by Debbie Dahl
Few people take the time to write down on paper what their expenses are when it comes to raising goats, and I must admit that I don't keep written accounts of it myself. However, I DO know how often I buy grain at the feed store from the receipts, which is a fairly good way to measure. After a few years, it is possible to predict more accurately what your expenses will be.
Because there are so many different ways to raise goats and expenses are based on what works best for each individual environment, there are no "set" figures to go by. How much hay you feed also depends on how much access your goats have to pasture grazing. Under my grazing conditions, I don't feed hay in the summer unless I am weaning kids or keeping bucklings separately. My herd of 34 goats consists of 7 young bucklings, 5 dry does, 10 milking does, and 12 young does. (I hadn't planned on keeping 3 of the 7 bucklings, but as is common, I consider them to be "just too good to give away" at a low price. So I usually don't have to feed so many young bucklings.)
This year was not a profitable one for my herd, as I had problems with Toxoplasmosis, and lost four sets of triplets (aborted several weeks early), one registered doe carrying triplets, and two sets of twin bucklings which were trampled, due to stress in the mother does. So I started out the kidding season with mother does without kids to nurse them, and lost a total of sixteen kids. The only thing positive I could see about the loss of the aborted kids was that I didn't have time (and money) invested in feeding them before the loss and all but one of the does survived.
Despite the losses, I figured that if I could sell only a single gallon of milk a day at $3 a gallon, my grain bill for the 10 milking does would be covered (obviously the 10 produce much more than one gallon a day!) And the younger goats cost around $2 of grain a day, for all 25 of them!
It should be noted that I use my own "blend" of feeds, with the dairy ration consisting of mostly breeder cubes (20% protein), a special bulk dairy feed, and some times a little sun- cured alfalfa pellets. The protein content is near 19%. The feed ration for the younger goats is basically the same as for the dry does, lower in protein, and it is mostly corn chops and oats, with the special bulk dairy (for sweetness). Wheat Germ Oil Blend (bought by the gallon) and added minerals are mixed in both rations, although some times the special dairy mix tends to have too much molasses.
Hay costs are such a variable expense that it is hard to figure. But in cold weather it takes at least three average-sized bales of mixed (some clover) hay at $1.50 a bale every day to feed 20 large goats, or in my case, my herd of 34 different sized goats, with some access to pasture grazing. In a "dry lot" situation with no foraging, it would take five bales a day. We don't buy our hay; it's right off our own pastures. If we had to buy and haul it in, it would be very difficult to make ends meet without selling about three gallons of milk a day. Especially when you consider that hay expense comes at a time of the year when milk production is almost non-existent.
Vet and vaccination costs are variable also. Buying large containers is more cost-efficient than buying small ones. Cost of wormers alone makes for the largest part of these expenses. I tend to worm my goats at least every four months, some every two months. Young goats are wormed on a different schedule than the older goats, and if a goat seems to unexpectedly drop in condition, wormer is the first step.
So get out your pencil and paper, estimate your feed costs before cold weather comes. Decide if you want to keep the same number of goats next year, expand a little, or cut back to a minimum number. Remember, goats reproduce fast and in another six months you'll have another batch of kids!
Spanish, Meat & Dairy Goats
Debbie & Richard Dahl
Route 1, Box 147-2
Colcord, Oklahoma 74338
Telephone (918) 326-4291