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Goats vs. Cows

Why I prefer goats

I started with a milk cow. When we moved down here to North Eastern TN from Chicago to become back-to-the-land homesteaders there were many things I had never done before, like milk a cow, or any animal for that matter. I wanted to make my own cheese, so, of course, we got a milk cow... Milk = Cow (or so I thought).

Jersey the cow"Jersey", the Jersey cow was beautiful and would come when I called her. She gave me a lot of milk. But, she also didn't really care to be milked and would swat me in the face with her tail. As the thick cloud of flies buzzed around, she would eat as I milked, and without notice, arch her back and pee. Sometimes she would poop as I was milking her and I quickly pulled the bucket away so it would not get contaminated. Her poops were classic cow pies, wet and big... yuck. She was big at 800 pounds (not really that big for a cow), and we had no special equipment to hold her if we needed to "work" her. We couldn't afford this holding equipment either, so Jersey never got shots or her temperature taken. Luckily she never needed any medical treatments because I do not know how we would have treated her. I made cheese and butter and we drank her milk, which was very good.

The only goat milk I had ever has was from the store.. yuck. Then one day we tasted fresh goat milk for the first time. After only a little taste we decided to sell Jersey and look for milk goats. We owned three pet, brush clearing goats, at the time and knew that they were much easier to handle then a cow... even the mean goat <smile>. WHen Jersey rode away in the back of a truck, the cloud of flies went with her, never to return.

Larry with a kidGoats are so much easier for the small homesteader to handle and they produce, I believe, more milk then a cow for what you put into them (grain, hay & water). Goats are cheaper to keep. You can build an inexpensive milkstand from left over wood that will hold the goat for milking and medical care. One person can hold a goat without a stand if needed. Goats are much cleaner than cows; I have never, in my many year of goat keeping, had a goat poop or pee while I was milking her. You can sweep up goat poops with a broom; you can not sweep up a cow pie. I can haul 4-5 goats in the back of my covered mid sized pickup truck; I wouldn't be able to transport on cow in the same truck.

While my cow's milk was delicious, I find properly handled goat milk even better. Goat milk is just plain ol' better for you than cow milk health wise. I have heard many stories of human babies not being able to handle cow milk, where I know for a fact, that not only can these babies handle goat milk, but they thrive on it. I know that goat milk has saved human infants lives. I have never heard this about cow milk.

As far as being "cost effective". As I said before, I believe goats are cheaper to keep. You say, there is no market for goat's milk. I write this referring to how goats are a better choice for a family milker, not as a money maker. I personally believe that goats are a better choice for a family milker. If you want to make money, don't think goats will make it for you, but then, unless you can afford a lot of cows, they aren't going to make you money for you either (due to the high initial cost of keeping cows).

Butter from goat milk:

You may think that you can't make butter from a goat's milk because goat cream doesn't rise like cow cream does; but this isn't necessarily the case. To get goat cream, I recommend doing one of two things. You could either 1) get a cream separator or 2) collect the smaller amount of cream that does rise. I do not own a cream separator myself because they are rather expensive (but this investment would still be cheaper then keeping a cow). Though cream does not rise as easily in goat milk, some cream does indeed rise; you just need to be patient. I used to make my own goat butter all the time (I don't anymore becasue I just don't find it worth the time and effort; I use olive oil instead of butter in most cases). I would save the milk I got each day in gallon jars and let it sit in the back of the fridge for a couple of days. Some of the cream would rise and was easily skimmed off (just like you do with cow milk). I put the skimmed off cream in a 2 quart plastic container and placed it in the freezer. Every time I had goat milk to skim, I pull out the cream container and add to it. When it is full, I removde the frozen cream from the freezer and let it thaw on the counter. I then added a little culture to the cream as it is thawing to sour it, because I like to make butter from sour cream. Using this method I got enough cream to make butter to supply Larry and I with all the butter we needed. Also, because not all of the cream rises in goat milk, the milk that has been skimmed of it's cream still tastes just as good as whole milk and can be used for drinking or to make cheese.

Larry with a kidGoats and cows eat different things. Cows are graizers; goats are browser/graizers. Goats can be kept on steeper, rougher, land that has trees and brush (they will eat the trees and brush). A cow can be kept on steep land, but because of their weight and size, they will tear the land up, where a goat does not cause much damage to the land itself. However, goats will kill trees, where cows won't.

Goats are safer to be around. A full grown goat weighs about 150 pounds, where a full grown cow weighs 800+ pounds. I would never let a small child be around a cow, where a small child could safely be around some goats. Also, bucks (male goats) are much safer than bulls (male cows). Where a buck can be cantankerous, a bull can be downright deadly.

And finally, on the relationship side, goats are just plain smarter than cows and also more loving. You can have a close, loving, pet relationship with a goat; you cannot, in my experience, have this kind of relationship with a cow.

Also see:
Goat Milk Nutritional breakdown
and Comparison to Human and Cow milk

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