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Costs of Raising Goats

Our methods change frequently, so while these costs are accurate now, by next season we may be doing things differently.

One thing is for certain no matter the method: raising goats is costly!

January begins kidding season, or it has the last two years anyway. The does are wintering in the barn and eating free choice second cutting alfalfa at $70/ton. Our price is drastically lower than market value because we buy at cost from a relative. Market rate is about $175 a ton.

We winter about 6 months out of the year, so I figure 180 days of feeding hay at a rate of 4% of body weight per day per goat. An average adult Nigerian weighs 75 pounds, so 3 pounds a day, or 540 per season. I round up to 600 pounds to account for increased eating during late pregnancy.

When figuring how much hay to buy, I count every retained kid as an adult – they tend to eat more than 4% because they’re growing and this gives me leeway for growth spurts (and those extra goats that seem to find their way in after I’ve bought hay).  When I come up with my final number of tons, I typically round up to account for waste – goats waste a lot, particularly if the hay is tough and stemmy.  For our current 14 adults, then, I’d need 8,400 pounds of hay.  I’ll round that number up to 9,000 to give me some extra for waste.

This calculates out to about $23 per winter per adult goat. At market rate, it would be about $56 per goat. Cost of gas and time spent procuring said hay is not included in this figure. We drive an hour each way to pick up hay and rent a trailer to transport about 2 tons per trip.

We feed New Country Organics Goat Mineral at a cost of about $40 per 50# bag. As I write this in February 2018, we’re going through around 20 pounds per month for 14 adults. They’re finishing off the last of a bag of Thorvin kelp and we will transition completely to NCO minerals. At 20 pounds per month in winter and a rough estimate of 10 pounds per month in summer, mineral costs are around $10 per adult per year.

Once kidding begins, so does grain feeding for any milking does. We buy grain in bulk for a considerable savings over retail at the feed store. The current mix is 3 parts barley, 1 part field peas and 1 part black oil sunflower seed (BOSS) by volume, not weight. We feed this to the chickens as well, which I’ll write about in another post.

At last purchase, barley was $.07 per pound, peas $.10 and BOSS $.40.  This calculates out to $.12 per pound at the rate we mix it.  Current feeding rates average .66# per doe, bringing the total cost to about $25 per doe for a 305-day lactation, milking once per day.

Parasite Treatment
We currently use Ivermectin for deworming. I am not happy with this solution but haven’t yet worked out a method of herbal deworming that works as well. It’s on the list though. Deworming is done once per year, right after kidding and as needed after that going by FAMACHA scores. Most animals require only one deworming.

One adult dose of Ivermectin is about $.25, so $.25 annually per goat.

Blood Testing
We have drawn our own blood for blood testing for the past few years. The cost of testing varies depending on tests done, but last year we paid $9.76 per goat and tested for Johne’s, CAE and pregnancy. I’m considering the value of testing in the future and will probably reduce the tests we perform each year. Test tubes and syringes are around $1 per goat. One sample tests for all of these things.

Copper and Bo-Se
For now, we still give chemical copper and Bo-Se supplements. I have herbal sources of these but like the wormer, am still trying to figure out the best way to administer. Both copper and Bo-Se are given twice a year. Bo-Se costs $.80 per dose and copper $.51 per dose, for a total of $2.62 per adult goat per year.

I’m building up an herbal medicine chest and figure about $150 per year buying medicines. This is a somewhat arbitrary number but gives me a little padding to work in unexpected costs.

Veterinary Care
We do almost all our own vetting. In order to dispense medications, our vet needs to see us once a year, but beyond that we handle most things ourselves. Still, it is wise to budget $100-$200 for incidentals and more would be better – one c-section or other major emergency can run $500-$1,000.

Supplies and Equipment
I don’t have a figure for this, but over the years we’ve bought many smaller items that should be budgeted for. Our clippers cost around $140. A disbudding iron was $75. Each keeper doe gets a collar for about $5. Hoof clippers range from $5-$15 (we like 2” pruning shears). Feed pans, water buckets, a milk stand (homemade for under $20), kidding cameras, etc.  If I were to go back through the years, I imagine I’d come up with about $150 in supplies each year.

Registry membership costs $30 a year.  Doe kids cost $9.50 to register and buck kids $15.50.  Most doe kids are registered and probably 1-2 bucks per season.  On twelve does, we can estimate 2 doe kids per doe will be registered for a cost of $228 per year, plus $31 for 2 buck kids per year.  The total registry costs then are estimated at $289 per year.

It would cost us about $4,500 to replace our perimeter fence, which we estimate at every 10 years. It’ll likely last longer than that, but budgeting that ($450/year) allows us funds for cross fencing, putting up additional pens and replacing posts as needed.

If goats are a business, we have to ask ourselves how much our time would be worth if we spent it doing something other than goats. It’s really, really challenging to come even close to breaking even when you start counting time spent. For that reason, we only hope to pay ourselves $10/hour for time spent on goats.

Note: I don’t count milking time toward the cost of raising goats, figuring our labor there can “buy” the milk for personal consumption.  From an accounting perspective, this isn’t totally accurate but it makes sense for my own purposes.

I lucked out this season and kidded 6 does in a single day from 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. There’s usually a lot of back and forth to the barn checking on does and then the kids, up to around 3-4 hours per doe between checks and actual delivery + kid care.

We’re bottle feeding three kids right now for a total time of around 20 minutes per bottle. They have four bottles a day at first, down to eventually one bottle until weaning at 8-12 weeks (40+ hours).

Marketing takes up a substantial amount of time. For every kid sold, dozens of pictures are taken and trashed to find a couple usable ones. I keep a lot of data on my website about does, their kids, their milk, etc. This requires frequent updating. This week alone I’ve spent about 10 hours updating some things and I haven’t begun selling kids yet. The website requires annual domain registration ($13) and hosting ($60).

I could go on and on about the time spent, like moving them to and from pasture (10 hours per year), trimming hooves (2 hours per doe per year), fixing fence (20 hours per year), building shelters, etc. In the end, we settled on 300 hours per year to try to recoup, or $3,000 in time. The reality of our time spent is likely quite a bit higher, but I’ve never kept close track of it.

The farm portion of our homeowner’s policy is about $1,000 per year.  Goats are about half of our farm activities, so I expect them to pay half of this premium, $500.

In Summary
Hay $23
Minerals $10
Grain $25
Parasite Treatment $.25
Disease Testing $10.76
Copper/Bo-Se $2.62
Total annual costs per milking doe: $71.63

Bucks and dry does get all of the above except grain, so $46.63

Other costs:
Medicines: $150
Veterinary: $200
Supplies: $150
Registrations: $289
Fencing: $450
Website/hosting: $73
Insurance: $500
Labor: $3,000
Annual total: $4,812 (divided by our current 14 head), $343 per goat.

This brings our total annual cost per doe to $415 and $390 per buck.

We have 2 bucks and 12 does. If you divide the cost of 2 bucks ($780) across 12 does, that’s another $65 per doe. In order to break even, we need to sell $480 worth of kids per doe per year.

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