Among the many reasons for raising your own milk at home is the expected cost savings. I see remarks in various goat groups about how much more home raised goat milk is costing people, so this article is an attempt to break down the costs of raising your own goat milk to see where the money goes, which allows us all to make educated decisions on how to better manage our goats from a cost perspective.
I wrote an in-depth breakdown of our personal costs to raise goats. The end result is that we need to sell about $480 worth of kids per doe per year to break even. This includes total operating costs, such as labor, farm insurance, fencing, feeds, etc. Rats! There go my dreams of being a professional goat breeder! 😀
When I’m calculating our own personal costs, it helps to keep the two operations separate: breeding and milk production. Breeding can be a business, but few pursue a dairy business; the milk is usually for personal consumption.
In light of that, it is sensible to apply actual out of pocket costs for milk production. To begin, we need to figure out how much milk we will be producing at home. I’m not organized enough to keep track of total milk production for our own does, so I choose to calculate based on ADGA’s breed averages. For Nigerians, the latest average for a 305-day lactation is 741 pounds, which works out to 2.43 pounds per day, or 1.21 pounds per milking.
We milk once a day, which decreases total yield by 20-30%, according to this dairy cow study (Word doc.). We’ll reduce the breed average by 25% to get to our estimated milk production per doe per year, which is 556 pounds. Divided by the 305-day lactation, we can expect 1.82 pounds per day, on average.
At my last milk weighing day, we had ranges from .5 pounds from a first freshener to 2.3 pounds from a newly kidded mature doe. Average weight came to 1.23 pounds. We were in a cold snap, so those numbers will improve on the next milking, assuming it warms up a bit.
Now, we don’t often make it to 305 days, so I’m going to adjust down to 270, which is about when I run out of steam and recently bred does are reluctant to keep milking. Keeping with the 1.82 pounds, we can expect about 491 pounds in a lactation, or roughly 61 gallons per doe.
As figured in the other post, we go through about .66# of grain per milking per doe, at a cost of $.12 per pound, or $.08 per milking. This is bulk grain, not retail. For 270 days, our total grain cost for one doe’s lactation will be $21.38.
Calculated annually, we spend $23 per doe for hay. Each doe eats an estimated 600 pounds of hay during our 180-day feeding season; they are pastured the rest of the year. Our cost per ton is about $70; local average is more like $175 per ton, so bear that in mind when looking at the final result.
We free feed New Country Organics goat minerals for a total of $10 per doe per year. This is shipped in on a pallet from across the country – a group of us gets together to buy a pallet load and it works out to cost the same as conventional minerals bought locally.
Parasite Treatment, Disease Testing and Supplements
Ivermectin, annual disease testing and copper/Bo-Se supplements cost an additional $13.63 per doe per year.
Total out of pocket costs per doe for all feed, grain, minerals and incidentals comes to $68.01.
We can figure out our cost per gallon by dividing total estimated gallons by total annual cost, which comes to $1.10 per gallon.
We can’t get raw goat milk at the grocery store, but raw cow milk is about $5 per gallon.
What About Time?
If time is money, what else could you be doing with your time spent milking? Could you make money to buy milk instead of spending time to get milk? If you were looking at this as a business, you would surely want to count your time and labor.
We spend about 20 minutes a day right now milking six does. Washington state minimum wage is $11 per hour, so if we valued our time at only minimum wage, we’d be looking at $3.67 per day or $990.90 for 270 days. That changes the total considerably.
Six does will give us an estimated 366 gallons of milk in a lactation, costing us $408.06 in out of pocket costs and $990.90 in labor. Total costs, then, are $1398.96, which comes out to $3.82 per gallon. That’s still cheaper than store bought milk and comes with the peace of mind of knowing exactly what we’re drinking.