Goats for Dairy Jun 08,2018

Sustenance ( Food )

Goats - Dairy Products after the SHTF

In a previous article we talked about making your own Cheese (see https://www.americansocietyofpreppers.com/blogs/Say_Cheese), and cheese is a great way to add variety to your diet.  Particularly after the SHTF.  But to make cheese you need milk and if you can’t go to the local Krogers, Piggily Wiggily, Safeway, or Publix to get some fresh milk, you need to start planning how to get it on your homestead.

And that means cows, sheep or goats (or camels, llamas, reindeer, or water buffalo if they happen to live in your area).  I am going to focus on goats for several reasons:


Nigerian Dwarf

Jersey Cow


<40 pounds

1000-1800 pounds


1-2 quarts a day

~ 8 gallons a day


One tenth to a half acre per animal

2-5 acres per animal

Daily Feed

Leaves, grass clippings, weeds, produce scraps, some alfafa hay

40-50 pounds of forage/feed


I selected the Nigerian Dwarf [ND] since it’s milk tastes a lot like cow milk and some people don’t like the different taste of some goat milk.  While some other dairy breeds (the Alpine breeds) do better in colder climates, they can get up to 200 pounds which is still a lot if you have to move the animal around.  But goats are smaller and easier to handle and keep than cows.  NDs are only about the size of a medium dog.  This is particularly important to the prepper who has to milk the animal.  Imagine the difference between handling a cow that could weigh a ton versus a small animal that you can manipulate.

While I might aspire some day to have cows (more for the beef than for milk), I certainly don’t need 8 gallons of milk a day for my family of five.  Not that I couldn’t sell excess milk but that brings a whole new set of treatment and storage issues into play.

A small herd of four NDs can produce a gallon or more of milk each day. You should be able to get a pint of cream from each gallon – which you can make into butter (up to a pound).  If everyone in my family has a big glass of milk each day, there is still going to be half a gallon to make cheese.  If you can’t use the extra milk, then you may be able to sell it. 

Goats don’t require as much land as cows so if your space is limited, you should be looking to goats for your dairy products.

Feeding:  Goats will forage for their food and live off the land without much feed.  They will eat some of your table scraps (the fruits and vegetables) although they are not the garbage disposals of folklore.  Basically they will find enough to eat around your property except during winter time when you may need to give them pellets or fodder you have stored up.  Feed them barley grass or alfalfa at the milking table to get them to stand during the process.

NDs generally have a good temperment, more so if you bottle feed them when they are kids.  Of course, they will begin to associate your presence with food since you are going to feed them while milking.

A female goat (called a doe) will begin producing milk after giving birth.  The first couple of days, the milk wll actually be an immunoglobulin rich liquid called colostrum.  This is vital to strengthening the baby goat (called a kid) immunity to disease. 

Ok, so if you are going to buy a baby goat so you can get milk, you will have to wait a year for it to mature and then breed it with a billy (also called a buck).  Gestation is five months so you are looking at a year and a half before you start getting milk from your investment.  Goats are herd animals so don’t just get one although they will bond with other grazing animals in the absence of other goats.  However, if you have your own buck, you should keep the does separate as the buck may taint the flavor of the milk.  Remember goats are herd animals so you might keep more than one buck just so he has a wingman.

Another benefit of goats is while on a small plot of land you can only care for one cow, meaning if something happens to that cow you have lost your dairy production capability.  With several small goats like NDs, you have redundancy just in case.

Even though you milk the doe’s twice a day, a doe’s milk production will gradually decrease over the year.  You will need to stop milking them about two months before they give birth.  So basically you can get milk ten months a year, if you stagger some pregnancies, this can be reduced or eliminated. 

I am going to skip over the birthing process right now but you may need to assist if the kid is not properly positioned. 

A doe will have 1 to 3 kids per litter. Buck kids are of little value except as meat (unless you register them so you can sell them or need to replace your buck).  You can butcher them after 4-5 months.  You will have to determine how many does you want to keep based on how large a herd you wish to care for, excess does can be sold so your neighbors can have a dairy capability (build that prepper community!) or if the S has not yet HTF, you can make some money off of selling the does.  Another reason to register your goats.

Although the you want the mother to bond with her babies, bottle feeding will make the kid more comfortable around humans and easier to handle in the future. 

The milking table:  since the NDs are so small, you will want to build a platform about 18-24 inches high for them to stand on while you milk them.  This will make things more comfortable for both of you.  Put a feed box at one end and a ramp at the other.  You should take care to clean all your milk containers before each use to avoid contamination. 

It takes about 15 minutes to milk a goat.  Wash off the udders and let them dry before you begin milking.  If you have never milked a cow or a goat before:  Pinch the top of the udder to clamp it then squeeze down the udder to extract the milk and squirt it into your bucket.  Cool the milk as soon as you are done (my mom’s family had a spring house where their spring water came out of the ground, running the cold ground water over the containers cooled the milk down just fine). 

Since the fat in goat milk is in smaller gobules, it is harder to separate but if you chill the milk down to 40 degrees, you should be able to skim some cream off for several days (or wait several days and skim it all off afterwards).  Use the cream for cream or to make butter.  Excess milk can be used for cheese recipes.  Get yourself a good recipe book.  Cheeses get better with age as long as they are sealed and stored properly.  Think of all the cheeses you see hanging at an Italian deli. 

Enclosures:  aside from fencing off the area that you want to have your goats stay within, they will also need a shed or barn to stay in at night.  To keep them off the floor and amid the hay and droppings, you can build some small benches against the wall and they will hop up on these to stay clean and dry.  Since they may stay inside if the weather is bad, you should also build a manger so they can feed inside.  This is a great place to have your milking stand also.  Check out Rick Austin’s Secret Livestock of Survival book for a detailed description of how he has set up his goat management.  He has a detailed description of ventilation, screening, and all sorts of other tidbits that you may wish to incorporate into your plan. 

There is a lot more to know about raising goats and you should look at some references to make sure you understand and are prepared to begin this venture.  But in the long run – you are taking another step to food independence with your own dairy production in the home.

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