I had horses for years. I bred them and raised them and trained them. Sometimes I even sold them. Sometimes I even got something like what they were worth.
They say with horses that the only way to make a small fortune is to start with a large fortune. I’m going to have to agree with that. While I saved a lot of money by having my own property, trimming their hooves by myself and occasionally breaking one in, the fact was that I spent a substantial amount of money on them and didn’t get very much back.
When people ask me how much my goats cost to keep, they are often shocked at my response. It’s not just feed, things like disease testing and other vet bills really add up. While worming and vaccination are a lot cheaper with a smaller animal, and I can whip through and trim everyone’s feet in a couple of hours, I go through three bags of grain a week in summer and a lot more when the does are milking heavily and their kids are small.
Showing is another area where I think the goats are much better value. I can enter half a dozen goats in a dozen classes at most shows for what it would cost to enter one horse in one dressage test. And I can fit half a dozen goats in the horse float.
The main thing that tips the scales in the direction of the goats, is that you get something back from them. Not just milk, but offspring who are worth something.
Even when I had my own stallion and could basically produce purebred ponies out of thin air, the amount I sold them for was never as much as it cost to raise them. And selling them could be a drama in itself.
Twin doe kids are worth more at a year old and cost a lot less to raise than a foal. And castrating the boys costs a matter of cents, rather than hundreds of dollars.
I worked out recently that each week my goats provide about $80 worth of dairy products for the house. At the moment I only have two in milk, and my feed bill is about $40 a week.
A kilogram of hard cheese, the same again of soft cheese, perhaps a mozzarella or ricotta. A litre of yogurt. And then there is the daily kefir for two people and the milk that is used on cereal, in drinks and in cooking.
Even if we were to replace all that with regular home-brand cow milk supermarket substitutes, it would still cost more than the weekly feed bill.
Sure, if I didn’t have goats I wouldn’t buy some of those things. I would still buy ‘good’ full-fat yogurt with as little added sugar as possible. I would still buy mozzarella for pizza or lasagne.
But we wouldn’t have the benefits of raw goat milk kefir. I wouldn’t have chevre to spread on my toast instead of sugar-filled jam. Our life and our health would not be as good.
And that is the real value-add of ‘pet’ dairy goats. The stuff you can’t buy. The goat cuddles and adorable newborn kids. The occasional broad sash on a home-bred goat at a show. Knowing that your milk has traveled about 30 metres from the goat to the house and only been in the one container from source to consumption. Making yogurt with a taste and texture exactly how you like it, and with no added sugar.
You can’t replicate this. Not without a milker or two of your own. People who drink well-traveled, processed, reconstituted white stuff from the supermarket and dyed yellow slices of plastic ‘cheddar’ will never understand what they are missing out on.