Goat v/s Cow
We had decided we would own and milk dairy goats. A few Nubian does and one buck was the plan. We had been drinking raw goat’s milk for months and knew we enjoyed the flavor as well as the health benefits. We had the pasture. We had the perfect land for goats (lots of woods and briers). We were even working on fencing in some woods for the goats to live in. Cows were nowhere in sight.
Why we wanted goats:
- They’re small. I had 4 small children at the time & a cow is a very large animal. Goats would be easier to manage and I wouldn’t have to worry about one of my kids being squashed or stepped on.
- They’re social. Nubian goats are especially friendly. They would be companions as well as milk factories.
- Goats are less expensive than cows. We planned to purchase Nubian goats from a friend. The price we paid for 1 cow could have purchased 10-15 goats (depending on age, breed & situation)
- Goats eat less than cows. This means less hay to purchase to get through the winter months.
- You only have to milk them once a day. I had been told cow’s had to be milked twice a day – always. (not true)
- Health benefits. Goats milk is the closest to human milk. It’s a super-food and easy to digest.
- 2 Teats. Goats have 2 teats, I have 2 hands. It seemed logical.
Fortunately, we had an opportunity to work closely with goats before we got our own.
Our experience may have been unique. After researching, interviewing goat owners, talking to our vet, milking goats ourself, drinking the milk and working with goats milk we decided to get a jersey cow.
I am glad we spent so much time with goats and goat owners before we jumped in and purchased some. We did not come to our cow decision lightly. It was much time, thought, research, reading, praying, talking with experienced folks, hands-on experience and more research that eventually brought us to our girl, Faith.
Why we went Cow:
- Quantity. We drink over 7 gallons of milk a week. This is if I do not make ice-cream, fudge, pancakes, oatmeal, cheese, yogurt, or milkshakes. In order to meet all of our dairy needs we need about 10 gallons of milk a week. To get this amount of milk from dairy goats it would take a lot of goats. Or one giant super-goat with a huge udder; but I don’t think those exist.
- Milking time – In order to get 1-2 gallons of milk from goats per day – I’d need to milk several goats every day. This translates into:
- Bring goat #1 into the milk barn,
- tie up on milking stand,
- close the head-gate,
- wash the udder,
- test the milk (for mastitis),
- milk the goat,
- dip the teats,
- turn the goat back out to pasture.
- Bring in goat #2 & repeat steps 2-8
- Bring in goat # 3 & repeat steps 2-8
- Bring in goat #4 & repeat steps 2-8
- Bring in goat #5 & repeat steps 2-8; etc, etc, etc,
- We can get 4+ gallons of milk per day from 1 cow. One and done. If I don’t want to milk 2 times a day, I can run a calf with her and still get 2 gallons of milk each day.
- Milking ease – Most folks I know who milk diary goats have a stand for their goats to perch on while being cleaned, prepped, and milked. Cows need nothing. This morning Faith wasn’t wearing her harness because I took it to the house to wash. I just let her stand in the middle of the milk barn while I milked her. No stanchion, no head gate, no harness, no rope, nothing. I cleaned her udder, checked for mastitis, milked her and turned her out to pasture. Quick and Easy, Easy, Easy.
- Excess milk for sustainable agriculture – Our cow supplies us with extra milk that can be used for other purposes on our homestead. We raise pigs on raw milk, we clabber milk for the chickens, we fertilize with it, we soak grains in it, we soak venison and dove in it, we give it away to friends, there is always a use for extra milk.
- Health & diseases. I have never actually owned goats, but I know several folks who do & they have battled some nasty bugs. Some of them now have those nasty bugs in their herd with no easy remedy in sight. I realize that all livestock can become ill and many of the diseases common in goats are also known to inflict cattle as well (think: mastitis, pink eye, ketosis, lice, and bloat). CL, CAE, Johnes’s Disease and Coccidiosis scare the dickens out of me. Any disease that can live in your soil for 5 years after the animals have all moved out terrifies me. I’ve been on that field trip with infectious bronchitis in my chicken flock & don’t want a re-run. I know many of you have very healthy goats and have never dealt with these problems; but it would be my luck that my first goat would be a carrier of them all. Ugh.
- Cow’s milk is more versatile. I can make just about anything I want with my cow’s milk without any special equipment. Butter, cheese, yogurt, ice-cream……… anything. Goat’s milk can also be used for many of these things, BUT it may require special equipment (like cream separators) AND it can be more difficult, AND it usually will yield a smaller quantity of said product (like cheese).
- Picky eaters. I hear goats will not eat hay off the ground. I also hear they will not eat hay they laid on. I also hear they will not eat hay unless it is perfect. Cows are pretty laid back when it comes to dinner. If it’s edible – they’ll eat it. We do take measures to keep their food off the ground for sanitation’s sake, but I’m pretty sure the cows don’t care. We can rake around the feeder and toss the hay from the ground back into the feeder and they’ll eat it. Every time we add hay to the run-in (to keep them cozy in winter) – they eat it. They eat the bedding. They eat the floor. They eat the stuff around the edges of the run-in that doesn’t look like something that should be eaten. Ugh. We have even tried using straw in the run-ins to keep from over-feeding the cows. I’m pretty sure they at that too. If it resembles food – they’ll eat it.
- Fencing. Cows are EASY to keep penned in. You could drape a piece of yarn around an area and our cow would not cross the string. Goats need waterproof fencing. This is the number one complaint I hear from all my goat owning friends. This is the number 1 reason why people I know get rid of their goats. It is a constant battle to keep the goats IN their fence, and OFF of the garden, the rose bushes, the front porch, the landscaping, and the neighbors cars. Goats spend 24 hours a day trying to figure out how to get out of their pen. Cows spend 24 hours a day eating (just kidding, sort-of).
I realize that I am completely partial at this point. I took the cow road years ago and it is the familiar one. Our adventures have been far from perfect. We purchased a cow with incurable mastitis and have had some experience with various nonthreatening illnesses. I suppose with any animal there’s going to be “things” that you have to deal with. This is part of animal husbandry, part of learning, part of character building, part of homesteading.
I suppose if I had gone with goats 4 years ago I may be singing a different tune. Or maybe I would be eating chevron and milking a cow by now. Many folks are limited by space, finances, neighbors, or land restrictions and owning a cow just is not an option (HOA limitations, not enough pasture, or too many neighbor cars for your goats to climb on).
For many people, diary goats are a great fit. I understand not everyone has the opportunity to chose between a goat and a cow. I’m glad I had the choice.
If I could do it again I would still pick cow.
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