First off, I am NOT an expert. By ANY means! I read a lot, and I have some goats, and I lucked into some *really* good ones. The problem is, books don't tell you everything you really need to know....and when I was researching, I couldn't find anything on what a home dairy goat needs to be like. (Not saying that's not out there - I just couldn't find it!)
This post is Ali's fault - she said in a comment a couple of weeks ago that every goat you buy - especially one in milk - is somebody's cull. The trick is to find out WHY they are getting rid of THAT goat.
The first thing I did when we decided we might want goats was run out and buy "Storey's Guide to Dairy Goats"/"Raising Dairy Goats the Modern Way" (same book, different print runs). It's a good overview...but now that I *have* goats, I realize that it's pretty crap on actual knowledge. :sigh: It skims over important stuff (like preventative cocci treatments/copper bolusing/worming schedules/CAE prevention....stuff that's really important, especially to someone who wants to actually *drink* thier goat milk!), and the knowledge it imparts isn't as comprehensive as it looks on first (or 5th!) read. That's not my beef with it - you can find info on the web or in other books to supplement it; what I don't like is that NONE of the books I have show the types of dairy goats the average homeowner is going to see.
On the web, you'll see LOTS of udder shots (and, an aside - am I the only person that thinks this is a little weird? Pictures of goat boobs? I felt "dirty" when I was taking photos for this post!) - but honestly? Most home dairy people couldn't AFFORD those goats - they are showing prize-winning udders, and the more wins, the more $$$$ they're gonna charge for that goat or it's offspring (let's not mention that some prize-winning udders don't milk worth a damn, OK?)
(Oh - and don't believe the stats. Books told me that - on Average - Nubians give about a gallon a day. Well, after talking to folks on DGI, turns out *most* Nubians give 1/2 gallon a day. I'm glad I decided to estimate low when I was trying to decide how many goats I wanted! Keep that in mind - assume you'll get maybe 1/2 of what the seller is telling you, that way you won't be surprised when you start keeping records.)
I want to rectify that. I have 6 goats in milk right now. I'm only milking the 3 "real" dairy goats, but I took photos of 5 of them (the 6th one? Mocha? Is *identical* to Annie. They're half-sisters AND cousins, so it's not surprising. I figured I didn't need to take up bandwidth with photos that would be almost identical.) so you could see what you'll probably encounter when you go shopping.
If anyone out there has any comments/suggestions, please feel free! Again, I'm not an expert here - I just want to share what I've learned so you don't make the same mistakes I did (Oooh, isn't she CUTE?! I want her! :snicker:)
Note: These photos were taken about 4 hours before the evening milking. Generally speaking, you won't be going to look at goats during the milking sessions; the AM one is too early for most people, and the PM one is usually around the normal dinner time. Chances are, you'll be at the farm around 1 PM or so.....so that's what I wanted to show. And - none of my goats have show-quality udders. These are all home milkers.
First up: the Cashmeres. Or, what to try and avoid, if possible. You *can* milk these goats - I have. You can get a goodly amount of milk daily from them. But...these are NOT ideal udders:
LaDue: First side, then rear view.
Sunny: Again, first side, then rear.
OK. Of these 3, Zorra has the best looking udder - but that's because she's half Nubian. Her udder still isn't ideal - the teats are slightly offset, they're skinny, and it's hard to hand-milk her. LaDue's udder is a bit pendulous - it hangs low to the ground, running the risk of her stepping on it, or getting it caught on wire. Sunny's isn't as bad a Dewey's, but it's still hanging down there.
Sunny has better front attachments than Dewey (don't know if you can really see that in the photos - I did my best!) - her udder is held up closer to her body. Her teats are longer, and easier to milk.....but they're kinda offset a bit, too. Zorra has the best attachment of the 3 - but it could be better. (You'll see. :grin:)
Of the 3, Dewey is the only one that's been milked before - she was giving almost a gallon a day. I have to confess that I HAVEN'T been milking these 3, so I can't comment on udder capacity; judging by kid size I'd have to say that Dewey has the most milk, then Zorra, then Sunny (but that's just a guess. Jayne is *40* pounds at a little over a month old, the other 2 does are nursing twins. And Saffron (Dewey's youngest) noshes off of *everybody*, as does Jayne.)
If these 3 were the ones I had to choose from.....Zorra would be my first pick, because of the dairy-ness of her udder. However - I'd want to milk her first (something I have learned!) - her orifaces are weird; 1 points almost backwards while the other one aims off to the right. You can't *see* that, you have to test it. Plus, her teats are offset - you can't tell by looking, I only found that out when I put her on the stand to milk her. I had to hunt for the right udder *behind* the left one. Sunny's are both aimed almost straight on; Dewey's are pretty much straight as well. None of the 3 are easy to milk, though - it *can* be done (I have tried all 3, but I haven't tried to fill the pail, as they say.)(Although, on previewing this post, I think Sunny's udder looks better in the photos than Zorra's does! In real life, however, Zorra's really is the better udder of the 2 - when full, Sunny's teats point almost straight ahead, and hang down below her hocks a bit.)
Moving on, let's look at the real Dairy goats, OK?
First up, Rosa. She's an American Alpine, and she's currently giving us right at 7 pounds of milk/day. (A gallon is 8 pounds):
You'll notice she's SKINNY. I am feeding her - honest! - but this is typical of a good dairy goat. Most of the feed is going to milk production, not fat.
Annie(and Mocha) - Nubian. Spoiled rotten. :lol:
Sorry about the angle on the rear shot - she kept moving on me. Annie is averaging 4.25 pounds/day right now. (Which is actually *good* for a Nubian, especially a first freshener!)
Anyway.....you'll notice Rosa's udder is more triangular, and Annie's is more compact. Rosa's teats are "sausage teats" - and they are hard for me (small hands!) to milk. The kids can't milk her at all. Her orifaces are also small (had we milked her first, we probably wouldn't have bought her - it takes ForEver to milk her out!). She also has a...thing....in her udder on the right side. I don't know how to describe it..it's sort of hard and spongey at the same time, and it's sorta square-ish. LSU said no mastitis, so I dunno. It's weird. Still, it's a good udder, overall - she could be improved in her front and side attachments, but her udder doesn't swing, it doesn't sag, and the teats are held up safely away from the ground. The back shot isn't ideal; I think if you enlarge it you'll see that her teats are pretty much straight down, but the tips are slightly angled outwards. That doesn't seem to affect the milk-ablilty; what does is those fat teats! :lol:
Annie, now - Annie has the perfect-to-me udder. Tight front attachement, nice, high rear attachement, and tight side attachments. Both teats are nicely-sized, and the orifaces face straight down, making it easy to milk. Yes, I'm biased - but the breeder has been working on udders for *years*. We lucked into these Nubians - because they are stunted. Both of them supposedly didn't get enough grain while they were growing. I dunno, but that's OK. They both produce enough to keep my family in milk. (Just not enough for milk/cheese/butter/soap :lol:) You'll notice Annie is a little....round. Not fat - you can still feel her ribs and hip bones - but she's not hurting in the feed department. And...she's only getting 2 cups of feed per day, plus hay and browse. (I might need to re-think her diet.....although I'm happy with her production.)
I didn't take photos of Inara or Dulcinea - you really can't tell much about how they will turn out. I don't know anything about Alpine genetics, but Inara comes from fantastic milk lines (Pruittville and KJ Farms!). Hopefully, both will turn out to be outstanding milkers...we'll see.
If you're going to buy an unproven doe, do some homework first. Check DGI for any talk about the particular pedigree, find the breeder's website, and see what sort of bragging they do. I can "vouch" for Lonesome Doe Nubians, Pruittville Nubians, and Caprine Beings, but that's only because I've been talking with them via DGI (They breed mostly for milk, showing is just extra). There are a *lot* of good milkers out there, so don't be in a rush to buy. Also be prepared to pay $$$ for good milk genetics - I paid $250 for Inara, and was happy to do so. (And I am petrified something will happen to her before she freshens, so...) We paid $250 for Rosa, in comparison. I've seen some does in milk listed for as much as $650 - which is way out of my league! (We only paid $100 for Dulcinea, for example.....Goliad, our Alpine buckling was sorta thrown in the mix. :lol:)
Whatever you do, please *DEMAND* to see proof of CAE-negative tests on whatever you buy. If you're buying a youngling (under 6 months), verify that all kids are removed at birth (even better if they lute the does to induce labor, making sure that they will kid when it's convienent for the people) and fed heat-treated colostrum/milk (aka CAE Prevention). Make SURE that they practise *REAL* prevention - no pooling postive and negative milk, no access to positve does...seriously. Don't mess around with CAE - it's basically goat AIDS. (Inara came from a farm with both positive and negative goats. I'll be pulling blood on her in a few months to make sure she's negative. Rosa tested negative in 12/08, but I'll be re-testing her and Dulcinea and Goliad at the same time I do Inara. The test is like $7 - well worth the peace of mind!)
I'm sure I missed something...but this at least gives an idea of what NOT to look for. :lol:
I hope this helps somebody. Again, if anyone has any helpful comments/suggestions, bring 'em on! I'll add to this - hey, I wish I had found something like this when I was researching. While we still would have bought the Cashmeres, we wouldn't have planned on milking them.
ETA Ali has a page with her girls' udders, too - more things to look for. She was smart, though - she included her hand in each photo. :duh: Keeps things in scale. :mumble: I don't know why I didn't think of that!