dairy goats or dairy cows?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by raymilosh, Sep 14, 2005.

  1. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    I've been wanting to have some livestock for milk, lawnmowing and perhaps someday meat (if i decide to stop being vegetarian). I've been thinking goats and have been reading lots about it. I have hesitated due to the cost of fencing and the difficulty of keeping them from getting out into our gardens, etc.
    Suddenly i realized that perhaps cows would be an easier way to ease into learning about livestock. there is a breed of cow called Dexter that is really small. They seem really pricy to buy, though. I'm wondering if perhaps i'd be better off with a small herd of small cattle.
    does anyone have any advice/thoughts/ experience? Are there other small breeds? Can any of them live entirely off pasture, or do they need grains in order to produce milk? are there drawbacks to smaller cattle? are there sources of small ones in NC?
    thanks in advance
    ray
     
  2. Concrete Cowboy

    Concrete Cowboy Well-Known Member

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    Well, I’m far from experienced but I was faced with the same question so here goes. Cows will obviously produce more milk, and eat more food. The meat you are given from the male offspring is by most opinions, preferred. What’s more, the milk naturally separates so making butter and other things from cream is easier. Having said that, I went with Goats. The price between goats and cows is vast and if something went wrong I have not lost a ton. Moving a goat to my place or somewhere to be bred can be done in my van, with a cow, I’d need to get a hitch and trailer. I have 4 children and if I had a cow, I would not be comfortable with them in the pasture. As for feeding grains, that’s probably a matter of debate. Grass fed cows give healthier meat and milk, assuming your pasture is adequate, but that’s probably a whole different thread. I hope to move on to cows but I’m starting with goats.
     

  3. BeesNBunnies

    BeesNBunnies Schnauzer nut

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    It really depends on how much milk you can use and if you are interested in making butter. A cow is MUCH easier to fence in. She will also give you a lot more milk...milk that will separate so you can make butter. Goats are escape artists.....especially if there is a fig tree that you have nursed and fussed over for the last two years! Rather than trying to find a rare breed of small cow go for a jersey. They are a small cow....make wonderful nurse cows(i.e. raising more than one calf off of them).....and very very gentle. As for worrying about kids being around it....I'd worry more about a goat than I would a gentle cow. Whatever you get you will have to provide grain and hay for it. No animal will produce much milk or lactate for very long if not given grain. Of course the quality of your pasture will help but it can't provide all of the animals needs while it is lactating. I've had both, and a cow is much simpler to fence in, take a day off from(if you have calves you can leave on her), and easier to milk. Goats are nimble....if it doesn't want to be milked chances are she'll win. Also you can't leave a kid on a goat....any kids it produces will have to be bottle fed. Bottle feeding sounds like fun...and at first it is but it gets really old really fast. Milking equipment needs are the same for both.
     
  4. John Schneider

    John Schneider Well-Known Member

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    Well...here's my thoughts for what they're worth. Cattle of all kinds are hard on fencing and I think that both animals are equally easy to keep fenced in...with the right fence. Cows are BIG. When something goes wrong with a cow, somebody can get hurt. They are flight animals, and sometimes...they flight! All things being equal, I would rather get kicked or run over by a goat thank you very much. Goat's milk is arguable better quality milk with finer fat particulates that make tremendous cheese and butter. Over 85% of the world's population drinks goats milk and eats milk products yet cattle are available worldwide. Only in the America's is cows milk more popular. Goat's milk requires a mechanical separator. Goats are far, far better keepers than a cow foraging much better on rough pastures.
     
  5. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    thanks for the advice, uncle Will.
    I started out with milk mice, but it didn't take long to realize how futile that was. It took nearly 2 weeks to fill a creamer for my coffee.

    Next came the cats. What a fiasco. Have you ever tried to herd cats? It's harder than you think. Then keeping them from drinking the milk was a whole other problem I hadn't considered. So until I come up with solutions, I'm sticking with meat cats.

    The milking chickens i bought didn't work out either and i'm still in small claims court over that one.

    I am persistent, though.

    To answer your questions about the specifics of the area, home birtha:
    We have several acres of pasture, but it is not fenced. It is mowed 2x a year. It has never been seeded with anything. It just grows what it grows. We also have many acres of woods that could be fenced.
    Does anyone have experience with the small breeds of cows, specifically Dexters?
    From what i've read, they're 3 feet tall, weith 700 to 1000 lbs, are very hardy, docile, produce lots of milk and can browse as well as graze....sounds like an all around good idea to me. I'm really practical. All i want is milk for myself and my neighbors. I'd like to get it with as little input as possible...
     
  6. mamalisa

    mamalisa Well-Known Member

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    I don't have a Dexter...I have a little Jersey. I've also had goats. If you think cows are hard to fence, try goats. Matter of fact, MegZ on this board has my goats, and welcome, after they ate an entire baby orchard of fruit trees......The milk is not as versatile, you can taste the difference, and you don't get butter or cream unless you have a separator.

    Cows are cool. They bond easily with people and stay where you put 'em, within reason.....no bounding up over 4' high fences or crawling under gates. You get lots of yummy fresh milk that separates of its own free will and volition, makes nice cheese, and the whey or skim will feed a couple hogs to a treat. The calves are worth good money either as beef or sale as another milch cow....Jersey beef tastes just fine! Ever think about eating a wethered dairy goat? They just don't fatten.....unless, of course, they're eating your apple trees.
     
  7. mamalisa

    mamalisa Well-Known Member

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    Oh, and most cows browse.

    The thing with Dexters is that you have 700 lbs of cow that gives you a gallon or so of milk a day, and the stock itself is fairly high. I have 900 lbs of cow that gives me at least 3 gallons of milk a day for 2/3 or her lactation, and then is down to 2. Right now, I'm getting 4+, at just freshened, and didn't pay but $600 for a purebred cow that was bred back.
     
  8. Danny

    Danny Active Member

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    I have both, 2 Ober milking goats and a Jersey cow.
    But what works best for you totally depends on your situation.
    Land, feed, likes, dislikes, needs, etc, all come into play.

    The way I see it is both have their strengths and weeknesses.
    Personally I like the cow. My reasons are first I like cows milk better.
    I do believe you bond better with a cow. I hear people say their cows kick, I don't think there is any way you could get mine to kick you. You can put kids on her, milk her in the pasture, she is just the perfect cow.
    Goats are quick and easy to milk, that is the best thing I have found about them.
    I enjoy both and could be happy with either but if I had to make a choice it would be a cow. Don't settle for any cow, find the right one!!!
    It just seems more natural for a homestead to have a family cow.
    Just my thoughts
     
  9. OldWm

    OldWm Active Member

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    I think, too, you really need to consider how you are going to get the animals bred, and how available is stud service locally? How do you get the cow there? AI is another whole story.
    And, what about when the animal dies? A goat is a whole lot easier to bury than a cow, which would require a backhoe or some other large equipment.

    We've had goats since 1989. We no longer milk them (dairy allergies), nor breed them, and the last of our goats is now an old lady. She's never been any trouble whatsoever. We've had Oberhasli's - no problem whatsoever as far as behavior, and Nubians - the class clowns of the goat world. It was the Nubies who were the troublemakers, but really got in a whole lot less trouble than our dog. They got out of the fence a few times, but, for the most part, stayed put. Each breed gave us triplets each time, whereas, I believe a cow usually has a single calf. Also, the Obies were very quiet, whereas some of the Nubies like to "talk" or be noisy. They are also so nosy and comical! Ask my husband who was fixing the car with the hood up, and there was Peaches with her head peeking in, taking a look at the engine and giving him advice!
    A big thing is traveling with them. How do you get a cow from here to there?
    For the goats, we just stuck them in the back of the Suburban, and bleached it real well when we got home. People who want to buy goat kids from you or older goats can also put them in some sort of large vehicle or truck with a cap on it, so you need to consider your buyers. Also, to take them to the vets is a lot easier, too.
    Goats are great! I've loved them dearly. When this one dies, it'll be the end of an era.
    Oh, if you do get goats, make sure you get them used to walking with you on a leash (watch the little kids at the fair leading around these great big cows or goats). You don't want to get into an argument with a 150 pound goat who wants to go one way, while you want to go another!

    Good luck with your dream!

    Old Woman
     
  10. Hovey Hollow

    Hovey Hollow formerly hovey1716

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    I chose to go with the Dexter. I don't know yet how she'll milk. I have found through reading on the Dexter boards that they are not quite as dual purpose as they could be. There are some bloodlines that are good milkers and others that run more towards beef. The breeders in America has some work to do if they want a true dual purpose cow. From the names I've learned I don't see any of the great milking lines in my cow's pedigree, but I'm not saying I know much about the different bloodlines. The bull she is bred to has several of the lines that are known for milking so I have high hopes for a heifer calf from her. BUT.....I'm sure she will give more milk than a goat, and she will give me a bull calf for beef for my freezer or a heifer calf to sell each year. Since she is registered and if bred to a registered bull with good bloodlines I should be able to make my initial purchase price back by selling one calf. Since I'm not a big fan of goats milk or goat's meat and I don't have room for a full size steer in my freezer, or the need for 4 gallons of milk a day I chose a Dexter.
    Anyway, just my two cents to muddy the water a bit.
     
  11. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    bury a cow?

    that should be against the law with beef prices this high!
     
  12. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget that with some lines of Dexters you have to sit on the ground to milk them as the udders are about 8" off the ground--a major concern as I consider the same question here with a bitter Maine winter coming... :help:
     
  13. Caren

    Caren Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have a Nubian Lamancha mix that when I milk her I sit on a short Rat Bait pail the pail is only 2 gallonish. works good. Just the right height until Abigail decides to squat that is!
     
  14. rickd203

    rickd203 Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    I'm getting ready to make the move out of the rat race so I have been looking at the types of animals that I would want to raise. My grandfather raised cows so I knew that even though they are normally very gentile, one wrong step (on your foot) could have you limping to the hospital. I want to move to a rural area and if I end up living alone, it would be a long, painful drive to the hospital.

    I decided to learn more about goats to see if they might be a better alternative to raising cows. I found a goat farm about 50 miles away that is registered to sell goat milk and chevon (meat). I picked a gallon of milk, a couple pounds of tenderloin, some cheese and even some goat soap. I wanted to be sure that I liked the taste of these before I ever started raising goats. It was all very good and I would have no problem with putting it in my regular diet. All the goat farmers have told me that if the bucks and does are kept in the same pen then the goat milk will have an unplesant taste. I have been to several goat farms and they all keep the bucks pen at least 50 feet from the does. I was actually hoping that the meat would have a more exotic taste (like lamb) but is was very mild, more like beef. Next time I will have to use some herbs and spices like I do to add more flavor to beef.

    Goats can be harder to fence in unless you have a cow that pushes fences over but you don't have to fence in as much land for goats. The overall amount of work you have to do putting up fencing would be about the same for cows or goats. Nigerian dwarf goats (NDG) are becoming very popular in Connecticut. The adults are about the same size as a large dog. The NDG breeder in my area put a large doghouse in the pen that if separate for her breeding bucks. She has about 40 does and when they are producing milk, she gets abiut 1/2- 1 gallon of milk per doe. Since she isn't liscensed to sell the milk, she tries to keep them from all producing milk at the same time.

    For now, my farm animal list is goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and ducks. If I decide that I want some beef or pork, I will buy it or trade with goat cheese.

    Rick
     
  15. Shagbarkmtcatle

    Shagbarkmtcatle Hillybilly cattle slaves

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    Taste would be my preference. Do you like the taste of goat milk better or cow milk? I have milked both. I used to milk 4 goats, 1 nubian, 1 Lamancha, 1 Toggenburg and 1 Alpine. I milked them on a stand my dh built for me in a litle 3 sided shed. The goats would just hop up on the clean stand, I would wash their udders and they ate grain while I sat on my stool and milked away. But I just couldn't get into goats milk. So I bought a Jersy heifer off a nearby farmer. I had her bred and she was a wild as all get out. But as soon as she calved, she let met milk her in the goat shed only minus that stand. I still sat on my stool. I loved her milk and her cream made the best butter and the leftover buttermilk I used in my baking. My kids, who had been up to this point raised on goats milk, went on strike and refused the cows milk. They had to come around eventually :)
    With the cow, I only milked once a day. Then I let her calf on her after I milked her. Come the next morning, I seperated the calf from her and would milk her that evening. But dh got the bright (?) dumb idea that she could raise calves besides giving us milk. She ended up with 4-5 calves on her and me rodoeing those calves away from her. I ended up quitting and selling her because I got tired of chasing down calves once a day. One calve, ok, 4-5, made me mad. I had no fence troubles with the cow but some with the goats. Also, I did butcher that calves that were steers later on and I don't eat goat meat so I sold those kids. You can even do both and raise hogs on the milk.
    Just some ideas.
     
  16. Paula

    Paula Well-Known Member

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    Not true.
     
  17. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    Have to agree with Paula on this one. There have been millions of beef calves weaned off of cows that never had a mouthful of grain.

    I would agree with you that cows will have more persistence in production and produce more milk if given grain. Your feed cost per lb. of milk and per lb. of gain on the calf could easily be lower supplementing with grain.

    If you're going to graze rather than supplement with grain, I think there are better breeds than the Jersey. One example is the Milking Shorthorn, which is a very efficient milk producer on grazing, have great longevity and produce a calf that will produce much better gain and hang a quality carcass. Milking Shorthorns have lower butterfat on average than Jerseys, but a high protein content in their milk.
     
  18. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

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    thanks for the input, everyone. I'm glad to hear that feeding grain is helpful, but not essential. Now that I think of it, it makes sense. Kind of like my experience with gardening... watering and fertilizer improves things and usually results in better harvests, but it isn't essential. I'll just absorb all I've read and wait for the universe to deliver me a fence and the right animals. I think I'll definately go get myself some raw goats milk from a few sources and a few varieties in the meantime, though to see if i like it.
    ray
    ray
     
  19. Paranoid

    Paranoid Homebrewed Happiness

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    Does anyone have any chain stores that sell goats milk?

    When I start my homestead (hopefully within the next year) from every angle goats make the most sense, so much so that if I didnt love milk I wouldnt even consider cows. However I do love milk.

    I can't find goat milk in any stores though, if anyone knows of a chain that sells it please list them and I'll see if any are in my area, thank you!
     
  20. pcdreams

    pcdreams Well-Known Member

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    here in MO there is "price cutter". Also if you have any health food stores you might check there.