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Dairy Goats vs Cows for the Home/Family
May 8, 2011
10:05 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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I'm interested in hearing from all of you who have had dairy animals in a home or small “hobby farm” venue: 

What do you like best – cow or goats?  And why?

Pros & Cons of each?

 Have any experience with feeding/keeping by organic principles? 

May 8, 2011
12:19 pm
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lavenderblue
WNY
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Leah's mom,  Sorry. I don't have either. And I'm sure everyone here is getting sick of hearing me whine about it shame-on-you .  But, I have been planning a farm since I was seventeen years old. A looooooooong, long time ago.

In order to make a decision about this, I think you need to take into account how much land you have, the price of feed, and what you hope to use your animal for. I think dairy goats are more efficient milk producers, meaning the amount of milk you get compared to the amount of feed you dole out to your livestock is higher for goats than cows.

If you are just hoping for family use, you need less land for a goat than a cow. But, I have also heard that dairy goats are happiest when there is more than one.  I don't know if it is that much more expensive to keep two or not.

It is hard to get butter from goat's milk, it comes homogenized straight from the goat, I guess. It can be done, but takes longer, I've heard. I don't even know if you can get cream to whip or not.

And, having only drank goat's milk once, (yes, as much as I love goats I've only tasted the milk once) I found it rather strong. Maybe it was not kept right. A friend left some for me one day when I was not at home. I drank it, I didn't die, so always assumed that that was how it tastes. A little like liquid Romano cheese.

I have, however, homemade goat's milk cheese and fudge and would always keep goats, if I could, for those two things alone, not to mention soap made with goat milk is super creamy. I am a goat fan, could you tell.

As far as cow's milk, I was raised on the neighbor's cow's milk when I was small and a far as I can remember, it was like store bought only much, much richer. Even when skimmed for the cream. And you can see from Suzanne's posts all the wonderful things you can do with that. You just need more feed and more land to do it.

I am sure other people on here know a great, great deal more about it than I, but I had to chime in with my two cents worth.

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.  Ogden Nash

May 8, 2011
12:33 pm
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lavenderblue
WNY
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Oh, another thing that I forgot, but did consider on the “Cow Shopping” thread… I'm short, about 5 ft. tall on a good day and old(er) LOL!  So size does matter. I don't think I could handle Suzanne's Glory Bee, at all. More docile BP, maybe. But I would get a smaller size cow, if I could. Remember, if you want milk, there must be babies and you may be required to assist with the birth at some point in time. Getting squashed up against a wall by something as big as BP does not sound like fun.

Good discussion on the “Cow Shopping” thread, too. Buckeye Girl and Flatlander are a goldmine of knowledge.

Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.  Ogden Nash

May 8, 2011
4:03 pm
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twiggityNDgoats
Spencer, WV
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Lavenderblue pointed out some good things.  I'll add my two cents.  I think it really does depend on space, how comfortable you are with animals and how much milk you need.

 

We have Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats (same as Suzanne's goats).  We started with Nubians and decided we wanted smaller animals.  We keep 5 milking does in a small barn with a 50 x100 yard.  We let them out to free range brambles, weeds and grass  on our farm occasionally but grass hay (along with alfalfa pellets and grain when in milking) is their primary diet.  Rattle a food dish and they come running back to the barn.

There are two of us in our family and they are currently milking just shy of a quart a day as first fresheners and are still feeding babies to various degrees. I expect production to be about 1 to 1 1/2 quarts a day average this year with more production next year.   We have a milk stand inside our back door near the goat pen and they just come in, jump on the stand and go back out when done.  Very easy! They are also clean and don't tend to pee and poop while milking.  The Nigerian milk is high in butterfat and protein and has a very mild creamy taste.  I was skeptical of goats milk because I had some I didn't care for but I LOVE this milk!!  

 

We love our goats because of their small size and amiable personalities.  If I need to take one somewhere I can put one in a dog crate in my Subaru.  Breeding bucks are not intimidating if handled regularly and taught basic manners.  I don't know cows at all so I think it boils down to what fits you needs, farm, and comfort level the best.  Lavenderblue is also correct in that you do need more than one goat because they need a friend.  

May 8, 2011
9:12 pm
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Suzanne McMinn
Sassafras Farm in Roane County, WV
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A few goats are very inexpensive to keep.  You could easily keep a couple does and one buck on a very small farm with little expense and little space, especially if you went with a smaller breed such as the Nigerians.  So money and space are two things.  The milk and dairy products are another.  I have both dairy goats and a cow.  You just can't get from goats what you can get from a cow in terms of the dairy.  Hands down, a cow wins. It's too much from a cow, of course, so it's either feast or famine, LOL.  Not enough from a goat, too much from a cow, take your pick.  But, while I love goat milk and goat cheese, I would take butter and cream from a cow any day.  If you want butter and cream, you need a cow.  But, a cow is a LOT MORE WORK than a goat, so there is a lot to consider.  I would advise anyone to NOT take the acquisition of a cow lightly.  It is a commitment, much more so than getting a goat.  If you want it to be, a goat can be a pet.  Costs about the same to feed as a dog.  A cow is NOT a pet, never will be.  A cow is a JOB.  That said, I love my cow.  And my goats.  Don't make me choose. happy-flower

Clover made me do it.

May 8, 2011
11:15 pm
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Miss Judy
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My son doesn't have a cow because of the time and committment. His family loves fresh cows milk and have been tempted to get one but…common sense won out. Not only do you have to be committed to milking EVERY day… TWICE a day, you have to have someone reliable who can step in while you are on vacation or out of town. You can usually find someone to come to feed and check on your animals but not just anyone can milk “Old Jerse”!

May 9, 2011
1:13 am
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mtnkids
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As someone else said, here's my two cents.

 

I currently have both dairy goats and a dairy cow. I am beginning to feel that I prefer the goats to the cow in some ways, but not enough to make me get rid of the cow, or even stop milking her.

 

My cow was a first time freshener just a couple months ago. I am share milking, and getting a gallon and a half per day, sometimes 2. Way more than enough for our family of 8. The goats do not produce as much, obviously. So in this way, the cow wins.

 

The products I can make out of the cream from the cows milk far outweigh the goats. I do not want to spend money on a cream seperator. Again, the cow wins.

 

Heres where the goats win in a big way. They are gently, they are easy to handle, easy to move, they may sort of hurt me on accident, but they aren't going to kill me on accident. Which my cow almost has. My cow has kicked when learning to milk, she has run at me and my daughter while trying to get a goat away from her baby. The goats could do that till the cows come home (hawhaw) and we would be okay. If the cow got a piece of me, different story.

 

I am hoping she will come around. She is tame, she eats grain from my hand, she sticks her head in the hole to get milked. Then she will “hip” me and knock a full pail of milk in my lap. Anyways. I feel, as a woman, that goats are far more manageable. Especially for someone as new to a dairy cow as I am. (I grew up raising beef cattle who ate from my hand, just never had to stand between their legs every morning :) )

May 9, 2011
8:29 am
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Suzanne McMinn
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There =are= ways to make keeping a family cow easier, by the way.  They involve some cash outlay, so not something to do starting off, but if you have a cow for awhile and know you are committed, then there are some things you can do to make it easier for you.  And believe me, at this point I'm starting to save my pennies and consider them seriously. Such as a milking machine, a home pasteurizer, a cream separator, etc.  You might want to eventually do one or two or all of those things.  (I will start with a milking machine.)

 

Also, you have to accept that you can't always use all the milk.  Learn to make everything that can be made–butter, yogurt, hard and soft cheeses, ice cream, and so on.  Then let the rest GO.  Thinking you HAVE to use all the milk from the cow would be like if you decided to make some dandelion jelly and thought you had to pick every dandelion on the planet.  It's okay to let some of the dandelions just die, LOL.  It's okay to toss the milk to the dogs, the chickens, pigs if you have them, or I like the idea someone suggested in the comments recently of mixing milk with water to feed the trees and fruit bushes, etc.  Use what you need and let the rest go….  Though, if I'm not going to use milk (for us), I do always set it and take the cream!  I never toss cream……

 

Much as I love my goats, I can't give up what I get from a cow, and you just can't get it from goats.  But, I'm definitely moving in the direction of finding easier ways to handle things.  (A milking machine, by the way, also makes it easier to leave the cow for a trip as it's easier to train someone to use the machine than to adequately milk out a cow.  A calf also makes that possible–I left Glory Bee fulltime with BP while I went to South Carolina.)

Clover made me do it.

May 9, 2011
9:05 am
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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Suzanne – will you get a “bucket milker“?  I've seen those and thought that's what I'd do if I had a cow.  Not having experience with the bucket milker, however, I'd like to hear from those that do in case there's a better way!

Another question – can you use the same milker on a cow as on goats with a different attachment that fits the differing teet sizes?

 

Also…

Re Nigerian Dwarfs – someone once told me that their teets were so small that it was hard to milk and hurt their hands so they had to get rid of them for a larger breed.  Whats your experience with that?  (I AM hoping that whatever I get I will be able to use a bucket milker – or some kind of milker.)

 

And…I DEFINITELY like the cow milk for the cream, cheese, etc.  So far I've been purchasing all my raw milk for cheesemaking and I'm getting it at the rate of about 8 gal/week to include enough for drinking, cheese, and a few people that want me to pick them up some every once in awhile. 

May 9, 2011
9:10 am
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Suzanne McMinn
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I'm still researching milking machines, so I don't know yet.  Re cows and goats and the same machine, I'm not sure about that either because I just don't know enough yet, but I don't think so!

 

Milking Clover doesn't hurt my hands.  Their teats ARE much smaller, but that's not really a problem, just an adjustment.  You don't need to use all your fingers….  LOL.

Clover made me do it.

May 9, 2011
11:55 am
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twiggityNDgoats
Spencer, WV
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I have a milking machine made for goats from Hoegger Supply.  There are lots of models and styles to choose from.  Not sure about switching back and forth from cows to goats on one machine  since I have no experience with cows.  Mine is a 6 quart belly pail system which works well for milking my Nigerians. It milks out my goats in 2 to 3 minutes.  It also works well if you want to weigh your milk because you can empty it after each goat if you want or what I do is weigh it after each milking so I can track my pooled production.  What I really like about it is that it about the size of a pressure cooker and is easy to wash in the sink or dishwasher and lots of folks don't want to lug around a 3 gallon tote full of milk.  The milk lines are only about 1 foot long so clean up is very easy.  

 

Nigerian teat size vary quite a bit.  I have no problem milking any of mine by hand and I do that frequently when I want to track individual production. It just takes a different technique and uses mostly the thumb and forefinger.  I did want a way to have someone else milk if I wasn't home hence I got a milking machine.   As someone told me ” I'm not buying a milking machine, I'm buying a vacation!”    It does speed things up quite a bit though and is good if your hands get tired easily.  I think Suzanne must have a grip like steel from all that cow milking :-)

May 9, 2011
2:37 pm
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MaryMooCow
Mi
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While cows are bigger and more intimidating to handle, their fencing is FAR more simple and cheaper than for goats. We throw up one strand of electric wire. They won't ever challenge it after one shock. Doesn't matter if it is off, falls down and is laying on the ground or is above their heads, they won't bother taking any risks with it. Simple minded big beasts as they are. Goats, however, will always, always be challenging whatever they are in and no matter what it is, they will get out eventually and can cause a lot of damage to gardens or young orchards.

 

Goats are definitely easier to milk/handle. My brother did the milking and caring for a heard of six milking goats when he was only seven completely by himself. Now we also have cows and our teenage boys handle their milkings while my little twelve yr old sister is very happy for the chore of milking our three goats (she loves it). So, your choice will definitely depend on your milker. Cows are gentle creatures once they know you, but can be bullish getting to know you. Goats are a pain to own but sweet for younger kids to handle.

We don't use stanchions or stools for either dairy animal. The animals come to know their milker and are happy to just stand in the field for them. They will throw a fit if a different milker takes over the task, but only for the first few days. A young, first time freshening cow will need to be tied for the first several milkings depending on her prior human interaction.

 

Right now we're getting around eight gallons of milk from our three cows and three quarts from our goats a day. So that's a lot to process. We're making cheese every other day and that's about 20 jars and lids to hand wash each time, plus six milk buckets with poopy bottoms, several straining clothes and lots of other unmentioned mess. I don't mean to discourage you–we absolutely love our animals and chores, mess included–but be aware of what you're getting into and the work involved when you make your decision. It's a lot for one person to handle alone.

 

But, honestly, it's a really wonderful life. My siblings always feel very fulfilled bringing in their pails of milk, while Mom gets her gratification out of cheese making and I really do feel good about my contribution: dirty milk bucket washing! Haha. :) SOOO happy to own our own dairy girls!! sleepy-cowsleepy-cow

 

Blessings,
Mary

http://lundkids.blogspot.com

May 9, 2011
4:38 pm
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Jersey Lady
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Howdy-I love my bucket milker even though I am able to milk by hand. I wrote about cleaning it over on the thread about Shopping for a Cow so I won't repeat that.

A milker makes it easier for other people to take care of the cow if you have to have a sub sometimes. I am glad that I have the milker because my cow gives a lot of milk so there is the time factor as well as if my hands don't work as well in the future as I age. Not everyone has the strenghth or size in their hands to milk out 6-8 gallons a day. Using a milker also lets you milk a cow that might not have the ideal teats for hand milking. Our cow's back teats are closer together and shorter than her front ones.

You can use the same milker for cows and goats but the teat cup part is different because of the body differences between the animals.

I see lots of milkers on Ebay so if you are in the market, that is one place to look.Ask around.You never know who may have a portable they are not using anymore.If you do not know who to ask, talk to your vet or 4-H leaders or Extension Agent. Another good way is to pluck up your courage and stop in at any dairy farms in your area. Just say you're looking for a portable milker and do they know anyone who might be able to help you. If you came to our place, my DH would have a couple people to suggest in our neck of the woods.

May 9, 2011
7:21 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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So, JL, where is your neck of the woods?  moo

I also read the other thread – waiting to hear what your DH finds on the specifics. 

May 9, 2011
11:26 pm
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Leah's Mom
Northern Indiana
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I am WAY INTERESTED in the miniature Jerseys.  What I've seen really attracts me including having the great Jersey milk & cream in a smaller, easier to handle animal that can pasture on a smaller farm setting.

Does anyone reading this have any experience w/a miniature (lesser)?  Is it possible to purchase one for a family cow that is in milk that has experience being milked for a person that is new to milking & raising cattle? 

I have looked around on web sites but really like the idea of hearing from people with real experience and like to learn a LOT before moving forward with an endeavor like this.  (I remember a parable about “counting the cost” before “building the building”…)

I'm going to post this on the other thread too (Buying a Cow)

May 10, 2011
2:25 am
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Journey11
Mt. Alto, WV
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Wow, I've learned a lot on this thread.  I *want* a cow, but I have no where to put a cow right now.  But I think I can accommodate a couple of goats here.  We're planning to fence off about 1/8th of an acre for a pair of Nigerian Dwarfs.  Do you think that's enough space?  Of course, I'll be buying their hay.  Also, are there any other small sized dairy goat breeds?  I thought I'd read something somewhere about mini nubians, but I forget where I saw it.

My husband really wants to get Dexter cattle someday.  Even they're too big for us on one acre (stupid septic system takes up too much space.)  Maybe one of these days…. If I can ever get my hands on about 50 acres of good farm land, I will be one happy woman.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do , do it with thy might…

(Ecc. 9:10a)

May 10, 2011
4:44 am
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twiggityNDgoats
Spencer, WV
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All dairy breeds have been “downsized” to a mini breed.  They are created by crossing a Nigerian Dwarf buck with a full size dairy goat.  The goal is to meet the breed standard of the the full-sized goat (Nubian, Alpine, Lamancha etc.) but in a bit smaller package.  It takes 6 generations to created a mini but there are F1 through F5 crosses that make fine dairy animals. They just don't always meet the breed standard.  More info can be found here: http://www.miniaturedairygoats.com 

I think a 1/8 acre space would be adequate to keep your goats since your planning on feeding them hay.  I really think goats are a great way to start with dairying and do make fun companions as well.  

 

I see you're not very far from us (we're in Spencer, WV).  We're currently milking four (soon to be 5) Nigerians.  You're welcome to come visit our farm to talk goats, see how we house our Nigerians and see how they milk. 

May 10, 2011
1:49 pm
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Journey11
Mt. Alto, WV
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Thanks for the link, Twiggity!  I love the look of the Nubians, but I am trying to be practical in choosing a breed and not base it just on looks!  happy-butterfly  I checked out your website and I would love to come see your goats some time.  I bought Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats last year and have been trying to study up on them well before I take the plunge.  I had a friend who got 2 Alpines awhile back and found herself overwhelmed and sold them.  If I'd had things set up at the time, I probably would have bought them off of her. 

My little girl is a chicken-hugger.  I know she'd be in heaven with a couple of goat kids to hang out with.  :)

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do , do it with thy might…

(Ecc. 9:10a)

May 10, 2011
2:41 pm
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twiggityNDgoats
Spencer, WV
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The mini nubians are cute aren't they!  FYI, I will have some Nigerians at the Heritage Days Festival in downtown Spencer on June 11 from about 9am until 3pm or so.  Our farm is about 7 miles east of Spencer and we'd love to have you come visit anytime, just shoot me an email or give us a call.  

 

Human kids just love the Nigerian kids because they are just the right size for children.  One five-year-old girl that bought two bottle-fed kids this spring took her kids to pre-school for show and tell and was a big hit. 

 

A great web resource for learning about all things goat is http://www.fiascofarm.com.

May 10, 2011
3:03 pm
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Suzanne McMinn
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I would love to see your setup sometime!  I would milk Clover again if I get a milking machine.  She is such a kicker, I can't bring myself to go through the ordeal of hand-milking her again.  Nutmeg is too short to be a good milker.  She is like trying to milk a rug, she is so low to the ground.  It's a wonder Dr. Pepper could get under there!  LOL!

Clover made me do it.

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