Dairy goats on pasture.

Before Buying a Dairy Goat

Things to Consider Before You Buy a Dairy Goat

You are buying a dairy goat, and you want to really evaluate all that’s involved before you jump in. Very smart idea!

It is much better to learn ahead of time. It cuts down on the amount of heartache and unnecessary loss when you do so! Owning livestock always brings surprises, even when you’ve done all the right things. So, the more you know, the better off you are.

Here are some things you need to give serious consideration to before you purchase and bring home your first dairy goat. You will soon be able to find another article about what you should be looking for in a dairy goat here on our blogs, but until then…

How much milk do you want?

This will dictate how many you will want to breed and/or keep (Remember you should always keep at least two together because they are herd animals).

You may be thinking of purchasing a dwarf or pygmy variety of goat. They seem to be very popular. Keep in mind that, on average, they only produce two to three cups per day per goat. Some will produce a bit more, some a bit less. But overall, you can expect about that quantity.

However, if you choose a full sized breed, and it is a good quality dairy goat, you will get anywhere from one half to two gallons a day of milk. Our best goat gives us one gallon a day on her “worst” days. This is usually at the end of her lactation cycle. But her usual output is approximately a gallon and a half.

Half gallon of raw goat’s milk. Creamy and delicious.

What will you do with extra milk?

Even if your family are big milk drinkers, there may be times when you wind up with extra milk. What will you do with that extra half gallon? Gallon? Two gallons of milk?

Make Cheese.

It takes approximately 10 lbs. of milk (or a bit over a gallon) to make a pound of hard cheese. This is because cheese is from the fatty part of the milk. A by-product of making cheese is “whey”. Whey is the non-fatty part of the milk and still contains a lot of nutrients, but has lost the fat of the milk. Whey can be used to make baked goods, so you can keep it in the refrigerator for a week or two until you can use it.

Therefore, along with your goat, you may want to purchase a cheesemaking book, such as Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, so you can know what you need before hand. Our family loves my homemade farmer’s cheese and it’s so easy to make.

Make Soap.

I LOVE goat milk soap. Even before we had the farm, I loved the creamy, rich texture of goat milk soap. So when I had made all the cheese I needed, I delved into the world of soap making! That was the birth of Scentinel Soap!

You can find various recipes online for goat milk soap. I highly recommend doing the research and finding a recipe that works for you. I found a recipe and toyed with it a little until I found exactly what I needed. There are SO many recipes out there.

Another reason I love making soap is that if I don’t use all my milk before it starts to turn, then I freeze it and use it for soap-making. It helps guarantee that I never waste milk. For soap making, you would first freeze the milk in ice trays and then pop them out and into gallon sized bags in your freezer until you are ready to make soap.

Make Yogurt.

If you love Greek yogurt, you can easily make it with whole goat milk. I have an Instant Pot that I make mine in because it has the “yogurt” setting on it. However, even if you don’t, you can easily make it in a crockpot. All you will need is a half gallon (or gallon) of milk, a PLAIN Greek yogurt from the store, a thermometer meant for liquids, and a crockpot or Instant Pot.

After making the initial batch of yogurt, you can strain it to make it thicker (as we are used to in the grocery store brands). Keep a little back and don’t eat it all. That way, you won’t have to buy another container… ever…. from your grocery store.

To get you started, here is a link to another homesteader who can show you the specifics of making it in the InstantPot.

Feed It to Other Animals.

A century or more ago, if you didn’t grow your own food, you didn’t eat. There were no big box grocery stores like we are used to now. The same was true for what your animals ate.

So, even if you are feeding your animals grain from the local livestock store or big box farm store, you can still supplement nutrients to the other animals on your farm. Pigs, chickens, livestock guardian dogs, and of course your little barn cat can all benefit from a serving or two or three of raw goat milk. I even give them my unwanted whey.

If you’d like to read more on this, I highly recommend a book called The Independent Farmstead by the Shawn and Beth Dougherty. They recommend a quart a day of milk for every 12 chickens. That will give them added protein and allow you to cut back on the layer feed if they are also able to forage.

Milking Equipment

Something you have to consider when getting the dairy goat is milking. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but there are some things you should consider.

Hand-milking is very relaxing and enjoyable. Or should I say, it can be. At the beginning of our goat journey, I would put on some bluegrass tunes and just begin milking into my stainless steel pail, keeping rhythm with the music. It was a time I would just get lost in the moment.

Hand-milking equipment is basically soapy and clean water with rags to wash the udder, a stainless steel pail, a glass jar, a filter and a funnel. It is fairly simple and easy.

However, having come from 20 years of working on a computer, carpal tunnel started to creep in, making it a painful endeavor. So, with that being said, we had to consider a milking machine.

We started with the Hantop milking machine. I am sure they have made adjustments since we purchased ours two years ago, however, here is our experience. We found that after a bit, it had rust spots in the collection chamber after a while. Also, the motor box vibrated so much that the screws came out. Most importantly, one of my girls acted like it wasn’t comfortable for her and would resist me putting it on. So, in the end, we returned it for a refund.

At the end of the day, we decided to invest in a Simple Pulse milk machine. Although it is an expensive investment, it is worth it.  They are an American company with excellent customer service. Their machine is well built and designed to last. You can easily put two goats to milk at the same time.

There are other milk machine companies, but these are the two we experienced. If you decide to get a milking machine, the most important thing to ensure is that your goat is not injured by the machine.  

You Will Be Your Own Vet

Vets are hard to come by who will service goats. Generally speaking, veterinarians deal mainly with household pets and large livestock. It is the rare veterinarian who truly knows what they are doing with a goat. You may be fortunate to find one, but it is rare.

Don’t get me wrong, they know enough to help with life threatening situations, however, you will be the #1 problem solver with your goat. 

Learn as much as you can about common ailments of goats and how to treat them BEFORE you get them. You will continually learn as you go through life with them, but know that it takes effort on your part and the basics.

This is especially true when it comes to parasitical management. Goats, like all other herbivores, always carry a certain load of parasites in their system. Healthy goats living stress free will maintain their load on their own to acceptable levels. However, you need to learn to read Famacha scores, get fecals done (or learn to do your own), and know how to dose for overloads and with what medications.

You may choose, as we did, to go the herbal route. You can get a great head start at The Giving Goat‘s blog site. She has AMAZING information that is invaluable to those who are looking to start the herbal route.

Get a Goat Mentor!

In addition to learning as much as you can, you will want a goat mentor. This is just someone who has owned goats longer than you have.

Sometimes you will have done all the research you could and still will hit a situation that will leave you scratching your head. In this instance, you will need someone who may have some recommendations for you.

Goat people are some of the nicest people I know. I actually have three goat mentors. I have one for general care and sales, one for showing goats and care, and a third who helps me figure out the herbal care and treatments of my goats.

Breeding, Kidding, and Buck Ownership

To get milk, you need to have a baby. Will you breed every year?  Some breeds, like the Lamancha, can milk up to two years on a single breeding, but the quantity produced will drop the second year.

Outside of that, goats need to be bred every year to keep them in milk. So, you will have to consider if you want to own your own buck or if you want to hire out a buck for that one time a year. You can find out more about breeding goats here.

Do you want to house him and feed him for the entire year to service your girls? If you do own one, will you rent him out to service other’s does?

Like with human births, there are does that are prone to complications and some that have easy births.  However, even some does who kid well may have a complication (i.e. Maple’s doe last year with one leg back). Are you ready to jump in, unafraid, and assist?

What to Do with Babies

Goat math is as real as chicken math. You will have one to four baby goats per doe born each year. Deciding who to keep and who to sell is always a difficult decision.

This year, we had two mommas kid. We got four kids. Three of them were bucks. We are only keeping the doeling and a buckling. The other two bucks we have to sell.

You will have to consider what to do if you can’t sell those babies. These are hard decisions. You will either have to use them as a pet, a meat source, or bring them to the sales barn. Each of these are hard decisions. However, it is the nature of owning goats.

Little two week old buckling and doeling.

We hope this helps you consider some additional things to your dairy goat search. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us. We love to help others in their homesteading journey.

At the end of the day, goats are a lot of fun to own. Plus they give yummy milk!

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