Shall we compare two farm animals that can both provide dairy delights? Although you can milk both species, they are not in any way equal. Spoiler alert: I am biased toward cows.
Feeding: It is true that goats are not picky eaters. However, there are still plenty of weeds that grow in our pastures that they won’t touch, such as, believe it or not, goat weed. (Not aptly named.) My husband says he keeps our goats to keep our fence lines cleaned up. (In my opinion, this is not enough of a reason to keep goats, but that’s another story.) Goats love to eat brambles and vines. They also like woody plants like yaupons.
Cows prefer grasses. In the winter, both species need hay once the grass goes dormant. Obviously, cows do need more to eat than goats, because, uh, they are bigger. I will cede this point to the goats.
Lifespan: In my experience, cows are extremely hardier than goats. Obviously, there are a lot of variables when it comes to the health of your animals: breed, genes, feed, weather, disease prevention measures, etc. Taking all these into consideration, I will say this to sum up our experience with goat versus cow survival on our farm: We’ve had many goat deaths. I don’t even know how many. We’ve had one cow die.
In the six years that we’ve had cattle on our farm, we’ve been blessed that none of our cows have had birthing problems and, so far, a 100 percent survival rate on calves. Our goats? There’s no comparison. It is more common for them to have issues birthing their young than not. Plus, for some reason, they have a high miscarriage rate as well. Unfortunately, the kid survival rate is awful. It’s about 15 percent. Now, I realize that most people that raise goats don’t have such bad luck with them. But, every goat-raiser I’ve ever talked to agrees that goats are quite susceptible to diseases/parasites.
Fencing: Goats are great escape artists. Yes, it depends on your goats, what kind of fence you use, and how you separate your herds. But, hands down, cows are much easier to keep in the fence than goats. While most cows will easily stay inside of barb wire, goats need woven wire or other such measures. Goats can go through, go under, climb up, or jump over many types of fences/gates. Our buck can get out of anything that we put him in if he has the motivation. (For example, a female in a different paddock.) Every once in awhile, you’ll have a cow or bull that can also be a great escape artist, but it’s not very common.
Milk: This is very subjective. I do NOT like goat milk. It has a gross after-taste to me. I’ve tried goat milk from different breeds of goats and goats on different types of feed. The milk always has some sort of after-taste to me, and I don’t like it. Some people don’t mind and even find it sweeter than cow milk. However, I would venture to say that the majority of us prefer the taste of cow milk. For some people, goat milk is easier to digest. My son drank some goat milk when he was a baby before he could handle cow milk.
Even the dairy breeds of goats such as Nubians, don’t give as much milk as a dairy cow. Also, goat milk is usually more expensive than cow milk.
Intelligence: Perhaps there are some smart goats out there. However, I’ve never run into any. Neither species is typically very intelligent, but I’ve had more luck with cows in this area. In my experience, cows are easier to train, come up to be milked easier, and don’t continually get their heads stuck in the fence.
Shelter: As long as cows have some decent trees to go under for shade or shelter, they are usually fine. Goats hate being out in the rain. You’ll need some type of shelter for them to get under to keep these divas from getting too wet. (I’ve never raised cattle in extreme cold/winter scenarios, so you probably would need a barn or lean-to for them to get under in that case.)
Transport: Cows are bigger, so more difficult to transport. Unless you are transporting a small calf, you’ll obviously need a trailer to transport a cow. A goat can go in a crate in the back of a pick-up. (Or, I’ve heard, in the back of a minivan, which I wouldn’t recommend.)
Worth: Perhaps there are some super, prize-winning, terrifically purebred goats out there that are worth a pretty penny. Good for them. In most cases and situations, cows are worth more than goats. Even the bovines you are culling will usually bring a fair price at your local auction. I think it’s safe to say that if you are trying to make money off raising one or the other, cows are a better option.
Meat: Yes, I realize this is also subjective. There are meat breeds of goats out there, and some people like goat meat. However, most people prefer beef to goat meat. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a restaurant that offered a goat meat steak. Also, you’re obviously going to get more meat from a cow than a goat.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post just for fun and to somewhat explain why I am not a fan of goats. Many people like their goats. Many people do not. I realize each animal has their place. I am biased against goats because of my personal experience with them. I had a couple of Nubians for awhile when I was a kid, and now we have Kiko and Alpine mixes. It was impossible to keep the Nubians in the fence. They ended up getting out and ruining my mom’s fruit trees and rose bushes. Our Kikos have almost killed our myrtle trees and fig tree. The Kikos often get their heads stuck in the fence and can’t get out by themselves. Also, while baby goats are cute, it’s frustrating that they die so easily.
Cows win: To clench my argument against goats — goats are gross, especially the males. Bucks have a strong musky odor that smells awful! They also purposely urinate on themselves and rub it all over their faces, chest, and front legs to, believe it or not, attract the ladies. Need I say more?