Counting The Cost: Is Keeping Milk Goats Worth It?
As I’ve said before, it’s extremely important when you are starting something new on your homestead to keep good records of expenses vs. benefits. If it’s costing you more than it’s worth, then you really need to consider either changing what you are doing to make it more cost effective, or discontinuing that particular venture.
Remember the first year we got laying hens? At the end of the year I calculated that it had cost us $7.80 per dozen eggs. Yikes. We’ve made a lot of changes since then. We don’t feed them bagged corn anymore. We don’t feed them as much laying mash (only a pint jar a day for 7 hens). We give them lots of table and garden scraps, and are trying to grow more of their food.
Last year we learned that for us, it just wasn’t worth it to raise pigs. (Not to mention that we’ve since stopped eating pork.)
This year it’s milk goats. I’ve been keeping records of how much milk we are getting and how much we’ve spent on feed, hay, and meds. I don’t count fencing ’cause we’re using what we already had.
Honestly, I was a little scared to know what a gallon of milk has been costing us. We haven’t been very diligent in our efforts, as I will explain further in a moment. After adding it all up, it looks like we have some changes we need to make if it’s gonna be worth keeping the goats.
The feed we are buying is $12 for a 50 lb. bag. One bag lasts us about 9 days. So, it’s fair to say we use about 3 bags per month. That’s $36/mo.
The bales of hay we are buying from a local farmer are $3/bale. One bale lasts us about a week (and that’s being stingy with it). So, in a month we go through about 4 bales. That’s about $16/mo.
I decided to go with Molly’s Herbal De-Wormer; it’s a weekly treatment. The kit cost me $25.70 shipped, and should last our four goats about 6 months. This ends up costing us just a little over $4/mo.
Added all up, it looks like we’re spending about $56/mo to keep these goats. Not even counting intangibles like water and electricity.
Right now, we have the little buck separated from the three does. I’m milking Blondie, but the little doeling is still nursing her mama, Smiley. So, I’m only milking one of our goats. Bad. I know. It’s way past time to separate the doeling so I can milk both does.
The problem is, we have nowhere to put the little doeling. We don’t have enough fencing to put her in her own pen until she’s weaned. And we can’t put her in with the little buck as I’ve mentioned before, ’cause he’s old enough to breed her and she’s way too young to safely have any babies yet. This is what has held us back.
Milking only one of the goats has given us about a quart a day. Which reminds me, make sure that whenever you are looking to buy a milk goat, you insist on being present at one of the milkings before you make your purchase. This way you will know for sure how much milk you can expect to get from her. We were told that each of these does would give 3/4 of a gallon a day! Which has proven not to be the case.
So, we’ve been averaging almost 2 gallons per week. Are you still with me? That means we’ve been paying about $7 per gallon for our goat’s milk.
We could get a gallon of fresh milk from a local farmer for $3/gal! And not have to milk twice a day, or worry about taking care of any animals, or skipping summer vacations ’cause we don’t have anybody to milk for us while we’re gone.
Obviously, we have some reevaluating to do. If we had more land we could grow more of our own animal feed… but we’ve quickly learned that one acre just isn’t enough to raise a sufficient amount of food for our family plus the animals. At least, we haven’t figured out how to do it yet.
Fortunately, there are some things we can do to help cut costs.
As I mentioned, separating the doeling is top priority. Hopefully milking both goats will at least double the amount of milk we are getting.
We’ve decided to sell the little buckling instead of keeping him for breeding. From everything I’ve been reading, it just isn’t worth it to keep a buck unless you have a large herd of does to breed.
We’ve been given the number to a local farmer who sells bags of goat feed for $8 instead of the $12 we are paying at the mill. Hopefully we’ll be able to hook up with him and start saving money there.
And, if I can start making and selling goat’s milk soap, that may be a way to help cover our feed bill.
So, that’s where we’re at, and that’s the plan. Do you see the importance of keeping track of your expenses? If you want to become more self-sufficient, you can’t let your homestead cost you more than it profits.