Although all healthy, female goats are capable of producing milk to feed their babies, not all goats produce enough milk to provide humans with a reasonable share of that milk.
There are three types of goats – dairy goats, meat goats, and fiber goats. As their names indicate, these types of goats have been bred for specific purposes, to give either high quantities of milk, high quantities of meat, or high quality fiber. Some of the popular dairy goats are Alpines and Saanens, while the meat breeds include Boers and Kikos. Angora and Cashmere goats produce mohair and cashmere. There are also mini breeds and dual-purpose breeds such as Nubians that were bred to give a moderate amount of both milk and meat.
In order to give milk, a goat must first get pregnant and have kids of her own. Her body creates the milk to feed the kids. Dairy breeds have been bred to give more milk than their kids would require.
At Goat Milk Stuff, we raise our goats with the goal of having them large enough to freshen (deliver kids) around their first birthday. We milk the goats for ten months and then dry them off two months before they have kids again around their next birthday. This dry period is necessary for them to have enough energy to grow their kids.
Individual goats give different amounts of milk. Over the course of their 10 month lactation, their milk output will follow a general lactation curve. Many different variables can affect this lactation curve - genetics, age, health, nutrition and number of kids can all play a role.
Some goats give so much milk that they are able to “milk through” into a second year. Occasionally a goat will give milk without having kids – this is referred to as a precocious udder. And bizarre as it seems, there have even been bucks that have been known to give milk (yes, all bucks have teats, and no, a milking buck is not normal).
Disclaimer: This information is provided as an example of how we personally raise goats at Goat Milk Stuff. We are not veterinarians and any information on the GMS website should not be taken as veterinary advice. Please seek the advice of a professional vet before making any changes to your herd management or individual treatment of your goat.