If you're considering starting a milking herd of goats, you're embarking on a rewarding and sustainable agricultural endeavor. Owning your own dairy goats can provide fresh, nutritious milk and dairy products while offering a fulfilling farming experience. The first step is to select the best breed of dairy goats for our situation and then to find a reputable breeder. Sometimes, this is the same step. Having local breeders to work with can be a deciding factor in choosing your dairy goat breed.
Picking the Breed of Goats you Keep
When you begin, it's crucial to select the right goat breed for your specific goals and local conditions. Some popular dairy goat breeds known for their milk-producing capabilities include Nigerian Dwarf, Saanen, Nubian, Alpine, and LaMancha. Each breed has its unique characteristics, so research and choose one that suits your needs. If you do not plan to own a buck, it is crucial you find a local breeder who either provides stud service or sells semen. This may influence which breed you decide to go with.
For us, we have a lot of Nigerian Dwarf breeders in our area including some family friends so when we got started, the decision was easy. Now, we love our goats and appreciate the super sweet, rich milk and fantastic personalities. We also find that they are the most popular pet breed making kid sales "easier" than if we were breeding standard dairy goats.
How many of each gender should you get when starting out?
We recommend two does and two bucks with each gender in their own pen and pasture. We have another article on the details of this setup and the complexities of keeping a mixed-gender goat herd.
Proper facilities and equipment are essential for a successful goat milking operation. You'll need well-constructed barns or shelters, milking parlors, and storage areas for feed and equipment. Purchase milking equipment, such as milking machines, udder sanitization tools, and milk storage tanks designed for goat dairy farming. This article goes into greater detail on housing and fencing requirements for your dairy goat farm.
What Do I Need to Feed a Dairy Goat Herd?
Maintaining a balanced diet for your goats is critical for milk production. Ensure that your goats have access to fresh water, good pasture, and high-quality feed. Consult with your local feed store and or hay farmers to ensure you have access to the proper diet for dairy goats. This article goes into greater detail on diet requirements for dairy goats.
Healthcare and Records
Implement a comprehensive healthcare plan for your goats. This includes regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and disease prevention measures. If you plan to register your goats with the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA), you'll need to maintain accurate health records and pedigree information. ADGA registration is valuable for tracking and maintaining the purity of your goat herd's bloodlines.
Maintain meticulous records of each goat's health, milk production, and pedigree information. Accurate records are not only vital for ADGA registration but also for effective herd management and future breeding decisions.
Establish a breeding program to maintain a productive and healthy goat herd. Decide whether you'll use artificial insemination or natural mating, and plan breeding cycles according to your goals. The ADGA registration process may also involve pedigree verification and DNA testing for parentage confirmation.
Develop a Consistent Milking Routine & Setup
Goats are typically milked twice a day, with morning and evening milking sessions. A regular schedule is vital to ensure consistent milk production and the overall well-being of your goats. Building a well-designed milking barn complete with a milk stand, water, and electricity has been essential for our milking journey. Without a proper setup, it's difficult to keep up with the demands of daily milking and health checks.
Selling Your Goats and Dairy Products
Consider your marketing strategy for goats and dairy products. You can sell milk to local dairies, and farmers' markets, or even produce value-added products like goat cheese or yogurt. ADGA-registered goats often fetch higher prices, as they are seen as higher-quality animals with documented lineage.
In order to produce milk, goats must be bred and deliver their babies. Most farms can not keep all of the kids produced so having a way to efficiently sell the kids not kept in your herd is essential. Most online social media platforms prohibit animal sales but they are still very useful in networking and sharing your herd. A website is the best way to market your kids and products.
Check your state and county laws for selling your milk and dairy products. Not everyone is legally permitted to sell directly to the customer. Ensure that your goat milking operation complies with local regulations, which may include animal welfare standards, environmental considerations, and food safety guidelines.
Stay informed about the latest practices and technology in goat dairy farming. Continuous learning will help you improve the efficiency and productivity of your milking goat herd. We are now offering mentorship classes and private meetings. Please contact us for more information.
Setting up a milking herd of goats is an exciting venture with the potential for both personal satisfaction and economic viability. By following these steps and incorporating ADGA registration into your goat management plan, you can establish a thriving goat milking operation that produces high-quality milk and dairy products while ensuring the long-term health and purity of your goat herd.