This guest post comes from Wardeh of the awesome blog GNOWFGLINS. This article has been beneficial for us as we plan our homestead and I hope it is for you as well!

I‘ll begin this post with a confession: I’m not an animal person. Never have been. But here I am, the chief milk maid in my family. I started out by milking goats and now I’m milking a cow. I figure, who better to tell you all about it (both the wonderful and the icky) than someone who was won over to it in spite of herself?

Here is one of the most often-asked questions I get: what are the differences between milking goats and milking cows? And probably the second-most-asked question is: which do you prefer? I don’t claim to know it all, but I’ll do my best to answer. First, let me tell you the story of how we got into dairy animals. I hope you realize this is my story and my experience. Your mileage may vary.

Inspiration

I think we’re not the only family who read Nourishing Traditions and decided on the spot to raise dairy animals to produce our own raw milk.

"…the milk sold in your supermarket is bad for everybody, partly because the modern cow is a freak of nature. A century ago cows produced two or three gallons per day; today’s Holsteins routinely give three or four times as much. … All the healthy milk-drinking populations studied by Dr. [Weston A.] Price consumed raw milk, raw cultured milk or raw cheese from normal healthy animals eating fresh grass or fodder. It is very difficult to find this kind of milk in America." –Nourishing Traditions, pages 34 to 35

Goats or Cow?

My husband wanted to start with a cow. I wasn’t ready for that. I’d heard stories of how cows are bigger and capable of dealing a fatal blow to the head with one kick, how they’re harder to control because of their size, and how they always go to the bathroom during milking (ick, ick, ick).

On the other hand, I heard how goats are easier to control, being smaller and friendly, and how they’d never do that other icky going-to-the-bathroom thing. Whether or not any of these things were true remained to be seen. This is what I heard.

Our Step 1: Goats

We started with goats. For someone new to milking — or new to animal care altogether — starting with a smaller animal seems to be a good plan and one I don’t regret. We chose to raise Nubians because they make the creamiest milk. We got our first herd by buying a handful of goats already "in milk" (meaning they’d just given birth and were lactating). I learned to milk them through trial and error. So did my daughters.

Of the four milkers we brought home: two were easy milkers but their production went down when they moved to our place, one was a real trial (spooked easily), and one goat got sick the day she arrived at our place, never to recover. There were other ups and downs. Yet we learned to milk and that experience was good. But in terms of volume of milk, we never got quite enough.

Enough to drink, for the most part. Enough for daily batches of kefir. Enough for occasional batches of cheese. But even if we could have gotten the yields up — through more goats and better health — I couldn’t easily get the one thing we lacked. Cream. For butter and ice cream, of course!

You might be wondering: if the milk is so creamy, why couldn’t I get any cream? Well, goat milk is naturally homogenized; the butterfat doesn’t rise to the surface. Over four or five days of refrigeration in a shallow pan, some will rise. But who can wait that long — and who has that much refrigerator space? Or, there’s the $400 cream separator option. (Which I did buy with a craft haul one year, but we never installed it because we didn’t have a countertop to give up to it permanently.)

Our Step 2: A Cow

About two years after the goat-milking journey, we decided to try a milk cow instead. We wanted a Jersey cow because of the cream. And also because she’s a heritage breed that offers more nutritious milk on other counts. (If you want to read more about that, click here.)

At that point, I felt ready to take on a bigger animal, though truth be told, quite scared. You can read about my journey learning to milk Gracie, our milk cow, here and here. The first link is my cry for help and the second, my lessons learned about patience.

Adjusting to milking Gracie was harder than adjusting to milking goats. I guess it would have been even harder had I not learned the actual skill of milking first, given Gracie’s irritable temperament. There are slight differences in how you milk each species, but I think when you know how to milk one, you can easily milk the other. At least, that’s been my experience.

Gracie’s milk — both the volume of it and the lovely, luscious, sweet, thick cream it contains — has been a dream come true. Or rather, an answer to prayer! I couldn’t imagine what having that much milk would be like until I was swimming in it. We have plenty for everything I want to do with it. Drinking, kefir, cheese, butter, ice cream. Plus enough to share. All from one animal.

We share milk with some friends. Their son has a short gut and he needs nutrient-dense foods to keep his weight up and to get enough nutrition. From their weekly gallons, they give most of the cream to him. He drinks it straight. He is gaining weight. Of all the reasons to be happy about raising a family milk cow, I’m most thankful for that.

Truth and Fiction

Remember the things I heard about cows and goats? Some of them turned out to be true. Cows do go to the bathroom during milking. (The goats never did that.) One reason is when they’re unhappy or irritated. Gracie, brand-new to being milked, was understandably unhappy and irritated alot those first months. We kept a 5-gallon bucket handy for #1 and a shovel handy for #2. She learned to hold back because she didn’t like a bucket or shovel held up to her backside.

Another reason cows do that is because… they just do. When they have to go, they have to go. So we give her time to take care of that before the milking, and most often she does. She’s learned. Smart cow.

Here’s another thing that turned out to be true. Cows are dirtier than goats. On colder nights Gracie prefers to sleep in her you-know-what because it’s warm. Yep. Our goats were never dirtier than dusty.

What turned out to be fiction? Cows are not usually vicious. Our Gracie is guilty of being irritable, but not deadly. In fact, I believe she goes out of her way to not hurt me during milking. Harder to handle? Sometimes — but not impossible.

Goats, on the other hand, are at least as stubborn and much more mischievous. I mentioned our easily-spooked goat. I couldn’t even get a hobble on her without her totally freaking out. Her kicks hurt. And just try getting a goat to stay in one place when there’s food involved. If there’s a hole in the fence (or even the beginning of one), they’ll find a way through.

What I’ve Learned

There’s not one bright and shining better way. It comes down to what you prefer and the limits of care you can provide.

For me… I prefer handling a smaller animal like a goat. I prefer the cleanliness of goats. But I also prefer more milk. And of course, cream. So I’m on the cow side of the fence. For now. :)

Want to learn more? I highly recommend the book Keeping a Family Cow by Joanna S. Grohman, plus the forum she started to support family cow journeys.

Thanks so much for your perspective, Wardeh. We’ve got a lot to think about!

 

38 Responses to Should We Get a Goat or a Cow? One Homesteader’s Experience With Both

  1. [...] the rest of Should We Get a Goat or a Cow? One Homesteader’s Experience With Both at Nourishing Days, where I’m a guest today. Thanks for having me over, [...]

  2. Marci says:

    Oh Wardeh…. I hear you Sister. We too started with goats about 15 years ago. We milked goats until about 7 years ago. We actually got our first Jersey cow just over a year after we got goats. We milked both. Our first cow spoiled us terribly. Her name is Buttercup. She is currently 16 years old. We dried her off for the last time last December. You could walk out into the pasture, sit down and milk her. She would stand there. She gave ample and abundant milk. She had nice long teats, but not too long. She would get really filthy like you are talking about. We have/had 2 of her daughters. Molasses died of bloat in the night the summer of 2010. We still have Clover who is half Holstein (we were assured it was Jersey semen). She is a brat and has only given us one calf. We have AI’d her and had her with a bull. She is going to the butcher in January. Her new name is Hamburger. We bought Honey in early July of this year. She had just freshened in early June for the first time. She is 3 years old. They had her tamed really well. Her back teats are so small you can barely get 2 fingers and a thumb on them to milk. She had been milked with a surge milker which we have. So we use it on her. We realize now how much Buttercup spoiled us. Honey is the most skittish cow I have ever seen. Currently we are feeding her grain (our cows are grass fed) just to get her to the stanchion. It takes both my husband and I to go and get her and bring her in. I understand the tears of frustration too. Last night after trying to get her to put her head through the stanchion for 5 minutes, I reminded God that she belonged to Him and asked Him to put His cow’s head through the stanchion. We have not been angry with her, because we don’t want to do more harm than good. Currently she is down to 1/2 of a gallon. We are praying about what to do. It is hardly worth the struggle for that much milk. Yet, we hate to dry her off. Honey is pregnant and due in late May. I too am on the cow side, although I loved my goats. They had so much personality. The goats have been gone now for many years.

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  3. EllaJac says:

    Thank you for this! I WANT a milk cow (but I also have four girls, 2 homeschool, and 2 we’re still trying to civilize), but have thought a goat would be a good compromise… but Hubby has a thing about goats, and won’t let me get one (unless it’s for target practice. :P ). One of these days we’ll be there though, and I can’t wait. We have 3 jersey steers and a scottish highland cow (our ‘beef herd’ ha!), and I LOVE them. I’m sure I’ll love a milk cow even more. :)

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  4. Jen says:

    hmmm . . .so about the cow (because I am contemplating this for the future), how hard is the clean up before the milking. I am assuming this is necessary to avoid contaminated milk. What do you do? I have a lot to learn before I make that commitment. I actually prefer cow over goat milk on taste. So I would likely choose the cow.

    Also, how often does she need to be mated. (sorry if that is an ignorant question, but I am assuming that she needs to be pregnant before she gives milk)

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    Tina Reply:

    @Jen, If you have only tried goats milk from the store, you have not tried goats milk. Different breeds and different diets cause a lot different taste in milk for goats.

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  5. We have stuck with goats for the last 4 years, simply for the less dirty & messy reason. ;-) Also, after my husband worked for a dairy (Organic Pastures in CA), he decided goats were the ONLY way we were ever going to go… I think he was traumatized by all the poop. ;-)

    My father found a manual cream separator at a yard sale, so we spin off cream occasionally when we have an excess of milk. We have 3 Oberhasli milkers, plus a skittish little Nigerian, who gives a beautiful thick creamy 1-2 cups per day. ;-) At their lowest production, we get 2 gallons per day. Maximum from all 4 is 6 gallons!!

    It’s been an amazing blessing to have enough for our family + to share. :-) Best investment we’ve ever made.

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  6. I have owned milking goats for a couple of years now and just love their personalities but I really do wish I had the cream. Plus my husband prefers cows milk. So we will probably end up getting a cow within a year or so but still keep the goats and at least one in milk. Thank you for sharing your experience :)

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  7. Wow it sounds like I need to get a cream separator! I’ve been looking into Dexter cows but honestly Wardeh I think you didn’t get the best goats. My goatie girls are all from one breeder who breeds for milk (lots), the milking experience (comes out quickly and easily), and temperament (so affectionate.)

    I have one goat that was sort of spookish – but they are just like dogs. I’ve worked with her by not taking my hand off her udder when she kicks, etc and she is a totally different goat now. Goats are highly trainable – and if you get one that isn’t working out then maybe it’s time to swap it for a different goat. I’m doing that over time by choosing who to breed and for what purpose.

    Even though I have 5 acres it’s wooded so better suited to bush grazers than grass grazers. I love the taste of the fresh Nubian milk and the cheese is so much more complex than you could get from cow’s milk.

    Plus they are so clean and they fit in the back of my car with the dog barrier up so it’s easy to go to the vet or the breeder’s,or to petting zoos, etc. There is less work mucking out stalls over winter and I can let even tiny kids go play with the goats without fear of them being hurt. We can take them on walks with us, and I know city folks who take their goats on leashed walks too. They are so much more approachable and loyal like dogs.

    It’s tempting to think cow someday but I just don’t think I would ever get rid of my goats after having them. I can’t get enough of them.

    Now on to research cream separators…

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  8. sarah says:

    this might be tmi… but i frequently have to go to the bathroom when i nurse my daughter. maybe its something physiological in cows and humans?

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  9. Cathy says:

    We’re hoping to move to land in the next year or so where we are able to keep larger animals (here in town you can only get a large animal permit if you have an acre or more and goats are considered large animals by city ordinance). At this point, we’re looking for a minimum of 10 acres and could therefore feed a cow more easily than on a small parcel of land. If we had had to go with two acres or so, we’d probably get goats rather than have to buy much of the cow’s feed. It’s good to get others’ take on this choice.

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  10. Marg says:

    I love this topic. :)
    I’ve never milked goats, though we have some. We have a Jersey milk cow, named Happy, that we think is just the best thing ever. She was a cull from a dairy farm! She didn’t produce enough milk, especially during the hot summer months, for the dairy, but it’s certainly been enough for our needs! There have been so many pro-goat comments, I felt I needed to post my pro-cow comment. I wouldn’t trade Happy for anything!

    Btw, she doesn’t go to the bathroom while milking. So not all cows do. She does lay in her manure piles but they are huge! Hard not to. Goats probably lay in theirs too but they are minute in comparison.

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  11. Pam says:

    @ EllaJac Why don’t you milk you Highland? I do and the milk is fantastic! I also have a Dexter and her heifer calf will be bred for the first time next summer. She is part Jersey and I am excited to see what that’s going to do to her creamline.
    I don’t have goats but am contemplating getting a couple just so I don’t have to use my cow milk to feed out pigs. ;)
    I do have something to say about the heritage issue. Not all Jerseys are “old-fashioned”. Like Holsteins, they have been industrialized in recent decades and a true “old-fashioned” Jersey is going to cost you a pretty penny because they are called Miniature Jerseys now. And, A1 milk is not unique to Holsteins either. There’s a company in New Zealand that will test and can tell you the status of your cow.

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  12. Thanks for sharing all this info! I’ve thought about cows and goats. I don’t think it’ll happen at all for our family for various reasons, but I enjoy contemplating it all now and then.

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  13. Kate says:

    While I don’t currently have any livestock, I was raised on a farm with a Brown Swiss milk cow and several goats. I would take a milk cow over goats any day of the week. I used to have to take a tobacco stake with me as a child to fend off the head-butting nannies and billy when Momma let me feed on my own! Our cow was well-mannered and well-trained. A lot of the ‘cons’ mentioned in this article strike me as management issues, much of what can be solved with a little ingenuity and experience.

    I’d like to recommend anyone who is thinking of getting a milker, goat or cow, check out Throwback at Trapper Creek. She catalogues her family’s homesteading adventures in gardening to feed the family, raising cattle for milk and beef, and various and sundried other things around the farm. She offers a lot of insight on raising and training a milk cow from a calf, in addition to some advisable methods on how to keep closed quarters clean (while giving you nutritious fertilizer components for your garden).

    @Jen – A cow’s udder stays fairly clean simply by design, but if you’re concerned about surface contamination, wiping the udder down with a soft rag and warm water is usually enough to clean any particles off the skin. Anything internal that would cause problems, like mastitis or a staph infection, is something the vet needs to handle. I wouldn’t recommend breeding more than once a year – the average gestation period for a cow is slightly longer than humans (285 days vs. 260 days), and a few months of rest is usually recommended before the next go-round.

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  14. katie says:

    I love my cow!!! Like Marge, I felt a pro-cow comment was in order! ;-)

    I started out with a Jersey named Belle (short for “tinkerbelle”, which upon being ornery one day was affectionately dubbed “stinkerbelle”). She produced four gallons per milking (8 per day) during her peak, with very rich cream content. We didn’t get her bred back early on her her lactation, so she was milking for almost 15 months before she was ready to dry off before her next calving.

    I had Belle for several years and she was my favorite creature besides people. I looked forward to my quiet “bonding time” every morning and evening with her. I would quietly sing or pray as I milked, and it was so relaxing and good for the soul.

    Cows are as gentle as you make them to be, as long as you have the patience to train them they will become gentle milkers. Belle had grown up as an FFA calf before we got her, so she was gentle to lead, but milking was a different story. It took several months before she was trained to keep still while I was milking and stop kicking. Those first few months were stressful for her though, only two weeks after she freshened we got hit with a flood and she had to move to a friend’s farm for a month until we could get temporarily re-situated at another farm, and then three months later we moved back home. It was during the second farm that she finally learned to behave.

    She became like a little dog, always following right behind me, every time I was out in the pasture. She would come up and rub her head against me, and snuggle with me. She would come to the fence when she heard my voice.

    During her third lactation, she came down sick with something (the Vet says Hardward disease, but we have no way of knowing), and she actually found her way out of the barn and walked up to the house to get me for help. She climbed the stairs of the porch to the front door!!! She died later that night, but I will always remember her last desperate plea for help, and I was so happy that she knew where to find me. Cows are so smart .;-)

    It’s been two years since then, and we have just started milking the heifer calf that she left us with. She is half Jersey, half Simmental (a beef breed). So she produces less milk and cream, but the cream is actually thicker and richer than the Jersey cream. I had not spent nearly any time with Posey as a calf or heifer, so she was semi-wild to begin with when we started milking. I ended up using a Surge milker on her to save my bones from being broken. After a couple months she has learned the routine and doesn’t mind, so I can hand milk now. She still shuffles her feet from time to time, but it’s not with any vicious intent to kick, she’s just trying to reposition herself to reach more food in the feeder.

    One commenter asked if the let-down reflex is why cows relieve themselves when they get milked. I would say yes, but I also have discovered that cows learn new habits very quickly (about three times and it becomes a habit), so it’s easy to train them out of it. As soon as I come into the barn the let down reflex starts, so I just take my sweet time letting them into the milk room. By then they’ve already relieved themselves, and don’t soil the milk. Do it a couple days in a row, and they’ve learned that they’d better go first!

    One more thing I wanted to add, is that because Posey is 1/2 dairy breed and 1/2 beef, we can choose what we breed her to and what her calves will be like. We bred her to an Angus bull last time, and she dropped a gorgeous and sturdy little bull calf. He is 3/4 beef breed, and he’s about the nicest looking calf we’ve had on our place. We will grow him up for slaughter. When we’re ready to get another milk cow, we will breed Posey to a dairy bull and hope that she gives a heifer.

    Thank for letting me share my cow experiences! :-)

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  15. Annie says:

    what a great article, thank you! I’ve long wanted dairy animals, yes, Wardeh, just as you said, inspired by Nourishing Traditions (though I don’t love/believe *everything* in that book!). We’re in a rowhouse now but hope to move to some acreage one day soon. I’ve also researched sheep milk! there’s some proverb I once read: goats for milk, sheep for cheese, cow for butter – or something like that.

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  16. Barbara Grant says:

    I have milked Nubians for 5 years now and love the milk. We are raising a Jersey heifer now for the cream, but she won’t freshen for about 2 years.

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  17. Thank you all for leaving your thoughts and experiences. I feel richly blessed!

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  18. Elizabeth says:

    LOL sarah! You’re not the only one :) Maybe when we have a letdown, we “letdown” in every way?

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  19. Archer says:

    What a beautiful and well written post! Makes me want my own milking cow. Maybe some day!

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  20. Jenny says:

    Yeah…my goats are clean and WELL BEHAVED on the stand. I have never needed a hobble. My cream separated in a regular jar after 3 days, so no separator needed either. My goats produce more than my cow pound for pound. Cow milk is better for adults though..so we have both. Cows are lower maintenance, but goats are easier to manage and haul…and much more entertaining.

    My cows usually have clean udders to though…but I don’t have jerseys. ;)

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  21. Sheila says:

    This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, too, though I’m a long way from getting either. The one thing that bothers me, which I read in a goat book from the library, is that goats can’t be completely pastured. They are said to “browse” instead of “graze” since they don’t like grass, but prefer weeds and shrubs. My book told me that you pretty much have to buy or make them hay, because they won’t just graze all day like cows will. So the expense and trouble seemed much higher. Have you found that to be true? What do you feed your goats?

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  22. Renata says:

    Oh I just loved this post!! We have a jersey cow that will be put into calf soon & I’m a little nervous about the whole milking experience after that ~ partly because I’ve never done it before & partly because she is a little naughty being a ‘pet’ since we bottle fed her. I’m going across to read her milking adventures this morning & I thank you for the links!
    Have a wonderful day
    Blessings
    Renata:)

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  23. Marg says:

    Jen, since no one has answered your questions, I thought I would. :) Our cow is in a box stall overnight. In the morning, I have a wheelbarrow full to clean up after her. We spread wheat straw as bedding.
    Cows should be bred once a year to keep them in milk.

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  24. Kelly says:

    @Sheila: We have goats and a cow. It is true that the goats prefer tree leaves and bark over grass. We live along a creek and so have access to trees, but can’t just let them browse there because it isn’t fenced. We buy hay year round for the goats (@ $17 bale it adds up FAST!) and only have to buy hay for our cow from Nov to March. The cow eats more, but less by % of body weight. Our cow was more difficult than Wardeh described and so we’ve never seen much in the way of milk from her, but she’s coming up on 2nd freshening in April. We did get a nice steer that’ll be ready to butcher soon, from her. All in all, given where we live and why we want milk, I’d prefer to just keep one cow and no goats.

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  25. Megan says:

    Great post. Isn’t it weird the first time you feel like you are literally swimming in milk in your kitchen and you know you’ll be getting even more in 8 hours? :) We have a Jersey/Guernsey cross that we *love.* After reading Nourishing Traditions I wanted to avoid giving my kids store bought milk so we took the plunge. She is a *lot* of work, but it’s worth it to me and in the summer we even sell several gallons a week at church which more than pays for her feed.

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  26. Kimberly says:

    Ok, here’s my take. City girl, no real love for animals except an occasional dog, buys a farm in the middle of nowhere. We bought two nubians shortly after arriving this winter. Not loving the goat thing. One YELLED all day long. All day. Thank God she was quiet at night. Didn’t really like the milk, tasted goaty quickly. Chewed on everything. And yelled. After six months of that we gave them away to some friends who keep and eat goats. Whatever. They are not missed.
    In September we bought a Jersey, Buttercup, a week after she calved. It has been hard, I won’t lie. Really hard. She has to be milked totally differently than a goat. We got a single-cow surge milker quickly. We have had a lot of ups and downs with her, but she is quiet and is a really well-mannered cow. Truly.
    We switched to once a day milking a few weeks ago and it has made it all a lot easier. This morning I got over four gallons of milk. Out of that, at least a gallon is cream. It’s crazy. It is still a lot of work, but getting easier. She’s a keeper for sure!
    Just thought I’d comment. :)

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  27. Janae says:

    I haven’t had goats but we dove into milking a first time heifer last year and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. Granted, Annabelle is the sweetest cow I could imagine (we take her camping with us and she just roams around and comes back when it’s time to milk), but I think anyone can do it if they have the patience and are willing to devote the time. In my experience, Annabelle generally won’t lie in her manure unless there is a lot. I clean her shelter morning and night, which only takes a couple minutes with a pitchfork (she has old hay for bedding) and she rarely needs more than a good brushing and some teat wipes. I sell my extra milk and the bacteria counts always come back super low and her milk lasts for 3 weeks most of the time. We don’t grain her at all; only use a very small amount of alfalfa pellets for her to munch on while she’s standing to be milked. Otherwise she’s on grass/alfalfa and she gives 4 gallons/day with nice cream (she’s a tiny cow). My point to all this is an encouragement to the many posts that expressed a desire to raise their own milk. It is hard sometimes (I also homeschool 2 and have a 1y.o. and one due in April), but the benefit of seeing your children and family have the nutritious up-bringing they need far outweighs the work. It IS possible and so much fun! Blessings to you all!

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  28. Tara says:

    What a wonderful article! My kids and I have been raising 7 Nigerian Dwarf goats since March (my husband wants nothing to do with them). In all this time we have only had one birth, so only one goat in milk. She gives less than a cup each morning and evening and she HATES to be milked. Every day, I dream of having a milk cow instead of my does. I know the goats are hard work, but I was wondering what kind of work is involved with a dairy cow? Can anyone give me an idea of what a day in the life of a dairy cow owner is like?

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  29. Jammie says:

    I also started with goats. I actually started with a Saanen and she passed away a year or so later. My other goats and the ones I still milk today, are Nubian. If you are looking for more quantity and a friendly nature, I must suggest the Saanen. They are the sweetest, calmest goats around. A nice Saanen will yeild up to 2 gallons of milk a day. I did find, that we prefer the flavor of the Nubian’s milk and it’s worth their “high needs” personality to me.

    I also have a jersey and the #1 reason for a cow is the easy access to the cream. We are part owners of our jersey with my in laws so that helps with the large quantities of milk she provides. (We usually get around 2 gallons after the calf has all it can hold. We could get her to produce more with more feed, but 2 gallons is really more than we can handle, so we adjust her feed to get the quantity we need) We bought her as an aged jersey so she was already trained. She passed on last fall and this spring we will be milking her daughter. This will be our first time to train a cow, so we hope it goes well. I don’t anticipate problems and really I can’t imagine it being anywhere near as bad as training a skittish Nubian. We don’t have too many dirty problems with our cow. We just brush her thoroughly before milking. We have a large 60 acre pasture and very mild winters so she isn’t as inclined to sleep in her waste.

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  30. Greg Yurish says:

    Hi all,

    Here’s what I posted on GNOWFGLINS originally. There are SO many good points being made here, I especially enjoyed Kimberly’s post about a “yelling” goat. Yes, they do, and Nubians are thought to be the loudest. They yell when they’re in heat, when you move them away from their friends, and probably just at general farm indignation! Here’s my post.

    Obviously, I’m going to say “get a goat!” but this is really a matter of personal preference. If you have experience with neither animal, do LOTS of research and try to visit farms that have goats, or cows, or both.

    For general management, goats are easier for us just because of their size. It’s easier to administer any type of medication or vaccine to a 150 lb. goat than a 1200 lb cow.

    Breeding…..bucks goats can be VERY dangerous, as can dairy bulls. Most doe goats will need to be bred and kid every year (we’ve had a few that milked over a year) to produce milk, so you either need a buck or access to a buck if you want steady milk production.

    Feeding…..goats prefer browsing to grazing, so you’ll need to know what your land is better suited for.

    Veterinary care……Make sure you have a large animal vet FIRST! If you’re not located in a predominantly agricultural area, one might be hard to find. We don’t use them a lot, but when you need one, you REALLY need one!

    Birthing…..sometimes our does need assistance, so we need to go into the uterus and pull out the kid. I truly don’t know much about calving, but can only imagine assisting the birth of a calf is WAY more intense. Again, research, research, research.

    Milking….again I’m going to vote for the goat because of their size. We’re also of the opinion that goats are much “cleaner” when being milked. Most lactating domesticated animals need to be milked twice a day. Goat, cow, or water buffalo, it’s a commitment, so it’s helpful to have a “backup milking plan” if you are unable to milk. I don’t know about cows, but goats are SERIOUSLY into routines, so the backup milker needs to know which goats get milked on what stand and in what order. They’re not real big fans of change or disorder.

    Milk……I’ll admit, goat milk can taste SERIOUSLY “goaty” based on breed (Swiss breeds, such as Toggenburg, can have STRONG tasting milk, but supposedly that’s what a lot of Europeans like for cheesemaking), or if the buck is in the same pen/pasture as the lactating doe.

    Also, do some research A1 Beta Casein in the milk of some cow breeds. Very enlightening.
    Just Google A1 Beta Casein.

    I hope this is helpful, not overwhelming. Anyone can email me privately with any questions.

    Greg

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  31. Jenny says:

    Nubian = Loud. My neighbor’s Angus are MUCH louder. My LaManchas are SILENT.

    There are definitely some crabby cows out there, not all are gentle/docile…but the good ones are wonderful. I have had a few breeds here on my farm, including a few jerseys, but my favorite is the Braunvieh/Brown Swiss temperament.

    [Reply]

  32. [...] read this goat v. cow article which (humorously enough) reinforced both of us in our current [...]

  33. LA says:

    I love this article and appreciate hearing the comment experiences. We can’t afford to move toe the country. need to keep job security now in the suburbs, but i dream of living in the country one day with horses and it sounds like goats would be up my ally being smaller and easier to handle with cute personalities. My husband loves yogurt, cottage cheese and raw milk when we can get to the farm and buy it. Maybe goats one day :)

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  34. Janelle says:

    We are moving in April to 5 acres. We are planning on getting goats. Our land in back of house is very hilly and wooded. So I think this will be best for goats. Also has a creek running through it. I’m still looking into what kind of goats to get. We are going to visit a farm this week with goats. I do love cows milk for the cream, I will just see if I can find someone to barter with (goats milk or cheese for cows cream or butter). I also have 4 girls all home schooled ! We can’t wait to start our homestead :)

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  35. Sarah says:

    Hi, I am thinks about getting a milk goat. What did you feed yours? And are they costly?

    [Reply]

  36. Becky says:

    I grew up on a dairy farm so cows were the way to go. Commercial cow dairies have a thing against goats. Adout 4 years ago we got a couple goats. I love them. Our daughter and her family live here on the farm too and she wanted a cow so we have both. The only time I milk the cow is if her and her boys are gone at milking time. If it was up to me the cows would leave today. Having had both I much prefer the goats. We do have a cream seperator so I do have the cream. We have 3 milking goats. I would like a couple more.

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  37. Jane says:

    I have done both – at the same time. Sold the cows and only have Nigerian Dwarf goats now. Some of my does have milk that is so rich I don’t need a cream separator to make butter.

    Transport, hoof trims, worming etc, etc is so much easier with my little ones. And unlike the cows I don’t have to worry about AI or having a dangerous bull on the property. Our bucks are easily handled by even young children.

    I still think cows are beautiful – but I will stick with my Niggies.

    [Reply]

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