There are many considerations when choosing the right dairy animal for your homestead. To reduce the risk of making the wrong choice, here’s some factors to consider before purchasing a dairy cow or goat for your homestead.
What Size Animal Is Best Suited to Your Facilities?
A dairy goat might weigh 200 pounds. A cow will weigh between 800 and 1,300 pounds. That’s a big difference when it comes to feed consumption and facility requirements, as well as milking and handling the animal.
A dairy cow will require stronger fencing and housing. For instance, a cow pushing on the fence to reach grass on the other side or even to relieve an itch can topple posts and ruin fencing that would easily contain a dairy goat.
However, goats can be escape artists. They require tight fencing and electric fences, and hard fencing can be a good option.
What About Your Budget?
Cows will consume quite a bit more feed than a dairy goat. That’s definitely a consideration when choosing which one is best suited to your budget.
Be prepared to see prices of $1,000 and up for a good dairy cow. Goats tend to be lower, coming in at an average of $300, although I have purchased great producers for as little as $150.
Milk Production and Other Factors
Cows will produce much more milk, and depending on your needs that may be a good thing. But remember: You’ll be getting milk every single day that your cow or goat is in production. It can add up quickly. If you’re milking by hand verses using a milking machine, then stripping out a cow is much more work than a goat.
Another factor: Cow’s milk seems to have more cream than goat’s milk. If cream is an important factor in your decision, then a cow will come out on top in the cream department.
When breeding your dairy animal you’ll either have to purchase or borrow a sire, or use artificial insemination. Both are viable options. You can contact other farms and homesteads in your area to locate someone who will sell or loan you a sire. You also can find someone who will perform artificial insemination for you.
The important thing to remember is that you will need to determine what your plan will be before breeding season rolls around.
As a general rule, dairy goats are seasonal breeders. That means the females will only become interested in breeding as the daylight grows shorter in the fall.
Cows are aseasonal breeders, meaning they cycle roughly every 21 days. So you can set up the breeding season with more flexibility to accommodate your budget and schedule.
One final thought when choosing a dairy goat or cow for your homestead: Cows and goats have distinctly different personalities. Visit a few farms to get an idea of which one you like best before making a purchase.
As always, do you your research and make an educated decision on what is best for your operation. In the end, you’ll be happier, the animal will be happier, and even the milk will taste much better!
What is your preference for homestead dairy – cows or goats? Share your thoughts in the section below: