Recently as I did chores with my niece she asked why I chose goats. I've been thinking about the question ever since. It seems as though the most common dairy animal is the cow. So then, Why goats? Why choose these super cute, but totally ornery livestock?
One of the most notable differences between goats and cows are their size. A dairy cow can weigh anywhere between 1,000 to 1,800 pounds. The largest dairy goat breed (Saanen) has an average weight of 150 pounds. As you can see that is a significantly smaller animal! This is something I was attracted to as I spend a lot of time alone with the goats. When it comes to giving oral medicines, worming, and kidding, I feel I am in a safer position than if I was doing those things with a cow. I've also had the misfortune of having a fat, sassy goat step on my foot...I was thankful in the moment I decided on goats! Because of a goats smaller size, it means they also eat less hay and need less space than the average dairy cow. In addition to that, goats browse more than they graze, so they are well suited to hill-y, brushy areas. They love eating things like poison ivy and brambles.
As goats are smaller they also give less milk. This can be a pro or a con depending on what your needs are. In my case, it's a pro as I'm just starting out and don't want to end up wasting milk. The other thing I love about goats milk are the health benefits. Goats milk is easier to digest due to smaller fat globules, and lower levels of lactose. This means it is easier to digest and some individuals who cannot tolerate cow's milk can tolerate goats milk.
To get milk you must breed your dairy animal. In general, cows have one calf, sometimes two. Goats usually carry twins or triplets, with quads and quints possible but less common. This can be beneficial in many different ways. You can use the doelings as future milkers or replacements. If they were registered, have good conformation and are good milkers (or good potential for milking) they can be worth a few hundred dollars. The boys, if suitable, can be sold as breeding bucks, or raise them up for slaughter. If you don't need more milkers, but would like to butcher the kids, you could breed your dairy does to a meat breed. The offspring would be meatier giving you higher yields.
Goats have personalities much different from cows. They are ornery, exuberant, curious, and stubborn. They are playful, energetic, and always a joy to watch. They wag their little tails when they are excited, will baa to you, and their bellies jiggle when they run. They remind me a lot of cats, they dislike water, can be fussy and finicky, are exceptionally cute. They have their downsides, but I can honestly say if I didn't have dairy goats I would still own a pet goat.
There are negatives to owning goats. They are escape artists, can have parasite problems, and have a love affair with food. Altogether though they have completely stolen my heart. They are kind of like the goldilocks in the diary world. Not too big, not too small, not too much milk, not to little. These guys are just riiiight.
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My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.