milk cow or goat?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Unregistered-1427815803, Apr 30, 2004.

  1. Hi,

    I posted earlier that I live adjacent to my parents farm and have use of a few acres of pasture. My brother presently has two heifers on it that are around 15-18 months old I think (they are all black so angus probably).

    He will be selling them this fall most likely and I am starting to think about what I want to put on it. I originally posted I only wanted to put something on it for the summers as a lawnmower mostly but am now thinking of a permanent type critter. I took care of these two this winter for my brother and it wasn't too difficult (except the chasing them down part when they got out).

    I would like to get something for milk, a goat or a dual purpose cow. I am single but have plenty of family to share any excess milk products with. I've read here that keeping goats in is a problem. I do not want to go to the expense of enclosing all the acreage with fence panels, it is currently fenced with hot wire, 5 strands. I am taking care of the fence this summer to learn how to keep it hot so I don't have the problems of them getting out. We have plenty of coyotes but besides dogs they are the only predators here in my part of Indiana. My sisters doberman will be the biggest problem as she is allowed to run free on the farm (she lives next door across the pasture).

    Those of you with milk cows or goats, what would you recommend? Any regrets about the choices you made? Which has better quality milk, cheese or are they the same in that aspect. Which is most economical to keep? I would prefer to completely grass feed them (have been doing lots of research on the web on the benefits of grass farming). I know they need grain for optimal milk production but that is not my goal since I only buy a gallon a week (but would drink as much as I could if I could afford it!).

    If I go with cows, I am thinking of dexters. I plan on raising a few pigs and chickens for layers and meat (I am definitely just dipping my toe in that particular water at this point and will gradually add animals to it). It seems like dexters are a little trouble finding though, I have been researching them on this forum and the web the last few days. It looks like I would have to expect to pay $600+ for a heifer and $1000+ for a bred heifer, does that sound about right? I would raise any male offspring for beef and either keep or sale any heifers. I am a little concerned with having to deal with up to 6 goat offspring a year. I don't think there is a market here for them and I think I would have more problems emotionally killing them for meat as compared to cattle.

    I have lots of family with experience on raising cattle so will have *mentors* to turn to to a certain extent but no one besides my father has had a dairy cow. His parents had a jersey up until I was probably 12 or so years old. A beautiful girl she was.

    I have wonderful memories of my fathers parents farm in tennessee, they were *cash poor* farmers but they always had good food on the table. Grandpa had dairy cows back when restrictions weren't so tough and then later beef cattle and then even later raised piglets. But they always had a milk cow, a couple of pigs, chickens and a beef cow for their own use (grandpa even made his own sausage and I vaguely remember helping). Going through my grandmothers standup freezer was always an adventure, no telling what (gross to a teenager) stuff you'd find in there like tongues and brains!

    My grandparents came to Indpls. during world war 2 just to work. In 3 years they were able to save enough money to go back home to Tennessee and buy a 60 acre farm. Today that land is going for $5k an acre, our generation can only dream of doing what they were able to do. If all my family weren't in Indiana, I'd head down to Tennessee, my father still owns their farm and would dearly love for someone to settle and live there since it has been empty except for the occasional visit for the last 15 years.

    Sorry to ramble on but even as a teenager I wanted the kind of life my grandparents lived. 30 years later I'm still trying to figure out a way to do it.

    Thank you all in advance for your thoughts (sorry for the unregistered but I just can't seen to get logged in tonight),

    Mel-
     
  2. Helena

    Helena Well-Known Member

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    We have had dairy goats for over 25 years now. First got them to help with milk on the table when the children were home. I am currently milking 3 does..and one is still nursing her kid...and have over a gallon of milk a day !! Actually give some to the neighbor 2 times a week for his pigs. A cow I feel would give you way too, too much milk. Unless you want to raise a pig or 2. I'm sure you know that goats milk is easier to digest and you do get the cream...but not as much as on cow's milk. Not really much difference in taste..creamier I think. I would find someone with a couple of goats and ask and see how they handle their animals. Taste their milk too. The fencing you have should keep you goats in. Just make sure the electric is on. Our goats..mostly our buck can jump a 4 foot fence when he get the urge to do so or go under a hot wire when he is in "love" and wants to escape to the does. But during most of the year they are outside all together...one happy family..does bucks and kids. You will need to grain them if you want any amount of milk..and some hay unless you do have good pasture. Worming and just good animal care also is important. A place for them to take shelter from the rain and heat and clean water. As I have said..find someone to talk to in your area and get a few books on both type of animals and deceide what is best for you. Start small...a couple of does would be plenty for you and you could always take your girls to the buck to get bred if you didn't want one of your own. Good Luck !! If God wanted you to drink Cows milk...He would have given you 4 hands to milk them with. Goats you only need too !!!
     

  3. This is kind of like asking which car should I buy, a Chevy or a Ford? :) :)

    Each has it's good points & bad points. For example, a good gentle cow is pretty easy to handle and just loves to fall into a daily pattern, but a mean goat is a lot smaller & easier to handle than a mean cow. If you have either that has a difficult disposition, get rid of it & try again.... A goat will try harder to escape (in general) but if either gets loose, the cow is more formidable (simpley because of size) to recapture. The milk is different. Not better or worse, but different, and some folks prefer - or demand - one or the other.

    Stuff like that.

    So, do you or your family prefer a Chevy or a Ford? :)

    --->Paul
     
  4. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

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    Helena,

    thank you so much for the info!

    What kind of goats do you have? I was looking at nigerian dwarfs but I think I read they only give a pint a day and that doesn't seem like even enough for one person.

    I like the looks of nubians. I also eventually plan on having pigs and chickens. As much as I like living close to my family (though next door is TOO close) my county is in the top 10 fastest growing counties in a 5 STATE area and is expected to continue that growth for the next 40 years. Sounds like time to head a little farther away from Indy and I have my eye on a couple of places. One has a pond and a couple of huge barns plus a 4 stall garage plus a chicken coop plus a house that is 3.5 times the size of my present one! I will have lots of room for animals there.

    How exactly DO you breed your goats? In reading on cattle it seems that AI is pretty common and (relatively) inexpensive. Is the same thing true for goats or is it not worth the expense? There are a few goat breeders it looks like in Indiana though not a lot. If you *rent a stud* do you normally take the doe to his place?

    Can you give me any idea of what it costs to keep a goat per year? I read on one site $500 a year just for feed and vet costs. I believe that was for all bought feed however with no pasture.

    thank you again for your input, I really appreciate it :)

    Mel-
     
  5. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Southeast Iowa
    I have had goats for just under a year now. I've done about as much research as I possibly can and now am working on the "experience" part. But I got my goats last September...one Nubian and one Saanen. Neither are regsitered. Got the nubian on barter from my in-laws and the Saanen I paid $165 for. Bred them both in the fall to a Nubian buck that I borrowed from my in-laws. This fall I expect I'll be "renting" a buck. I let the buck run with them together for a full 4 weeks for simplicity sake...that meant that both does had cycled (21 days) and were given the chance to be bred - they were...the little buck was 6 months old but sure knew his job!

    I have purchased a ton of grain mixed to my specifications from my coop - cost me about $200 total...this is plenty for both my goats plus three sheep. The hay I have on barter for the storage so get it for free, but they have gone through 3 tons of hay so far, between the six of them. Pasture for the sheep next week.

    I am milking them twice a day and feeding their two little ones (they each had singles this year, but both doelings) plus 3 bottle lambs on their milk. I am getting approximately 2 gallons a day, with the babies taking 5 quarts of it. Still plenty for my family to drink, too (3 pre-teens - *ugh*!! with the price of milk I'm thanking my lucky stars!). I don't have a cream separator, but after three days you can skim the cream off of the top of the milk - not very much so really isn't worth it to me just yet...maybe when I get the separator? I don't pasteurize it, either and the benefits of raw milk are wonderful. I don't worry about the problems that it can cause - I'm just very careful about the handling of it - making sure everything is dairy clean and getting it cooled down fast, filtering it all out, etc... So far no problems and we love the milk. :)

    The key with goat's milk, and I'm sure you'll hear all sort sof opinions, is to be sure that *you* know what they're eating. If they are on pasture and there is thistle and rag weed or other "icky" weeds out there, then the milk could taste bitter or "off"... the weeds are fine for eating, but the flavor come sout in the milk - what goes in is what comes out...

    I have been debating a Jersey cow for my family, too - calf for beef, her milk, cream, cheese, etc...but for now I'm working with my goats and am very pleased with the results. They are very personable animals! ;)

    For what it's worth,

    Sarah
     
  6. Herb.

    Herb. Well-Known Member

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    Layton, Utah-for now
    Mel,

    Sounds like I would get my behind down to Tenn. on the double. Land to use for little or no cost, gives you a chanch to try this thing out and just see if it is really what you want to do. My Grandparents had a small dairy when I was young and the thing I remember most about those days was Dairy cows are a lot of work, they require milking twice a day and they don't care if you are tired, sick, or what the weather is like, you have to do it. The only break you will get from this routine is if you dry them up. You will have to feed them through the winter, that can be expensive, Vet. bills are outrages, so just be sure you want to do this before you get into it. Not trying to discourage you, just let you see a little of the other side of them. I'm not a big milk person and have wondered why humans are the only animals that continue to drink it once adult hood is reached. I would check out the goats and see what the down side to them is. I have only had one, a nuetered male as a pet, he would run to the car when I got home from work, sit in my lap after dinner and watch tv with me, was fun for me and the kids to play with and a good friend. He did however get sick and dye from some urinary tract problems, the vet said this was not uncommon with nuetered male goats. In the meantime stick with beef cattle, they are a lot less work. By all means try the other common farmstead animals, buy a feeder pig every year, chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, etc. they are all part of the homestead experience. Large animals however are a whole different ballgame, if you really want to get into them I would suggest you take some classes at your local highschool, many of them offer night classes for agriculture and animal husbandry. A person will usually have a lot more money tied up in large livestock so you have a sizeable investment in them as well as your emotional state should something go wrong. A little knowledge can save your animal as well as your investment in them. But all in all I wouldn't want to live any other way, I say go for it.

    Herb.
     
  7. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

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    Sarah,

    Thank you for all the good info! That ton of hay would cost I think around $90 here if bought in square bales, much less if bought in round bales. We do have a huge old dairy barn here not being used to store either in though I don't think any doors are big enough to put the round bales inside.

    I have a grain storage bin no one is using right now that I could buy large quantites of corn for. My brother just bought two of the extra big plastic garbage cans on wheels with covers for the corn for his cows. The fence is only about 75 feet from my house so we just tied the garbage cans to a tree so I could just walk out and scoop their feed into a 5 gal bucket and put in the feeder. I also have a supposedly no freeze water spicket (the kind that sticks about 3 feet up in the air on top of the well). It is only about 25 feet from the fence so feeding and watering anything in this pasture has been really easy.

    Anyone have any idea how many bushels these large type garbage cans hold and if they are a good idea to store grain in? We didn't have any trouble with wetness or mold this winter but they have been on all pasture since march.

    Sarah, do you think it is worth it to get purebred goats? I really hate the idea of slaughtering the boys (though pigs definitely doesn't bother me at all! I learned to fear them on my grandparents farm!). I thought if the doe is purebred and the buck purebred there would be a better chance of them selling for a breeder or for show.

    Thank you again for your experience and info,

    Mel-
     
  8. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

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    Herb,

    if my family weren't all in Indiana I would probably consider it. I lived there for about 4 years while in elementary school and also went to utk for college but well, I'm a midwestern and would prefer to stay somewhere in the midwest but it does seem a shame. Especially since that is the only place in the nation I have ever lived that knows how to pronounce my last name since there are so many of us! (and I moved around quite a bit in my youth). Most though are no closer than second cousin.

    My father does probably make $100 an acre off of it in a year for hay though since it rents it out to a boyhood friend there have been plenty of times he's let him use it for free when he has had hard times. But there are probably at least 10 acres that have reverted back to pines since my grandparents died that could be fenced in for starters. It has no usuable out buildings anymore though, the chicken coop, barn and smoke house have all fallen down. The house is good however though not very large.

    I *read* someone say that they would leave the babies with the mothers when they didn't want to milk, that way they could skip an entire day or two if they wanted to get away and the calf/kid would drink her empty. Is that a feasible option for weekends away if you wanted?

    I don't know about costs in tennesse, corn and hay in this part of indiana is pretty cheap. $2.00 for a bale of hay and I think $2.50 per bushel of corn. I need to find out what the price of corn is per ton.

    It looks like I would have to invest $650 to $1200 per dexter cow if I go that route and maybe $350 per pure registered goat if I decide to go the purebred route. If it takes a couple of goats to equal the dexter in milk then the only benefits would be the smaller animal to work with, is that right or am I missing something?

    I have had to help my family numerous times to get cows back in that broke down fences, NOT my most favorite job. I think if I were to get any number of livestock besides one or two I'd get a border collie. My grandfather had one to round up his cattle and he was wonderful. All he did to train him was take him to a friend with a trained border collie and leave him there a couple of week.s His learned just by watching the other one all the commands.

    Thank you both again for your opinions, I do really appreciate it,

    Mel-

     
  9. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    That works, but it's pretty messy - you need to fight the calf/ kid for milk all the time. It's not like you can switch the calf off & on only when you need it.... Either it stays with mom & takes a big portion of the milk, or you wean it & keep them seperated.

    Corn weights 56 lbs per bushel, and genenerally legaly is sold by the bushel, tho it is run over a scale & converted to dry (14-15% moisture) good testweight (54# or better) corn.

    Prices in my lifetime have fluctuated from $1.21 - $5.03 per bushel. Currently it is $2.93 where I live, in Indiana you say, it would probably be a little over $3.00 for a farmer selling. To buy it, esp in small quantities, you will pay 10-15 cents a bushel extra.

    Livestock use the corn better if you crack, grind, or squish it so the seed coat is broken. At that point it is difficult to store it more than 2 weeks, as mold will try to set in, or at least it becomes stale....

    --->Paul
     
  10. Herb.

    Herb. Well-Known Member

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    Mel,

    I can understand wanting to live where you feel comfortable. I have traveled quit a bit the last 20 years and now am always looking for that place.
    I know some people do turn the calf in with the cow for a break and I guess it works but personally I would not want to do that unless it was an extrem necessity. After a calf is born you are milking the cow and providing some of that milk to the calf, the more you take from the cow the more she will produce up to a point, most will produce 2 or more gallons twice a day. A young calf does not need near that much so either the cow is not getting milked adequatly or the calf is getting too much, as the calf gets older the problem would be less severe, either way one of them suffers, a cow really feels pain in her udder if she is not milked out properly. This can only be done for a few months anyway, you will probably sell the calf or put it on pasture or the cow could reject it if it has been too long since she has been with it.

    Herb.