We are discussing a very serious topic today on the homestead. And one I don't take lightly.
Eh, okay fine, so it's not that serious. But none-the-less, it's a very large and important decision. Financially, emotionally, and eh, workally.
Yes, I do realize that workally is not a word. What I mean to say is “a decision that will affect the work load of the one who makes it”.
Today, friends, we're taking on the topic of dairy goats and dairy cows.
Or should I say, rather, dairy goats vs. dairy cows.
We are near the deciding period and it's time to figure out once and for all the pro's and con's of owning both. And let me begin by saying that we've all but decided already. Because I'm totally biased and opinionated and stubborn.
It's going to be a cow.
But let's look at this a moment, shall we?
Initially, we were planning on purchasing two bred Nigerian dwarf does. This would be enough to provide us with about a gallon of milk (or slightly less) per day. Not bad, considering how little goats eat. Goats milk is delicious and I've heard that Nigerian dwarf goats produce a milk that is very similar to cow's milk. Another bonus of goat's milk is that a lot of people who can't tolerate cow's milk do very well with goats – it is very similar to the milk a woman produces.
So we've got some pros for goats:
– Less feed
– Less initial investment
– Less space required
– Less milk (this can be a good thing if storage or consumption is a problem!)
– Easy to transport to buck, if needed
The cons of goats are nothing too drastic. The biggest deterrent for me was knowing that we would have to be very vigilant about the fencing requirements, as they are known for their ability to escape. The other large factor I considered was that we'd still have to supplement our dairy requirements with butter and cream. Because goat's milk is naturally homogenized, it poses a difficult task to separate the cream from the milk. We eat a lot of butter and a lot of cream and I would like to produce these from our dairy animal, if possible. Lastly, goat's milk is quick to sour, and should be consumed within a day or two of milking or it begins to taste a little “off”. Again, not a huge deal, but something to consider, no doubt. Nigerian dwarf goats also are much, much easier to milk on a milking stachion, which would require building one or buying one.
So here are our cons for goats:
– Need to bulk up fencing
– No/minimal butter and cream from milk
– Quickly sours
– Need milking stachion
Which leads me to my most favorite animal of all time. The dairy cow – a great option for a homesteader who is looking to produce their own dairy products right in their own backyard. Because I'm so familiar with cattle, I find them comforting to be around. I am familiar with their tendencies, habits, and needs, which just puts me at ease in their presence. Even though they are large animals, I still find them easy to manage and be around – especially a dairy cow who has been trained, most likely, to be a pet. Another great aspect of dairy cow is the large amount of creamy milk they can produce, even on an all-grass diet. One dairy cow can supply a family with anywhere from 2-6 gallons of milk, per day. That is incredible! Some commercial dairy cows are pushed to produce 8-10 gallons of milk per day, but that's unnatural and wrong. So we ain't goin' there.
And while 2-6 gallons of milk per day may seem like an over abundance of milk (and I'm sure it does feel like that at moments), this also provides us with the ability to skim off the cream (which can also be frozen, if need be) and produce butter (which can also be frozen) for the cow's two dry months per year. It also would ensure we had plenty of milk for home culturing yogurt, kefir, various cheeses (such as ricotta), buttermilk, sour cream, and good ‘ol raw milk for drinking. Let's look at some pros for the dairy cow, shall we?
Pros for cow:
– More milk, the excess of which can be shared with family or friends, or fed to farm animals (nothing is ever wasted!)
– Can make cream & butter from milk
– No milk stachion required (a good dairy cow will allow you to tie her up and will happily nibble of a bit of grain or grass while being milked)
– Easier fencing requirements
Having a family cow, no doubt, also comes with some drawbacks. For the fiscally-challenged folks out there such as ourselves, the primary deterrent is the cost associated with feeding a cow. Well, feeding and purchasing, that is. While a typical, high-quality, registered bred Nigerian dwarf doe will sell for anyway from $150-$300, a family dairy cow can easily run upwards of $1000.
$1000. That's a lot of milk.
But while the initial cost of purchasing the cow may make Dave Ramsey choke, it's important to remember that a family dairy cow is an investment. She will provide you with delicious milk for years to come. And with raw milk running anyway from $7-$20 a gallon commercially, it won't take long to make up that investment. You can also read more about why we drink raw milk HERE.
That being said, let's look at some cons of the dairy cow:
– Higher purchase price
– Higher initial investment
– Surplus of milk (could potentially be a problem)
– Harder to transport to bull for breeding, if needed
It's an apples and oranges argument, really, but it's still one I've been thinking a lot about. As with all our homesteading decisions, as much as I'd like to make it off of emotion and personal preferences (which, mind you, there is some place for) at this stage in our financial life, our homesteading decisions are greatly affected by the financial aspect. I've been praying a lot about this decisions. And while that may seem silly, it's a big decision! A big investment! And a big commitment of time!
Based on my own personal preference, I've decided to go for the cow. A cow that is bred to calve this summer would be perfect.
I see beautiful, wax-paper wrapped packages of butter in my freezer.
I see warm, delicious jars of cream.
I also see cold mornings not wanting to get out of bed to milk.
And busy afternoons with hardly any more room for farm chores.
But more than that, I also see the importance of purposefully slowing down. And being present in the work at hand. And prioritizing my to-do list. And appreciating the work of our animals and the origin of our food. And not being fearful of hard work.
Now…to find a dairy cow…