My dairy goats are great partners and companions. I find them easier to work alongside than people. I can’t imagine life without them. As we all know, there are many benefits to working with dairy goats, from milk to goat milk products, to land-clearing, to farm flexibility. The list
Workshops and tours involving dairy goats can improve marketing, can educate and give back to community, and bring in some additional income during the slow season.
can go on and on and in many cases goes far beyond the typical definition of dairy. I hope my list of dairy goat “benefits” which follows will give others some new insight or at least a little bit of inspiration or renewed interest for their goat dairying enterprises and/or dreams.
The benefits of raising dairy goats
- The dairy goat’s small size and generally curious and friendly nature makes for easy handling for women or children. When managed preventatively, they can be easy to keep healthy.
- Dairy goats lend themselves to temporary operation downsizing or can be ‘milked-through’ if breeding and kidding needs to be suspended for personal reasons.
- Dairy goats can produce or contribute to milk, cheese, meat and other food production for the home as well as wool, soap and lotions, OR for commercial use.
- Dairy goats do well as part of a pasture and browse-based management system with cows and sheep, as they all tend to concentrate on different plants.
- Progeny can be sold for pets, dairying, meat or horse companions, and wethers can be trained for packing or driving.
- Goat berries and urine are pH neutral, beneficial to the environment, and suitable for composting or immediate application to the garden.
- Llamas, donkeys and trained dogs can guard goats quite effectively.
- Dairy goats that are managed properly have a low impact on the environment, and they work like efficient grazing machines in mixed pasture, weeds and forest undergrowth. Non-toxic pruned and pulled weeds can be thrown into their pens as part of farm and home cleanup.
- Interns may appear after the news gets around about the farm work involving dairy goats and/or goat milk product production. Sometimes these interns may work for free, or even pay for a working vacation on the farm!
Goats and Practical Scale
Sustainable living, organic gardening, use of renewable resources are practices that often cost less, but take more time to establish. For
those who are less dependent on electricity and fossil fuels in daily dairy operations, goats make it possible to carry on with less machinery if a time ever comes to warrant that.
Working with goats allowed us to build everything in a believable scale, as though one woman was going to be working here alone. It’s just a new way to think, which means we would be less likely to lose “product” or working time due to drought, storms, electrical outages, etc.
Goats and Clean Up
Storms, blight and yearly pruning can leave an occasional excess of wood beyond regular heating needs. Large stump sections can go into the goat pen for “king of the mountain” games. Bark for extra fiber and health needs is provided by those stumps and pruned branches. (I have found The Merck Veterinary Manual to be my most important source for plants poisonous to goats).
Sawdust can go into goat housing first and then can be scooped up to put into compost. Ashes can be spread on wet sections in the goat pen or onto composted goat manure to counteract the acidity.
Goats and Soil Enhancement
When we moved here in 2000, I could not find a night crawler for fishing anywhere on this property. This is very sandy soil with no rocks to be found. Few plants can survive in sandy soil, but the dairy goats and llamas have augmented this land tremendously, which makes it ready for a greater variety of plants. We use a snow shovel to collect loads of goat and llama berries to add to compost, moving it with a nifty
Goat milk products: cheese, soap and lotions.
little garden trailer that follows behind a lawn tractor. All of the sides are removable, which makes for easy removal of heavy organic soil. We were able to dig it up from the goat pen, trailer load by trailer load. We don’t spray fruit here and have never had luck with peaches, until putting down 8-10 inches of aged compost from the goat pen. The peaches made it to ripening. Fortunately, during our recent digging we saw that the worms are now very prolific, and at least eight inches of the topsoil in many areas is dark and rich. No problem with finding bait for fishing now!
Dairy Goats and Llama Guardians
We keep two gelded male llamas to guard our goats from coyotes and stray dogs. They are rescue llamas from SELR, (South East Llama Rescue), and they are happy to eat what the goats eat. That keeps our costs down. Goat babies love them and play on them like “llama mountains.”
Sustainability: Some Personal Notes
One of the reasons that we go to such great lengths to be sustainable is that it affords us the opportunity to have two of us on the farm full time. We have been able to survive much adversity with our dairy goats: Hurricane Isabel, tornadoes, drought, family illness, power outages and more. Our micro goat dairy allows some flexibility during those hard times. We’ve been able to slow down without giving up. Dairy goats are hard work. There are many benefits and rewards, even though it often takes a few years to make a profit.