People ask me all the time why I chose to raise dairy goats instead of dairy cows. There are two main reasons – the milk itself and the animals themselves. After owning and milking a Jersey cow, it quickly became obvious that our family much preferred goats. I’ll discuss why we like goats as animals better in this article and why I prefer goat milk over cow milk in another article.
Dairy goats are smaller than cows. An average full-sized female dairy goat weighs about 140-180 pounds, whereas a female Jersey cow can weigh between 800 and 1000 pounds and a female Holstein can weigh 1300 pounds. This smaller size makes them easier and safer to handle. This is very important since my children are involved with the milking animals. It also makes them easier to transport if you need to take them to the vet or to be bred.
Dairy goats are easier to get bred. Have you ever been around a bull? They can be scary and dangerous. Not something that I wanted to deal with, and definitely not something I wanted my young children around. It requires a trailer (which we don’t have) to bring a cow to another farm for breeding. Bucks (male goat) are much safer to handle (although you still need to be careful) and goats can be transported in a car or truck and don’t require a trailer.
Dairy goats require less land and are easier on the pasture. Because they are smaller in size, they don’t need as much land to feed them. They are also able to thrive on weedy pastures and wooded areas. Their smaller body and hoof sizes also mean that they don’t do as much damage to the ground.
Dairy goats have more kids and can have them at a younger age. It takes two years before a dairy cow can have her first calf. That’s a lot of feed and care before you get any milk. A properly raised dairy goat can have her first kids when she is just one year old. And because goats tend to have multiple kids with each gestation, the herd can grow much faster and produce more offspring for sale.
Dairy goats cost less than dairy cows. Your initial investment is less which is always a good thing. And if you raise animals for long, you’re going to eventually lose some. It always hurts emotionally to lose an animal, but the financial impact is less when you lose a goat over a cow.
Dairy goats are more efficient than dairy cows at making milk. You’ll get less total milk from a dairy goat (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on your needs), but the goat will be more efficient at converting feed to milk than a cow.
Dairy goats are cleaner than cows. Cows are much more likely to poop during milking than goats. Which wouldn’t be so bad except that a cow patty splatters, which is gross. Especially when compared to goat manure which is little round balls that are easily swept up.
Those are the main reasons why we rationally chose goats over cows. The irrational reason is that there is nothing cuter and more playful than baby goats. Baby cows simply can’t compare. If I’m going to put time, money, and energy into raising animals, it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy and play with baby animals that are adorable.
I will admit that there are times that I miss the cream that separated off of my Jersey cow’s milk. But as I’ll talk about another time, part of what makes goat milk healthier for you than cow milk is the fact that the cream doesn’t separate.
Those are the reasons we choose to raise dairy goats. There are other homesteaders who prefer to raise cows. I’m glad that we were able to try both animals to determine from personal experience that dairy goats are the right animal for us.
What about you? Do you have any experience with either animal or have a preference?