Increasing Milk Production in Boer Goats

When we first got Boer goats we read (mainly from people who did not have Boer goats) that the Boers were poor mothers because they did not produce enough milk to feed their kids. We read that Boer kids had to be supplemented with bottles. In our experience, this has not been the case. We think the misconception about Boers came about because Boer does do not, as a rule, has the huge udders of the dairy breeds; thus people assumed the doe wasn't producing sufficient milk. With kids having average daily weigh gains of approximately 1/2 pound per day, apparently the Boer doe is doing her job producing milk just fine.
From time to time, though, circumstances may cause poor milk production. For example, a doe with ketosis/pregnancy toxemia in the latter stage of her pregnancy can cause a decrease in milk production. (In this case, normally when the toxemia improves so does the milk production.)
There are several steps the producer can take to increase milk production.
1. Worm your goats. It takes blood to make milk; so, if the doe is anemic, her milk production is going to be low.
2. Supply a good vitamin/mineral/protein supplement. In addition to blood, the goat needs to be in good condition. The mineral supplement should be formulated specifically for goats.
3. Provide your goats a 16% to 18% feed. We assure feed is available to our new mothers 24/7. Increase dry matter intake and forage quality to improve milk production.
4. Milk production depends on the animal's ability to efficiently digest forages. It is important to have high levels of fiber from forage in the diet to establish rumen micro-flora populations which are essential for optimal rumen fermentation. Inadequate levels of forages can have lower rumen pH and decreased rumination. This can result in acidosis, depressed butterfat levels, foot and leg problems, breeding problems, lowered body condition and depressed milk production.
5. Offer a high-quality hay. Alfalfa is best for milk production because of the high calcium content.
6. Live yeast cultures added to feed will also increase milk production. Often when you increase the amount of grain your goats are getting you will create a problem of acidosis. A research project in 1991 demonstrated that using live yeast culture reduced the rumen pH that resulted from the high grain intake; this increased milk production in cattle from 3% to 30% (in the 22 studies); these studies indicated no loss in production when a live yeast culture was fed.

7. Some feed additives are touted as milk producers. - Many use beet pulp added to feed. Some people soak the beet pulp; we simply add an handful for goats who seem to need it. (We do not feed this as a general practice - just when we need to give a goat a boost.)

- Oats and barley supplements also increase milk yield. (Oat-based supplements increase milk quantity and milk protein but lower milk fat.)

- Some people add Calf Manna or alfalfa pellets.

- Others top-dress their feed with non-fat dry milk to increase the protein and calcium in their feed.

- Some producers recommend switching to dairy goat feed since this ration is specially formulated for milk production. (Note: dairy goat feed does not contain rumenson, a medication that increases feed efficiency and, as a side effect, prevents coccidiosis in goats.)

8. Feed medicated with rumensin™ (monensin) will increase milk production efficiency. According to Angel Aguilar, PhD, Elanco Animal Health, "Rumensin (monensin) is the first ionophore to be approved by the Food and DrugAdministration (FDA) for increased milk production efficiency (production of marketable4.0% solids-corrected milk per unit of feed intake) when fed to dairy cows." This is one drug approved for goats.
9. Reduce overcrowding. It has been proven with cattle that cows produce more milk when they are in an ideal housing situation than when they are in an overcrowded one. The same holds true with goats. Stock your facility with the optimum number of animals rather than filling it to capacity.
10. Milk production requires clean, cool, fresh water - and lots of it.
There have been a few interesting research projects concerning cattle that have not been conducted with goats but which could produce the same (or similar) results.
1. Naming cows boosts milk production. [Science Daily: Drs. Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Great Britain have shown that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers can increase their annual milk yield by almost 500 pints. "Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention."]
2. A greater demand causes more output. According to Hilary Sullivan, Extension Dairy Specialist, New Mexico University, "Research has shown substantial increases in milk production when cows under 30 days in milk were milked 4 to 6 times per day. Cows gave more milk during the period of frequent milking and these increases persisted after milking frequency was decreased."
3. From Science Today: "Increasing milk production in cows has been a goal for many years - but some of the techniques, such as using bio-engineered growth hormones, have met with controversy. Yet animal scientist Brenda McCowan of the University of California's Veterinary Teaching and Research Center at Tulare, says they've been using recordings of calf calls to stimulate milk production." A 2002 study by McCowan, DiLorenzo, Abichandani, Brorelli, and Cullor showed calf vocalizations use during the milking process “significantly increased milk production in experimental cows by 1-2%”.
4. According to one research project, cows gave more milk when they had music playing in the background. Country music? The same study cited above showed that soothing noise for cows is stimulating and relaxing which caused them to increase their milk production. Mike Nold, Department of Psychology, Missouri Western State University, after playing a radio in the milking parlor, determined that no matter what you change in a cow's daily routine seemed to cause an increase in milk production.
An interesting note (will not necessarily cause a goat to produce more milk but may be a clue of how to get more milk from a goat you happen to be milking): According to Pat's mother, Bertie Hillhouse, you should always wet your hands with warm water prior to milking a cow or a goat. Per an article from the Dairy Science and Technology Department of the University of Guelph, "Milking stimuli, such as a sucking calf, a warm wash cloth, the regime of parlor etc., causes the release of a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is released from the pituitary gland, below the brain, to begin the process of milk let-down. As a result of this hormone stimulation, the muscles begin to compress the alveoli, causing a pressure in the udder known as letdown reflex, and the milk components stored in the lumen are released into the duct system. The milk is forced down into the teat cistern from which it is milked. The let-down reflex fades as the oxytocin is degraded, within 4-7 minutes. It is very difficult to milk after this time."

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Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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