There are few animals quite as synonymous to farm life as the dairy cow. Those who are looking for a self-sufficient life on some land typically think of chicken and cows to start off with. This makes sense since both eggs and milk are a big staple for many families. However, there are a ton of downsides to adding large livestock such as a cow onto your property.
11 Reasons Why Goats Are Better Than Cows
To begin, a cow is a very large animal with a mind of its own. Most urban and brand new homesteaders have never even been close to a cow, let alone handling them one-on-one. While most family dairy cows are generally friendly and sweet, they still can have their bad days, just like humans. Being able to handle an 800-pound animal safely for you and also the cow, is a skill that you should learn from an experienced person. Some people never end up feeling comfortable around such a large animal, and that is OK. Fortunately, there is an excellent alternative to cows, and they are dairy goats.
Why Dairy Goats?
Dairy goats are an amazing alternative to dairy cows. In fact, some longtime cow owners who’ve switched to goats often state that they wish they would have done so sooner. Here are a few reasons why dairy goats are perfect for those wanting a self-sufficient life.
1) Purchase Price of the Livestock:
Dairy goats are generally much cheaper to purchase than a dairy cow. Goat price tags vary greatly (depending on the age, breed, and whether or not it is registered), but you can typically expect to pay anywhere from $50-$300 for a starter goat. A cow on the other hand is much more expensive. Purchasing a dairy cow will usually set you back $1000-$3000.
2) They Take Up Less Space:
It’s kind of obvious, but a couple of goats will take a whole lot less pasture space, and less space in your pens/barns. Cows on the other hand, require a much larger amount of pasture space. One cow usually requires around 2-5 acres of pasture, depending on where you live. And even if you had decent amount of pasture acres, you would still need to occasionally remove the cows for part of the winter/spring to give it a chance to rest and regrow. This would mean you would need to feed hay for a portion of the year, and that can get expensive very quickly. Speaking about feed costs, lets discuss feeding goats vs cows.
3) They Eat Less:
This can be a huge benefit for many people. A cow eats a ton of food, to say the least. Not only does this mean you may be spending quite a bit, but you will also have two other potential issues: first off, finding enough hay in your area and secondly, storing it. There is also the added cost factor that you need to consider for the amount of feed you will need for both animals, however, feeding a cow will always be more expensive than a goat.
Unless you have some really generous friends with trucks/stock trailers, you’ll need some sort of truck/trailer to haul your cattle. In contrast, you can usually haul goats relatively easily in a minivan or SUV.
5) They Are Easier on the Land:
Naturally, the heavier the animal, the more damage it will do to your land. Goats are lighter and have small hooves that are fairly soft. Goats rarely trample and kill grass if given enough space. Also, since goats only defecate in tiny round balls, you don’t have to worry as much about giant cow pats damaging grass. Cows on the other hand can get a little invasive and love to attempt to access portions of the homestead you don’t want them at. When once had the heard will try to get under the carport for shelter where our mother-in-law’s vehicle was located… needless to say the used the vehicle as a leaning post and left several giant dents into her new vehicle. Another time they broke into the fenced in garden and ate the bananas of the tree while stomping the smaller plants.
6) They Are Amazing Weeders:
Goats are naturally a browsing species, which means they love to eat shrubs, twigs, leaves, and even forage extremely well. Therefore, you can keep using your goats to clear out overgrown or undeveloped pieces of land. Goats are so amazing at that task in fact, there are even companies that rent out herds of goats to clear shrubbery, weeds, and other brush.
7) They Give Less Milk:
This might not seem like a benefit at first, but it actually can be for a small family or individual. Did you know that the average Jersey cow in her prime can produce a whopping 6-plus gallons of milk a day? Impressive, but what is your family going to do with all that milk? Goats produce less milk, anywhere from 1-2 gallons depending on breed. If you are a single person or a couple, this is more than enough. There are even mini dairy goats for those looking for even less milk. Since goats milk is naturally homogenized, very little cream rises to the top. So, if you are having visions of making homemade butter or whipped cream, you’ll need to invest in some sort of mechanical cream separator.
8) The Milk is Delicious:
Unfortunately, there is bit of a stigma about goat milk being disgusting tasting. Of course, it is individual preference, however, fresh goat milk that has been handled correctly takes just like cow milk to most people. Store bought goat milk will taste different then fresh/raw goat milk. We highly recommend those of you who think you don’t like goat milk to try fresh, raw milk. Also, if you or someone in your family (such as one of our daughters) has stomach issues with milk, you’ll be happy to know that goat milk is much gentler on the stomach. Especially for children and we have seen the benefits first hand with our daughter who could not stomach cow milk but thrives on goat milk.
9) Are Much Easier to Handle:
Goats are far smaller than a cow, meaning they are much easier to handle and even less intimidating for those who aren’t accustomed to working with livestock. Even for a very large goat breed such as the Nubian, the goat will hardly be over 150 pounds. A cow on the other-hand which weighs several hundred to thousand pounds can be pretty intimidating. Sitting underneath a 1200-pound cow for the first time so you can grab a hold of its udder can be a bit nerve-wracking.
10) Breeding is an Ease:
In order to get milk, you will need to breed your goats so they can have babies or “kids” as they are known in the livestock world. You will have an easier time finding a goat buck to rent than trying to hunt down a bull to rent. You could probably even afford to own your own goat buck compared to purchasing a bull.
11) They Are Fun:
If you have yet to experience the joy of being around goats, you are going to be surprised at how friendly, playful, and personable they are. Goats are very dog-like in behavior and really enjoy being around people. They are incredibly intelligent, sometimes to a fault, and goats are easily trained to jump up to their stanchion for milking at the same times every day. Despite their playfulness, goats are generally aware of people and are even typically gentle around children. Even small children can safely enjoy interacting with goats (with supervision of course). Parents worried about the size of the cow around their young ones will feel much better about the much smaller stature and awareness of a goat.
If you are a beginning homesteader, we wholeheartedly recommend starting out with a couple of goats. They are a wonderful introduction into the world of home dairying, and you don’t have to shell out a bunch of cash to get started.