Goat milk is preferred over cow milk in much of the world, and approximately 70% of the milk consumed by humans worldwide is supplied by goats. In the United States, the cow is still king, but goats are the fastest growing livestock animal and goat milk consumption is rising rapidly. Why is goat milk so popular worldwide and why is its popularity rising in the US? Well, compared to cows and cow milk, goats are easier to keep; and goat milk is great tasting, produced more naturally, more nutritious, available raw, easier to digest, acceptable to many with lactose intolerance, and it triggers fewer milk allergies.
Goats don’t need as much space as cows, are easier to handle, thrive on marginal pastures, and are perfectly happy eating things that we consider nuisances like poison ivy and brambles. Goats are suitable for hilly, rocky, and wooded areas where cows could not be kept, and actually prefer wooded browse to pasture (they prefer to reach up to eat rather than down like cattle). Goats convert their food into milk much more efficiently than cows, and many people find it easier to deal with the smaller quantities of milk (see Table 1) they produce. Much of the upsurge in goat popularity has been with those interested in increasing their self-sufficiency, and most find it much easier to keep a few goats. The dwarf dairy goat breeds are even being allowed in some urban areas because they need so little room, are easy to care for, and provide so many benefits.
Fresh goat milk tastes creamy, sweet, and mild – virtually indistinguishable from whole cow milk. But, goat milk must be properly handled (processed in sanitary conditions and cooled immediately) to insure that its sweet taste is preserved. Taste also differs from goat breed to breed; with those breeds producing the highest butterfat content (Nigerian Dwarves and Nubians) typically producing the sweetest, mildest tasting milk. In some areas of Europe, stronger tasting milk is preferred, so breeds originating there (like Oberhasli and Toggenburg) do tend to produce milk with a stronger taste. Dairy goat herds in the US are typically small, and the goats are allowed to free range rather than being maintained on feed lots as most cow dairy herds are today. Goat dairies also tend to keep antibiotic use to a minimum and rarely use hormones, whereas most dairy cows are pumped full of antibiotics and bovine growth hormone (as well as bovine somatotropin — a hormone used specifically for increasing milk production). Also, goat milk does not contain agglutinin, the substance that makes cow milk separate, so goat milk does not need to be artificially homogenized like cow milk.
The vitamins and minerals in goat milk can play an important role in helping us meet our daily nutritional requirements. On the vitamin front, goat milk supplies up to 47% more vitamin A, 350% more niacin (B3), 25% more B6, is lower in folic acid (B9) and B12, and is comparable to cow milk for the other vitamins. On the mineral front, goat milk is 13% higher in calcium, higher in phosphorous, has 134% more potassium, has more iron, contains four times the copper, has more magnesium, has substantially more manganese, has more selenium, and has comparable levels of zinc and sodium when compared to cow milk. Goat milk simply supplies more vitamins and minerals than cow milk.
Unpasteurized goat milk is increasingly available from small farms (laws regarding sales of raw milk vary from state to state), and many believe raw milk is much healthier for humans because pasteurization destroys the nutrition and beneficial bacteria in raw milk. Pasteurization also makes it more difficult for humans to absorb calcium and it breaks down the lactase in milk (the enzyme that helps digest lactose), making milk more difficult to digest.
Although the US government strongly discourages the consumption of raw milk (and probably rightly so for the mass-produced milk from antibiotic and hormone fed cows living on feed lots), raw milk has been consumed by humans for hundreds of years, and if properly processed, poses little health risk.
Goat milk is naturally homogenized, with smaller fat particles evenly distributed throughout the milk, and is much closer to human milk in makeup than cow milk. The vitamins, minerals, trace elements, electrolytes, enzymes, and proteins in goat milk are therefore easier for humans to assimilate than similar content in cow milk. For these reasons, goat milk is typically digested in as little as 20 minutes; whereas it can take 24 hours for humans to digest cow milk.
As much as 75% of the adult population suffers from lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest lactose.
This is caused by the by the lack (or an insufficient amount) of the enzyme called lactase. Goat milk contains about 10% less lactose than cow milk and since it passes through the human digestive tract so rapidly, many with lactose intolerance have no difficulty with goat milk.
Also, because raw goat milk still contains the enzyme lactase, switching to unpasteurized goat milk can be helpful to those with lactose intolerance.
Milk is a good source of protein, but the complex proteins in milk are what cause some to be allergic to it, and the alpha-s1-casein protein in cow milk is the primary one responsible for milk allergies in humans. Goat milk contains much lower levels (89% less) of this particular protein, and some goats produce milk with no alpha-s1-casein. Studies of infants have shown that approximately 90% of those allergic to cow milk are able to drink goat milk without suffering any allergic reaction.
Increasingly, goat milk is simply viewed as a healthier alternative to cow milk, and as interest in healthy foods and sustainable living grows, more are choosing it instead. Dairy goats are becoming popular additions to the small farm or homestead, goat milk is now regularly available in grocery stores, and with homestead goat ownership rising, it can also often be found at local farms or homesteads. It’s time to give goat milk a try! (=> Best Goat Milk Replacer That’ll Make Tummy’s & Tastebuds Happy)
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in From Scratch magazine. Read the latest issue here. Read the issue this article appeared in here including more photos and information about goat’s milk.
During the last twenty years, our family has slowly increased the production of food for our dinner table. This includes veggies, eggs, berries, and now meat. We chose to raise beef cattle because we had the available space, and frankly, we love steak and roasts.
There is nothing that compares with the flavor of fresh beef and previously we had been purchasing a half a steer at a time for our freezer, from a local farmer. Our first three calves were Black Angus feeder calves about four months old. We later added two more, another Black Angus and a Hereford/Angus cross. Starting with feeder calves, you can expect a minimum of one year to butchering, but the time is mainly dictated by the amount of space you have to store the beef in the freezer.
It is possible to raise your own beef on small acreage. What are the factors to consider if you plan to add beef cows to your family homestead?
The amount of acreage does not need to be large and extensive. We are not talking about ranching or creating a South Fork here. If you are planning on grazing the cows on pasture you need about 2 acres per animal. Cattle can be raised in a feedlot situation where you provide all the roughage and concentrate feed for them in a smaller enclosed space. Neither of these situations fit our picture of how cows would fit into our homestead farm. We like our animals to have a bit of space for roaming around so we are using two separate one acre fenced in areas.
Most of our acreage is in a Tree Farm program so we do not have a lot of cleared land. We also raise Pygora goats, sheep, chicken, ducks and turkeys so all the cleared space was not available for the cows. But we used to have horses so the two fenced in areas were already set up. Having two separate fenced in areas allows us to move the cattle from one area to the other to let the ground rest and to help with parasite control. Each area has an open shed for shelter, which is a Steel Building, although the cows seem to prefer being outside. Electric fencing was run along the inside of the post and board fencing.
Cattle are large and consideration should be given to who will be taking care of them. While the cows may be docile, the size of any 1000 to 1500 pound animal should be respected. Animals react quickly and can seriously hurt a caretaker if precautions are not taken. Gentling the cattle with feed is one way to gain some control over your small herd.
But beware! The cows will follow you, enthusiastically, for grain and you should know where they are in relation to you , at all times. Have a plan in place should veterinary care be needed. A chute or some other suitable method of restraint should be thought out before disaster strikes.
Water is the most critical nutrient to provide for your cattle. The average full grown cow will consume an average of twelve to twenty gallons of water each day. We provide water in stock tanks in the fields. If you plan on relying on a stream or pond, be sure it doesn’t dry up in the heat of summer or freeze over in the winter. Because our area suffers from frequent power outages, we keep extra tanks filled with water, in the event the power is out for an extended time. If the power goes out, the electric pump for the well does not work.
Grain can be costly but we feed a small amount once a day, mainly to keep the cows gentle and willing to come to us. The majority of their diet is hay, which is provided using large round bales. With no real pasture, our cows eat through two large round bales each week. You will need to provide a salt or mineral block also.
Since these vary greatly by region it is hard to give a good estimate of the cost to raise beef cattle on the homestead. In our situation, we try to barter for the needs using other products from our farm and businesses. I will tell you that I don’t think this is the economical approach to take to add meat to your freezer. But if you are looking to control what goes into making that meat, the peace of mind that comes from knowing no chemicals were used, and that the animals lived a good life before providing food for your family, then, the cost may be worth it. To us, the answer was yes. It is worth every dollar spent.
Raising your own beef for the homestead may not be the most economical project you choose, but, to us it is a fair trade off for the knowledge that the animal was fed wholesome food with no chemical additives. The taste is above anything a super market can offer. If you haven’t had the pleasure of dining on fresh local beef, give your local cattle farmer a call and see if he has any to sell.
More on Fencing
Good fencing is a must. The weight of cattle pushing against a flimsy fence is a recipe for … well, escaping cows. We learned this the hard way, early on. The first area we put the cows into had been used for years for our horses. Some of the fencing should have been replaced prior to the cows being placed there. They pushed on a section of fence and it gave way, allowing the cows to roam freely for an afternoon. By the time we realized they were missing it was evening feeding time. While we could see hoof prints at many locations, such as the vegetable garden, we could not find the cows. We looked for hours and even canvassed the two nearby neighborhoods. As darkness approached, I placed a call to the non-emergency number for the local police department hoping someone had seen the cows roaming and called in a report.
Our farm is in a rapidly growing suburban area and it took a few minutes to convince the dispatcher that I was not making a prank call. Guess that was a first for her. No one had called in reporting cows on the loose. Up until this point, we had kept the dog in thinking (mistakenly) that he would cause the cows to run if he found them. Giving up for the night, we let the dog out and he immediately found the herd not too far from the barn, hiding in some tall growth behind a shed. The electric fence was added within a few days. Since then we have not had any roaming cattle.
Janet Garman with Timber Creek Farm. Timber Creek farm is located along a river in Eastern Maryland, we are farming a large family tract of land. The tree farm property has been in the family for generations and we have added the animals and vegetable gardens. We are raising Pygora fiber goats, Border Leicester sheep, Black Angus cows, chickens, ducks and turkeys. Our fiber from the sheep and goats is processed into yarn by local fiber processing companies and spun into beautiful soft yarn.
Our chickens and ducks supply eggs for our family and many of our neighbors, too. Every day brings a new challenge as we work towards being self sufficient in our food needs. Our jouney towards self sufficiency is hard work, but it’s work we love. Our mission, through the work on our farm, is to be able to provide food for our family and to encourage others in their journey into their own farming projects, big or small. Follow us on our journey – we have a blog and a Facebook page.
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The homesteading community is vibrant. It is filled with wonderful people who are a part of a movement. They are on a journey to lead a more sustainable life. There are so many great stories being told everyday. Are you a modern homesteader who blogs about your journey? Join the modern homesteader blogger directory today! Not a blogger? Not a problem. This resource is a perfect place to find inspiration, tutorials and education.
What is a Modern Homesteader?
A modern day homesteader is a person who raises chickens in their backyard, they make their own bread, use a sewing machine, and plant a garden. They are canners, diy’ers, fence builders. Modern day pioneers who have removed themselves from the rat race. They wear boots and jeans. They love beautifully handmade things. They enjoy good music. good food and good books. They are the modern homesteader.
It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment in the biggest city or on a 1,000 acre farm – being a modern homesteader is a philosophy on how you want to live your life. Anyone who is working towards living a more self sustainable lifestyle is a modern day homesteader.
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“From exploring individual homesteading goals to farming land, animal husbandry, bread baking, food preservation, homeschooling, community building, and even macrame’ (yes, macrame’), Jones marries the homesteading dream to sound practicality. For those that feel the call of self-sufficiency in this modern day, it’s simply the right book at the right time.”
– Chris McLaughlin, modern homesteader and author of a Garden to Dye For and Vertical Vegetable Gardening
“A practical and inspiring guide for anyone striving for a more self-sufficient lifestyle.”
-Abigail Gehring, editor of Back to Basics, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living, and Good Living Guide to Country Skills