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Old 05-23-2012, 09:19   #1
Sam Spade
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Flock size

A question of pure curiosity for the husbandry people:

What size flock, of goats for instance, is needed to support a family? How much land would they occupy?

Yes, I realize that few people would put all their eggs in one basket (so to speak); I'm just trying to get an idea of scale.

Thanks.
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Old 05-23-2012, 09:36   #2
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Cant say I "support the family" but we have a small herd of 11 goats. They happen to be dairy goats though, but they only take up about 1/2 an acre. We give them much more than that though. We could easily triple the herd by going to about four acres. The more good pasture, the less feed. We get enough milk from the four producing does to take care of our needs (family of 3) with some left over to make cheese. Can't speak to meat goats, haven't ever raised them. We also have four chickens in a portable coop. We get three or four eggs a day from them. They take up about 32 square feet. We also have a 10 acre pond that produces more fish than we can eat.
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Old 05-23-2012, 17:46   #3
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Originally Posted by 2@low8 View Post
We get enough milk from the four producing does to take care of our needs (family of 3) with some left over to make cheese. Can't speak to meat goats, haven't ever raised them. .
Is there a goat bred that is good for both?
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Old 05-23-2012, 18:34   #4
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Goats A tribe, trip
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Old 05-23-2012, 20:25   #5
Calhoun123
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I've raised meat goats commercially. If you are trying to get goats as a sole source of meat, you'll be talking large numbers. Without thinking to deeply about this, I guess you could figure that for each breeding female you will wind up with 15-30 pounds of dressed meat production per year.
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Old 05-24-2012, 14:19   #6
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Our Pygmy does are averaging two kids per birth and two sets of birth per year. In other words- 1 doe equals 4 new kids a year.

A couple of does keeps our family in goat meat.

Rabbits- we've been running small on rabbits for a while now- usually 5 does and one buck. A good year they produce more rabbit than we can eat.

Our chickens are mainly for eggs, occasionally we will do a run of meat birds but not this year.

We drop a deer in the fall if we need the meat, if not, we don't bother.
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Old 05-25-2012, 18:47   #7
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Sam, this is a seemingly straightforward question that is a bit more complicated than it may seem.

Let me address each part of the question separately:

How many goats to keep a family in milk? The most common milking breeds are Nigerian Dwarfs, Nubians, and Saanens. (there are also dual-purpose [milk/meat goats], to answer Stevekozak's question). A good quality Nigerian will yield about 1/2 gallon of milk per day. A good quality Nubian or Saanen will yield about a gallon. There is variance, some blood lines are superior to others, food quality/quantity matters, etc. So individuals will yield more or less. So the starting point is how much milk will a family need per day, based on milk consumption, yogurt/kefir,cheese-making, and other preservation -- then work backwards.

So let's say the needs of the family are 1 gallon/day. This is where the variables really come into play. There is a large variance in quality and different bloodlines will stay in milk longer/shorter, and produce more/less. But if we say, for the sake of argument, that a doe can stay in milk for 3-5 months, you then have to factor in the weaning time of the kids. Kids will naturally wean themselves, the time period depending on the doe. Let's say you wean at 8-10 weeks. Now you'll have to plan your breeding given all of the variables above to ensure you have at least one doe in milk all year long given kidding and weaning. Without doing any math, I would say a family would need 4 does.

The other issue that comes up is keeping bucks. To be "self-sufficient" in goat milk, a family would have to keep a few bucks. Or they would have to have access to a neighboring farm's (s') bucks. You wouldn't want to line breed consistently or you wouldn't be able to replenish your stock with quality (or honestly sell your kids). The buck issue plays into the next question: how much space?

I don't think there's a real answer to this question. First, there are many varieties of ruminants. Goats are closer to deer than they are to cattle, and would not naturally live on pasture alone. They will eat a broad variety of vegetation, including things like nettles and even the bark off trees. They don't need pasture. However, they will decimate a piece of woodland if kept confined therein. I've fenced off a quarter acre of woodland and watched one goat strip it in a week. I know big-name breeders who keep 45 Nigerians on a 4 acre piece of pasture. I also know a breeder who keeps a handful of Nubians on an acre of pasture. Further, I know another big-name breeder who dry-lots his goats (not uncommon). Any way you slice it, if you want quality milk, you'll have to grain them unless you have a significant amount of land. And provide minerals. Unless the goats have extremely wide-ranging access to acres and acres of mixed forest and grassland. What pasture does is eliminate the expense of hay and alfalfa pellets, which obviously helps.

Some will disagree with what I said above, and many keep dairy goats on fescue and leave it at that. I just find that the quality and longevity of production is impacted by a varied diet. That may include woodland/pasture, pasture/grain/minerals, woodland/hay/grain, etc - any combination of the above. That said, be mindful of plants that can kill goats before unleashing them on a piece of woodland. Mountain Laurel comes to mind as a prime example. Finally, access to a varied diet helps with parasites and worms- pine needles, for example, are a goat favorite and help keep them healthy.

So in conclusion, in very broad, general terms, a family (assuming they made cheese) could likely be sustained in their milk needs with 3-4 does, and would require only an acre or two of pasture, scaled up depending on their access to supplemental grain, hay, and minerals.
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Old 05-25-2012, 19:18   #8
Stevekozak
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbedwiresmile View Post
Sam, this is a seemingly straightforward question that is a bit more complicated than it may seem.

Let me address each part of the question separately:

How many goats to keep a family in milk? The most common milking breeds are Nigerian Dwarfs, Nubians, and Saanens. (there are also dual-purpose [milk/meat goats], to answer Stevekozak's question). A good quality Nigerian will yield about 1/2 gallon of milk per day. A good quality Nubian or Saanen will yield about a gallon. There is variance, some blood lines are superior to others, food quality/quantity matters, etc. So individuals will yield more or less. So the starting point is how much milk will a family need per day, based on milk consumption, yogurt/kefir,cheese-making, and other preservation -- then work backwards.

So let's say the needs of the family are 1 gallon/day. This is where the variables really come into play. There is a large variance in quality and different bloodlines will stay in milk longer/shorter, and produce more/less. But if we say, for the sake of argument, that a doe can stay in milk for 3-5 months, you then have to factor in the weaning time of the kids. Kids will naturally wean themselves, the time period depending on the doe. Let's say you wean at 8-10 weeks. Now you'll have to plan your breeding given all of the variables above to ensure you have at least one doe in milk all year long given kidding and weaning. Without doing any math, I would say a family would need 4 does.

The other issue that comes up is keeping bucks. To be "self-sufficient" in goat milk, a family would have to keep a few bucks. Or they would have to have access to a neighboring farm's (s') bucks. You wouldn't want to line breed consistently or you wouldn't be able to replenish your stock with quality (or honestly sell your kids). The buck issue plays into the next question: how much space?

I don't think there's a real answer to this question. First, there are many varieties of ruminants. Goats are closer to deer than they are to cattle, and would not naturally live on pasture alone. They will eat a broad variety of vegetation, including things like nettles and even the bark off trees. They don't need pasture. However, they will decimate a piece of woodland if kept confined therein. I've fenced off a quarter acre of woodland and watched one goat strip it in a week. I know big-name breeders who keep 45 Nigerians on a 4 acre piece of pasture. I also know a breeder who keeps a handful of Nubians on an acre of pasture. Further, I know another big-name breeder who dry-lots his goats (not uncommon). Any way you slice it, if you want quality milk, you'll have to grain them unless you have a significant amount of land. And provide minerals. Unless the goats have extremely wide-ranging access to acres and acres of mixed forest and grassland. What pasture does is eliminate the expense of hay and alfalfa pellets, which obviously helps.

Some will disagree with what I said above, and many keep dairy goats on fescue and leave it at that. I just find that the quality and longevity of production is impacted by a varied diet. That may include woodland/pasture, pasture/grain/minerals, woodland/hay/grain, etc - any combination of the above. That said, be mindful of plants that can kill goats before unleashing them on a piece of woodland. Mountain Laurel comes to mind as a prime example. Finally, access to a varied diet helps with parasites and worms- pine needles, for example, are a goat favorite and help keep them healthy.

So in conclusion, in very broad, general terms, a family (assuming they made cheese) could likely be sustained in their milk needs with 3-4 does, and would require only an acre or two of pasture, scaled up depending on their access to supplemental grain, hay, and minerals.
That is a good informative writeup BWS!!! What would be the, in your opinion, dual purpose goat ie meat and milk?
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