Homestead Dairy Animals: The Pros and Cons of Cows and Goats

Dairy animals are and invaluable asset to the modern homesteader. Consider all the pros and cons of cows or goats by learning about milking equipment, pasture management and types of dairy products you might produce.

  • Homestead Dairy Goats
    Goats will respect a fence if they enjoy what they find inside. Forage pasture should be diverse, and shelter should be dry and clean.
    Illustration by Liz Pepperell
  • Homestead Dairy Animals
    For mothers milked only once a day, expect 2 quarts from a goat and 3 gallons from a cow, daily.
    Illustration by Liz Pepperell
  • Milking Stand
    A simple milking stand helps nervous animals (and milkers) feel at ease, and is easy to keep clean.
    Illustration by Liz Pepperell

  • Homestead Dairy Goats
  • Homestead Dairy Animals
  • Milking Stand

Many people dream of having fresh milk from their own homestead dairy animal. Their reasons range from the desire for self-sufficiency to the health benefits of the resulting dairy products to the pleasure of working with animals. But how can you determine whether dairying is an achievable goal for you? And whether a cow or a small goat herd would be a better fit for your farmstead? Let’s find out.

Pasture Management for Dairy Cows and Dairy Goats

The best-quality milk comes from animals raised on pasture, with supplemental feed to boost production. Both cows and goats need space to roam and won’t be content in small enclosed areas. Be aware that your pasture may not provide sufficient forage year-round, and you’ll need to feed your dairy animal hay during lean times.

For a cow and growing calf, a minimum of 2 to 5 acres of diverse, well-managed pasture is a must. If your available space is closer to 2 acres, select a smaller breed. Goats require much less space. Depending on the breed, four to five goats can thrive on 1 acre of land. They are mixed foragers and will happily browse on shrubs and trees in addition to pasture.

Housing and Fencing for Dairy Cows and Dairy Goats

A cow needs minimal cover in warm climates, but requires shade in extreme heat. A two-sided run-in shed with fabric cover is adequate and costs about $600. In areas with harsh winters, a 10-by-10-foot loafing shed with three enclosed sides is sufficient to protect a cow from prevailing winds and extreme temperatures. The cost to build this kind of three-sided shed with new materials will start at about $700. Farm auctions frequently sell — or even give away — small outbuildings and reclaimed lumber for just a fraction of that. You’ll also need a separate, sheltered space for milking that you can easily sanitize.

Goats dislike being wet and need shelter that’s closed off to drafts. They require 12 to 25 square feet of shelter per animal, depending on climate, herd size and herd dynamics. In mild climates, they won’t spend much time inside, so you won’t need to provide as much room. In colder climates, though, you’ll need to offer them as much space as possible. You can build a simple shelter and milking shed for several animals for about $1,000.

During kidding or calving time, mothers also need quiet, private space for delivering their young. Consider using a milking stand to help keep nervous or rambunctious animals still. You can build a simple, inexpensive stand using plans widely available online. (Find our basic plans at Build a Homeade Goat Milking Stand. – MOTHER)

8/18/2015 10:24:07 AM

@BlackArrow, Someone clearly had milk from a cruddy dairy farmer, most likely had the doe penned with the buck during lactation causing the funky taste, feeding alfalfa also sweetens the taste and can fool even the most diehard dairy lover. cheese on the otherhand, thats a different story..

7/30/2015 8:47:09 PM

Have any of you ever drank Goat's milk? It tastes like butt; a strong dirt and shit mix. It is an aquired taste.It does mix well with certain teas but that is all. Give me a wonderful Jersey cow bread to a beef bull so I can have real milk and Steaks in the winter.



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