TECHNICAL PAPER #75
Harlan H. D. Attfield
With Contributions From
George F.W. Haenlein
Earl M. Moore
VOLUNTEERS IN TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
Arlington, Virgnia 22209 USA
Tel: 703/276-1800 . Fax:703/243-1865
Understanding Dairy Goat Production
[C]1990, Volunteers in Technical Assistance
This paper is one of a series published by Volunteers in
Technical Assistance to provide an
introduction to specific state-of-the-art technologies of
interest to people in developing countries.
The papers are intended to be used as guidelines to help
people choose technologies that are suitable
to their situations. They are not intended to provide
construction or implementation details. People
are urged to contact VITA or a similar organization for
further information and technical assistance
if they find that a particular technology seems to meet
The papers in the series were written, reviewed, and
illustrated almost entirely by VITA Volunteer
technical experts on a purely voluntary basis. Some 500
volunteers were involved in the production
of the first 100 titles issued, contributing approximately
5,000 hours of their time. VITA staff
included Patrice Matthews and Suzanne Brooks handling
typesetting and layout, and Margaret Crouch
as senior editor and project manager. VITA Volunteer Dr. R.
R. Ronkin, retired from the National
Science Foundation, lent his invaluable perspective, as a
volunteer, to the compilation of technical
reviews, conversations with contributing writers, editing,
and in a variety of other ways.
Long-time VITA Volunteer Harlan H.D. Attfield, the author of
Raising Rabbits, Raising Chickens
and Ducks, and other VITA publications, has spent many years
working in agriculture projects in
developing countries. In putting this paper together he drew
from the work of Dr. George F.W.
Haenlin, a professor and dairy specialist in the Department
of Animal Science at the University of
Delaware; Jane Williams, a former animal husbandry adviser
for the Peace Corps; and Dr. Earl Moore,
a former poultry and livestock consultant for the Ford
Foundation. Reviewer Dr. Morrison Lowenstein
is retired from the University of Georgia, where he was a
goat milk products specialist. Pam
Adolphus is a self-employed dairy goat farmer. Both are
long-time VITA Volunteers. Harlan
Attfield's father. Harry E. Attfield, a retired San
Francisco lithographer, provided the funds for the
word processing of the initial drafts of the paper.
VITA is a private, nonprofit organization that supports
people working on technical problems in
developing countries. VITA offers information and assistance
aimed at helping individuals and groups
to select and implement technologies appropriate to their
situations. VITA maintains an international
inquiry Service, a specialized documentation center, and a
computerized roster of volunteer technical
consultants; manages long-term field project; and publishes
a variety of technical manuals and
UNDERSTANDING DAIRY GOAT PRODUCTION
By VITA Volunteer Harlan H. D. Attfield
1. THE DAIRY GOAT
Goats are among the smallest domesticated ruminants and have
served mankind longer than cattle
or sheep. They thrive in arid, semitropical, or mountainous
countries. More than 460 million goats
in the world produce over 4.5 million tons of milk and 1.2
million tons of meat annually, besides
mohair, cashmere, leather, and dung for fuel and fertilizer.
Goats are friendly animals; with
proper attention they maintain good health and can be
managed easily even by children.
More people consume dairy products from goats than from any
other animal. Goat's milk greatly
improves the diet of many rural families. It is
traditionally valued for the elderly, the sick, babies,
children who are allergic to cow's milk, and patients with
ulcers. It is even preferred for raising
orphan foals and other young domestic animals. Goat milk is
richer than cow's milk in some important
nutrients: vitamin A, niacin, choline, and inositol; it is
poorer in folic acid.
Goats are browsers, preferring the new growth of shrubs and
the seed heads of grasses to the
lower quality older growth in a pasture. They are able to
select the most nutritious parts of plants,
even from thornbushes and higher tree branches not reached
by sheep, and can use a wide range
of forage. For this reason, they are able to survive in
areas where other livestock do not.
As browsers, they are useful for clearing brush in small
areas. However, because they strip the
leaves and bark of young trees, they should be used in
settled areas only if good fences can be
provided. One or two animals can usually be controlled with
a tether, but they must be watched
carefully lest they get tangled in brush or wind their
tethers around small trees.
Most efforts to improve dairy goat management have been
designed to provide more and better
milk. These efforts include:
1. Breeding and selecting to produce more and better milk.
2. Better feeding and pasturing practices.
3. Better housing for extremes of weather and climate.
4. Improved sanitation of milk and milk products.
5. Control of internal parasitic diseases that often lead to
poor health and
decreased milk production.
6. Improved marketing of dairy goat products.
7. Development of information and research services.
All goats, even those selected for milk production,
eventually are used for meat unless they die or
are destroyed for other reasons. Many people prefer goat
meat to mutton, beef, or pork; it is the
principal source of animal protein in many North African and
West Asian nations. It is also important
in the Caribbean area and in Southeast Asia, and relatively
more so in developing tropical
countries than in the temperate regions. The world
production of edible meat from cattle, buffaloes,
sheep, goats, swine, and horses is estimated at 17.9 million
tons, 5.7% of which comes from
The major breeds of dairy goats are listed below:
Saanen, originally from Switzerland, where they were bred
milk, are totally white. Like other Swiss breeds, they may
or may not have
horns. They are usually short haired. Saanen goats are used
around the world
as leading milk producers.
Toggenburg, brown with white stripes on the face, ears and
legs, are mostly
short haired, erect eared goats. They too are of Swiss
origin and are 10 cm
shorter and 9 kg lighter than the Saanen. Pure bred for over
300 years, they
are reliable milk producers summer and winter, in temperate
Alpine (including French, Rock and British), another Swiss
breed, are short
haired and as tall and strong as the Saanen. They are
colored white on black,
and produce less milk than Saanen or Toggenburg.
Anglo-Nubian is a breed developed in England from native and
and Nubian goats. They have heavy arched noses and long,
spiral horns (when horns are present), and short hair.
are as tall as Saanen, but give milk that is less in amount
and higher in fat
content. They are less tolerant of cold but do well in hot
"talk" a lot, and are in numbers the most popular
breed in the United States,
Canada, and many parts of Asia. They often produce triplets
Goats of this breed show many colors and are often spotted.
Oberhasli (also called Swiss Alpine. Chamoisie, or Brienz)
goats, of Swiss
origin, are usually solid red or black, have erect ears, and
are not as tall as
Saanen. They are very well adapted for high-altitude
mountain grazing and
long hours of marching. Milk production is variable.
Before selecting a breed consult local agricultural
extension authorities for advice. Regardless of
the breed selected for milk production, individual animals
should have body characteristics as
shown in Figure 1.
Goats may breed at any month of the year, but in temperate
climates they breed seasonally, generally
showing estrus in the autumn as the days become shorter and
producing young about five
months later. Seasonal breeding is much less marked in the
tropics. Most breeds reach sexual maturity
at about five months; dwarf or pygmy goats as early as three
months. In the tropics female
goats often produce first young by 12 to 15 months even if
poorly fed and not well developed.
The usual birth interval is about a year in the United
States and Europe; in the tropics under good
management the interval varies from 260 to 290 days.
A female goat is called a doe, males are bucks, and the
young are kids. Mature does of most
breeds produce more twins than single kids; triplets and
quadruplets are common and are success-reared.
The usual litter size varies from 1.4 to 2.2 kids and in the
tropics the kidding interval is
about 280 days. A female should produce young three times in
two years, or 2.1 to 3.3 kids per
Swiss goat breeds are the world's leaders in milk
production. Indian and Nubian goat breeds are
dual-purpose meat and milk animals. Spanish and South
African Boer goats are best known for
meat producing ability. The Turkish Angora, Asian Cashmere,
and the Russian Don goats are kept
for mohair and cashmere wool production. In addition, Pygmy
goats from Western Africa are of
increasing interest as laboratory and pet animals, and as
successful meat and milk producers in
areas infested by tsetse flies.
4. FEEDING DAIRY GOATS
The goat is a ruminant, having a four-part stomach like the
cow and sheep. The first part, called
the rumen, is the largest; it receives food that has been
swallowed without much chewing and
stores it until it is regurgitated and chewed again. The
food eventually goes to the third and fourth
stomachs, where it is more completely digested. The rumen
contains bacteria that break down
plant fibers to soluble sugar and manufacture certain
essential nutrients that may be absent from
the diet. Digestion is completed in the small intestine.
Although the goat has a great capacity for consuming fibrous
feed (roughage), it needs to be given
forage or good quality, such as legume hay. In India this
often consists of berseem (Egyptian clover,
Trifolium alexandrinum), alfalfa (lucerne), groundnut hay,
acacia beans or leaves from legumes
(pulses). It is economical to give goats all the good quality
hay they will consume, because
this is often the cheapest source of nutrients for
ruminants. Dry hay should be stored for use when
green fodder is unavailable. Goats also like vegetable
leaves and peelings; for example, cabbage,
cauliflower, carrot tops, and turnip tops (potato peelings
can be toxic). These should be fed with
the regular forage, not in place of it.
The forage diet of dairy goats is often supplemented with a
mixture of seeds and other materials,
called "concentrate." Farm by-products are
sometimes fed to goats. Among traditional by-products
used in Africa are cassava waste, cottonseed meal, and rice
bran. Nonconventional sources include
bagasse, poultry litter, and sawdust.
The main nutritional requirements are as follows:
Energy sources, Most of the goat's energy comes from the
breakdown of the plant fiber. The rest
comes from the oxidation within the body of starches and
fats from concentrate. The energy content
of the diet is studied in the laboratory by burning a sample
and measuring the heat that is
generated. The results need to be refined, because some of
the energy in food is lost to the animal
in the feces, urine, and gases. Moreover, the body uses some
of the energy just to do the work of
digestion itself. In recent years energy measurements have
been refined to account for the special
needs of body maintenance, weight gain, or milk production.
A continued shortage of dietary energy sources will lower
milk production. Goats at the very early
stages of lactation (milk production) need more energy.
Protein - Protein is the main source of dietary nitrogen,
makes up the basic cell and tissue structures
of the body, and is vital for growth, milk production,
disease resistance, reproduction, and
general maintenance. Protein quality, a term nutritionists
use when referring to the amino-acid
content of food, has no significance in ruminant nutrition
except at exceptionally high levels of
milk production. This is so because rumen microorganisms
manufacture all the amino acids needed
by the host animal. Excess protein, if any, is oxidized in
the body for its chemical energy and
the nitrogen is eliminated by the kidneys. Since protein is
generally the most expensive part of the
ration, it is unwise to feed more than is needed. Protein
requirements vary from 12 to 16 percent
of the ration dry matter the larger figure represents the
need during high milk production.
Urea and other nonprotein nitrogen products can be used by
the microorganisms of the rumen for
the production of protein. However, they are not generally
recommended for goats because the
animals adapt slowly to foods containing them.
Minerals - Most of the minerals needed by goats are obtained
from forage and concentrate. The
major minerals are calcium, phosphorus, and sodium (as
salt). These may be added to the concentrate
or made freely available. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus
should be kept around 1.5 to 1.
Equal parts of salt and dicalcium phosphate are recommended
for free-choice feeding. Selenium is
essential in very small amounts; in some areas of the world
it must be added to the diet.
Vitamins - The only important vitamins in ruminant nutrition
are A, D, and E. Generally, goats
on green pastures with plenty of sunshine require no vitamin
supplements. When goats are confined
indoors, vitamin mix, which is not very expensive, should be
added to the diet. Stored forages
are poor vitamin sources.
Fats - Fats are of little importance in the ruminant diet.
Practically all feeds contain small
amounts of fat, and added levels are not practical. Levels
beyond 5 percent in the grain mixture
are not recommended.
Water - This may be the least expensive feed ingredient, but
a deficiency will affect milk production
more quickly than the lack of any other nutrient. Water is
not only the largest single constituent
of nearly all living plant and animal tissue, but it also
performs exceedingly important
functions during digestion, assimilation of nutrients,
excretion of waste products, control of body
temperature, and production of milk. Ready access to fresh
water is important. Goats with free
access to water produce more milk than those watered twice
Although goats can sustain themselves in dry climates better
than cows and sheep, their milk production
also is considerably less.
Feed Formulation in India
Researchers at Ludhiana in North India suggest a diet of
high-quality roughage (fiber) and concentrate
(grains). The concentrate provides sufficient protein,
minerals, and vitamins. The relationship
of concentrate to the quality of roughage is shown in Table
Roughage and Protein Level Needed in the Concentrate
Dry wild grasses, maize fodder,
or rice straw.
Late cuttings of legume hay (without
hay, silage from grass or maize.
Alfalfa, berseem, groundnut hay, good
Extra leafy fine-stemmed alfalfa hay,
excellent fertilized pasture containing
A typical concentrate contains the following ingredients, in
percent by weight: maize 40, molasses
8, wheat bran 20, rice polishings 13, groundnut cake 15,
salt 2, and mineral mix 2. Another formula
contains: maize whole kernels or sorghum or other cereal 60;
soybeans raw or (better) roasted,
other legume or whole cottonseed 36, dicalcium phosphate 2,
salt and trace minerals 2.
Feed materials were classified according to their protein
content as low, medium, high, or very
high. Examples are listed below:
* Low protein: maize, maize and cob meal, wheat, oats,
* Medium protein: wheat bran, rice polishings.
* High protein: copra meal, brewers dry grains, legumes.
* Very high protein: cottonseed meal, linseed meal,
groundnut oil cake, soybean oil meal, dried
milk, meat meal,
It was found that, in making up a diet, any item could be
substituted for another in the same class.
A suitable mineral mix contained the following ingredients,
in percent by weight: sterilized bone
meal 35, finely ground high-grade limestone or oyster shell
45, iodized salt 20, and trace
amounts of copper sulfate, cobalt sulfate, zinc sulfate, and
iron chloride. This formula can be
made commercially or mixed at home.
Free-Choice Feeding Experiment in Germany
German scientists studied the diets that were freely chosen
by five Saanen goats over a 24-month
period. Such long-term studies are important, but
infrequently performed because of their high
The feeds offered were mixed grass and legume hay, a
concentrate mixture, fodder beets in season,
or chopped grass, dried beet pulp, water, and--for three
weeks--alfalfa leaf meal. The low
protein content of the hay was supplemented by a concentrate
made of ground oats, wheat bran,
seed meals, leaf meals, and dry yeast.
Milk production in the first year was good and in the second
year was well above average. The
results showed clearly that free-choice feeding of dairy
goats leads neither to their eating too
much concentrate nor to unprofitable production costs.
Furthermore, it was shown that goats require
liberal amounts of water and lush feeds for high milk
production. Free-choice feeding can
result in good milk production, although yields may vary
among animals. Moreover, high milk
production is cheaper than lower milk production under
Common Feeding Systems
Feeding systems for goats are linked to local methods of
growing feed crops and are classified as
Village systems - It is traditional in tropical countries to
maintain goats in small areas (1 to 2 ha)
of land. They are tethered for limited grazing or are fed
kitchen wastes, usually by women and
children. Concentrates are rarely used.
Primitive extensive systems - These allow limited grazing or
browsing on larger areas of land of
low crop productivity. Herds of up to 15 animals are usually
made up of smaller herds and are
controlled and kept together by a goatherd. The goats eat
what is immediately available. There are
usually one to four animals per hectare. Often the goats
migrate from area to area in a pattern that
uses the sparse vegetation without continuous grazing. The
seasonal movements, inadequate feed
supplies, and infection by parasites seriously affect live
weight and cause high mortality. Very
extensive systems of this type are found in Africa and parts
of West Asia.
Semi-intensive to intensive forage systems - The goats graze
on cultivated grasses and sometimes
on legumes. However, intensive grazing of pasture is not
very common, mainly because the land is
valuable for other purposes. Goats can efficiently use
cultivated pastures for either meat or milk
production. A hectare can support 16 to 60 goats depending
on the type of pasture, the amount of
fertilizer applied, and the presence of legumes. Available
farm by-products are sometimes used to
supplement the intake from pasture.
Very intensive system (stall feeding) - Requiring higher
labor and capital investment, this system
is not commonly practiced in the tropics, but has commercial
potential. It assumes continuous
management of goats and is justified by the presence of
abundant supplies of farm by-product
feeds. The system also enables greater control over the
goats. It is common in many countries of
Latin America and parts of West Asia.
Integration with cropping systems - The nature and the
extent of integration depend on the types
of crops (annuals or perennials) and on the relative
importance of goats in the local economy.
Usually the integration of goats is more common with such perennial
or tree crops as coconuts, oil
palm or rubber. It efficiently uses herbage undergrowth,
including mainly grasses, weeds and
legumes. The dry matter production of the undergrowth is
variable (400 to 1,200 kg/ha). An advantage
is that the land becomes more fertile due to return of feces
and urine, reduced fertilizer
used, control of waste herbage growth, and easier management
of the main crop. Success of the
system may depend on the amount of dry feed produced from
Feeding tree leaves - Tree leaves are fed to goats
throughout the tropics. The amounts fed vary
according to availability of material and the time needed to
harvest it, as well as the duration of
grazing. Leaves provide variety in the diet as well as
meeting part of the requirements for energy,
protein and minerals. Many tree leaves are important sources
of dietary nitrogen. In Africa, these
include acacia (Acacia spp.), leucaena (Leucaena
leucocephala), and cassava (Manihot esculenta).
These and other tree leaves are an important and underused
The use of farm by-products - Farm by-products can be used
effectively for feeding goats. These
materials are often abundant and are not suited for human
consumption. Some examples are listed
above, in this section.
5. SHELTER AND SPACE
Although goats have adapted to diverse and adverse climates
without the aid of man-made shelters
and support, maintenance of good health and dairy
productivity require minimizing the stresses
associated with excessive heat, cold, humidity, and wind.
Protection from Cold and Moisture
Shelters are needed where temperatures remain below
5[degrees]C, especially if there are kids. Wooden
walls and roofs are better than stone or metal
constructions, which tend to accumulate condensation
water, thus adding to respiratory and other health problems
because of increased humidity.
Open buildings or sheds are satisfactory as long as their
length and depth exceed the height and
the location of exits and open windows does not cause
The build-up of ammonia in the shelter from the bedding,
urine, and feces is easily avoided with
small roof vents or rafter louvers that can be opened and
shut. Roof insulation is necessary only
when condensation cannot be controlled in this way. But the
greatest need for insulation is on the
floor, where the goats tend to lie against the cold, wet
ground. Slatted false floors made of treated
5 cm x 10 cm lumber 2 cm apart on 10 cm x 10 cm cross pieces
will reduce the risk of infection.
Wooden slatted floors reduce the costs of bedding. Concrete
floors must be avoided, even when
poured upon plastic insulation sheets. A sleeping platform
helps to keep the goats clean and dry.
In parts of India, dairy goats are kept in small sheds,
often with a portion of the structure closed
off to store feed and equipment. Bedding material is usually
provided to keep the goats clean and
healthy. Available bedding materials vary in their capacity
to absorb urine. Spaced wood boards
(as described above) make excellent bedding. Sawdust or
shavings, bagasse, paddy husk, groundnut
hulls, wheat straw, crushed maize cobs, and dry grass are
all good, cheap, and available in
many tropical countries. If nothing else is available,
coarse sand can be used. To increase
the effectiveness of the litter rake the droppings into it.
The depth of the litter will partially depend on the price
and availability of suitable materials. If
they are cheap and available, use 7 to 10 cm. If less than
2.5 cm is used it will not absorb all the
urine and the floor may become wet. Used bedding can be
spread in fields and vegetable gardens
to increase plant growth.
Protection from Heat
Goats, especially dehorned goats or those originally from
temperate zones, begin to seek relief
when the temperature reaches 32[degrees] C by reducing
feeding activity, sharply increasing respiration
and open-mouth ventilation, seeking shade, and resting on
the north sides of stone walls or buildings,
and inside ground-depressions, ditches, and open dirt pits.
Goats with horns or coming from
hot and arid zones suffer less, use the rumen as a water
reservoir, and adapt with more concentrated
urine, wool cover insulation and variable body temperature.
Shelters in hot climates need to
provide shade and plenty of air circulation through open
walls. Trees can serve these functions
very cheaply. Straw or hay stacks on the upper story of a
shelter provide excellent insulated shade
Metal roofs should be painted with white sun-reflecting
paint. Tropical thatched roofs are excellent
if they shed rain and don't harbor too many flies and other
bothersome insects. Soil covered
roofs, used in some countries, are excellent insulators, but
they require strong supports and may
grow grass, which invites undesirable grazing of goats on
Stilted or elevated housing is popular in hot and humid
climates. Slatted board walls and flooring
provide good ventilation. They also allow for clean
maintenance, with easy automatic separation
of feces and urine from the goats. This, in turn provides
some control of internal parasites and
clean udders for low bacterial counts in the milk.
Overhanging roofs keep out driving rains. The
feeding trough is usually placed on an outside wall and is
also covered with an overhanging roof.
In the tropics, a typical elevated shelter for 20 or more
goats measures 20 to 80 sq m. The shelter
is supported 60 to 90 cm above the ground. The roof is 150
to 200 cm above the slatted floor,
sloped at about 28[degrees] (53 cm rise for each 100 cm
level measure). Roof materials may include clay
tiles and palm leaves. Treated floor boards or bamboo pieces
are secured a finger-width apart.
Space and Fencing
Goats need and enjoy exercise. The herd manager will have
fewer fence problems if space allotments
are liberal and daily fresh, palatable feeds are provided
generously. The minimal interior
space, 2.5 sq m per adult animal, is commonly provided in
tropical countries. Ten square meters is
A fenced area that allows 40 sq m per animal with a fence
1.5 to 1.8 m high per animal is common
in most tropical countries. Fencing should allow maximum air
circulation for hot weather, but
should offer some winter protection against cold winds.
Posts should be placed not more than 1.5
m apart, and the bottom strand of wire needs to be close to
the ground to stop kids from crawling
underneath. High-tensile fence, barbed wire, turkey wire,
timber bamboo and sticks all have pros
and cons. Some sizes of wire mesh fence may be hazardous if
they allow kids with horns to insert
their heads and become trapped. Vertical wood or bamboo
pieces also invite trapped heads. Horizontal
wire on fencing invites climbing; vertical-only
stockade-type fences may be too expensive
or keep out cooling winds in hot weather.
A sheltered container filled with clean water should always
be available. Outside hayracks should
be sheltered against sun and rain, with a bottom trough to
reduce waste. The same applies to
outside feed troughs, best placed below hayracks and along
fences to reduce hay wastage, keep out
feces, and facilitate filling and cleaning.
Extensive goat management systems based upon pasture feeding
and migration sometimes use only
night-time shelters. Goats may travel far during day-time
grazing; night shelters are traditionally
provided in many countries for safety and comfort.
6. MILK AND MILKING
The world's dairy goat production has grown partly because
of a trend toward increasing self sufficiency
by people in many countries. A goat eats little, occupies a
small are, and produces
enough milk for the average unitary family (an average doe
will give about 2 L a day); whereas
the prospect of maintaining a cow at home is often more than
the homeowner can cope with.
Hence the growing popularity of goat as the
As the interest in dairy goats continues to rise, it is
important to address many misconceptions and
exaggerated claims. A comparison of cow and goat milk will
erase some prejudices against goat
milk. And while goat milk is somewhat unique, it is certainly
not a magical elixir.
A persistent objection to goat milk is that it has a
peculiar "goaty" odor or taste. The presence of a
buck among does at milking time can result in this
objectionable feature. Another major cause of
off-flavored milk is low-grade udder infection (subclinical
Diet affects the taste and odor of both goat and cow milk.
Although the diet of cows is usually
closely watched. goats are often allowed to consume a great
variety of materials at any time. Such
unmonitored feeding may allow objectionable tastes or odors
to be transferred to the milk, if it
occurs within two hours of milking. If goats and cows are
similarly managed, the smell and taste
of both milks are sweet and neutral.
Goat milk is similar to cow milk in its basic composition
(see Table 2).
Average Composition of Goat and Cow Milk
matter, Percent of
Lactose Mineral matter
However, there are also differences that give goat's milk a
special place in human diets. For example,
in Third World countries where meat consumption is low, goat
milk is an important daily
food source of protein, phosphate, and calcium not available
otherwise because of a lack of cow
milk. Calves can consume large quantities of goat milk while
similar amounts of cow milk may
cause dysentery. Goat milk can, therefore, be used not only
for growing veal, but also for raising
valuable dairy replacement heifers, which will benefit from
the high milk intake and show superior
The Saanen breed is best known as the Holstein (a very
productive dairy cow) of the goat world,
producing a large quantity of milk with somewhat low fat
levels. At the other extreme is the Jersey
of the goat world, the Nubian. This breed produces a lesser
amount of milk with a high fat
content. The Toggenburg, Oberhasli, and Alpine give milk
with intermediate values, as does the
La Mancha, a breed not listed above.
Whether goats are milked by hand or by machine, care must be
taken to produce a clean, wholesome
product and to prevent injury to or infection of the udder.
Non-commercial herds use mostly hand-milking, which requires
few facilities and little equipment.
There is no minimum number of goats required for machine
milking, because the convenience
and reduced discomfort to the person's hands, wrists and
arms may outweigh considerations
of efficiency or economics. Portable single or double
milking machines are easily assembled,
washed, and maintained. Although machine milking is not
covered in this paper, a brief description
of hand milking follows for the goat herder who wants to
produce a quality product.
In contrast to cows, the milking of goats is routinely done
in different ways and schedules, depending
on tradition, convenience, and budget. In most countries
goats are milked twice a day, 12
hours apart. Routine, once-daily milking is not recommended.
The doe's udder produces milk
throughout the day and night, but production is slowed as
milk accumulates. During the height of
lactation heavy producers can be milked three times a day at
eight-hour intervals to relieve pressure
in the udder. This procedure often yields more milk.
Milking equipment should include a strip cup, a seamless
milking pail, and a milk strainer with a
filter that is thrown away after each milking. Goats should
be milked in an environment free of
dust, odors, dogs, and disturbing noises.
To produce clean milk it is necessary to have clean
equipment, a clean area for milking, healthy
goats, clean clothes, and clean hands. The milker's hands
(short fingernails) should be washed with
hot water and soap before starting, and before moving from
one animal to another. Hands should
be washed after cleaning feces from the udder. The udder can
be washed with a clean cloth, but
both the udder and hands should be dried before milking.
The first stream or two of milk should directed through a
fine wire mesh, such as a tea strainer,
into a separate strip cup so that the presence of flaky
milk, which is often an indication of mastitis
(discussed later) can be detected.
Dairy goats should be milked dry at each milking. When some
experienced milkers think they
have milked the goat thoroughly they will often push the
udder gently a few times and run the
index finger and thumb down each teat until they have
"stripped" out the last drop of milk. The
advantages of this procedure are not entirely clear.
As soon as the milk has been collected from the doe, it
should be poured through a single-use
filter. The milk should be cooled promptly and rapidly (to
as near 0[degree]C as possible) to ensure good
flavor and retard the growth of bacteria. Air cooling is not
recommended; the closed container
may be cooled by immersing it in ice water with frequent
stirring. After cooling, the container of
milk should be taken promptly to the consumer, stored in a
refrigerator, or immersed in ice water.
Unnecessary temperature changes can cause bad flavor.
All milking equipment should be rinsed in warm water
immediately after use and then washed in
hot water to which a mild chlorine solution and detergent
are added. Finally the utensils should be
rinsed in clean, preferably boiling, water and kept in a
dust-free place to dry.
7. PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF DISEASE
Although often considered one of the healthiest of all
domesticated animals, goats are susceptible
to the same diseases that affect cattle and sheep. If
infected cattle or sheep are nearby try to prevent
contact with them. The occurrence of disease may be affected
by locality, amount of space
given to each goat, the feeding program, and housing, as
well as the general health of the individual
goats and the amount of exposure to infected animals or
In many parts of the tropics vaccinations against goat pox,
rinderpest, and foot-and-mouth disease
are generally advised. In addition, goats are usually tested
routinely for brucellosis
(Malta Fever, Bang's Disease), tuberculosis, and mastitis.
Diarrhea, caused by bacterial infections,
viruses, or coccidia, can also be troublesome. In addition
to infectious diseases, goats sometimes
suffer from such noncontagious ailments as pneumonia, wound
infections, milk fever (parturient
paresis), bloat (tympanites), external and internal
parasites, and plant poisoning.
Ideally, the diagnosis and treatment of goat diseases should
be left to a veterinarian. The importance
of an accurate diagnosis cannot be over-emphasized because
the treatment is determined by
the cause of the ailment. However, veterinary services are
often too costly for people who keep
goats, except in the most urgent cases. Fortunately, most goatkeepers
can acquire enough basic
knowledge to cope with basic problems.
No doubt, it is always better to prevent disease than to
have to treat infected animals! Some precautions
needed to maintain the health of a goat herd are listed
1. Avoid involvement in goat trading or trafficking.
2. Buy young kids preferably from healthy goat farms where
diseases are under control and
the animals look
3. Separate kids from adults immediately at birth and feed
them pasteurized milk.
4. Isolate a goat that becomes sick.
5. Do not allow equipment to be brought to the goat farm
from locations where the goats are
6. Keep visitors from walking around in the goat house or
7. If possible, get an accurate and early diagnosis from a
qualified veterinarian if evidence of a
8. Use medications only when necessary.
9. Consider goat droppings as a potential source of disease.
10. Eliminate ticks, lice, and mites, and control predatory
11. Keep the goat herd separated from sheep and cattle.
12. Use good business ethics and do not sell diseased goats
to an unsuspecting buyer.
13. Keep the goat house clean and dry.
14. Trim hooves at least four times yearly. Brush goats when
needed to remove loose hair and
dirt that might
contaminate the milk.
15. Keep feces out of the feed and water: keep goats' feet
out of hay racks and keep feed and
above tail level.
16. Keep fresh water available and uncontaminated.
Belanger, J., Raising Milk Goats the Modern Way. Charlotte,
Vermont: Garden Way Publishing
Child, R.D., et al.. Arid and Semiarid Lands: Sustainable
Use and Management in Developing
Countries. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1984.
Also, Morrilton, Arkansas: Winrock
Haenlein, George and Donald L. Ace (eds.), Extension Goat
Handbook. Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, 1994. Also, Newark, Delaware:
University of Delaware, 1984.
Mackenzie, David, Goat Husbandry. Boston: Faber and Faber
National Research Council, Committee on Animal Nutrition.
Nutrient Requirements of Goats:
Angora, Dairy and Meat Goats in Temperate and Tropical
Countries. Washington, D.C.: National
Academy Press, 1981.
Sands, M and R.E. McDowell. The Potential of the Goat for
Milk Production in the Tropics. Ithaca,
New York: Cornell University Press, 1972.
Sinn, Rosalee, Raising Goats for Milk and Meat. Little Rock,
Arkansas: Heifer Project International,
Thedford, T.R., Goat Health Handbook: A Field Guide for
Producers with Limited Veterinary
Experience. Morrilton, Arkansas: Winrock International,