I am so, so glad we added dairy goats to our homestead even if it was only for a short while. But, adding them definitely came with its share of obstacles to overcome. If you’re considering adding dairy goats (or any milking animal for that matter) to your homestead, you need to take a lot into consideration. Because it ain’t easy.
I knew we wanted a source of fresh milk on our homestead. Goat milk around here goes for upwards of $9 per quart. Per quart. That’s absolute insanity to me and completely unsustainable for my pocketbook. Cows milk is roughly $8 a gallon. Which is cheaper, but still not sustainable.
We sourced some non-homogenized, lightly pasteurized milk that we used for a loooong time, but we had to drive a long ways to get it, it was still almost as expensive as $8 at $6.50 and we couldn’t always get it. So, we wanted our own source of dairy.
I was so excited to bring our goats home, and I did tons of homework before we made the addition. But, no matter how much you prepare there are a few things that you just won’t quite understand until you actually add the dairy goats to your farm.
I don’t regret bringing dairy goats home at all, but they weren’t for us, at least not the breed we selected and not at the time we wound up bringing them to our homestead. So, I want everyone to make well-informed decisions and realize that while they do provide a decent source of milk, there are many, many things to take into consideration before taking the leap.
6 Truths About Dairy Goats You Need to Know
1. You Need a Schedule
Dairy goats require tending to at specific times, every day. Especially when they’re in milk. You have to be around at milk o’clock every day, twice a day, no matter what. If you want to go do something you either need to arrange for a farm sitter, or you have to be back by milk o’clock every evening. There is no sleeping in, you have to get up and milk that goat every single morning regardless of when you went to bed the night before.
While this isn’t necessarily a problem, and many of us have schedules we live by… it brings a whole new meaning to being tied down. I want to take my children to celebrate an event like their birthdays and we have to do it around the goats schedule until I can find a farm sitter. Not a huge deal most of the time, but it is a change.
2. They Waste a Lot of Hay
A lot of hay is wasted by goats. I love when people say that goats will eat anything and everything. That could not be further from the truth. They are some of the world’s pickiest eaters. Since they waste a ton of hay (I wish I was exaggerating), I find other uses for it. But, it gets wasted none the less and hay costs money. Sometimes a lot of money, so be prepared to be in excess of perfectly good hay that your goats won’t touch with a ten foot pole.
3. Dairy Goats are Loud
Oh my can our goats make a ruckus. The first few days here, they were incredibly boisterous. An older neighbor that lives clear across two roads heard our goats. All the way across our yard, the road, a pasture, and another road. That’s pretty dang loud, if you ask me. He thought it was a child hollering for a couple of days until he finally realized “those kids over there got some goats.”
Guinea fowl are loud and these goats give them a run for their money. They’ve gotten quieter as they’ve adjusted to our homestead, but Misty still lets me know when it’s milk o’clock in no uncertain terms and they all make me audibly aware of their presence when I’m outside and they catch a glimpse of me or they’ve thrown all of their hay on the ground.
4. You’ll Probably Need Several to Meet Your Dairy Needs
Let me preface this by saying, dairy production is actually measured by weight, not volume, but for the sake of this post we will just make it simple and use volume.
Some goat owners tell me how their first fresheners (first time in milk) are producing a half gallon or more a day. That’s great for them, but from what I’m seeing amongst most owners, it is not the norm in a miniature breed (full sized dairy breeds are a different story).
Each time a goat freshens, she will produce more milk, but that doesn’t mean she will ever be super productive. Most miniature breeds produce much less than the typical modern homesteading family needs. So, you’ll need several of them to meet your needs, especially if you choose a miniature dairy goat breed.
5. Thankfully, They’re Cute
Goats are awesome. They have all sorts of antics, hop around, and are just flat out adorable. There really is never a dull moment with goats on the homestead. Which is great, because I’m not into having boring animals that waste hay, can be loud, tie me down to sticking around or finding a farm sitter, and I need several of to keep up with the needs of my family.
They’re so much fun to have around. They’re personable and friendly. They love to be scratched and brushed. They like finding their way into things, climbing, and all other sorts of fun stuff. They’re really a great addition to any homestead, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into first.
6. Do Your Homework Before You Buy
Not only do you need to pick a dairy goat breed that will best suit your needs and situation, make sure you’re buying from a reputable breeder and from a good dairy line. Not all goats are created equal. Some have amazing lines behind them, some… you’ll be lucky to get. a pint out at peak production.
Learn how to look at a pedigree, make sure you ask tons of questions about their lineage, ask for milk test records, and make sure your breeder is a good one and you’ll do just fine. Sometimes, it’s worth it to wait. A lot of reputable breeders take deposits a year in advance in order to reserve the best of the best. I put a deposit on our goats last year and wasn’t even assured a doeling because so many others had a deposit in before me.
7. Goat Poop is Awesome
I know poop… it’s gross. But goat poop is amazing, y’all. If ever you can get excited about feces, goat poop will do it for you. It’s incredibly easy to gather up using a rake and a trash scooper. It’s dried, it has no real odor. It doesn’t attract flies or maggots like cow or chicken manure does. And the best part about goat poop?
You can apply it directly to your garden.
No joke. It doesn’t have to be composted (though composted goat manure is an amazing amendment as well). You can apply it directly to your garden and all of the garden goodies you have. It won’t burn your plants. And it’s fantastic for your soil. So, there you have it. Goat poop = awesomeness.
I love that we had the opportunity to add goats to our homestead. I wouldn’t trade the experiences we had for anything in the world. And we may eventually jump back in to the world of dairy goats when life isn’t quite so harried. Though, I do believe we will find pasture land and keep a cow before I go into goats again, you never know.
I still wouldn’t change it and we learned a lot of valuable lessons while they were on our homestead. Just make sure, if you’re considering goats, that you do your homework. They can be amazing animals, but they can also be an incredible amount of work and the trade off isn’t always all that great.
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