It all started this past spring when I was thinking goat thoughts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
P.S. What were your reasons for getting goats?
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