Before going into dairy farming, whether you are doing it on a commercial or homestead basis, it would be beneficial to consider a few essential factors. One of the most crucial factors is the type of farming you choose. A popular choice is going into cow dairy farming, but another option exists, goat farming is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Before deciding which option is better, you should consider some differences between dairy and goat farming.
Dairy farming utilizes cows to manufacture dairy products, while goat farming utilizes goats to fulfill the same role. Goat farming is less costly and can use a smaller space with secure fencing, whereas dairy farming has substantially higher initial costs and needs a larger area to function.
When discussing dairy farming vs. goat farming, one of the most vital things to remember is that each option has advantages and disadvantages, and whichever option you choose will depend on your unique circumstances. Knowing a bit about the ins and outs of cow and goat dairy farming will enable you to decide which option best suits you.
What Are The Differences Between Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming?
The main difference between dairy and goat farming is that dairy farming is a method that utilizes cows to produce dairy products, and goat farming uses goats to produce dairy products.
Over the last few years, farmers opting to use goats instead of cows has risen in the United States. Not only because goat’s milk makes wonderfully tasting cheese and yogurt but also because many people who cannot consume cow’s milk due to allergies can drink goat’s milk. This rise doesn’t mean that typical dairy farming is decreasing but that both types are good options.
You may be interested in starting up your dairy or goat farm, or maybe you are just interested in the ins and outs of the different farming techniques. It would help if you looked at some essential aspects to know the differences between dairy and goat farming.
These aspects include the initial and running costs involved, space needed to set up, infrastructure, the nutritional benefits of the different animals’ milk, the amount of milk you could expect, and the pros and cons of each farming method.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Startup And Running Costs
It should not surprise that cows and goats have different purchasing prices, initial startup costs, and running costs.
Purchasing prices for cows will vary depending on the age, sex, and breed, but overall a cow costs quite a bit more than a goat. Another aspect to factor in is that due to the size of a cow, it will probably cost you more for the initial building setup.
Say you planned on housing ten cows. You would need a more extensive pasture area and a larger facility to accommodate that number of cows compared to the same number of goats.
Another essential factor is that cows cost a lot more to feed. Around 50% of dairy farm costs go into feeding your cows. Cows require good high-quality feed, and they need a lot of it if you want them to produce sufficient milk.
Their feeding regime typically includes concentrates (protein supplements, commercial grain mixes, by-products, and grains), forages (hays, silages, and pasture), or vitamin and mineral supplements (often included in the grains).
On average, a cow will consume around 20 pounds of concentrates, and high producers can consume over 30 pounds daily.
The purchasing price of a goat will depend on its age, size, sex, and breed. With the rising demand for goat products, the upfront cost per goat is beginning to increase. Still, goats have a lower purchase price than their cow counterparts.
Regarding initial infrastructure costs, your construction price might be lower for a comparable number of cows as you will need less space to house the same number of goats as the larger cow. However, you must invest more money into security, ensuring your fences are goat-proof.
As you can expect, the costs involved in feeding your goats will be much lower than feeding cows. For one thing, goats are much smaller in stature and therefore don’t require as much feed. However, they need good quality feed that balances minerals, protein, and vitamins. Including forage in the mix helps to reduce costs.
On average, you must feed a goat around 1 pound of supplemental grain and forage for 2.5 – 3 pounds of milk.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Required Space
As cows are substantially larger than goats, goat and dairy farming will require different-sized acreage.
Regarding size, cows are the larger of the two animals, meaning they will take up more space. Depending on where you live, a single cow will require approximately 2-5 acres of pasture. This larger size will not only affect the size of the land you will need to graze and house your cows, but it will also affect the size of your milking station and your transportation.
If you need to move or take your cows somewhere, you will need a much larger vehicle to transport them in. In addition, things like vet visits would probably require the vet to come to your dairy farm, as getting your cow to their offices would be difficult. You must consider these things if you opt to go into dairy farming.
Conversely, goats are about one-sixth the size of a cow and will therefore take up less space. If you run a goat farm, this reduced size means you will require less pasture and housing space.
At the same time, due to their small stature, you can put your goat into the back of your car or minivan if you need to transport them somewhere. You could even put them in your vehicle to take them to the vet instead of getting the vet to come down to the farm for check-ups.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Infrastructure
Before acquiring your first animal for your type of farm, you must ensure that you have the proper infrastructure. Regarding cows and goats, you might be surprised to learn that their requirements have a couple of vital differences.
You must put several buildings in place before bringing your cows home. The size and types of said buildings will depend on your milking herds’ size, personal goals, and feeding method.
Before discussing the housing, let’s discuss the pasture area. The grazing area would need to be substantial, and if you intend to grow at any stage, you will need to have the space for the growth. Cows are pretty easy to keep in an enclosure, all you need is a basic wooden or barbed wire fence, and they should stay put.
The milking house should include a milk room, holding area, milking parlor, and utility room. There are several types of milking parlors designs, including but not limited to the following:
- Parallel parlors
- Flat barns
Each system has advantages and disadvantages, and you should make your selection based on your needs and preferences.
You can ensure better milk production and adequate feed intake if you provide your cows with an area that can protect them from heat stress. While also ensuring that their living areas, such as their feeding, resting, and holding areas, are free from mud and manure. You can choose outdoor living or a confined unit when housing your cows.
One of the significant concerns with the infrastructure to keep goats is the fencing. Goats tend to have a penchant for escaping their enclosures. For this reason, you will need to ensure that your enclosure is airtight.
Your best option would be to install an electrified woven wire fence at least 48 inches high or opt for 2-4 foot livestock panels that must also be at least 48 inches tall.
Goats will not often jump over a fence, but they are known to climb on them or onto debris left close to them. They will also happily squeeze through any gaps you leave open. Therefore, ensuring that no rocks, stumps, or fallen timber are left close to the fenced area would be a good idea.
Regarding goat housing, there are four primary requirements that you will need to ensure.
- The building your goats reside in will need to be well-ventilated.
- The ceiling and walls will need to be free from condensation.
- You will need to locate the watering and feeding areas in a safe place so there is no chance of contamination.
- The bedded site should be free from moisture and clean.
It would be best to keep your milking area separate from your goats’ sleeping area. The milking room floor will need to be a non-porous substance; concrete, for example, is a good choice. This type of floor will ensure that the ground of the milking area is easy to clean. It would be best if you made your milking platform 15-18 inches higher than the floor to make it easier for you to milk your goat.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Breeding Season
Here is where some pretty fundamental differences exist between dairy and goat farming. Goats and cows have different gestation periods, start mating at different ages, and have differing production life spans.
Regarding breeding, let’s look at some of the most vital differences between dairy and goat farming.
Cows typically reach sexual maturity around 20 – 26 months, weighing approximately 606 – 705 pounds, depending on the breed.
Some goats reach sexual maturity at approximately 3 months, but it is best practice to ensure that first mating only occurs at 10 months or when the doe weighs 60 – 70 pounds, breed depending.
It takes cows around 60 days to enter estrus after they have calved.
Typically autumn and winter
Approximately 280 days
Approximately 149 days
Approximately 305 days
Approximately 284 days
4 – 6 Years
8 – 10 Years
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Milk Production
Regarding milk production, cows are by far the higher producers out of the two. A cow can produce as much as 64.8 pounds or 8 gallons of milk daily. In contrast, a dairy goat produces only 6 – 12 pounds of milk daily.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Milk Composition
The quantity of milk produced is not the only significant difference between dairy and goat farming. Their milk compositions also differ. One such area is the protein structure.
Goat milk is becoming increasingly popular due to the rise in consumption of goat dairy products such as yogurt and cheese and the fantastic lotions and soaps you can make from it.
In addition, case studies show that people who cannot consume cow’s milk due to allergies often find that they can drink goat’s milk as an alternative. Many hypothesize that this is due to the different protein structures.
Goat’s milk also features smaller fat globules that stay suspended for longer, making it naturally homogenized. However, one drawback to this homogenization is that minimal cream will rise to the top of milk.
So if you wished to make dairy products such as whipped cream or butter, you would need to invest in a mechanical cream separator. In contrast, cow’s milk produces delicious cream with every milking.
The following table shows a comparison of dairy and goat milk compositions:
COW’S MILK (1 cup)
GOAT’S MILK (1 cup)
Overall, goat’s milk tends to be creamier and thicker, with a slightly higher nutrient content. Many also believe that the smaller fat globules make it easier to digest goat’s milk.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Pros And Cons
Both types of farming have pros and cons and deciding which one would be best for you will depend on several factors, but ultimately it will come down to your unique circumstances, needs, and preferences.
Dairy Farming Vs. Goat Farming: Verdict
Both dairy and goat farming have their pros and cons. Again, it comes down to how much capital you have to put into the setup of your farm and the space you have available to house your animals. In either case, you could only purchase the number of animals that would suit your needs.
Overall, goat farming might be better suited to small-scale or homestead farmers as goats take up less space and produce less milk. However, if you are looking for a larger-scale farming business, a dairy farm might suit your needs better, as cows produce more than enough milk to make butter, creams, and other milk products and have excess left over.