Which is Better for a Family: A Milk-producing Cow or Goat?

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt

Which is a better choice for a new “homesteading” family: a milk-producing cow or goat?

Harry Rotham
Dickinson, North Dakota

Dairy cows and goats are both good choices for a homesteading family. Deciding which is best for your family will probably be based on the kind of pasture available and how much milk you want to deal with each day.

More people around the world raise goats than cows. Goats will eat a variety of foliage that a cow wouldn’t touch. While it is wonderful that goats will eat tough weeds and brush, it also means they will be more than happy to try to break into your garden and eat any and all of the plants you are growing as “people” food. Cows can also cause damage in the garden, but goats have a reputation for eating everything in sight.

Goats are much smaller (mature does weigh in at 120 pounds to 135 pounds) than cows (up to 1,000 pounds) making them easier to handle. Cows on the other hand, while larger, are more mellow and therefore easier to contain in a given area.

Both cow’s and goat milk are good for drinking and for making into cheese and other cultured milk products. It is easier to make butter from cow’s milk than from goat’s because the cream does not separate as easily from goat’s milk. Many people who are allergic to cow’s milk can drink goat’s milk

Both goats and cows produce milk in response to giving birth. A dairy goat will give up to three quarts of milk a day, while a dairy cow, such as a Jersey, will give six gallons. Excess milk can be sold if it is first pasteurized. Most states do not allow raw milk to be sold. Pigs and chickens appreciate excess milk and milk products, and whey, leftover from making cheese, can be used in homemade bread.

 — Heidi Hunt, assistant editor