Hello and welcome back to the Gubba podcast! I’m Gubba first time homesteader folllowing in the footsteps of my homesteading forbears. In this podcast I discuss prepping, homesteading, and everything in between. Today I’m going to be discussing a super fun topic - dairy cows and goats and which one is best for you. I will go over the pros and cons of each as I just went through this learning process and I decided on one, but I’m not going to tell you what one until later in the episode, so you can make your guess as I go through the differences.
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Dairy cows vs dairy goats
Starting with a dairy cow, who doesn’t love cows? They’re so stinkin cute so that’s definitely a plus but goats are cute too so we’re really tied there. For dairy cows, I learned that there are quite a few varieties to choose from. You have Holstein (which is the traditional commercial dairy cow because they produce so much milk), brown Swiss (which are known for cheese making) jersey (which is the traditional homestead dairy cow and produces A2 milk), guernsey (which are very similar to jersey), Highlander (which is a dual purpose breed meaning you can raise for meat and milk) So over the course of deciding what kind of dairy animal is right for me, I dove into the different breeds and learned a lot about them. It’s neat how different breeds do different things. So you definitely have choices when you decide you want a dairy cow.
Is cow milk homogenized? Is goat milk homogenized?
One great thing about raw cow milk is that it isn’t homogenized (meaning the milk and cream separate.) This is a major positive because you can easily separate the cream and make butter or ice cream or whatever your heart dreams of with that cream. With the raw cows milk I purchase, I always get a beautiful cream line separation where the cream is at the top and the milk below. Definitely a plus as compared to goats milk. Goats milk is naturally homogenized so the milk and cream are together, which is a big con, at least for me. I want that cream to make some butter. If you want to separate goats milk from the cream, you either need to gather a lot of milk for a little bit of cream or purchase a separator which can be expensive. This may be an issue for you, maybe not.
How do you transport a cow? How do you transport a goat?
One advantage goats have over cows is that they are easier to transport. Throw them in your car or back of your truck and boom you’re on your way. A cow needs a trailer so transporting is more challenging. If you’re like me, I don’t have a cow trailer so that is something I would have to hunt down to borrow from a neighbor or invest in and that’s a big investment. I can’t just put a cow in the back of my car. Transport will be important for when you breed your dairy animal. Can’t have milk without them having a baby so you need to figure out your plan for that. There are places that offer you to bring your animals to pasture with their male counterparts in their fields and you hope they get pregnant or there is artificial insemination where someone comes out and inseminates your animal-this has less of a chance of working compared to the pasture method. You could also get the male counterpart and bring to your homestead so you never have to pay for someone to help you get your animal pregnant. This method is a con for both goats and some dairy cows. Male goats get incredibly stinky. Every goat owner I spoke with said that make goats have a horrendous stench to them and you don’t want them anywhere near the house. It seems so odd but that’s just a characteristic , maybe there are less smellier male goats but I don’t know. Having a bull cow can also be a con because some bulls are mean. I’ve heard and read horror stories about jersey bulls about how they charge and rip through fencing and are not friendly at all. So having a large animal like that could be dangerous especially with kiddos. So having your own self sufficient heard of either goats or dairy cows could be difficult but I think goats would be more manageable. I would rather have the smell than be charged by a big bull.
Are cows clean? Are goats clean?
Another thing to consider for these two animals is the cleanliness. Cows will go to the bathroom while you’re milking them - I have experienced this first hand while milking my neighbors jersey. They don’t care that you’re milking, they got to go. Whereas goats will not go to the bathroom while you’re milking and if they did they’re poo is easier to clean up than a cows as they’re little pellets and a cow pie is definitely like a big pile of smelly mushy pudding. You can’t just scoop it out as easily as a goats. Cows will also lay in their poo as its warm whereas goats like to stay clean. They’re both hardy animals with the cow probably being more hardy and able to withstand more weather ailments, but both can survive a winter with some provided shelter. You don’t need to have any extravagant shelters for them even just a three sided shed would be great so they can escape the different elements. So goats definitely win in the cleanliness department.
What kind of fencing do you need for cows? What kind of fencing do you need for goats?
For containment, cows are definitely easier to contain. This was something I looked into heavily because I would have to prepare for either animal but how much work would depend on the animal. Goats are escape artists so you need to build a proper fencing enclosure with electric netting fencing or no-climb fencing. Their horns can get stuck in different types of fencing so you have to be careful with what you use because you don’t want them to get caught and die. Cows are easier to maintain - one string of hot fence and you’re good. They get it. Calves are a bit different as they like to get out so you will need more than just a string of hot fence but nothing as elaborate as you’ll need for goats. I talked to one goat farmer and she said she didn’t have her fencing secured and the goats got out and ate all of her trees. That would be such a bummer.
What do cows eat? What do goats eat?
When people think of goats they think of them eating grass. Actually, goats are pickier eaters and prefer more burly items like weeds and things like trees. Cows are more of the lawn mower and eat that beautiful sun kissed grass. So this could be a positive or negative for you depending on where you live. What kind of land do you have? Maybe you don’t have pasture but live in a wooded area with bushes and what not- goats would live that!
For feeding, cows are a bigger animal so require more feed but they also produce a ton of milk. You will be swimming in milk. With goats, I can’t say that you will be swimming in milk. Feed costs will depend on where you live and what kind of area you have to house your animals. For example I have a lot of pasture so cows wouldn’t need any supplemental feeding spring through fall saving me on feed. That would be a similar case if I lived in a wooded bushy area for goats but I don’t. You can make either one work though.
How do you keep your cows healthy? How do you keep your goats healthy?
For maintenance you will have to treat your goats regularly for worms. For cows, you don’t. That is something to consider for health maintenance. Each of them have different health concerns like mastitis is an issue prominent among dairy cows where the milk doesn’t get completely emptied from the utter and they get an infection whereas goats don’t deal with that as much. They can but it is more prominent among cows. You will want to find a vet in your area that is knowledgeable on whatever animal you decide to get. You will want to have clean areas for your either your cow or goat to be in. If you plan to drink or sell the milk from either, you don’t want to have a dirty environment to be gathering the milk from.
How much is a dairy cow? How is a dairy goat?
Both cows and goats love to have companions. The golden rule is to ideally get two at a time, so they don’t have to be lonely. Dairy cows are more expensive than dairy goats, so it may be more difficult to get your cow a companion than it would a goat. A dairy cow will run you anywhere from about $1,000 to $3,000 depending on the cow, age, health, and other factors. Whereas dairy goats run $100-$400 depending on similar factors. So you can see that it is definitely more difficult to get a companion to your dairy cow right off the bat than it would be to get a companion for your goats.
I would suggest when you are purchasing an animal to get one that is registered and the owner kept track of its health and has a chart of some sort. I called around to a lot of different dairy cow and goat places and learned some people are selling off their backyard herd and don’t have any information besides the animal is cute and other people have spreadsheets with dates of every event in the animal’s life. I would suggest going with the latter because it will give you a better idea as to the kind of care they received. I’m sure backyard herds are okay sometimes, but I never felt completely comfortable with it but that’s maybe because I’m new and wouldn’t know what to look for when it comes to the health of an animal. With my dairy animal, I chose a farm that had spreadsheets and a plethora of information on the specific one I was getting. Get to know the people who sell the animals in the area because they can become a wealth of knowledge for you. The farmer I get my meat from raises goats, so I was able to pester them with a ton of questions last time I was at their farm and they were happy to share their knowledge with me and show me around. If this isn’t possible for you, I would suggest consuming a lot of youtube content surrounding the animals so you can see what they are like.
Both animals will be a commitment. One HUGE factor to consider is that these animals will require your time daily. When you are milking them, they need to be milked twice a day while they are in milk. If they don’t get milked, they can develop infections and it is your responsibility to do the best you can to make sure that doesn’t happen. If you can’t milk, you need to find someone who can. Preferably you milk twice a day 12 hours a part to keep them on a schedule.
With all of this considered, what animal do you think best fits you and your lifestyle? After considering all of these pros and cons, I went with…drum roll please.. a dairy cow! I genuinely flip-flopped back and forth between goats and a cow, but landed on a cow because the cream. The cream in the milk is huge to me because I really want to make butter and other things with the cream. Goat milk is extremely healthy, but I truly desired the cream. Plus, I would have to do a lot to get an enclosure ready for goats and I wasn’t ready for that project. I have some fencing that will do for a cow, but I will have to enforce it before the calf comes. So I found a Jersey dairy cow who is due to birth in September. I’m excited and with everything, there is a learning curve, so I will be going through that in another episode down the line of everything I have learned and continue to learn with a dairy cow.
I’m unsure what I will do with the calf yet. If it’s a girl, I could keep it to have another dairy cow and a companion to its mama. If it’s a male, I could sell it or raise it for beef. The Jersey mom was bred to an angus bull, so the baby will be a dual purpose cow for meat and milk. Of course, I get so attached to animals that I will probably be starting a massive herd. Hope not, but who knows.
Thank you so much for listening! I hope I helped you learn more about the difference between dairy goats and dairy cows. You can follow along with me on my website gubbahomestead.com or my vlog journey on youtube. You best believe I’ll be sharing this journey! Hope you have a beautiful day!