How Many Goats to Start With?

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Baby goats are so cute, you could easily get carried away and buy a lot, but that’s probably not the best strategy. The number of goats you get depends on how much milk or meat you want. Since goats are herd animals, you can’t have just one. That means the minimum is two does so they have company. But if you want to produce milk or meat, the does have to get pregnant, so you’ll have to find buck service or someone who will lease a buck to you — or you have to buy your own buck. But let’s start with the does …

How many does?

milking a goat

If you want a decent amount of milk year-round, three to five does is a good number to start. You can spread out kidding in different months so that you have continuous milk year round. For example, have one kid in January, one in March, and one in May. If you milk them for ten months, you have to dry them off two months before their next kid are due, so you will still have at least one doe milking at all times, as each one takes a four-month break. That’s two months off from milking at the end of pregnancy, and then she’ll be nursing kids full-time for two months.

One exception to that is that if she has a single, you should start milking her ASAP because if you don’t, she’ll have a very low milk supply, only producing enough for one kid. A few does can produce more than what twins can consume, but I wouldn’t count on that, especially with first fresheners. To learn more about how many kids a doe can feed, check out this post.

I suggest starting with three rather than two, just in case one doesn’t work out for some reason, or if the unthinkable happens, and one dies. Even if you do everything to the best of your ability, they could die from a predator attack or a snake bite or an accident.

I don’t recommend starting with more than five, because they will have babies, and you will want to keep some of those adorable kids. If you keep doelings, you can easily wind up with a much bigger herd. Having too many goats is a major cause of burnout, so start small.

So, if you need a gallon a day, how many does should you start with? That depends on what breed you want, as well as the genetics of the goats. I have a friend who used to have Alpines, and her worst milker produced less than my best Nigerian. As far as breed averages go, an Alpine or Saanen should easily produce a gallon a day, so two does would be plenty to meet your needs, assuming they have decent genetics. Some really excellent milkers can peak at two gallons a day, although they don’t sustain that for very long. Other standard sized breeds will produce a little less, so ask the breeder to see the milk records for any does you’re planning to buy. If you’re buying a kid, check the milk records of the kid’s dam and the sire’s dam.

Nigerians average about a quart a day over the course of their lactation, so four to six should meet your needs. The best milkers in this breed will peak at two to three quarts a day. Unfortunately, as NDs become more popular, fewer people are paying close attention to milk production, so be sure to ask about milk records. Even if the breeder does not take part in official milk testing, they should have barn records on their goats that they can show you. Since we quit official milk testing last year, we continue to weigh our milk and keep track of it in Excel.

How many bucks?

Most people start somewhere between 0 and 2 bucks, but the complete answer to that question is even longer than this blog post. So, check out Do you need a buck — or two? to learn about artificial insemination, leasing a buck, driveway breedings, and choosing between two bucks and a buck and a wether.

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20 thoughts on “How Many Goats to Start With?”

  1. My family and I just recently purchased 100 acres in the Traverse City, Michigan area. There will be 10 people on the land. How many goats should I have for milking only. Any other suggestions would be very helpful, Thank you


    • It really depends on how much milk you drink and how much cheese you want to make, and is that 10 adults or 2 adults, 4 teens, and 4 young children. For planning purposes, you can assume about a quart a day for Nigerians or 3 quarts a day for standard size goats. But you need to see milk records because some standard size goats can produce as much as 2 gallons a day at their peak, and some Nigerians can produce up to 3 quarts a day. As I mention in the article, I don’t suggest starting with more than five because they will have babies, and you will probably want to keep some of the does as future milkers.

      When you say “for milking only,” I’m not sure if you are saying that you don’t want cheese or that you don’t want meat. If you don’t want meat, then you will need to figure out what to do with all of the kids that are born. Goats must give birth to start making milk. Typically they are re-bred every year for continued milk production 10 months per year (stop milking two months before kidding). If you get some really excellent milking genetics, you could milk through for 2-3 years with some does.

  2. I hereby report that my Doe makes a discomforting calls early hours of every morning for three consecutive days by this morning. She goes to browse vibrantly but am confused on this noise .
    Again, am suspecting an early pregnancy.
    Is it normal or there could be a ill-health situation. Thanks.

    • When a doe is in heat, she sometimes makes a lot of noise, but that usually only lasts two days. If it goes on for a fourth day, I might wonder if she has some type of injury, such as something stuck in her foot. I’d watch her closely to see if she see appears to have any sore spots. If she is eating normally, it’s probably not a sickness.

    • Yes, you do. Goats are herd animals and need at least one other goat to be happy. Horses do not speak the same language.

      • On that note, we just got a doe and her 3 kids. We are getting 2 other bottle-fed doelings from 2 other farms. We’ve been wondering if only having the single adult goat be enough for them to feel safe and not get depressed.

  3. I have 10 Does with 3 bucks.
    How many Bucks should be appropriate , for 20 Does please?. Or do i have to multiply the Bucks by 2 ( ×2)?.
    Thanks. Hassan.

  4. Bought two bucks , had them fixed at 3 mos, one died at 5 mos with renal calculus , the other one is fine and is a year old, do I need to get another buck for company ?

    • It would have been best to get him a new friend as soon as the other one died. However, it would still be a good idea to get him a friend because they are herd animals. If you get one now, ideally it will be about the same age and/or size and have the same horn status so that the two goats are equally matched. They will butt heads when you bring in a new one, so you don’t want one to have an obvious advantage over the other one, such as being larger or having horns (if the other goat has no horns). Also, if the other wether died from urinary stones, hopefully the vet told you that you should not be feeding grain to wethers.

  5. I’m wondering whether what is my original plan is a good one. I am planning on taking two does from a small farm that is reducing their herd, one 8 years old and one some years younger, though not really planning on breeding. And am also planning on and have reserved two newborn wethered kids (who are cousins on the same farm) who will be 8 and 10 weeks when I bring them home.

    Does combining these older does and these wethered babies make sense or should I rather be thinking in terms of 3 or 4 wethers instead. I still have time to change my mind if I am to do it soon. Thank you.

    • If all of the goats are together already, then they will be fine if you bring four of them to a new farm. The age doesn’t matter. The biggest one will probably be the herd queen, so there may be a little bit of head butting when you bring them to their new home, but it should be minimal since they already know each other. They will just need to establish the pecking order when it’s only the four of them.

      • Thank you….The thing is, the two does are from one farm and the two wethered kids, who will be 8 and 10 weeks old when I go and get them, are from another farm. So, aside from needing to quarantine the does and kids from each other, when it is time to put them together, is there anything I should be especially aware of or watchful for? Thanks again!

        • When you first put them together, they should be outside, so the underdogs can run away from the herd queen. It’s unlikely that she will be able to hurt them outside. If they in an enclosed space, she could slam a kid against the wall and potentially hurt it. I’m assuming she doesn’t have horns, but if she has horns, she could do damage with them also.

  6. Question… How many whethers can you have at a time. I am not interested in does but I also do not want any bucks. I have two, soon to be, whethers who are brothers. They obviously get along well. I am just curious to if I would be able to add 2, maybe 3, more whethers with the existing two and everything be okay for them all. If adding more is fine, would it need to be adult or kid? Thanks!

    • You can have as many wethers as you want. It is best to add other goats that are the same size and have the same horn status. In other words, if your goats don’t have horns, then the new ones should not have horns either, and vice versa.

  7. my wife wants to have 2/3 does , one buck , so as to just sell the off-spring. how soon should we sell the babies , if we have NO intention of milking the mothers ?

    • I’d suggest starting with more research. You can’t just have one buck because they’re herd animals, so he needs a buddy. You can’t keep him with the does because he’d be getting them pregnant way too often, and if you wind up selling a young goat that’s pregnant, that would not be good because she could be too small to give birth safely and she’d be his daughter. So you need a minimum of two bucks or a buck and a wether for company so that you only breed the does once a year.

      Here is more information about getting started with goats:

      Kids need to be at least two months old before weaning, AND they need to be big enough, so for Nigerians, that would be at least 20 pounds. They actually start eating when they are only a few days old because they are imitating their mother, but they need milk because nothing else has as much concentrated calcium and protein, which they need to grow properly and be healthy. They are born with a very immature immune system, so they need their mother’s milk to be as healthy as possible.

      If you are thinking that you are going to make money selling pet goats, it’s not really that easy, and you don’t make much money on them unless you’ve invested in good quality registered stock to start with. If you buy cheap pet goats, you can only sell cheap pet goats. If you buy from a herd that isn’t tested negative for diseases, you could wind up with all of them dying. Some of these diseases are asymptomatic in the early stages. Unless you learn about how to keep your goats healthy, you could wind up spending more money on vet bills than you can sell the kids for. Goats are not native to North America and have nutritional needs that are more complicated than sheep or cattle. (Wild goats are actually in the antelope family.)


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