I see this a lot on the forums I lurk on - people are suddenly wanting to get into goats, but have NO clue. Since I lurk on these forums, I figured I'd post my thoughts *here* - they can google and find me, and I don't have to join the forums in question. :lol:
First, you need to be aware that there are VERY few Vets that handle goats - most large animal vets won't, because "it's just a goat!", and small animal vets won't, because goats are livestock, not pets. So YOU have to be your own vet......if you don't think you can handle that, then skip goats. You WILL have to do your own doctoring at some point, and goat deliveries don't always go as planned. (Trainwrecks are a part of goat-ownership; most goats are just looking for an excuse to die. :sigh:)
OK, so that didn't phase you? Good. Now, start thinking about WHY you want goats. (Yes, goatS, plural. Goats do better in pairs.) Weed control? "Scrub" goats/mutts are good for that. Meat? Boers. Milk? Ah, there's the rub!
A lot of people decide to do smaller goats, for some reason. Nigerian Dwarfs and Pygmys do, actually produce milk.....but. Are you wanting to just supplement, for soap-making or cheese-making, or are you wanting to dairy for *real*, for all/most of your dairy needs? Think about this....because your choice of breed is important - and it costs as much to feed a dud as it does to feed a good milker.
NDs and Pygmys are, of course, smaller goats. This appeals to people - smaller goat = easier to handle, supposedly. However.....smaller goat = smaller udder = less production, which means you need MORE goats to fill your pail. Maybe you don't care - in that case, carry on! Me? I wanted max milk with fewer to milk.
I went with the "true" dairy goats - Nubians, to be precise. There are a number of dairy breeds: Nubians, Saanans, Alpines, Toggenburgs, Oberhalsis (and I might have forgotten a few....); I went with Nubians because of their personalities. They are people-goats, very very friendly (which is very, very annoying sometimes!) They aren't the star producers; Swiss breeds tend to give higher yields, but they are a bit more aloof. Also, Nubians are easy to get around *here*; in your area maybe Alpines are the go-to breed. Do your research!
Understand that an average dairy-bred goat will give you 0.5 gallons/day. A *good* producer will give 1.0 gallons/day. (An average cow gives *8* gallons/day, for reference). Always assume you'll get an average or below-average goat and decide from there how many does you'll need in milk. That way, you can be sure you'll get enough milk for your family each day.
So. You've settled on breed and number......now you need to decide: purchase adult doe, or bottle-baby. Babies are cheaper - but you don't really know what you'll end up with. *I* do not push people to buy papered goats, not for home dairy, BUT - if you buy from someone who has papers, you can get a pretty good idea of what your baby will turn out as. (This is where research comes in!). For example, I knew that Pruittville breeds for milk production; when a Pruittville grand-daughter popped up on CL, I jumped at her, even though she was $250 at 6 weeks old. Why? Because *I* want solid producers - and Inara has repaid my belief! She's a gallon/day milker, and her 2 daughters look to be taking after her. :smile: (We expect our goats to provide ALL our dairy, so I *need* good producers. Your situation may be different.)
You've decided what you want, and where you'll get it, now we need to discuss housing. Goats are very, very clever. Fences are simply puzzles to be solved. The only thing *we've* found to keep our goats mostly where they belong is 16' cattle panels with wood posts and top rails. They push t-posts over, then use the fencing as a ramp to get out. They can wiggle under tight wire or post-and-rail fencing, and no-climb horse wire without a top rail? They stand on it until it sags, then they climb/jump over it. Spend the money up front so you don't have to keep replacing fence. Also, don't use chainlink without top rails and sturdy, deeply sunk posts, and make sure your gates are low to the ground, and sturdy. Goats can flatten themselves like cats......
As to barns....well, you can go the standard route, but I'm going to recommend something different - a carport with a front and sides. Yes, a CARPORT. The lady we bought our Alpines from was using one, and it was *awesome*. The front was solid with a pass-thru door. At the first rib, she had a livestock gate; the part between was her feed room/milking area. The rest of it was the goat living area, open in the back to the paddock. All metal, so no rotting out, and inexpensive. (We're going to replace our current barn with a double carport when we buy the neighbor's acreage, so I AM putting my money where my mouth is!)
Now you're all sorted, and you're almost ready to milk. THIS is where the start-up costs get real, folks. Let me give you a list of dairy supply houses:Hamby's DairyHoegger FarmyardCaprine SupplyParts Dept
Go, have a quick look-see. Prices are...well. NOT cheap. I can help with that. :lol:
For miking, you need a milk pail. Go to your local Tractor Supply and look in the pet department. They have stainless steel pails (for dog food, I think) for......under $20. THAT is your milk pail. (I think they're 1 gallon buckets. Large enough - usually! - for 1 or 2 goats in milk.) You need wipes to clean teats - go to your local grocery store (I go to Walmart) and pick up a case of diaper wipes, unscented (I checked - they are the SAME thing. If you're concerned that they are anti-bacterial, add a drop or 2 of teat dip to the packages.) Teat dip.....I go to Tractor Supply and buy the Nolvasone S - it's a bit pricey, but it lasts all season. Also pick up a couple of the plastic "blue ice" things from the grocery - you need them to start cooling your milk as you milk.
I use teat dip cups from Hamby's - they had the cheapest price back when I bought them. I also bought some strip cups.....save your money. Use an old coffee cup, instead. (Or, do what I do when I get lazy and strip right into the wipe. You can see if anything's wrong, and it's 1 less thing to wash.)
We built our milk stands from old, free pallets - but I'm not using them right now, I'm milking on the floor. Hard on my back, but the does don't want to get ON the stands right now, so it's a moot point. This is less painful for me then trying to fight to get them up on the stand.
If you need a milk tote, go to eBay and look around - I bought a 5 quart one for....I think it was $35, but it's been a few years. I have a 3 gallon one, too (I think - it's BIG) that I got for under $70; look at them at the above links and see what you think. Lids for the milk pails are easy - if you don't/can't sew, pick up some Glad plastic, elastic-edged tops from the store. They fit just fine, and are reusable, to a point.
IF you decide to go with a machine (and I won't judge - I use the machine when we get more than 2 does in milk)....well, expect to spend about $400 for a DIY. It's NOT a big deal - the most expensive part is the vacuum pump. You need one that pulls 6 CFM - we just bought a replacement one for $200, on sale. It's a cheap one that I don't think will last........but the next cheapest was $399, so.......yeah, we went with the $200 one. For the bucket set up, go to Parts Dept and look at what they sell, then head to eBay and price it out. There's a seller called "Slavic Beauty" that has complete set-ups for $279 that will do 2 goats at a time, all you need are shut-off valves (Parts Dept has the best prices on those, I think) and the pump. You can sometimes score a Surge bucket......the lids are harder to find. Good Interpuls pulsators are about $90; I'm not sure what the Slavic Beauty set-up has; I'm planning on using our Interpuls on the one I bought. I like the clear inflations.....Parts Dept has a set-up for 1 goat for....$80, I think. The rubber part has to be replaced each year, as do the lines (go with silicone food-safe lines - the plastic ones add a weird flavor to the milk.) (FYI, a complete set up from any of the dealers will run you about $1,000. Perry's milkers (I don't have a link, sorry!) uses old dairy-farm buckets and medical-grade pumps and will set you back at least $600. DIY is the way to go, honestly.) Oh! You'll also need a balance tank to help hold the vacuum steady - 4" PVC pipe and fittings. I think we spent $140 on ours, but once it's built, it's built and you can use it from then on, with any machine you buy. I did a post on it a few years ago: Have a link
You're also going to need a strainer - I bought our 2 from Caprine Supply; I think they are the mini-ones. You'll also need filters - you can use larger ones if you can get a good deal on them, but you can't go smaller. EBay has some for $16/200, which is a pretty good price; you'll use 2/day. Bottles.....quart canning jars work, but if you have very productive does you'll run out of space quickly. Half-gallon canning jars are perfect, but expensive and hard to find. This year, I'm trying Ikea's jars; we have a green-topped pitcher that looks like it holds a half-gallon; they also have a..quart? jar that look like an old-timey milk jug. So far, both work.....I'm just not sure exactly how much they hold. :shrug: They're cheaper than the canning jars, so, for me, it works.
I think that's it - I'm running on very little sleep right now, so if I need to add anything, hit me up! I like sharing knowledge!