How to Care for Nursing Does
8 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Caring for Pregnant and Nursing Goats
To help a nursing goat stay healthy, you must care for the udder and prevent mastitis. The udder is composed of two halves and is held up by ligaments in the front, back, and sides. Each half has a mammary gland and one teat. Most of the milk is stored in the mammary gland until the udder is stimulated to let it down for kids or for you at milking time.
Good udder care includes these practices:
Following a routine and properly milking the goat to avoid overfilling of or injury to the udder.
Washing and drying the udder and teats before milking to minimize bacteria.
Sanitizing the teats to prevent bacteria from entering the teat canal after milking.
Making food available right after milking to encourage the goat to stand for a while after milking and allow teat canals to close.
Promptly caring for an udder injury if it occurs. Wash a cut or scrape with warm, soapy water and keep an eye on any injury for complications such as mastitis.
Mastitis is usually caused by bacteria, but also may be the result of CAEV. Mastitis is more common in older goats that have developed saggy udders.
Keep an eye out for the signs of mastitis, which include hot, swollen udder; fever; loss of appetite and energy; bloody, stringy, or bad-smelling or -tasting milk; and hard udder. Depending on the severity, the doe may have no signs at all.
You can identify and treat mastitis before it becomes severe by routinely using the California Mastitis Test (CMT), which is available through goat supply catalogs and feed stores. This simple and inexpensive test identifies white cells that signal infection. You just milk a few squirts from each side into a different section of a plastic paddle and add the CMT solution. Then you swirl it around and, if infection is present, the texture changes.
You can help prevent mastitis by properly milking and caring for the udder, regularly cleaning areas where goats spend time lying down, and not bringing goats with contagious diseases into the herd.
When you are tired of milking or have to go on vacation, or when a doe is three months into her pregnancy, you need to dry her off.
To dry off a doe, cut back from milking twice a day to once a day. Then stop milking altogether. She may be ready to stop too, especially if it is winter and she has been milking for a long time. At first her, udder may swell as she accumulates milk that isn't going anywhere, so you might be tempted to milk out a little at a time. Don't do it. Doing nothing protects her from mastitis and is the best thing to do.
If you are drying off a doe because she has mastitis, buy an intramammary antibiotic, such as Tomorrow, and administer it into the affected udder half the last day you milk. Make sure not to start milking before the withholding time is up.