Why Goats?

It all started this past spring when I was thinking goat thoughts.

Again.

I’ve been thinking goat thoughts on and off for several years. I’d ponder it every so often, mention it to Travis in passing, and then it would get dropped in lieu of more pressing matters, like. . .did I remember to thaw out the roast beef for supper. . .and where are all the kids? (our kids, not goat-kids :))

But this last time I brought it up, I got serious about it.

Why Goats?

The first question I usually get asked is, “Why in the world would you want goats?” Now, when Travis and I start thinking about anything seriously, we start a list of pros and cons. I started out completely for the idea while he was more hesitant. The more we talked, the more we could see valid points on either side.

I thought I’d share some of our thoughts with you in case you were in the same boat, along with a few suggestions I hope will be helpful.

The Benefits of Owning Goats

1. Raw milk
I’m not going to go into all the details about why raw milk is better than the pasteurized, homogenized, watered-down, nutrient-dead, antibiotic-laden and hormone-infused milk you get at the store. Suffice it to say, We’re of the opinion raw milk is better. 🙂

We currently buy raw cow’s milk – and we love it. However, our family of seven can go through quite a bit and the cost adds up quickly. We also drive a good distance to get it and our Yukon is a gas guzzler . . . but buying a cow is out of the question.

Dairy cows are hard to come by, and those you can find are well over $1000. It might take a few goats to produce the same amount of milk as a cow, but seeing as goats in our area run about $100-$300 (depending on age, papers, and breed), it seemed like a better choice for us. A healthy, large dairy goat will produce about 2 quarts of milk a day, conservatively.

Worst case scenario: If our cow dies, we’re out milk and money. If a goat dies, we’ve still got a few more to continue producing milk and we didn’t lose everything in one blow.

2. Meat
Because we’re a house full of carnivores, and because meat is an essential part of our candida diet-type way of eating, we go through a lot of it. Last year our freezer held over half a beef, 50 meat chickens, and venison from deer season. (Yes, our freezer is big – it’s the largest one Sears carries! :))

Buying that much meat sure cut into our budget, and five growing children with hollow legs adds its own part to the equation. So my number-loving honey took pencil to paper and figured that 5-6 large breed goats would produce about as much meat as a half a beef.

If each goat gives birth to twins (this is fairly common – sometimes even triplets or quads), three dairy Mama’s should give us enough kids to raise for meat.

3. Savings
I hate when things boil down to money, don’t you? But in the case of goats, we’d be saving money rather than spending it. Well, okay, we’d have to buy the goats first, the materials to build a fence, and fix up the shed, etc. but we’d make up for it in the milk they’d produce. And not only milk, we’re talking yogurt, ice cream, cheese. . .

Travis added up what we spend on raw milk, fuel to get it and all the other food we buy that goats would provide. Then he held that against what we’d been quoted for hay, feed, etc. to keep about three dairy goats and their kids for a full year. He got down to all the nitty-gritty details.

And he came up with. . . drum roll please. . .a savings of $100 per month.

We’re not sneezing at that folks!

Okay, so we’ve discussed some of the pros, but what the cons? And yes, if you’re even remotely serious about raising goats, you certainly need to take all aspects into consideration.

Is There a Downside to Raising Goats?

1. Loss of Freedom
Once we started a serious discussion, it became clear that our main concern was being tied down. One of the things we love about homeschooling is the freedom it gives us. We like that we can pack up and visit our folks for a weekend with little notice.

When we built our chicken coop last summer, we designed it in a way that would allow us to leave for several days without worrying about the hens. We couldn’t do the same with goats – especially if we wanted to milk them.

So before we could plan any further, we needed to make sure we’d have someone able to do chores for us when needed. Our good friends down the road currently exchange chores with us. We take care of their critters when they’re gone, and they take care of ours. They’re excited about our idea to own goats. In fact, they’re thinking goat thoughts too. . . 🙂

We also found that when you start talking to goat owners, you’re provided with a network of people who readily recommend young teens who know their way around goats and are willing to earn a little cash by doing chores.

We decided we’re willing to adjust the amount of time we’re gone, so with a list of names to call, it looks like we still have a relative amount of freedom after all. 🙂

2. Those Stinky Bucks
A goat will only produce milk after she’s given birth. And of course, for that to happen, you need a buck (male goat). However, the problems with owning a buck aren’t simple.

A buck who senses a doe in heat tends to go a little haywire. He also gives off an odor that is less than pleasant. This odor can effect the taste of your milk so it’s essential that he’s kept away from the does until they’re ready to breed. The idea of building two pens, constructing two sheds, and trying to keep a half-crazed buck away from flirting does was not our idea of fun.

We were relieved to discover that several goat owners will charge a small fee for your does to come visit their buck for a few days. This gives the same results without the headache. You can also opt for a good vet to come out for AI (artificial insemination), causing no more hassle than simply making the appointment.

3. Notorious Can-Eaters
One of our misinformed ideas was that goats are notorious for getting out of their pens and eating everything from tin cans to prize roses. We envisioned loose goats, mad neighbors, and tin cans all over the yard. 🙂

I can’t argue that goats are known for getting out of pens. Our research pointed us in the direction of electric fencing and strong doors/gates. Without a buck on the property, and with plenty of climbing toys and distractions in the pen, we’re hoping this won’t be an issue.

And the picture in our head of a goat eating a tin can is quite false I’m happy to say. Goats are browsers (much like deer) and the only thing they might do is sniff at a tin can in curiosity before finding something better to nibble.

All in all, the pros outweighed the cons. We bit the bullet and fixed up the shed, built a fence, and brought home a couple of Alpine does. After 3 weeks as new goat owners, we’re happy to say we’ve come to love our goats and look forward to many years of milking. 🙂

Some resources we found invaluable are:

Websites
Fiaso Farms
Homestead Revival
Prairie Homestead

Books

P.S. What were your reasons for getting goats?

 

Shared With: Monday Mania, Mix It Up Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Make Your Own Monday, The Modest Mom Blog, Teach Me Tuesdays, Fat Tuesday, Women Living Well, Homemaking Wednesdays, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Encourage One Another, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Hearts 4 Home, Fight Back Fridays, Weekend Whatever, Fresh Bites Fridays, Freaky Friday, Natural Living Link-Up,

 

 

 

photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net


34 Comments

  • lynda

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    I have such admiration for you doing this. Thank you for sharing. All the best to you on it!

    • Paula

      Reply Reply September 26, 2012

      Thanks Lynda, so far the ‘newness’ hasn’t worn off and the kids still enjoy taking turns helping me with milking. It’s kinda nice in the barn/shed with the cats waiting for a taste of milk, the goats munching grain, some good conversation with each of the boys, and the swish of fresh milk hitting the pail.

      Yep – we’re loving it!

      • lynda

        Reply Reply October 24, 2012

        🙂

  • Nicole

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    The goat bug bit me a few years ago and after drinking raw goats milk for the last year and a half, I much prefer it to cows milk. I was a bit hesitant at first but I was sold on it after the very first sip. I’m now a goat advocate in that I think everyone who can properly care for them should have a couple of goats (or a whole herd).

    Goats are addicting. You’ll start out with 2 or 3 and end up with 6 because “just 1 more won’t hurt, right?”

    Dairy goats do not produce much meat. Even the buck kids (bucklings) don’t give a huge amount of meat. If you are not concerned with register-able offspring, consider keeping does from a nice productive dairy bloodline, and breed them to a meat breed buck. The buck she is bred to does not affect the individual doe’s milk production, and the kids from the cross will be much meatier than straight dairy kids. Or if you have the space for it, you could just keep 1 or 2 meat breed does in with your dairy herd and let them be you major meat producers.

    And lastly, just one minor correction to your post. The stink (smell is too nice of a word for it) of the buck does not affect the taste of the milk. The health of the doe, your method of sanitation, and how you handle the milk after milking are the major things that affect the taste of the milk. If your doe is sick or has even subclinical mastitis, it can give an “off” taste to the milk. If you do not properly sanitize (and there are home-made methods that work just as well as the expensive ones) everything before and after milking, the milk will taste bad and will spoil faster. If you do not cool your milk quickly and keep it COLD, it will taste bad and spoil faster. The major affect a buck might have is getting his stinky-ness on the doe (or your hand if you pet him on your way to go milk) and then you failing to properly sanitize prior to milking.

    • Paula

      Reply Reply September 26, 2012

      Thanks for the correction Nicole, I always thought that the stinkiy-ness was one of the major reasons to keep a buck far away from the does – because it could ‘travel’ by air per se and affect the milk. It’s good to know proper sanitation can eliminate that.

      We have been looking around for boer bucks to breed our does to – it’s a neat network – these goat-loving peoples – if someone doesn’t have a buck, they have a list of names you can call. So helpful they are!

      Goat milk – don’t get me started LOL – the health aspects alone make me want to do the happy dance. But that’s for another post!

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Jesalynn Meyers

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    How exciting! Blessings to you in this new adventure!

  • Michelle

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    We too are the proud owners of two adorable Nubian does. They are almost 3 months old. I had to chuckle at your remark about goats getting out and wandering around the yard. We’ve had our goats get out of a high, 5 foot pen and our electric fencing. Someone told me that “Goats would not be goats unless they tried to get out of wherever they were.”
    Blessings,
    Michelle

    • Paula

      Reply Reply September 26, 2012

      Well, I will admit, ours have already gotten out once. Our electric fence is about 4-5 feet high – can’t remember now – I’ll have to ask Travis. . . anyway, we looked out the window one day and here are the girls eating near the driveway.

      They were quite easy to catch as they just trotted right up to us, but we can’t for the life of us figure out how they got out. The fencing and the gates weren’t touched. I know they must have jumped over somewhere – but they’ve stayed put since then so we haven’t caught them in the act. 🙂

  • Leslie

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    I am so jealous, please update us as you have them. Once we move to our little homestead I will try to get my husband convinced.

    • Paula

      Reply Reply September 26, 2012

      I’ll sure update for you – probably to the point you get tired of hearing about them LOL.

      Hurray for your homestead! That just gives me warm fuzzies!

  • Kathleen

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    I’m so excited for you! What beautiful girls they are. We started keeping Alpine goats 2.5 years ago and have loved it. It can be stressful at times (disbudding, birthing, etc) but so rewarding as well. Have you made yogurt yet?

    • Paula

      Reply Reply September 26, 2012

      Kathleen,

      Can I reach through the screen and hug you?! I’ve been on a mental quest to find a recipe for making yogurt with goat milk. And here you are, leaving a lovely comment which makes me take a peek at your blog and then get lost in all your wonderful goat posts!

      And there, low and behold, you have a yogurt post! I’m popping over now to leave you a question. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

  • Gudrun B

    Reply Reply September 26, 2012

    ahhhh so lovely to read! yes, goats are floating in my dreams and thoughts a lot! trouble is where we live! there is no way to keep one or two 🙁
    will be following your stories though!

    • Paula

      Reply Reply September 27, 2012

      Delighted to have you join us!

  • Cristy

    Reply Reply September 29, 2012

    Aw! Fun to see a picture of your new goats! How fun for the kids! (of the human kind)

  • MamaHen

    Reply Reply October 8, 2012

    We got our first three goats about a month ago and they are wonderful! We love having them and they have been a lot less trouble than I thought they would be. Of course we are newbies and still learning, but so far we have really enjoyed them.

  • jan

    Reply Reply October 10, 2012

    We are an older couple (late 60s) and love, love , love goats and raw goats’ milk. We have a small herd on Nigerian Dwarfs, easier for kids, disabled and elderly to handle. I am milking three and getting three quarts daily with just a morning milking. Last season two of them produced quads and one produced twins. All but one of the kids were sold. The milk has high butterfat and consequently tastes more like jersey cow milk with no goaty aftertaste. Having kept goats on and off for 35 years I am thoroughly impressed with these easy keepers.
    I was careful get does with good handles (teats) so as not to run into the problem of tiny ones that are hard to milk. their dispositions are fabulous as well.
    Obviously I am biased!
    Enjoy your new goats.

    • Paula

      Reply Reply October 10, 2012

      Jan – It’s so nice to meet another goat-lover! We really debated about Nigerian Dwarfs, but in the end decided on a bigger goat who might produce more for our family.

      Early in our debating stage we did visit a nearby goat farmer who had Nigerians and she let my kids (human) hold her kids (goats) – that was the clincher – watching her milk, asking questions, and watching all the kids interact. 🙂

      If anyone is interested in goats I’d highly recommend visiting someone who has them already. Just be ready to go home and start planning your goat shed before your shoes are even off. 🙂

  • Kristin

    Reply Reply October 10, 2012

    We have just started into the goat world as well. We love our little Nigerian Dwarf does. Being in the Pacific Northwest it is more accepted to have a little farm. We live on a normal 1/3 acre lot in a neighborhood with 6 chickens and 2 goats. Most people are surprised that we can have a farm on this size of a lot, but goats are actually easier to keep than dogs! 🙂 We have decided to have our girls bred at the same time so that they will both be dry for a couple of months and we can get away for a bit and not have to worry about milking.
    I will look forward to reading more about your goat adventure in the future.

    • Paula

      Reply Reply October 10, 2012

      Kristin –

      Wow – a 1/3 acre lot – it’s great that you’re able to keep your chickens and goats in that small space. Do you live in the city limits?

      We just took our does over to be breed earlier this evening. We brought them all in at the same time too and for the same reasons. Even though I know we plan to use them for meat – I look forward to spring. 🙂

      I’m so glad you stopped by to chat – I’ll be posting this coming week with pictures on our goat ‘set-up’. Stop back and say hi!

  • Jen

    Reply Reply October 12, 2012

    I just can’t get used to goat’s milk, but I have heard that the buck is the cause. I must be drinking milk that came from a farm where the bucks are close by???? I’ve tried it from several different farms. I wish I knew for sure if the milk is good because I sure would love to try raising my own goats for milk.

    • Paula

      Reply Reply October 12, 2012

      We tried some goat milk from a friend first, and while some of us couldn’t tell much difference between the raw cow milk we’d been drinking and the raw goat milk, others said there was a noticeable difference in taste.

      When we first got our goats and started drinking their milk, the ‘goat’ taste wasn’t as strong as my friends’ goat milk, but we could still taste it.

      Now, after six weeks of drinking our own goat milk, none of us seem to mind or notice. I don’t know if it’s our feed/hay that gives the milk a milder taste, or if we’ve just grown accustomed to it. But we all like it now. 🙂

      Have you considered drinking half cow and half goat and then gradually decreasing the cow milk until it’s pure goat milk?

  • Alice

    Reply Reply October 12, 2012

    WRONG about buck stink causing bad milk. If you don’t pet the buck, then stick your hands in the milk, you won’t have a problem. Wash your hands, wash the udder and teats, milk into clean containers. No buck stink. It’s an OLD wives tale that is hard to eliminate. It simply is NOT true.

    • Kristin

      Reply Reply October 12, 2012

      I have to differ. The buck does cause an off taste. At least it has with my doe. I have an extremely strong sense of smell and taste. My family can’t taste the difference, but I can. Mostly it is that the milk gets a stronger taste over a few days. I actually could taste a difference when we put the buck rag in with them (it’s a small enclosure), but the major difference I found when the buck stayed in with them for a few days. The taste has slowly diminished since he has gone back home.

      I think that if you don’t have a strong sense of taste then it is not noticeable. It’s not super strong for me either. I just let my family drink the milk that is a day or two old and I drink the freshest that we have in the fridge.

      I think it also depends on the does. Some you can tell and some you can’t.
      -Kristin

      • jan

        Reply Reply October 13, 2012

        Kristin,
        The buck does not cause the goaty taste. It’s your doe..what kind is she? It also could be how quickly you chill down your milk. I bring milk in after each goat and strain it into a quart jug which is sitting in ice water. When I am all done milking I out the milk into the coldest part of my refrigerator. The goats with the highest butterfat have the sweetest milk. I am very fussy about milk flavor and know how sweet milk should taste. I also keep four bucks next to my does. No off milk!

        • Robin AKA GoatMom

          Reply Reply October 13, 2012

          @Jan. My original line of bucks did not affect my milk flavor and my friend whos had goat for 40 years has also experienced issues with some bucks and not others. After we moved away and she gave us our foundation herd we had off milk issues as we rotated pastures till we remove a few weeds and other food stuff that flavored our milk in a way we disliked. I’ve practiced cleaning, processing and fast chilling of my milk to high grade B standards. I will say this my smellier bucks have been the best producers in both quantity of offspring and hardiness. Once my hubby went to pick up a order and was asked to wait outside till it was ready, not at a restaurant but at the Farm Coop!! Yes, some Bucks can about rival a skunk! All our goats have been Nubians.

  • Robin AKA GoatMom

    Reply Reply October 12, 2012

    We’ve had goats for 12 years and were blessed with a friend who milked and supplied us for 20 years before that. In Florida, at least, the smell of your buck is very ripe and if left with your ladies will lend a flavor not desirable in your milk. Otherwise, if you have an off taste, look at your pasture/browse. Various taste come from nature, personally I find the taste of to many acorns objectionable. Good luck keeping the buck and does apart! We finally settled on electric netting, as no other buck penetentiary held, usually the girls dragged down the fence and 6 strands of hotwire! Yes, it ties you down and we have selectively not breed to make certain events like Weddings easier. While you have children at home nothing is better than the life of your own land, garden, animals. Enjoy the life and the milk, yogurt and cheese!

  • Looking forward to reading more about your experience raising goats… We are planning to get chickens in the spring. I bookmarked your chicken post for my husband to use as a resource when we convert an old shed into a chicken coop!

    • Paula

      Reply Reply October 13, 2012

      Thanks for popping by Leslie, hope your chicken shed turns out great!

  • Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! 🙂

    We have Nigerian Drawf goats!

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