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Questions on "Milking Through" is anybody doing it?

 
Thekla McDaniels
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I read a book that among other things talks of the writers success with milking through. She keeps milking without the yearly freshening, breeds her goats every other year. One pregnancy per two years, and I can't remember how long a rest she gave them between drying up and the next kids / onset of next lactation cycle. I met a woman here in western Colorado who told me she got plenty of milk for her needs that way, just kept milking the same one goat. and I read this one book that lists the many benefits. I am considering trying it, but I wonder if I can get any information or experience here at permies.

What have you heard about this, what's your experience, and Deborah, do you have any wisdom to share on the topic?

Thanks

Thekla
 
Kurt Stailey
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We have friends who have milked the same doe for 3 years now. We don't do it, we give the girls a couple of months break after we dry them off before breeding starts again. While I have no scientific proof to support my thoughts, to me that is too much like a milk producing machine (which an animal is not), just because you can maintain the nutritional requirements and keep outputting milk does not make it the right thing or a good thing to do. It is this same reason we do not add lighting to our chickens in the winter to trick them into thinking long summer days are still here. I figure everything needs some downtime and a rest, I know I do. Whenever possible we try to work within the bounds of nature and stay out of the way as much as possible. But this could be mostly philosophical for us.

--Kurt

 
Burra Maluca
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I used to do this with my doe. She would give over a gallon a day for months after she gave birth and it was a terrible strain on her system. By letting her run through she would drop her output to four pints a day, which was much more sustainable. True, she didn't get that two months 'holiday', but she didn't have to produce another kid and she didn't have to produce anything like so much milk either, and four pints a day was still too much for us. Eventually I would let her run through another year too. It seemed to suit us.

Just have to share this rather old photo of us...

 
Katy Whitby-last
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We kid alternate years. My opinion is that it is less stress on their system milking through than kidding yearly. My girls get dried off a month before going to the billy so aren't milked during their pregnancies.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Ah, so it is more common than I was aware. Thanks for your input. Is there anything I need to watch out for?
 
Burra Maluca
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From what I remember of the goat-community in Wales, the ability to run-through was very breed dependent. Anglo-nubians weren't very good at it (as I remember - it was a while ago...) and would mostly be bred every year. British Toggenburgs, like my little Niobe in the photo above, would generally be bred every other year, while the goat of choice for smallholders looking for a regular milk supply for the family would be a Saanen or British Saanen, which could produce for six or seven years after producing a kid provided they were milked regularly. It would often be possible to buy one who had already been milking for a few months and completely avoid having to deal with kids, something that would appeal greatly to vegetarians for instance.
 
Kurt Stailey
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Wow, I am surprised that I am the odd person out on this, especially here. Again my issues may be philosophical, but my idea of permaculture involves observation and working within the function of natural systems, not against it and not forcing it.

Tricking an animal that by its natural function lactates for a few months in to lactating for years does not sound at all natural to me.

And with that I will put away my soapbox

--Kurt
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Kurt Stailey wrote:Wow, I am surprised that I am the odd person out on this, especially here. Again my issues may be philosophical, but my idea of permaculture involves observation and working within the function of natural systems, not against it and not forcing it.

Tricking an animal that by its natural function lactates for a few months in to lactating for years does not sound at all natural to me.

And with that I will put away my soapbox

--Kurt


Surely on the basis of the above stated philosophy any milking of animals would not be acceptable as it is "unnatural" even if only for a short period of time
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Kurt,

Possibly longer lactations are not that unnatural. Your beliefs and philosophies are personal as are everyone's. I agree on the chickens and lights, but with lactation cycles in domesticated animals who have been life partners with humans for eons, is it intrinsically wrong to milk them as opposed to refreshening them on a yearly basis?

Consider that many women nurse their children to age 5 and beyond. Consider that some does nurse their young into the adulthood of the kid, essentially never weaning them.

As a creature who has been through 2 pregnancies and lactation cycles myself (enjoyed all of it, would have had a dozen), I am aware of the physiological challenges of both pregnancy and of lactation, and it seems like pregnancy is the harder challenge.

I really think the same considerations you expressed as the reasons you don't think milking through are the same reasons that some people DO milk through.

Don't worry about a soap box. I did not take it that way. We see the contributing factors, and evaluate them differently. It's my belief is that in the early years of the USA, it's how important issues were explored, people who did not agree respectfully discussed the pros and cons of the the question with one another.

I thought that's what we were doing here.

Namaste
Thekla
 
Deborah Niemann
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We do not light our chicken house either, but milking through isn't anything like that. It's not tricking the body at all. I stopped breeding my does after they're ten years old, and I keep one of their doelings from that year to keep them company in their retirement. I've seen those does nurse until they're close to two years old, if they haven't kidded by then themselves. Usually once they kid, their maternal hormones kick in, and they are mostly paying attention to their kids, but we've had one doe that tried to nurse after she kidded. Mama wouldn't let her though.

As others have said, milking through is far less stressful on their bodies than being pregnant every year. Most does get pretty thin the first couple of months after freshening but then they start to regain their body condition and are in pretty good shape by 3-5 months. In extended lactations, my does all start to get fat by about a year in milk, which is not good either. I have one now that's been milking since February of 2013, and she's really overweight. That's the only problem I see with milking through because fat goats are harder to get pregnant. And it's hard to put a goat on a diet when they're accustomed to getting grain on the milk stand.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Wow, I'm really surprised how common the practice is. Thanks Deborah for your experience with this question.

I am beginning to think that the yearly freshening is one more practice that had a profit driven origin . The fact that during the early part of the lactation the production is so much higher, made commercial dairies, small and large, see the means to make a higher profit margin.

I have noticed that often, I am looking at that facet of the operation even in my small enterprise. I say to myself, if I am going to be milking twice a day, I might as well milk 5, get that many more share holders, get that much more money, and my mind begins to do the math. At $80. per month per share, divided by 30 days times two milkings then I am only making a dollar thirty three per milking (per share). If I want to make ______ in a year, then I need to multiply that by______ shares, and the ceiling rises and rises, and I'm off!

Money is not the only reason to do anything, but I think the economics of a situation always contributes to our decisions. I feel a lot freer when I think first about ethics and what kind of person I want to be, and what kind of community I want to live in, and notice somehow that greed has once again been activated in my being, blurring my real priorities. And I take a deep breath and back off, and remember the importance of quality of life for me and my soil and the animals whom I tend.

I am thankful indeed to have this forum to explore ideas and exchange information, experience and opinion. Thanks very much Paul for providing it. A grand second ethic act.

And thanks for joining us Deborah!

Thekla

 
Kurt Stailey
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Probably just a philosophy difference then. Certainly not profit driven for us, our goats are essentially unsellable because so far we refuse to dehorn. My first thought when we add any new system into our farm is what would happen to that system if I didn't exist, then I try to figure out a way to skim some energy from that system (milk, vegetables, fruit, eggs) with the least amount of disruption or interaction.

Certainly wasn't trying to offend anyone or "lay down the permaculture law" Just surprised is all...

--Kurt

 
Kent Ormsby
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One could certainly argue that there is nothing natural about milking an animal period. We humans are rare in that we continue to drink milk after we're weaned. If we're going to pull the natural card then we would have to examine many of our permaculture practices. Most of the plants we use including heirlooms are man made hybrids of one sort or another. As far as milking for an extended period of time, I'm in the depends on the goat category. Our Saanens will go a year easy without freshening. Our Nubians, forget about it. We're lucky to get 5 or 6 months before they dry themselves off no matter what we do.
 
Kurt Stailey
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After more thought, maybe I just don't feel like milking all year
 
Kent Ormsby
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Yep, those 9 degree F mornings are kinda tough!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Oh yeah, I haven't milked through the winter yet myself, and if I don't I will most likely be the limiting factor. Can't go anywhere and have to be so regular in my schedule.
Thekla
 
Kate Michaud
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I had 2 does that I milk "through" for eight years; with no buck, no kids, no worries.
They both lived to 14 yrs, 4 years past what is considered average in these parts.
Winters average temp -25 to -40.

K
 
Livia Blaszak
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Milking through my Alpine this year. Planning on doing it until she dries off, and I hope it's not soon. Right now she has excellent body condition, but it looks like she is going to get fat. She gets 1 to 2 cups of grain once a day at milking, and she gets plenty of exercise. Am going to have to look into ways to not let her become obese…
 
Thekla McDaniels
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maybe taper off the grain?
 
Kurt Stailey
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That is the tricky part of feeding grain. Two cups doesn't seem like a whole lot until you consider the fact that wild wheat has 10-20 berries per head (GMO wheat has near 200 per head) Not sure how many wheat berries fit into a cup but I bet its near a thousand. Doing the math, a goat would have to eat 100 wheat plant heads to get that 2 cups of berries. I don't think any of my goats would eat that much plant material while in the milk stand, they would get full from the vegetative material before consuming that many wheat berries. Even if they only pulled off the seed heads (which ours don't, they eat stem too from our wheat plants) each berry would still have the bran intact which is additional fiber.

The numbers I used for wheat berries on a head of grain are average, it could change somewhat obviously depending on weather, soil conditions, etc...

--Kurt

 
Jonathan Krohn
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Kent Ormsby wrote:Our Saanens will go a year easy without freshening. Our Nubians, forget about it. We're lucky to get 5 or 6 months before they dry themselves off no matter what we do.


Ah, I'm glad to know that my experience over the past few months with Nubians drying themselves off isn't just me!
 
Deborah Niemann
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When we got started, we had some NDs that would dry up by 6 months, but we culled those and concentrated on better milking genetics. There are some rock star Nubian milkers out there! You just need to look around a little, and you can find them.
 
Elizabeth Raven
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What do you find the quality of the milk to be as you milk for extended periods? In my experience and research the butterfat content of the milk declines the longer you milk. New borns need more calorie dense food then yearlings or older. I imagine if the goats you are milking through are becoming obese it would be because they are putting fewer calories into the milk (less BF) and there for have more to store on themselves. I imagine commercial operations would want the higher butterfat content milk and so would be inclined to freshen yearly with a 3 month break in pregnancy. We milk 305 days as that is the minimum for qualifying the goats for classification.
 
Kent Ormsby
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Goat genetics are a fascinating study unto themselves. Butterfat content, lactation periods, hoof formation, parasite resistance, etc are all components of selecting animals that "fit your farm." We've a "rough farm" and expect our does to exist on what our farm will provide with no feeding of grain except on the milk stand. Large udders and long lactation periods don't seem to work well for us. Our primary selection criteria is health of the doe. We've also found that running a heard of 50+ does is very different than say 5 to 10.
 
Deborah Niemann
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When milking through, we've found that the doe's butterfat correlates more with the season -- higher in winter, lower in summer -- as well as level or production, meaning higher butterfat as production decreases. Alex, one of our does, has been in milk since February 2013, and on her most recent milk test at 824 days in milk, her butterfat was 6.7%, which is on the high end of our herd for the month. Only one other doe has a butterfat that high. Everyone else was lower with some as low as 4.5% and a couple at 3.9%. Alex's average butterfat for her lactation is now at 8.2%, which is actually MUCH higher than the ND breed average of 6.5%.

My theory on why the commercial dairies don't milk through is because they don't see the type of production we see when dam raising, so they get better production when freshening every year. Although I know someone with a ND dairy on the west coast who bottle raises kids, and she milks through, and according to her data, she gets more milk from the does by doing that, instead of annual re-breeding.

The ADGA data are heavily biased towards annual spring kidding, which skews their data for those us who might do things differently. According to ADGA data, which is also based on decades of standard breeds kidding in the spring, there is a correlation between stage of lactation and butterfat. Later lactation means higher butterfat, but that is not really the case. Having NDs also means we can have fall kiddings sometimes, so I have had does freshen in fall, and by December, their butterfat is literally off the chart. My lab can only report up to 9.9% butterfat, so all I know is that my fall freshening does have butterfat that is higher than that by the time they're 3 months fresh, which completely goes against the ADGA charts. In spring, their butterfat comes down to the 7-8% range and then down to 6% of so during the summer, and if they milk through the next winter, their butterfat goes up again.

Commercial dairies don't care about butterfat. Large dairies are paid based upon pounds of milk. Back in the 1950s or so, they were paid based upon butterfat, which is why Jerseys were so popular for dairies. Today Holsteins are the big dairy breed because they produce the most milk, although their butterfat is about 1/3 less than Jerseys.

The reason the goats get fat is because they aren't producing that much milk. Alex is now down to a pint a day, although last year, she was till producing a quart a day. This is the longest that any doe has ever milked here, so it's interesting. Alex is five years old now and has only freshened twice. Her first lactation was 18 months.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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That is just so interesting. It's nice to have information directly from people not following commercial standards. What I am curious about is what ND stands for, oh wait, Nigerian Dwarf! Right? I kept thinking it was Nubian something.

I bred both my nubian and my nubian/alpine cross to a nigerian buck, have two doelings. I can't wait to see what they do. I want the butter fat, as much as I can get, but I had no idea it increases in the winter. ONe more reason to milk through!

T
 
Marijke Katsburg
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Interesting indeed. I am just reading along, because I am new here and fairly new to goat keeping (2 years). Right now I am having this situation of two does I milk. One had her first doeling February 2014 and her second twins December 2014. The first time she dryed up pretty fast. But now she's still giving milk. The other one had her first doeling in December 2014 and accidentally is pregnant again. Will deliver in two weeks. I still milk her and the doeling is still nursing.
Reading all you guys interesting remarks I will surely give the ladies a nice long rest from carrying doelings. But I tend to milk them through as long as they give any.
What would be the natural resting period for a doe between pregnancies?
We live on Brava, Cabo Verde - close to the Equator. Temperature is nice and warm all year round. Days and nights are almost always equally long. Because all the stuff on our land the goats can have all year round the same amounts of green, raw and dry food, and corn in the milkstand. There's supposed to be a rainy season between July and November, but not too much is falling the last two years. We have goats from the Canarian breed.

I appreciate any advise.

P.s. I am sorry when my English may sound a little akward: I am Dutch...
 
Deborah Niemann
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The standard recommendation is to stop milking two months before a doe is due to kid again so that her body can concentrate on feeding the growing kids inside of her.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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