When first investigating dairy goat breeds for Bramblestone farm, my initial assumption was that Nigerian Dwarf goats were too small to machine milk. And since my partner and I were both working full-time back then, this made me a bit hesitant about considering the breed. Although they appeared to be ideal from many other aspects, I was concerned about our ability to milk them.
Then, I attended my first dairy goat show, and was shocked when I saw the owner of a nationally recognized herd put a Nigerian Dwarf goat on a milking stand and proceed to machine milk her. This breeder had a pretty large string of goats with her at that show, and I was amazed at how quickly she milked them all. Although I intended to hand milk, the possibility that they could be machine milked may have been the final straw in choosing which breed of goat we would raise on our farm!
So, Nigerian Dwarf goats can be either hand or machine milked, it just depends on what’s best for your situation. But if you’re choosing does or doelings for your first goats, you should keep in mind what method you plan to use. If you’re planning to machine milk your goats, then the size of their teats and whether they’ve come from a herd that has been bred for hand milking isn’t a big issue. If, however; you’re planning to hand milk, then teat size and hand milking bloodlines are an important consideration.
No one warned me about choosing goats that came from lines bred for hand milking. So, the very first goat I chose had very small teats, and she didn’t express her milk easily. A first freshener with tiny teats that doesn’t want to give up her milk can be a very frustrating goat to learn to milk. If I’d known what to look for then, I probably never would have purchased her. Fortunately, I didn’t and she became a foundational doe for our herd. But we quickly gave up on the idea of hand milking. She grew into a conformationally beautiful doe, easily earned her milking stars, did extremely well in linear appraisal, and was the first of our does to earn her Superior Genetics designation. But I never recommended her or her daughters to those intending to hand milk.
The story of our first experience just highlights that if you’re determined to hand milk your goats, you should find out whether they are from herds that are being hand milked, and bloodlines that have selected characteristics that make hand milking easier. Things like larger teat size and goats that express their milk easily and quickly. Even though we machine milk, I prefer to select goats from hand milking bloodlines because I know many of our customers do desire to hand milk, and I want to produce kids that will get them off on the right track.
If you’re choosing a doe, obviously you can examine her to determine teat size and ask questions about the milking bloodlines in her pedigree. If the owner hand milks the doe you’re interested in, it would be a good time to get a first lesson in milking her before purchasing her. If it’s a doeling, then doing the same thing with her dam is always a good idea. Dams and daughters often have very similar characteristics when it comes to milking. And when selecting herdsires, remember that they too will determine whether the offspring will have good hand milking characteristics. If milk is one of the reasons you’re considering purchasing Nigerian Dwarf does or doelings, just make sure that their characteristics will fit with your milking plans.