain should be limited because a high-grain diet with low fiber intake can lead to rumen health problems (e.g., indigestion, acidosis) and lower milk fat content.

Availability of dietary energy is important for high milk yield, while protein and fiber affect milk quality. High-producing does require quality forages and supplemental grain at a rate of 1 pound per 2.5 to 3 pounds of milk.

Forages generally do not contain sufficient minerals to meet dietary requirements, so supplements are usually required. Mineral mixes of salt with calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals are typically used. Legume forages (e.g., alfalfa, clover) contain sufficient calcium and will only require phosphorus with trace mineral supplement.

If pasture is the predominant source of forage, then vitamin supplements are not critical. If only hay or silage is used, then supplemental vitamin A, D, and E will be required. Vitamins can be supplied in a free choice mineral source or in the grain mix.

Read Also: How to increase Goats Milk

Commercial cow rations or custom grain mixes varying from 14 to 20 percent protein can be fed to goats. Most products formulated for sheep will not contain enough copper for goats.

Example grain mixes with varying protein content for goats
Ingredient 14.0% protein content 16.0% protein content 18.0% protein content 20.0% protein content
  1. Must contain adequate selenium in deficient areas
  2. Amounts can be varied to adjust to legume or grass forages
  3. Should provide 1,000 IU/lb vitamin A, 500 IU/lb vitamin D, and 5 IU/lb vitamin E
Cracked or rolled corn 40.0 35.0 29.0 24.0
Rolled oats 20.0 20.0 20.0 20.0
Soybean meal (44 percent) 17.0 22.0 28.0 33.0
Beet or citrus pulp 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0
Molasses 10.0 10.0 10.0 10.0
Trace mineral salt (1) 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Limestone (2) 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Dicalcium phosphate (2) 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7
Magnesium oxide 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Vitamin premix (3) 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1

It is important to routinely use a technique called “body condition scoring” to evaluate the adequacy of the nutritional program you use. Body condition scoring categorizes animals in scores from 1 (emaciated) to 5 (obese) based on the amount of palpable subcutaneous fat over the loin, ribs, and sternum.

Does should have adequate (score 3) body reserves in late pregnancy as they enter lactation. High-producing does lose significant body condition during early lactation but should regain it again during late lactation and early pregnancy.

Managing Goat Milk

Your does will need to be bred once a year. Does should be 8 months old or at least 80 pounds (unless a small breed) before being bred. Typically, does are bred in the fall.

Does come into heat for three days every 17 to 21 days. Keep does separated from your buck until they come into heat. And once bred, they should be separated again, or the milk may taste off.

Kidding, or giving birth, typically happens about 150 days after breeding. Does often have twins and sometimes triplets. After birth, the doe will freshen, or begin to produce milk. If she is continuously milked, she will lactate for up to 10 months.

Does should be allowed to dry up for at least two months after a run of milk production before being bred again.

Goats produce so much milk that you can allow the kids to nurse and still take what’s left over. Most goat farmers confine the kids overnight after they are 2 weeks old and milk in the morning. After the morning milking, the kids can nurse on demand.

How to Milk a Goat

Milking a goat is a fairly easy process, especially if you learn hands-on from an experienced farmer. Many feed grain to the does during milking time. It’s important to keep milking time consistent.

You’ll either milk once or twice a day, about 12 hours apart. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your milking equipment and area are clean, and that you are able to chill the milk as soon as you’ve milked the goat.

Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized because the fat globules are smaller than those in cow’s milk. The cream will not separate in goat’s milk, making butter and cream difficult to make. However, goat’s milk products are creamy and smooth because of these small fat globules.

Related: Methods of Livestock Breeding in the Tropical Environment

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