Drying Off Your Milker – We Don’t

The common practice is to dry off your pregnant doe when she is three months along in her pregnancy. However, we ended up doing something different, and feel more comfortable not forcing our does to dry off.

Some believe that if you don’t force dry the doe, you will negatively affect her next lactation. However, there is another camp that believes if you force the doe to dry off, you will negatively affect her next lactation. Both camps say the next lactation will be less if you dry off, or if you don’t dry off. Which do you believe? I guess you just have to do what you are most comfortable with. A recommended method for drying off your doe is to restrict her grain, water, and just stop milking, period. Many believe that the udder must get tight and full, in order to signal the body to stop making milk. This can cause mastitis, and some prophylactically “dry treat” with antibiotics infused into the udder to prevent mastitis. We are not comfortable using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and certainly not into the udder “just in case”.

We originally intended to follow popular method of drying off at 3 months.

64 days gestation: We started a month earlier, to slowly ease Lightning into drying off. We began on December 20th by cutting down on her grain.

66 days gestation: December 22nd, I am not milking her out totally. She is giving us just over 5# daily with two milkings.

76 days gestation: On January 1st, we stopped the morning milking. With 1x a day milking, she continued to give us 2 to 3 pounds. I was very hesitant to follow the popular rule of “just stop milking” the doe in order to dry her up. I discussed my concerns with Irene Ramsay, who explained to me that if a doe has not dried herself up by this time, Irene does not force the doe to dry up. I was mostly worried about causing mastitis, as a common cause of mastitis is the udder getting too full. It doesn’t make any sense to me to force drying up. I know the common theory is the doe needs this time to produce healthy kids, but humans lactate while pregnant and even tandem nurse. Most of the time, the body knows to cut down on the amount of milk being produced.

So we decided to see what would happen, and continued to milk Miss Lightning. Over the next few weeks, her production slowly dropped.

103 days gestation: By January 28th, she was under 2 pounds.

112 days gestation: When she dropped to 1.1# on the 6th of February, we went to milking every other day.

121 days gestation: She gave us 3/10th of a pound on the 15th, and at this point we stopped milking her.

Lightning’s first lactation lasted 339 days. She produced 1704# of milk. Her daily average up to milking once daily was (1704 divided by 293 days) was 5.81#. Note: We pulled Lightning’s first kids, and bottle fed them, so we were able to get accurate amounts of her milk production from day 1.

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