How much does it cost to raise dairy goats?
Raising dairy goats as a hobby is about more than just economics.
There has 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?
The numbers in Table 1 are representative of current input costs. 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. Replacement does are not included. The costs for a commercial dairy goat operation will be discussed in a future article.
|Table 1. Hobby Enterprise: 10 milking dairy goats per year. Average 2050 lb milk per lactation. For illustration purposes only.|
|Cost Per Doe||% of Total|
|1825 lb hay @ 200/T (5 lb daily)||$182.50||18|
|1025 lb grain mix @ $0.21/lb
(3.3 lb average during lactation, 1 lb while dry)
|Bedding (straw - 100 bales @ $2.50 bale)||$250.00||3|
|Breeding (cost of keeping a buck)||$41.78||4|
|Operating expense (supplies, utilities, maintenance)||$150.00||15|
|69.4 hours of labor @ $5/hr||$347.00||33|
As can be noted in Table 1, the largest expense in raising dairy goats is labor, as is the case with other livestock. Labor cost used is a conservative $5 per hour for mostly family labor. You may value your labor differently. If raising dairy goats for fun, and not as a business, perhaps a value for your labor is not important to you. Table 2 shows how labor was broken down by task:
|Table 2. Labor Use per doe on a 10-goat dairy.|
|Hours Annually||% of Time|
|Milking, 305 days (15 does/person/hour)||40.7||59|
|Set-up & clean-up (20 min. daily)||12.2||18|
|Manure handling & bedding (10 min. daily)||6.1||9|
|Feeding hay & grain (6 min. daily)||3.7||5|
|Heat detection (10 min./day for 6 months)||3.0||4|
|Breeding (20 min. X 2 breedings)||0.7||1|
|Miscellaneous (.5 min. daily per doe)||3.0||4|
Let's look at alternative 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. A buck or doe kid for breeding stock may bring $200-$300; a buck kid or a wether (castrated male) as a pet, $25-$100; and kids for meat, $25-$50 depending on their size.
- Showing - 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 is 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. Therefore, different values can be assigned on the milk produced when comparing it to milk replacer, retail milk purchases, or retail dairy product purchases.
- 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.
There are many reasons that people choose to raise dairy goats, and usually economics is not the first reason. Interest in goats is usually driven by 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 acreage.
It is important to determine your own costs and budget. Table 1 is for illustrative purposes only. As long as your budget fits with the goals you want to accomplish, everyone can be happy - including the goats.
Published in Dairy Star May 2, 2008