Goats vs. Cows (dairy)

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I'm sure there are some ag fora where I could find opinions, but I have come to trust you folks.

I have enough pasture & shelter & feed available to support either a dairy cow or two, or a small herd of goats (or large, but how many do we really need?).

Which is better? We want to have a steady supply of cream for butter and coffee (tea, powdered lawn clippings, etc.), as well as milk for the children.

It seems that goatherding is easier than keeping a cow, but would we really get what we want from goats? Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living indicates that separating the cream from goat's milk is very difficult, but the farmer down the road says it ain't so (incidentally, he happens to have a couple of nannies for sale just now)

Anyway, any comments would be GREATLY appreciated!


-- Arewyn (isitthatlate@lready?.com), June 24, 1999


We've had goats for 3 years. Have a hand cranked cream separater and butter churn. Most goats milk is naturally homoginized - separating cream takes practice and effort. Friends showed us their goats milk in a frig that had separated some on it's own. Not generally the case I think. We have Nubiens, second to Alpines in dairy production (generally speaking), and with high fat content. Alpines really do have more tendency to climb and get out of fences. Nubiens are more easy going, IMHO. We've dealt with alpines some, and several of our latest kids are half alpines (not our preference). Cows are big, and the we've gotten some milk form a dairy farmer once. Hard to do with liability an issue (unpasturized). It separates readily.

Our separater came form a place in GA, made in Russia, after lots of practice and adjusting is working fine. We've made butter and buttermilk bisquits and such. Easy cheeses can be made from goats milk (mozerella, ricotta) as well as yogurt.


-- Programmer Farmer (seven_children@home.org), June 24, 1999.


I purchased 2 dairy goats earlier this year and love them (and their milk). Only one is freshened (producing milk) and produces plenty of milk for my 3 year old son and myself. My husband won't even try it - only drinks cow's milk from the store - just a mental thing. I find that the milk tastes much like whole cow's milk but you need to chill it quickly. I find that after 12-24 hours (even very chilled) it begins to taste "goaty" a sharp, unpleasant (to me) taste. When fresh and for the first 12 hours or so I can't tell any difference when compared to cow milk. I milk twice per day so there is no need to use older milk for fresh drinking. Older milk works great in bread or allow it to sour and feed to chickens or pigs.

Cream separation is difficult unless you buy a centrifigal (sp?) cream separator - Lehman's has a non-electric one for about $200 if having separate cream is important to you. I tried letting it set in fridge long enough to separate (2 days) and it did but the milk tasted really goaty by then.

Goats are easier to handle than cows, easier to feed and the manure is more solid therefore easier to move and put in garden. Milk cows have a long swinging tail that often is poopie and on a hot summer's day will swish it at flies and also swish your face as you milk. Yech!

A good quality Alpine or other large dairy type doe will produce between 3/4 to 1 gal. of delicious milk each day except for about 3-4 months during pregnancy. You shouldn't try to keep just one - it will get lonely and loud. Why not have two dairy does, and breed them during different months so you pretty much have milk year round? You might also look into dual purpose meat/dairy goats - not as much milk but male kids grow into better meat supply.

There is a lot more to talk about but let me know and I will help in any way I can. By the way goats are escape artists and LOVE fruit trees so plan accordingly. Cows will also eat just about anything and will lean into fencing and push it over if not sturdy (or electrified).

One last thought, a typical milk cow gives several gallons of milk per day - milking my goat takes about 5 minutes, morning and night for about 1 gallon - Unless you really want much more milk you might steer towards goats.

Good luck!

-- Kristi (securx@succeed.net), June 24, 1999.

Also, goats IF RAISED BOTTLED FED for first couple months of life, until weaned, are very affectionate, like dogs, only not too smart. We bias is to goats, obviously. We can attach a chain (and have) and collar and tether a goat to an unfenced area if need be. Most of the world drinks goats milk and eats goat meat. USA is different. We beelive the goats are more flexible in environment, usage, housing. We live in Michigan. Just keep goats out of wet environments and direct wind. plywood shacks or lean-to's work fine.

We also have let them roam our fenced in yard for lawn maintenance, but stopped that since I wanted a guarentteed clean area on farm for younger children to play, fall, sit,roll. Their waste is small pellets very much like chocolate covered peanuts (like deer's).

Also with cows you breed, wait 5 months, have a cow, then milk for 10 months. One cow and you're out of milk for 5 months (mostly). With a couple goats you can schedule their "freshenings" so one is always producing. Breed them all at once and you overflow with milk.

The soft cheeses I mentioned above are made with separating cream.


-- Programmer Farmer (seven_children@home.org), June 24, 1999.

Argh! I meant we make the cheeses withOUT separating cream. And forgive the very bad grammer and spelling - it's all a hasty attempt at typing. Lehamsn buys their cream separator from the place in GA. But direct and about the same money, and get lot's of questions answered on phone. lon gdistance calls, but very helpful people. Subscribe to Countryside and small lifestock Journel Magazine (in some bookstores). Y2k aware but also extremely useful at learning new things: chicken, goats, etc.

sorry again for terrible typing - rushed.

-- Programmer Farmer (severn_children@home.org), June 24, 1999.

On the potential loss side:

If you place will support say 2 cows or 8 goats, then the math would seem to say goats. Loss of 1 cow is HALF your stock, loss of 1 goat is a Bar-b-Que in the making.

My experience is that Alpines give the best tasting milk Of course ALL milk depends on what the critter has been eating.

Above post is correct on goats being TOO smart. Also they are a pleasure to watch. Get goats and put 2 or 3 cable spools in the pasture. You will have many hours of pleasure watching the kids play King-of-the-mountain.

On survuval:

Look at the vast majority of mankind throughtout history and what has he kept as domestic anumals: goats and chicken. If it works don't fix it. We add rabits.


--Got feed?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), June 24, 1999.

goat milk tastes like whole cows milk, a little richer, from the store IMHO. It only tastes "goaty" in our experience if we don't keep the buck away from the does. Bucks smell baaaad in season - way bad - veeery bad, and that smell gets into the milk if the does are near the buck. We keep a separate pasture for buck(s). If you have a few goats, you might rent a nearby buck and not keep any. Also, before our twice daily milking we briefly brush the goats down around the back half of the goat, wipe udder with disinfectant, and the first few squeezes go in a container for one of the dogs. We also strain the milk through a milk filter (like a coffee filter). The milk keeps in frig for a couple days, we also freeze the milk (we store it in mason quart wide mouth jars) and then thaw it out as needed when milk is in short supply. For milking does, you need good alfalfa hay, not grass hay. More info found elsewhere. Kristi seems to know a lot about goats - what's the name of the book with goat milk recipes (foods, cheeses,etc). My wife is the goat person, my 2nd daughter the chicken person, my first son the hunter/trapper/bury-er -- I only do facilities and cash income. :-) Look at these web sites for more info on goats vs cows milk and pastures:



-- Programmer Farmer (seven_children@home.org), June 24, 1999.

More questions! "Older milk works great in bread or allow it to sour and feed to chickens or pigs." Kristi, is there a reason you let it sour before feeding it to them?

"Our separater came form a place in GA," Did I miss a name, address or phone number to this place? "Most of the world drinks goats milk and eats goat meat" Anyone eaten goat meat? What does it taste like? If they are more like pets, isn't it more difficult to butcher them, and/or get your kids to eat them?

"Subscribe to Countryside and small lifestock Journel Magazine (in some bookstores)." Do you have a phone number for subscription?

"Get goats and put 2 or 3 cable spools in the pasture." Sorry GBear for sounding dense, but what are these cable spools, where do you get them? Are they expensive?

SevenkidProgrammer,...How many goats do you keep freshened for a family your size? We have seven kids too.

Can anyone tell me how much acreage it takes to keep a few goats, and also how much to keep a few cows? Thank you, thank you!

-- Mumsie (Lotsakids@home.com), June 24, 1999.

corrected links:

milk differences

pasture FAQ

A book we've found useful:

Raising Goats the Modern way

-- Programmer Farmer (seven_chidlren@home.org), June 24, 1999.

I have little to add to this, that hasn't already been covered very thoroughly. Our choice was goats as well. We went with the Nigerian Dwarfs...smaller to deal with and contain and relatively few problems with kidding. I currently have 4 nannies, but am only milking 2 of them. The goaty taste is due to the bucks in my experience as well. We do not debud or castrate. We have dealt with : Caprine supply, 1- 800-646-7736 or www.caprinesupply.com for just about anything you could possibly need (DeSoto, KS) To Greybear....my 'kids' also love the jungle-gym-obstacle-course we built for the nursery/pen/pasture we attached to one of the rooms in the barn! Old tires, wooden spools, bridges, bucket tunnels...all connected. I wash my dishes while watching them hop, skip, kick up heels and head butt each other. I *still* laugh out loud every time they 'miss' during one of those stand and lunge head butts. They love to play King of the hill too. Cute as heck! BTW...you're milking goat will learn to run towards you in anticipation of being milked, not sure about cows.

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), June 24, 1999.

Wow! Thanks for all the input! This is great!

I have a couple questions, like Mummsie, though.

If you let your milk stand in the fridge to separate, and the milk goes 'goaty' on you, does the cream get 'goaty' too? I will look at the site references in a minute, but this seems more a subjective sort of thing that may not be in an info site.

I just sent in my subscription request and an order for the past 6 issues of "Countryside Magazine & Small Stock Journal" :) I can't wait to get them! They have a web site located here:


They do have some articles online (like the one on DAIRY GOATS!!!)

I'm so glad you suggested it; I've been trying to find a journal or magazine just like this for ages. Never seen it in stores, seems like they think the public is only interested in armchair country living.


-- Arewyn (isitthatlate@lready?.com), June 24, 1999.

Oops, forgot another question... Anybody ever have any experience with Cashmere goats? Or spinning yarn? We have a Norwegian Elkhound who sheds CONSTANTLY in the form of fluffy cream-colored cotton ball type clumps (from his undercoat), and I HATE to waste anything...

So naturally if we have goats.... why not fluffy ones? Do they milk nicely, do you suppose? Thanks again!

-- Arewyn (isitthatlate@lready?.com), June 24, 1999.

My vote goes for a cow if you want to have enough milk for ice cream,butter,etc. An only cow is plenty happy--ever hear a lone goat scream? They are herd animals all the way. We have had both so know of what I speak. To keep a family in milk and all those wonderful milk products requires more volumne than 2-3 goats can give you. Plus a cow has a nice calf you can raise for beef on grass...not too many people want to kill their goats. What will you do with those cute buck kids...only need one. We have had Brown Swiss cows that are considered dual purpose cows...gals. of milk(always a trade potential there) and we bred her to Black Angus bulls and had great calves. Also, goats requires excellent fencing--if there is a tiny weak spot they'll find it. We raised Alpines for years so have experience with both and we have decided to stick with cows. My two cents...................

-- MUTTI66 (windance @train.missouri.org), June 24, 1999.

Goat Husbandry, by David MacKenzie, Ruth Goodwin (Editor). Paperback - 334 pages 5th edition (February 1996) Faber & Faber; ISBN: 0571165958

(Available from amazon.com)

When he was two years old my oldest boy developed a severe eczema diagnosed as an allergic reaction to cow's milk. I had read in Mackenzie's book that goat's milk protein has a different molecular form than cow's milk. We switched him to goat milk delivered by a local dairy. His eczema disappeared in a few weeks, and never returned.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), June 24, 1999.

Hello again,

Out of time, a quick answer - I have NO buck around and the milk still gets goaty after 12 hours or so - better luck if kept really cold - takes longer for flavor to show up. I feed alfalfa and sweet cob so nothing unusual there....also the occasional rose trimmings! I let the milk sour before giving to chickens because I read in Carla Emery's book that it would give them the "runs" if given fresh.... Hope this helps!

-- Kristi (securx@succeed.net), June 24, 1999.

Here is the info on goats!

Mary Jane Toth 2833 N. Lewis Rd. Coleman, MI 48618

Wrote "Goats Produce Too" which is very helpful in giving basic cheesemaking, soapmaking, puddings, yogurt, and goat meat information. She also wrote "Caprine Cooking" which assumes you know the basics of making "soft goat cheese" to use in recipes. It gives many many recipes to use your goat milk and milk products made with goat milk. It also gives more soap recipes.

We bought the books directly from Mary Jane, but they are listed in Hoegger supply catalog. "Goat Milk Magic" by Dr. Bernard Jensen is also available from Hoegger.

Hoegger Supply Company 160 Providence Road Fayetteville, GA 30215

1-800-221-GOAT (4628)

Which is where we got our cream separator and butter churn.

"Goats Produce Too" has been the most useful book I have for using goats milk.

Caprine Supply is where we bought most of our equipment when we first bought goats. Prices between the two companies seem comparable, but Caprine doesn't carry the less expensive manual ($195) cream separator we bought. THey both carry the more expensive ($650) electric cream separator.

Countryside & Small Stock Journal $18 per year W11564 Hwy 64 Withee, WI 54498 1-800551-5691

Carla Emery says in her book "Encyclopedia of Country Living" that "THe basci rule of thumb is that you need 1 goat per person in your family in order to have all you dairy product needs met." According to that advise we would need 9 goats, but Deborah and I think we could have a fair supply with 6 does, to stagger production. Here is what she says about goats vs. cow or at least snatches of it (she really gives a lot of info in the book)"If you have abrushy cliff behind your house and just enough flat land for a vegetable garden, I'd say get a goat..." If you have a nice alfalfa pasture and plenty of capital and you'd like to raise baby calves and pigs and lots of chickens, a cow would be very sensible...You need at least 1 well-watered, good green acre for her grazing, ... Another lush arce will grow her winter feed..." Basically goat can survive on brush and haave the eating habits of a deer, cows need good pasture. We always feed our goats hay though, but supposedly they could thrive in the woods behind our house. She also says "You can keep about 5 goats to 1 milk cow as far as the expense of feeding goes." I will have to research more into how much land they say you need for goats in my other books. Carla's book has lots of information on just about every country living topic and many recipes and tips for goats and goat milk. The number for Caprine Supply is 1-800-646-7736

-- Mrs. Programmer-farmer (seven_children@home.com), June 24, 1999.

I had a small herd of Dairy goats. Good gooats. Expensive goats.

Then I got a Jersey cow.

Then I dumped the goats in a New York Second.

Then I bought a second Jersey.

Milking the cow is one tenth the labor of milking all the goats. The cream separates by itself. Very very high in butterfat content.

The goats were constantly getting into trouble. The goats required almost constant care, hoof trimming, babysitting.

The Jersies...dream animals. No trouble, almost care free.

There is NO comparison whatsoever.

-- Paul Milne (fedinfo@halifax.com), June 24, 1999.

*Now* we know whence the buttheads! ;^D

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), June 24, 1999.

Goats, hands down. Meaner, tougher, faster, you can move them into the house if TSHTF. You can give more away. You can run away into the hills with them (if you're compentent). You can kill off a bunch, keep only a couple if things get hard. If things work out OK, there's more market for weird stuff like goat's milk. Cow's milk is a dime a dozen If you have one milk cow and she get's sick, then what? With half a dozen she goat's you've got "diversity"

Cattle are for the rich, burly, 400 pound "prosperous" farmer types.

The 3rd world poor own goats.

-- hunchback (quasimodo@belltower.com), June 24, 1999.

I vote for the goats. Easy to care for, easier to deal with the poops, etc. We have Oberhasli and Oberhasli/Alpine crosses. Terrific goats. Re: Cashmere/Angora- fiber goats are for fiber. Milk goats are for milk. They can't put their energy into both and do it well. So- do both if you want, and get both types. Angora goats produce mohair.

-- farmer (hillsidefarm@drbs.net), June 24, 1999.

Sorry Milne...it would appear you're out numbered once again. Guess you must be used to it by now...hahahahahahhoo. I certainly do agree on your view about the level of distruction though! ( could you please get a bit more nasty tempered once in awhile? I miss that!)

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), June 24, 1999.

In response to the question about how much space a cow or goat needs - here in the midwest a cow/calf needs about an acre of pasture. On that same acre you can put 8-10 goats. I have never figured it exactly. I have Nubian goats and really enjoy them, but I also plan on getting some Jersy cows. We have a farm and have the room. After trying to "handle" my husbands cows, I vote for goats as being easier to handle. Goat milk is easier to digest and if you are thinking about supplying small children or babies, it would be better for them.

-- Beckie (none@nomail.com), June 24, 1999.

Raised goats. Raised cattle. Neither are easy. Cattle are easier if your land is flat or not terribly steep. Goats may work better on steeper terrain. In either case, FENCE WELL! Goats can be escape artists, but cattle will push against a fence to try to knock it over.

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), June 25, 1999.

Had both, Angora goats and Jersey cows. Jerseys are the best sweet tempered big milk producing cows. The Angoras cleared tremendous acreage of brush etc., unfortunately wild dogs killed the goats. Btw, goat meat is not bad roasted, just be sure and marinate well.

-- Cary Mc from Tx (Caretha@compuserve.com), June 25, 1999.

Best thread of the week. We know cows (mom-in-law has dairy farm 10 miles away), so we're thinking we'll do couple of lady goats, as much to learn as anything. Nearby friend has successful goat farm, which will help a lot.

My intuition from dairy experience is that Milne is right, but people can feel intimidated by Bessie(s) at first. So, I'll vote "both" and report back later (we did have a male goat who got aggressive with our then 3-year old and was turned into meat, but I don't count that).

Bottom line in both cases? Don't plan a lot of vacations ....

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), June 25, 1999.

Getting my next goat "family" of six in a couple of weeks; haven't kept goats for five years. This thread has really reminded me of alot of things I had forgotten. Not only the vacations BD, but the sleeping in also...Well I would like to add a couple of things:

Selecting a goat is just like getting a puppy. First examine the seller, then the parents, and finally the kid or doe. Now that said, the best doe I ever had was a Toggenberg grade for $50.00. During her peak period she gave 1 gallon and 20-30 oz. a day, her average for the whole year was 100 oz. a day, about 3/4 gallon. I have spent alot more for goats and did alot worse with them, and good or bad they all eat the same. Milk records of the doe's mother or herself are important. The above figures represent an out put short of 2,000 pounds of milk in a year. Not a record breaker, but I don't use as much grain (2/3 sweet feed, 1/3 cracked corn) as some do, feed local grass/clover hay and suppliment with alfalfa cubes.

If you plan on keeping a buck, if at all possible plan on keeping two. One buck alone will get lonely and he can get very unruley if not dangerous. The second buck can be a cheaper/smaller animal, less to feed, and should be castrated if you don't need two bucks. Bucks by nature want to buck and play. If they don't have a "buddy" you or worse a child will do.

I also advise to NEVER treat a young buck as a pet and let them jump on you or butt you, or does for that matter. What is cute when "Billy" is 20 lbs. isn't so cute when he is over 200 lbs. Treat him with respect as a livestock animal. Grooming and feet care should be started early. Calm routine and habit from day one. And admittedly, some of them are just plain mean...have had those also, but not for long...

On the subject of "goaty" milk: 99% of my "goaty" milk can usually be traced to slack milking sanatation/feeding mistakes on my part. Long ago, I had heard that some goats are just born with the hereditary predisposition of giving goaty milk. I didn't think to much about it till a lady locally bred and sold alot of Nubians and this trait seemed to follow all of them to many different owners. I for one culled a buck from her out of my herd before breeding him because just too many different people stated the milk taste problem where as they had no problem with their other does??? Get a sample of their mother's or the doe's milk before you buy if possible. Taste it freash, taste it on day two, judge for yourself. Also a good idea to taste the milk first if you are new to farm fresh milk in general before you invest alot of money and effort into home dairying.

Also, on the subject of separating cream with out a separator. Save up the amount of milk you want to use. Then instead of keeping it in jars, put it in shallow pans, like pie pans and such. Maximum surface area is the goal. Then skim the cream off the top. I did this for awhile years ago, and it works just fine with goats milk, but at that time I didn't have enough undisturbed "surface area" to put out enough pans to make it practical, nor can I remember how long you leave the milk set?

One last thing on the cow/goat debate. Each area of the country (world) has different health problems effecting livestock. When you decide on which one to keep, check with your local extension service and/or veterenarian to find out what vaccinations are recommended in your area. Get advice on a worming schedual. Educate yourself well on diseases possible, especially TB, and study up on the topic of pasturization vs. raw milk.

And finally, a couple of links I have discovered that offer some good advice on making cheese, yogart, etc. from milk:

Dairy Forum and alot more

David Fankhauser

-- Lilly (homesteader145@yahoo.com), June 26, 1999.

Sorry I missed this thread earlier.

Has anyone considered or have experience with dairy sheep? There's a lot more sheep milk cheese eaten than most people notice, and even in England sheep milk has a long history.

East Friesian breed reads well: high milk yield, good cream content, good carcase, high lambing percentage with the milk to support them and grow them fast, and they give lots of (coarse) wool as well. Also their milk doesn't contain the capric/caproic(?) acid that is released to give the "goaty" taste to goat's milk. Sounds on paper as if this breed has everything going for it that a combination of Boer, dairy and cashmere goats do. I'm leaning that way, although I can't do it yet. I do know that sheep don't need nearly as good a fence as goats or cows, and don't do fences the damage that cattle will. I can outfight, outrun and outthink most sheep too, whereas with cows and goats I'm not so sure.

Dairy sheep is all theory with me though - real world experience welcomed.

P.S. Goat meat (except Billies) is a lot like mutton, only very lean. That's fine by me, but some people don't like mutton - can't understand that.

Regards, Don Armstrong

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), June 28, 1999.

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