|Betsy and Gracie|
There seems to be a lot of debate in the homesteading world about goats vs. cows. I grew up with beef cows, and my husband grew up with beef and dairy cows. He still had an old milk cow, when we first married. She was so sweet. I have always thought dairy cows were beautiful. (It's their eyes!) So, when I approached my husband about buying a dairy cow, I didn't expect his response. Let's just say it was in the negative. Apparently, the sweet milk cow wasn't as sweet in her youth. I keep trying to sway him, but so far, no luck. He did, however, consent to some milk goats.
We purchased our goats about 3 years ago, and it has been a learning experience.
There are some positives and negatives to caprine ownership
Obviously, this is something to consider. You will not get as much milk from one animal, but this could be a positive. My mother in law talks about having so much milk from her cows, that the cats wouldn't even drink anymore. So far, the most I have gotten from a doe is 1/2 gallon (milking once a day). This is about perfect for our family. I have to admit that I am still squeamish about drinking it. I think about it too much, and I imagine an off taste. I mainly use it for cooking. I know, I am such a wimp. I'm working on it.
The area where are goats are now, was a mess before. In our part of the country, we have sinkholes everywhere. The spot where my garden is now, was a lake in my Dad's youth. He remembers swimming in it when our farm was 'Ms. Reed's Farm'. (They never had children, and my In Laws bought it in the 90's.) A sinkhole opened up under the lake, and drained it into a holler. Anyway, the goat pen is just above the holler, and is a big depression in our yard. We could never mow it, and had to burn it once a year to keep it under control. The goats now have it perfectly clean. They will eat multiflora rose, ragweed, and a lot of other things that cows won't touch. We also have them up on a hillside too, that my husband had to bush-hog before.
I don't think I would've believed it until I had them, but each goat has a distinct personality. I really believe they are just as personable as dogs. All of our goats have names, and they come to them, well sometimes. They love to be petted and loved on. They are also very smart. Actually, a little too smart. Our goats have collars, and they allow Puddin' to lead them around the pen without complaint. We could never allow that with our beef cow. It would be too dangerous with such a large animal.
(Note: We don't allow her in the pen with the buck. He is sweet, and I've never had a problem. But, better safe than sorry.)
We haven't butchered any of our goats yet. We have had bucklings and even wethered (castrated) some of them. I expected that we would use them for meat, but my husband just said to sell them when it came time. I think he is more attached to them then he wants to admit. We usually process our own deer, and I'm sure it would be similar. My only reservation is that we would have to find a new spot to hang the meat. We usually do it in the front yard, where the goats could see. Maybe I'm silly, but I wouldn't want to hang one of their own there!
Size and Expense:
A full grown dairy goat still weighs less than I do. ( I won't tell you how much less!) Therefore, she eats less, and costs less in feed. I can control her, and trim her hooves with relative ease. A goat also costs considerably less to purchase and maintain. Medication, and treats are generally cheaper, because you need less. This does depend on the size of your herd.
Yes, there are some.
This is a biggie. Remember, I said they were a little too smart. It has been said that a fence that won't hold water, won't hold a goat. I almost believe it. We use electric fencing. Our goats will periodically, "test" the fence. They may stay fenced in just fine for months, but as soon as they realize that the fence is off, they are gone. I had to take the bottom handle off the gate in the picture below, because they figured out that if they went under there, they wouldn't get shocked. These are not dumb animals. For the last two weeks they have escaped at least twice a day. I couldn't find the short in the fence anywhere, but finally my hubby found it. Are they staying in now? No. It will take them a few days to get used to staying in again.
We have woven wire around our chicken pen, and they rubbed on it so much, it was falling apart.
I believe the best fence for a goat would be woven wire with electric. That is what we had to do with the chicken pen. Ultimately, that is our plan for the rest of the pasture, but it isn't in the budget right now. I also plan to fence off my fruit trees and grapes. They love them, and neither one bore this year due to my four legged friends' escapes. Of course, no fence in the world will keep in an unhappy goat, so always make sure they have everything they need.
|Peanut, my favorite doe. In the background, you can see electric wire along the fence.|
Ok, so that may be the main negative. They do, of course, take time and patience. But that applies to most any farm animal. It takes dedication to feed, water, and milk (this is seasonal) them every day. I enjoy that part. It is nice to always have a reason to go outside. They have to be checked for worms regularly, and have their hooves trimmed, but the maintenance isn't too much. Ultimately, they are a great asset to the farm, and I would recommend them to anyone with patience. But, I still want a milk cow... maybe a little Jersey heifer? I don't think he's going to budge.
Do you have goats? What would you add to the list?
I'm as linked up at Frugal Days, Sustainable Days