Adding a dairy goat farming business plan to your homestead goals takes careful thought and preparation. In addition to purchasing the necessary livestock, dairy goat supplies must be purchased and the facility readied. Take a look at some ideas that will get you on a successful path to a dairy goat farming business plan.
One of the first questions is why choose goats or sheep for a dairy over the more traditional dairy cow operation? Goat milk is higher in calcium and healthy fat, giving it more nutritional bang per gallon. Goat milk is not as widely accepted in the United States, as cow milk, but the rest of the world has been largely drinking goat milk for hundreds of years. Goat milk is easily digested, even by people with lactose intolerance. The reason for this has to do with the protein structure of the milk compared to cow milk. Goat milk is also lower in cholesterol.
All goats share certain characteristics, no matter if they are kept for meat, breeding, milk, fiber or pets. Goats do not like being alone. Plan to have at least two goats. If you only want one goat for milk, keeping a neutered male goat (wether) is a good option. All goats will produce milk after giving birth. Certain breeds of goats are better milk producers. These breeds are often sought out when writing up a dairy goat farming business plan. Good genetics and breeding play a big part in the performance of any breed.
Full-size breeds of dairy goats include the Saanen, LaMancha, Toggenburg, Alpine, Nubian, and Oberhasli. Nigerian Dwarf goats are smaller and yet an excellent producer of high-quality milk. Often a smaller goat breed such as the Nigerian Dwarf is exactly what a family will look for when organizing a dairy goat farming business plan.
Saanens originated in Switzerland. They are one of the larger dairy goat breeds. Their milk production is high and the butterfat content is on the lower end of the goat milk spectrum. Saanen goats are all white or cream colored. The Sable goat breed is related to the Saanen and is the name for colored Saanens.
Nubian goats are a well-known dairy goat. Nubians have gentle personalities and rather loud voices. The breed is characterized by its Roman noses and long droopy ears. The milk is rich in butterfat.
A popular breed of dairy goat is the LaMancha. They appear earless but actually do have small ears. This breed is accepted in any color and is a good dairy goat. The appearance makes them easy to identify between the breeds.
Toggenburgs are favored by some dairy farmers because they are believed to have a longer lactation period after kidding.
The Alpine goat has a long and interconnected breed history that also includes some breeding with the Oberhasli and Saanen breeds. For your research into a dairy goat farming business plan, look into the Brittish Alpine, Swiss Alpine, and French Alpine breeding lines.
Goat Care and Maintenance
The daily care is something to be considered when forming a dairy goat farming business plan. Goats will require a dry living area, as wet pasture and goats are not often seen together. At the very least, a large run in shed should be provided and maintained with dry bedding. Fresh water, grain, and grazing or provided hay or forage are necessary each day. Goats are hardy and with consistent care, simple to raise. With good management and observation, you will learn what is normal behavior for the individual animals. Goats who become ill commonly go downhill quickly so it is good to have a baseline, in your mind, of how your normal healthy animal behaves.
Hoof care is required on a regular basis. The timing for retrimming can vary from season to season. Keeping a close eye on the hoof health will prevent other hoof health issues from cropping up. An overgrown hoof can harbor small stones, wet manure, and bacteria, possibly leading to lameness and hoof rot.
It is not hard to learn how to trim goat hooves. The use of a goat milking stand can help bring the goat up closer to your level and keep you from bending over. The trimmers are found in most agriculture supply stores or catalogs. Ask an experienced goat farmer to show you how to trim the hoof. The outer edges of hoof material are trimmed. You should never cut into the center or frog portion of the hoof.
The Daily Milking
Most importantly, milking must be done. Milking the does has to be done or the animal will be in pain and can develop mastitis. The normal practice is to milk every twelve hours. That’s twice a day, every day, for the eight to ten months of milk production. The first step includes cleaning the teats and stripping some milk out, before beginning to milk. Caring for any dairy animal is a heavy obligation to take on and only for the dedicated farm owner.
The Goat Dairy Facility
In a small family operation, you may be able to avoid having a separate building for housing and milking your goats. With a larger business plan, the milking is often done in a separate structure. With either set-up, cleanliness is the key to success.
The barn will have stalls for the goats. These may be shared as goats do not like to be alone. Birthing stalls are necessary on a dairy farm because you won’t have milk if you don’t have does giving birth. Private birthing stalls allow the does to give birth in a quiet environment and bond with the kids.
Fencing is needed. Rotational grazing practice should be employed so count on at least two or three separate grazing paddocks or pastures. Depending on your flock size you may require more pasture areas. Letting one area lie fallow, allows regrowth and gives the parasites time to die off. Goats are more likely to escape fencing than sheep. Strong fencing that cannot be climbed is a good starting place when planning your fences. Goats can jump, too. Be sure the fence is high enough to prevent goats jumping to freedom.
As you finalize your dairy goat farming business plan, decide where your goat milk will go. Are you planning to sell the raw milk to a local dairy for processing? Maybe you are going to produce cheese and yogurt for sale at the farmer’s market. No matter what direction you choose to go, having the plan details worked out ahead of time is smart. Contact the proposed buyers of your product and start a business relationship. Learn what is expected from a wholesale milk producer. Other products can be sold from your goat farm including, breeding stock, pet quality animals, and meat.
Do you have a dairy goat farming business plan? Are you finding success raising dairy goats? Let us know in the comments below.