What Does it Cost to Raise Dairy Goats?
There's been a lot of interest in the dairy goat industry over the past year. I get many calls asking about dairy goats: how much land it takes to raise them, what to feed them, and how to manage them. The one question I get asked very rarely is: how much does it cost?
There is a difference between costs on a hobby operation (10 does) and a commercial operation (100 does). The scenario for this article represents a hobby operation with 10 milking does.
The total cost per doe per year is $1,024. Labor is the largest expense in raising dairy goats, as is the case with other livestock. Labor costs (valued conservatively at $5 per hour) amount to 33 percent of total costs. Other major items are grain, hay and operating expense (supplies, utilities and maintenance). Still other costs include bedding, breeding and veterinary costs.
Let's look at possible income sources for a 10-goat dairy operation.
Animal sales. With 10 milking does you will average 20 kids born in the spring. Additional profit can be generated from selling kids for breeding stock, as pets, or for meat. The prices received for these animals vary greatly.
Showing adds considerable value to animals and their offspring. In addition, there are premiums that can be earned at many shows to offset entry fees. Showing is a way to validate excellent traits in a herd when compared to other herds. At shows, owners have a chance to talk with interested individuals about their animals. Think of it this way--the goats themselves are the best and cheapest marketing tool!
Value of milk. On a small scale operation, it's not likely that milk is being sold commercially. The milk produced will be used to raise kids or other livestock, for household use, and for making other products.
Value added products. Just as cheese, yogurt and other dairy products can be made with cow's milk, the same products can be made with goat milk. There are a variety of companies that sell supplies and kits specifically with the small-scale producer in mind. Developing a small niche market for these products would be another way of generating additional income.
People choose to raise goats for many reasons, and economics usually isn't the first reason. Interest in goats is usually driven b y the personality of the animals, developing friendships with other people with similar interests, finding a solution to a dietary issue, wanting a way to connect to the land or creating a homestead environment on a small amount of land.