What to Know Before you Buy a Goat

I recently sold my entire herd of dairy goats. There were a lot of reasons why I made this tough call. In the end I think these reasons are good to consider prior to adding goats to your farm or homestead, so let’s look at what you should know before you buy a goat.

Our Nubian Goats

We have had registered Nubian goats on our farm for four years. We had finally reached the point where I had culled a few and was down to four good does, a solid buck, and two replacement bucks for breeding Mini Nubians.

Next spring we were set to finally have a respectable kidding, with anywhere from 4-10 kids expected.

About halfway through the summer, I realized I needed to make some tough choices about our homestead.

My husband travels a lot for work. We have two young children under three and hope to have another baby in 2023. I work part-time in addition to the farm. We also have Jersey cows for milk.

As always with homestead things grow and shrink and change as you learn what will work best for your farm and your family.

Knowing I needed to continue to streamline, I finally decided the goats would need to go.

Reasons to Not Buy a Goat

Fencing

One of the biggest reasons I decided we would sell the goats is fencing.

We have a very small amount of our own pasture. We are still able to graze most of the summer by rotationally grazing our pasture as well as odd bits of the neighbor’s land between us and the conventional field.

I spend at least every other day all summer taking down, moving, then resetting temporary electric fence.

This can take anywhere from 45 minutes up to an hour and a half, depending on the difficulty of the terrain, the mosquitoes, and the size of the paddock.

With the cows, a single strand of electric hot wire will keep them in, no problem.

For the goats, it takes three.

That means walking the fence down, and back, and down again. In some spots if the ground has a slope, I had to put up four lines to keep the gaps small enough.

What used to take an hour on average, with just the cows will now take me about half the time.

When you figure I do fencing at least four times a week, that is a time saver of two hours per week. Or 32 hours total over an entire grazing season.

At my current job I make $24/hour. Not having to fence for the goats just saved a value of $768 of my time.

Care of Multiple Animals

Goats are each their own individual. They may have slightly different nutritional needs, or hooves that grow kind of funky, or maybe they don’t handle worm loads as well, or maybe one is always getting into trouble and getting cuts, etc.

As a busy mom, homemaker, and entreprenuer, it started to become diffcult for me to keep track of the wellness of each individual in my small herd of eight goats.

It takes milking about four does to equal the output of milk from one jersey cow. I can much easier keep track of the wellness of one animal than four.

If I can’t provide my animals with a superb quality of life, then it’s not right for me to keep them.

Milk Volume

As previously mentioned, the milk volume of goats is definitely less than that of a cow.

We are hoping to move our small homestead towards becoming a licensed dairy operation so we can sell our products at local co-ops and such.

Again, I simply can’t keep up with both milk cows and milk goats, so I had to make the call who would be my focus. I can get 2-3 gallons a day from my jersey girl Juneberry while still calfsharing with her.

goat's milk rough and tumble farmhouse

Time Spent Finding Homes for Kids

I don’t know about you, but I hate selling stuff. It’s such a pain to deal with people on craigslist or Facebook marketplace. People don’t show, or are just weird, or are mean, difficult, etc.

When you are breeding goats and you have a passel of kids every year, you have to have a plan for them.

Last year I sold my one buckling easily and for a good profit. This year, couldn’t even give them away. And they were really gorgeous bucklings out of very respectable stock.

In the end it all worked out, but that is something you really have to consider. Are you comfortable putting a lot of those unsold bucklings in the freezer?

Are you able to spend the time advertising goats, keeping in contact with buyers, following up with people, etc?

I would guess from kidding through weaning, this could take minimum one hour per week.

nubian buckling rough and tumble farmhouse
Herschel! Such a sweet little guy.

Disease Testing

Around here, any respectable goat person wants to know if the goat is tested for CAE, CL, and Johnes. And if you have Nubians or mini Nubians a lot of folks are now asking about G6 testing, too.

I have also found that people want up to date testing on your herd for all three, unless you have a closed herd.

To have an officially closed herd, you should do these tests every year for five years and not add any additional goats to the mix. Bucks are the exception but they should too come with clean tests from their previous owners.

In my case, testing all my adults goats each year for the next five years would cost $300 per year. It is $33 for the tests per goat, plus $12 shipping, a $20 lab fee, then our vet was around $60 to come take samples. I prefer to have the vet come to do it so you have a third party that can verify yes, they came and submitted the samples. Some people DO make fradulent negative tests.

Earlier Weaning

We milk share with our animals. It’s part of the holistic plan for our farm and family. Milk sharing allows for us to still get away for a night or weekend for visiting family or just having a fun trip.

With goats, once those male kids hit eight weeks you either need to wean them or wether them or you are going to have unwanted breeding going on.

If you are wethering them then they can stay with mom for however long she will keep them. If you are selling them, now you have a doe who needs daily milking or you will need to dry her down.

Escapees

Goats are mischevous creatures. Which I both love and hate about them. The thing I found frustrating is no matter how much food you give them or how tight you think your fencing is, chances are those devils will find a way to push through or wiggle under or jump over the fence.

When I’m trying to get lunch made with a baby on my hip and a cranky toddler demanding things at the same time, the last thing I want to see when I look out the kitchen window is a bunch of goats destroying my perennial garden.

How much am I saving by NOT having goats?

Let’s break down what my savings on not having goats next year will be…

  • Fencing- $768 in time
  • Feed- Approximately $720 in hay
  • Time Spent Selling Kids – $480
  • Yearly Disease Testing – $300
  • Disbudding (I hate doing it so I pay the vet)- Assume 2 vet visits: $150
  • Note, I’m not including any time spent on hoof trims, vaccinations, or other general health care.

Total Spent: $2,418

Let’s say next year I were to have three sets of twins and one single. So seven kids. Let’s say I get three does from that bunch. If I don’t sell any, I make zero profit of course. If I do sell them, let’s say all three, average selling price is $400 for doeling, so $1200.

Let’s also assume I can only sell two of the bucklings, let’s say $200 each.

Total Income: $1,600

Of course it could be a miracle year where I have all female kids or something, but in this very realistic hypothetical, I would stand to lose $818.

Other Considerations

That of course does NOT take into account the value of the milk to my a family, or if I had milk customers.

Additionally, by the time you hit your five year mark you can subtract that annual disease testing which is a huge savings.

Goats Can be Great

Even with all my reasons listed above, it was an incredibly hard choice to sell my little goat herd.

They are beautiful, and funny, and so darn sweet. They are quick and easy to milk, and small so my kids could be more involved with their care.

I truly miss them every day. It’s just the hard reality that now isn’t the right time for goats on the homestead. Someday when my kids are bigger we may have them back.

Jane with Honeybee and Sweet Pea

Milk Cow or Milk Goat?

If you are thinking of dipping your toe into the dairy world, learn more about goats vs. cows and which might be right for you.

Watch and Learn

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