Homesteading Advice on Dairy Animals

MOTHER EARTH NEWS shares a special mini-dairy section with readers, providing advice about which dairy animal to choose for your homestead needs.

| May/June 1975

  • Cows
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS shares advice on choosing which dairy animal is right for your homestead.

  • Cows

For most newcomers to the land — provided they're not the very strictest of vegetarians — the homestead dream includes at least one placidly grazing dairy animal. Just what animal, though, is a matter of personal preference. In the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe, the usual options are cows and goats . . . and each has its vigorous partisans. If you're not violently prejudiced one way or the. other, it's best to make the choice rationally on the basis of your own circumstances and the nature of the beasts in question.

Homesteading Advice on Dairy Animals

Cows, for instance, are basically grass eaters and require good pasture in summer and plentiful hay through the winter, with some grain as a supplement. If your homestead is blessed with lush meadows, Bossy will thrive. On the other hand, if what you have to offer is rough terrain and brush-grown hillsides, a herd of goats will clamber and browse happily on your place (and help control the undergrowth while they feed). They can't produce milk on twigs alone, though, and will need additional rations of hay, vegetables, and grain.

There are many other pros and cons . . . mostly questions of cost versus productivity. A good cow will require a fairly large initial investment (in many areas, $300 and up for an established milker) and will need more food and more elaborate shelter than a goat . . . but she'll also produce much larger quantities of milk (several gallons a day) and her calves will be valuable regardless of sex (steers of even the dairy breeds will provide large quantities of high-quality protein for home use).

While a doe's production is much smaller than a cow's — an average is two to three quarts daily over a 10-month season — always remember that you can keep about five goats for the cost of one cow and that goats' milk can often be tolerated by people who are allergic to cows' milk. Nanny is also given to multiple births, which means that your herd will increase quickly (and also that you'll have to dispose of numerous male kids. . . not an easy decision, since they're among the most charming of young animals. Chevon, however, is good food if you can bring yourself to do the slaughtering.)

Two more points to consider before you commit yourself to any milch animal:

  • The price of a home milk supply is getting out to the barn faithfully twice a day — come hell, high water, childbirth, double pneumonia, or legal holidays — to milk and otherwise tend your beasts.
  • Robert Frost was right . . . good fences really do make good neighbors. If you have stock, you're responsible for controlling them. Goats are notorious escape artists and a frisky heifer is none too easy to keep in the home pasture.

If you do make the commitment, there are several good sources of information on goatkeeping . . . including the following:

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: April, 27-28 2019
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters