When, Why, and How to Dry Up a Dairy Goat

How to Dry Up a Dairy Goat featured image

Drying up a dairy goat is as simple as not milking and not letting kids nurse. When you stop milking, and there are no kids nursing, the udder fills up and tells the body that there is no demand, so the goat will stop producing milk.

Is it really that simple? Yes. Unfortunately a lot of people make it more complicated and can wind up causing problems. I’m sure you have questions, so here are some FAQs.

When should I stop milking my dairy goat?

The only time you really SHOULD stop milking a dairy goat is when she is 3 months pregnant. The typical lactation cycle with a dairy goat lasts 305 days. For example, the doe freshens in January and starts producing milk. You breed her again in August, and you stop milking her in November about 60 days from her due date.

Why should I stop milking my goat during late pregnancy?

One reason you stop milking her during the last two months is because that’s when the kids do most of their growing, so you want her to be able to provide them with enough nutrition to grow big and healthy.

Actually many goats will dry up on their own about 60 to 90 days after breeding. In fact, many years ago I would tell my daughter to stop milking a doe because she was 60 days away from her due date, and my daughter would argue with me.

“She’s not pregnant then because her milk supply isn’t decreasing at all,” she’d say. And I’d tell her to stop milking anyway. As much as I hate to admit it, my daughter was right 100% of the time. Two months later, we’d discover that the doe was not pregnant.

Of course, nothing with goats is always 100%, and I do know someone who said her LaMancha doe jumped down from the milk stand and gave birth shortly afterwards. Now she does blood pregnancy tests on all of her goats.

The second reason you want to stop milking towards the end of pregnancy is because the doe’s body needs to produce colostrum for her newborns. If for some reason, you continued milking a doe until she kidded, then you would need to give the kids colostrum from another doe.

Research in cows showed that continuing to milk through calving resulted in very sickly calves because the colostrum was so diluted.

How long can I continue milking if she’s not bred?

You can keep milking a goat as long as you want, and as long as she is producing milk, if you don’t breed your doe. Depending upon her genetics and nutrition, she may continue producing milk for a few months after kidding up to a few years.

Some of our Nigerian dwarf does have continued producing for up to 3 years! Goats without such a strong will to milk may stop producing — or be producing so little that it’s no longer worth your time to milk them — after as little as 6 months.

For more info about extended lactation, check out this podcast episode.

How do I dry up a doe?

Years ago I attended a conference and heard a Wisconsin vet talk about his recommendations for drying up cows. (Remember that Wisconsin is the dairy state, so this man had decades of experience with this!)

When you are ready to stop milking, you can cut back to once a day until the doe’s supply had reduced by one-third to one-half of what she had been giving in 24 hours. In other words, after a few days or a week, you will probably be getting about as much in that single milking as you had been getting in each milking when you were doing it twice a day.

For example, if a doe had been giving you half a gallon (a quart twice a day), you will probably be getting close to half a gallon in that single milking for the first few days, but each day, it will go down more and more. Once you are down to once a day, you really can stop at any time.

If the doe is uncomfortably full after one week, you can completely milk her out one last time — but ONLY if her udder looks and feels uncomfortably full. At that point, the doe’s udder has gotten the message to stop producing, but the body just hasn’t reabsorbed the milk.

You will rarely have to do that final milking at one week if a doe has been in milk for several months already. This is usually only necessary if you sell kids and don’t plan to milk a doe that just freshened a couple of months ago and is still at her peak production.

Do I need to change her diet when I stop milking her?

If your doe is 3 months pregnant, she needs her forage to be 50-100% alfalfa or other legume hay that is high in protein and calcium. If she is getting 100% alfalfa, she does not need grain, but if her forage is only 50% alfalfa, then a small amount of grain is acceptable.

You do not need to put a doe on a reduced calorie diet to get her to stop producing milk. Feeding a doe adequately won’t cause her to make more milk, but giving her fewer nutrients than she needs can certainly weaken her immune system, making mastitis more likely when you make some of the mistakes in the next section.

How do I avoid mastitis when drying up a doe?

Within about 15 minutes after you complete a milking session, the teat seals itself so that bacteria or other germs can’t enter the teat canal and start to multiply and cause an infection. Every time you milk a goat — or even just squeeze out a few squirts — you break that seal.

So you should NEVER do just a few squirts to take off the pressure. Whenever you break that seal, you need to completely milk out a doe. Basically you need to flush the pipes as thoroughly as possible whenever that seal is broken.

Do NOT do every other day or every third day or any other semi-milking because this increases the chances of mastitis. Does do fine on once a day milking, but don’t go more than 24 hours between milkings.

Should I administer any medication when drying up my goat?

There are dry cow treatments labeled for preventing mastitis, but in 2+ decades of raising goats, I’ve never heard of anyone using them on goats, and I’ve certainly never seen a need to use them.

What if I have to stop milking immediately?

Just stop. If you have to travel out of town suddenly or you break your arm or simply cannot milk suddenly for any reason, don’t worry about it. The doe(s) will dry up if no one is milking them.

Click here to visit our Amazon store, which includes a list of things goats need.

When, Why, and How to Dry Up a Dairy Goat Pinterest Image

30 thoughts on “When, Why, and How to Dry Up a Dairy Goat”

  1. Thank you for this article! I did the wrong things when drying up my “long milking” doe — she was fine with milking 1ce/day, but when I started to dry her off by milking every other day, she developed mastitits. Poor thing. Now I know why.

    Reply
  2. Good information! How do I dry up a first time freshener with fishtail teat causing issues with direct feeding? I’ve been milking her daily for the past 5 days, once a day, but I need to dry her up quickly. Suggestions?

    Reply
  3. You can just stop milking her. Then keep an eye on her to be sure that the udder does not become super engorged.
    This is a section from the article-
    “Once you are down to once a day, you really can stop at any time.

    If the doe is uncomfortably full after one week, you can completely milk her out one last time — but ONLY if her udder looks and feels uncomfortably full. At that point, the doe’s udder has gotten the message to stop producing, but the body just hasn’t reabsorbed the milk.

    You will rarely have to do that final milking at one week if a doe has been in milk for several months already. This is usually only necessary if you sell kids and don’t plan to milk a doe that just freshened a couple of months ago and is still at her peak production”

    ~Tammy

    Reply
  4. My milker caused a a couple tiny blood blisters on my does teat. I don’t want to continue to use the machine , as I don’t want to cause permanent damage. This does does not like to be hand milked . Can I just stop milking and if she doesn’t reabsorb, milk her in a week when she is healed?

    Reply
    • If the milker that you have is causing teat damage, I don’t recommend letting her heal and then starting to use it again.

      Does your milk machine pulsate? If not, that’s the likely issue and I would not use it at all anymore.

      If it does pulsate, I would do some troubleshooting. Start with checking and adjusting your suction pressure and also inspection of the inflation liners for any cracks or rough areas.
      I hope this is helpful 🙂
      ~Tammy

      Reply
      • I meant I will milk her out by hand in a week. I won’t use that milker again. I ordered a Simple Pulse month ago but it won’t be in for another 8 weeks. That’s why I am going to dry her off.
        At least we will have a good machine for next season.
        I just want to make sure my doe is not too uncomfortable right now with the full udder .
        Should I just stop milking her all together right now and see how much she reabsorbs?

        Reply
        • Yes, you stop milking completely. Follow the instructions in the article above. She is probably a little uncomfortable, depending on how much milk she was making, but it’s unavoidable. Doing partial milk-outs can lead to mastitis for the reasons explained in the article, and you’re just prolonging her discomfort. She will dry up the fastest if you just stop milking completely.

          Reply
  5. This article was really helpful. I need to clarify something. We have been kid sharing, milking once in the morning and then letting babies nurse the rest of the day. Today our wethers are leaving and one goat will be without babies. I want to continue once a day milking. Do I just continue the way I have been and not worry about the rest of the day? Meaning not milk her out at all during the day and just continue our normal routine? If she gets really full do I just leave her until morning? Thank you for your advice.

    Reply
    • You didn’t say how old the kids are or how many she had. If she is only 2-3 months fresh and was nursing triplets, for example, she is going to get a lot more full than if she was nursing a single for five months. It’s really up to you as far as what you want to do, but if it’s going to bother you that her udder is looking huge and uncomfortable, it’s better to start out milking her twice a day and then cut back to once a day. When kids are taken away a doe’s supply will naturally go down after a few days because her hormone levels go down. If milk is important to you, you might want to start with twice a day milking for a week or so to see where her supply settles. When you go to once a day milking, her supply will decrease again, and she’ll producer somewhere between 50-70% of what she was producing when you milked twice a day. It’s easier on a doe’s body if she goes from nursing 24/7 to milking twice a day for at least a week before going down to once a day. Either way, her body will adjust and produce less milk when you go to once a day milking.

      Reply
      • I’m sorry I didn’t give you all the information. ….her 2 babies(wethers) are 15 weeks old and we have been separating them at night and milking in the morning for about 4 weeks. So we are all ready at once a day milking. Wondering if I just keep our normal milking schedule and should she be ok with that. Do I need to milk her twice a day for a while? Or…just watch and see. I don’t really want to milk twice a day. Our other two does still have babies that we are keeping? Would like to keep her on a once a day schedule.

        Reply
        • If the kids are with her all day, they are taking the milk as mom is producing it, so it’s like the doe is being milked a dozen times a day. That will be a huge change for her if you only milk once a day after the kids are gone. Even if you milk her twice a day for a 3-4 days, that would be a more gradual change for her than just going to once a day. Depending upon how experienced you are at milking, and what her udder texture is like, you might find it more challenging in the beginning to milk her if her udder is overly full. Yes, you can milk her once a day and she will probably be okay.

          Reply
            • You’re very welcome! We’re glad to hear that you found the information/education we provided helpful. If you have any more questions feel free to ask.

              Reply
  6. I’m back with another question…..or maybe a variation of the same one… I have followed your advice and have been milking our goat twice a day now for a week. Her boys have been gone 7 days. She is still producing tons of milk. I’m getting the same amount in the morning as I was before the boys left but I’m getting almost twice that in the afternoon. I don’t feel like I could stop milking her in the evening without her udder bursting. I would really like to get back to only morning milking so is my best option just to stop? She’s not giving any signs of slowing down.

    Reply
    • Hi Traci
      Some goats are super producers and don’t follow the typical ‘rules’ for slowing their milk production :/ They can be a blessing or a challenge, depending on your specific situation, and since you are wanting to milk once a day- well, this may be a challenge.
      I would go ahead and put her on the same milk schedule as the other girls and just see what happens. If she gets overly full, you may have to do a relief empty, but hopefully only a few times here and their as her body adjusts to the new schedule.
      Just be sure to watch for any signs of mastitis along the way, such as hard areas or lumps, heat, or redness.
      ~Tammy

      Reply
  7. We had a “first” today, mom refused to nurse her newborn. We watched them for awhile but she repeatedly pushed him away or kicked him, several times knocking him off his feet. We held her so the new buckling could nurse thinking she would accept him but she still refused. We repeated holding her three times but as soon as we released her she began kicking him. We were confident he had received colostrum but were very worried for his safety. We have a good friend in the business also & she enjoys bottle feeding so we gave him to her. Will mom dry up naturally, we don’t want mastitis to develop?

    Reply
    • Hi Debra

      Sorry to hear about you experience. I know that was stressful for all.

      Mom should dry up without the stimulation to continue producing milk. If she is receiving a nutrient dense diet, I would also gradually cut that back. Just keep a close eye on her for signs of over engorgement and/or mastitis.

      Sometimes they need a single relief milking a week after the last milking, but if that is necessary be sure to completely empty and use a good teat disinfecting dip afterwards.
      Tammy

      Reply
  8. We are planning to dry off our 2yr old NGD, we have only been milking her 1x day since Frebruary when we got her because we don’t need that much milk. We have been getting about 14oz consistently but the past month her output has dropped down below 10oz. She’s been milked since her last kids about a year now. We want her body to be able to recover.
    Since we only milk 1x day can we just stop milking and check udder to ensure it doesn’t get engorged?

    Reply
    • That’s really awesome that she’s been producing for a year! Yes, if she is only producing 10-14 ounces a day in one milking, you won’t see any engorgement. At that level of production, does quickly dry up.

      I’m slightly concerned that you’re talking about letting her body recover. At this point, there is nothing to recover from. A goat’s body condition should return to normal within a few months of kidding. Lactation is not that demanding, especially at her level of production. If she has poor body condition, it is most likely due to parasites. Here is more information about worms in goats — https://thriftyhomesteader.com/goat-worms/

      Reply
  9. Hello! I have a NG into her 8th month of lactation. She was giving us about 24 oz morning and evening, each. We went down to morning milkings only. It has been a week so far of once a day milking. She is consistently giving us a quart and a half in one milking, with no sign of decreasing yet! Would you recommend continuing to milk her, hoping she eventually decreases, or to just stop abruptly? My only concern is that she is giving us in one milking a day what she had been giving us in two milkings. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Chris
      Have you started decreasing her nutrient dense feed ration yet? If not, I would slowly cut that back from grain and alfalfa (just assuming she is on that as a milker) over the next 10 or so days. Once she is off grain and onto grass hay, that will help. Then you can stop milking. Just keep an eye for any signs of obvious discomfort, hard areas in the udder, heat, etc.
      Remember that the excess pressure tells the body to stop producing milk. So if you keep emptying every few days, it really drags out the process. But dropping the dense nutrition is very helpful 🙂
      ~Tammy

      Reply
  10. Reading all these comments.. makes me feel very lucky, my does know when it’s time to stop milking.. they refuse to get on the milk stand.. I check my log book on that goat and find that she is right on schedule. So milking stops and we watch her get bigger and wider hoping for not more than two . Good luck everyone, don’t over think this process, we make it more complicated than it should be.

    Reply
  11. I have a Nigerian Dwarf mix doe with blown teats, and I assume from previous mastitis before she came to us. She kidded twins about 2 weeks ago, but both babies died within 24 hours. I was milking her twice a day for the first week after they passed, and now we’re trying to only milk once a day, but when we do milk, her teats are so huge and swollen. It’s like her udder is not holding any of the milk, it all goes straight into her teats. She is very uncomfortable, especially when we milk her. Do you have any advice on getting her to dry up?

    Reply
    • What diet is she on? Cutting back on highly concentrated nutrition such as grain concentrate and alfalfa hay will help to slow the supply. If she has a good body condition, you can wean those completely away, over 7-10 days, and provide grass hay only.
      Other than that, the pressure exerted within her udder by the milk, will send signals to her brain to stop production.
      Tammy

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Join me online