Dairy Goats - The Perfect Homestead Animal

Dairy goats have been the perfect homestead animal for our family for over twenty years. We have discovered many advantages to keeping these wonderful animals on our farm. They have provided us pure rich milk to drink and to make into cheese and even soap. Their gentle, friendly personalities have been easy to work with, and their small stature has relieved us of any worry for our children's, and now grandchildren's safety as they work with the goats. Dairy goats have helped us with pasture management as they browse the woods and fields, and their small pelleted manure easily fertilizes the ground as they move through the pastures. Their small size also means that their barns and pasture areas can be smaller, and therefore cheaper, than larger dairy animals. Many people who have done comparison studies with goats and other dairy animals tell us that dairy goats are much more efficient at converting their food into milk. This means that their naturally homogenized rich milk is cheaper to produce. Even the amount of milk that they produce, which is usually about a gallon a day per goat, provides an amount just right for families use, not too much or too little. We have been able to help many people get started with dairy goats, and often they have later written or called us to say that they agree; dairy goats have been the perfect homestead animal for them, too.

When people ask us how to get started with dairy goats we always advise them to visit as many goat farms in their area as possible. This allows them to familiarize themselves with goats in general and then to see the different breeds of dairy goats in order to choose the breed or breeds that will work best for them. There are seven major breeds of dairy goats in the U.S. The first four; Oberhasli, Toggenburg, French Alpine and Saanen are referred to as the Swiss breads because they originated in Switzerland. Nubians were developed in England from native British goats crossed with goats from Africa. The diminutive Nigerian Dwarf also came originally from Africa. Only the distinctive La Mancha (unique in their earlessness comes from the United States. After keeping many different breeds we found the perfect one for our farm. The Saanen, our original choice, has been with us on our homestead for over twenty years!

Another question often asked by prospective goat keepers concerns the equipment, housing and pasture requirements of goats. Due to their smaller stature dairy goats once again shine as the winning dairy animal since their needs match their small size. Dairy goats do run for cover at the first drop of rain, so a small shelter proves to be a necessity, with a separate secure feed area and milk room. A small stainless steel pail and strainer and two strong hands will be all that's needed to get the milk chores done. The overall area needed for two goats (always at least two because goats prefer company since they are a herd animal) will vary according to the region of the country they will be in and the amount of sustainability desired. Here in our part of central Texas, with some work on pasture and woodlands rotation, a good goat average will be two goats per half acre. With the tiny Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat even less land will be necessary. As you can see it doesn't take much to meet the simple needs of dairy goats.

One of the main benefits of keeping dairy goats, beside the healthy delicious milk they produce, arrive yearly in the spring in the form of romping balls of energy called goat kids. After just five months of gestation these most delightful of all farm creatures make their appearance to enliven the homestead with their antics and to ensure another year of milk for our farm. All unwanted goat kids are sold, and this provides an additional help to the farm budget. Most does pay for themselves at their first kidding. We like to keep our goat babies until weaning at ten weeks, at which time they either join our herd or move on to their new home in order to grow and continue the homestead dairy cycle for next spring's crop of goat kids.

At this point I should tell you about the disadvantages of keeping dairy goats, and I would if there were any! After twenty plus years off goat keeping we can truly say we have never been regretful but only thankful that we found our perfect homestead animal, the dairy goat.

Cheryl with Goats