Thursday, 2 May 2013

Smallholding: Milking goat or cow?

We started out with a pair of milking goats about five years ago. Our son had milk allergies and it was difficult and expensive to buy goats milk. We bought 'Mona' and 'Daisy', a saanen and a toggenburg. They were both in milk and used to being hand milked. I remember how shocked and overwhelmed I felt when we brought them home and I attempted to milk them. I felt a huge burden of responsibility for them, what if I can't milk them fully out and they get mastitis? Or worse, die! I was well prepared for them and had done a large amount of reading on the subject but nothing beats diving in! I assured myself that if things didn't work out, it was always possible to sell them.

So we had milking goats! Mona was a great goat. Easy to milk with a large blown udder, just like milking a cow. She give over a 5 litres a day and was a delight to milk. She was a large goat so was less inclined to climb and jump thankfully. Daisy was a different story! She was very excitable and would jump on you like a dog. She was restless at milking time. She would turnaround after or during milking quickly and drink all her milk in the bucket. She had been bucket reared! Her teats were tiny and it took ages to get less milk from her.
Both goats were well bred from good dairy stock and produced large amounts of milk. We later sold daisy and went through many more goats. But they were even worse and only give 2-3 litres a day. For us this doesn't make it worthwhile. We now realise that we were spoilt with mona and that her kind doesn't come by very often.
The biggest challenges with keeping goats were fencing, and keeping them out of the veg garden and away from anything you value, even your car!! They don't like grass but prefer hedges, trees, bark and flowers. They produced unwanted kids that were unsellable and had to be given away. The kids are cute at first but their climbing/ damage soon wears on you. We didn't enjoy the taste of the goats milk but the kids loved it and drunk large amounts of it and I made plenty of soft cheese from it. The milk was nice on the day of milking, but I don't enjoy warm milk. It developed a ting the next day and by day three it had a distinct goat taste.

Some time later we got a jersey cow. Again we were nervous about the responsibility and commitment involved. They are bigger and grumpier? But we were pleased to find out that a cow is sweet, calm and very generous with her milk. We first got Rosie, then Penelope and now Mama-moo. And I love cows! Sure they are a bigger investment but the calf they rear each year hold value and will fill the freezer or pay her feed bill for the year. Of course they need more acreage and there is legal requirements for testing and herd numbers... But they are great!
You will have so much milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cheese and ice-cream. Your veg garden will be so fertile with all that manure and your family will be healthy from raw, clean, whole milk. They are easier to fence and will help feed the hens, chickens, dog and cats.

People should consider what suits their personal circumstances.
Do you have much acreage?
Are you comfortable with large or smaller animals?
Will small children be involved?
Have you good fencing?
What do you intend to use the milk for?

For us Mona was a great goat and Mama-moo is a great cow. I would now never tolerate a bad, unruly or unproductive animal. Milking a bad animal makes milking a horrible chore, but milking a great animal makes it a delight. And it is the same investment in time and feed so you might as well enjoy it!

Many years from now, we might downsize to a goat but right now we love our cows milk.
I would love to hear other people's experiences.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, its interesting to read it from the point of view of someone who has kept both types of milkers. We have only ever had a milking cow. We didn't even consider a goat. Our neighbours have milking goats and we didn't like the taste of the milk. Our cow produces too much milk for two people, but we let her calf stay with her, and eventually the calf takes most of the milk and we just get out 2-3L/week that we actually need. At first, when we have 10L/day I just make lots of cheese!

  2. I think if we didn't have Mona first, we would have forever blacklisted goats! That sounds like the perfect arrangement. Is the cow happy to share? It upsets ours. Lots of popping and holding up during milking;-)

  3. So nice to read an opinion from someone who has had both.

    We are considering getting some goats in the future, but now you have set me thinking, maybe a cow would be better, both for the calmer temperament and also the more varied products you can make from the milk.

    As we are definitely returning to our first love of rare breed pig farming, there will always be an outlet for any excess milk.

  4. One thing I forgot to mention is that goats are cleaner! Cows like to sit in their own sh@t ;-o
    I look forward to reading all about your pigs when they arrive! We hope to get ours next month fingers crossed. I would love to get a sow but would be worried about not being to sell the weaners as the market here wouldn't be great for them.

  5. I milked my 2 suffock ewes for 2 years and they became very good at it as long as there was feed in the bucket. Now I have 2 more hand reared lambs growing into milkers, but as you don't get much, I took the opportunity to hand reared a young calf when we found her abandoned on the road. I love her and pet her alot over a fence, and I guess she thinks I'm Mum. But the problem is she is rather playful and affectionate which can actually bruise me and could be really dangerous. I have had to protect my boundaries with a cane or stick, and only painful connections with her nose has stopped her charging me. It has become a dangerous and difficult task to walk in the open paddocks now and I am hoping she will grow out of this soon. Anyone know what to do?

  6. This is very common with bottle fed animals. They kinda think they are human and being a teenager, they challenge the pecking order. She needs to know that you are the boss cow!
    Cows do this by head butting, charging and mounting to show dominance.


I love to receive comments and feedback...