Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goats vs. Cows


Winter is our favorite time to think about the plans for our backyard farm for the upcoming year. As Michael and I talk, we just can't decide if we want a couple goats or if it would be better to have a cow.  We are on an acre, so a cow is actually feasible on our property.

Let's let the great cow vs. goat debate begin!
Leave a comment to weigh in on the debate.

24 comments:

Teaspoon said...

It depends a lot on your preferences and what you want to produce. For cost effectiveness, goats produce more milk per pound of feed than cows do, and they tend to have lower vet bills. Goats are usually easier to breed, and you could potentially keep your own buck, particularly if you go with the pygmy breeds, and the amount of milk per day tends to be more manageable. Kids can be sold or provide meat, and the extra milk makes nice cheese. Goat's milk is often safe for people with lactose intolerance.

A single Jersey cow probably won't be any harder on your acre than a couple of goats, and a lot of people prefer the taste of cow's milk to goat's milk. If you would be able to use around 6 gallons of milk per day (lots and lots of cheese, perhaps), then a cow might be a better option. Cow's milk makes good butter, while goat's milk usually is too low in butterfat. An annual calf can also be sold or provide meat, but by the time the calf is butcher-ready, you'll have two full-sized cows on your single acre, and that meat will cost more in upkeep.

I hope you're all happy whichever way you decide to go!

Rachel said...

I have to agree with Teaspoon. I would say go with goats. The dwarf breeds have higher butterfat than the full size goats and the milk, when fresh, does not taste goaty. I actually find our goat's milk to be slightly sweeter than cow milk. We raise African Pygmy goats, but they aren't considered a dairy breed. The produce an even higher butterfat and the cream does separate so I do have the choice to make butter if I want.

Plus, if you go with goats you don't have to use as much land to raise animals and instead diversify more.

Allison at Novice Life said...

I am in the same boat so I am interesting to see the replies. My husband had heard something too about a 'smaller' sized dairy cow that could be an option?

katiegirl said...

I say go with goats. You can have multiple goats to one cow, and goats are MUCH easier to house than cows. Shelters for goats are much smaller than shelters for cows. Cows will tear up the ground because they're just so much heavier, and if it's rainy or muddy they'll do damage. If you only have an acre including your house (like we do), then definitely goats would be more economical. Around here (in the mid atlantic) cows need a bare minimum of 1 acre, and 1.5-2 acres is "more better" because you'll have to purchase less feed for the cow.

With goats you can have more than one (they are herd animals and need buddies). They're easy for kids to handle, and if you had 2 in milk your family would probably have more than enough milk. You can also do staggered breedings so you have milk year round instead of having them all dry at the same time. I know people love their mini goats, but I don't like them. Full sized goats don't take up THAT much more space, but they give way more milk and are easier to milk because they have bigger teats.

I love cows, and one day I'd love to have one, but right now I can't afford to give up the space and money involved to keep one, plus that's WAY more milk than our family could use.

Good luck with your decision!

marisa said...

Wow, already so much great information! You guys rock!!! Any cow lovers out there???

Teaspoon said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, I love cows, and hope to have one or maybe even two someday. I just wouldn't try to have a cow on a single acre. Your situation might be different, though, particularly if you can arrange to graze her on nearby property to give your acre a break from cow hooves now and then.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Let's see goats vs. cow ... well goats you can put up on a milking stand, cow you need to sit on a low stool. Goats have short tails, no getting slapped in the face as with a long cow tail. Goats take up less space. Goats won't hurt as much if they step on your foot. Who is going to train cow to walk on halter, stand still for milking. Goats are easier to handle. Who is going to milk twice a day 24/7, think that is the person who decides cow vs. goats.

Mona @ Healthy Homesteading said...

I have 5 goats but we are looking to buy a Dexter cow maybe next year. Will still keep the milking goats for milk and 4H for my little girl.
Goats are great.I love their playful personalities. They are less costly in feed but goat's milk has very little butter fat. That means it's harder to gather cream. The other thing you have to consider is the care of the goats milk. If you are used to the "goaty" flavor then this may not be an issue for you but for us "cows milk loving people" it is a serious issue. Our goat milk tastes like cows milk but there are certain things we have to do to make sure it does. After about 3-5 days the milk flavor changes.

The breed of cow we chose is a miniature beef cattle. The females are docile enough to milk and their offspring can be used for meat. They don't produce huge amounts of milk like a Jersey would but unless you have other families to share with, you don't want that much milk. They also have a high butter fat.

A Dexter would be great for your size property. But goats are also great to have and have a better milk to feed ratio.

That's my two cents :)

Charlotte said...

Looks like you got some great advice on goats vs cow. I grew up with cows and drinking fresh cow milk and making butter. While the cow was docile, it never acted like a pet. I now have 4 goats and live on one acre in a mid-size city. I haven't breed them yet, so I can't comment on the milk--I am looking forward to it. But goats are the BEST animals for pets. I bottle fed 3 of them. They are Nigerian Dwarfs. They come to me like dogs, follow me around and are very playful.

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katiegirl said...

Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer to have a cow instead of goats if I had the space and money. :-) Until that day, my goats'll do just fine. :-P

Christy said...

As much as I wish I did, I don't love goat milk. It is limited and not popular with my kids! I love to make butter and cheese, so one day, when space allows, I have hopes for smallish farm and a miniature jersey. A cow is my vote!

marisa said...

Yea! A vote for a cow!!!

Kat said...

My vote is going to have to be for team cow. I like the ocassional goat cheese but I just couldn't go with out cow milk/cheese/butter. Plus, goats are excape artists will chew on anything.

Mona @ Healthy Homesteading said...

This article might interest you > http://www.nourishingdays.com/2011/12/should-we-get-a-goat-or-a-cow-one-homesteaders-experience-with-both/

marisa said...

Thanks Mona, that was very helpful.

goatgirl said...

I'm going to have to say goat. But I do raise Nigerian Dwarf goats. They are miniature dairy goats that give sweet delicious milk that doesn't taste goaty at all. Goat milk is more delicate than cow milk so needs to be handled more carefully and it helps to chill it right away but I have never had goaty flavored milk. If the milk has a goaty flavor then there is something wrong with the goat, what its eating, or the way the milk is handled. As for butterfat, my doe is giving 7.8% butterfat on her last test. It doesn't separate like cow milk so if butter is a priority than a cow might be better. Two miniature goats will keep your family in milk and if you stagger the breedings will keep you in milk all year. I make soft cheese which everyone loves but have no experience with the harder cheeses and their flavor.
I just never wanted a cow because I can't stand the mess they make.

anthropsychopathy said...

I say goats. I agree with the facts that they are herd animals and you can keep a couple (as opposed to a single cow), stagger the kiddings, and have milk year round. Goats are cheaper, easier to house, and more manageable in size. I disagree that they are more likely to be escape artists. Growing up our goats never escaped our property, although there were several times when neighbor's cattle broke through fences. I never thought our goats' fresh milk tasted "goaty". The only time I've had it taste that way was when I bought some from someone else. Agreed, if your goats' milk tastes goaty, there's something wrong.

A lot of people like the Nigerian dwarves as a smaller dairy animal. Personally, I was raised with and will forever love the Nubian breed. They have awesome temperaments and in my opinion are just beautiful animals.

So anyway, I vote goat. But do what ultimately will work best for you and your family.

The Kradolfers said...

I was just doing some catch up reading on your blog. I'm pretty late coming in, but I have to give goats another vote. Aside from the practicality and production aspects, Goats are just plain fun. Cows don't have much of a personality that I've noticed, but goats will give you something to laugh about and they are very endearing and sweet and curious. The milk tastes wonderful if properly handled and cooled immediately. I had goats as a child for 4-H and I just loved them. I told my husband before we were married that I would only marry him if I could someday have an orchard and a goat. They really are wonderful animals. BUT...if you really just want a cow then get a dexter as mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

We use to get cows milk free from my husbands family (cow) dairy farm. Although I loved it I had digestive issues.( still do ) So on my Doc.'s advice I bought goats milk, ( back when you still could ) from a nearby farm . I loved the taste even more then I love cow's milk! My digestive trouble all but disappeared. I had some food allergies & sensitiveness that I did not know about, & only sprang up when we ate out. ( not much back then ) My husband preferred cow's milk of course. This worked out great till, that is my kids ( I only had 3 back then tasted it . I could not keep them out of it . They not only preferred it to cow's, they would drink it even though there was both cow's milk & cool aid in the fridge . I just could not afford to buy it for me & them too! By the time I felt I could the farmer no longer had a goat heard .

Daniel Fernandez said...

I"m somewhat of a macho man in my mid twenties and never say these things but my god you have an adorable family. Their smiles made me smile even the dog's

marisa said...

Thank you macho man Daniel!

3RMama said...

It seems to me... it all depends on your fence and your pocket book!

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