Dairy goats are in high demand across the country, making now a great time to get into breeding goats. In addition to producing high quality milk and meat, goats are also one of the most personable small animals you can raise.
I’ve been breeding goats for over ten years now and have seen the market increase consistently year by year, with larger breeders seeing potential profits in the livable income range.
While some breeds are seeing higher market movement than others, the demand for goats is hand in hand with the increased interest in homesteading, sustainability and back to the land movements.
With careful management, emphasis on quality and a solid plan, there is definitely potential to see a good income from breeding goats.
Initial Investment Cost for Breeding Goats
I started with a couple goats. It’s important to note that you cannot see profitable sale numbers with unregistered stock. Your starter herd is one of the most critical investments you can make, so be prepared to choose carefully and spend more on high quality animals over the goats next door. They all cost the same to feed and care for, but you’ll see a three to tenfold increase on final selling price by investing in registered stock with good bloodlines.
Expect to pay $300-$2,000 per goat. Most of that investment should be in a buck, the best you can afford. If you have never raised goats, start small – one or two does, a buck and a wether companion. Goats are easy to raise but there is definitely a learning curve.
Starting with 3-4, you can expect the cost of goats to be between $1k-$2k.
The other major up front investment is fencing. Goats are pretty adaptable to dry lots, so you can raise them in relatively small spaces. We’ve even done a 100% free pallet fence to keep our goats in, but if you’re buying, budget $300-$500 for fencing to get you started.
Goats love to browse, but they do very well in small spaces too. My herd lived on under an acre for most of the time I bred goats. Now I have about 20 goats on 9 acres and they pasture all season. You can get started with small enclosures and expand as you have funds and space available.
Breeding Goats: Turnaround Time
Generally, you’ll want to start with just weaned kids, though you can sometimes find bred does or adult does. Be alert to potential issues when buying adults – they may be leaving a breeding program because of flaws.
We breed our does to kid at a year old, so even starting with kids, your turnaround time will be between 1-2 years. If you invested in capital costs, such as fencing, it may take longer than that to see a profit.
Daily Time Requirements
Like most farming activities, there are seasonal surges in time for breeding goats. Including daily milking, the extra time during kidding season and regular feeding and care chores, I estimated that I spent about an hour per day over the past year. Many of the daily chores can be combined with chores for other animals, so if you keep multiple species, you can create efficient processes to manage them all at once. I calculated my winter chores the other day and am spending under 30 minutes to do basic daily maintenance for about 150 animals.
Profit Potential of Breeding Goats
This is one area of breeding goats that really depends on how much you are willing to invest. Increasing your sale prices is a progression as your herd improves year by year, you become better known and, hopefully, you participate in performance programs that allow you to measure your progress.
Programs such as linear appraisal and milk testing help you define your goats by the numbers. This is information many breeders look for to determine if goats are a good fit for their own breeding programs. The cost can be several hundred dollars per year, but it is worth it for both learning your herd’s strengths and weaknesses and conveying that info to potential buyers.
If you are just getting started, your selling prices will be a bit lower than the potential you can realize after a few years. For example, I began by selling breeding stock for $200 each and wethers for $50. It is now $200 for wethers and $350-$500 for breeding stock.
Looking at some of the bigger names in my breed, Nigerian Dwarf, we see price ranges from $450 to $2,500. These are breeders who have been improving their herds for years.
I recently ran the numbers and calculated that it cost about $500 per year per doe for all actual expenses, including feed, performance programs, health testing, farm insurance and labor. With an average litter size of 3 kids and an average selling price of $350, each doe could potentially profit about $500.
Careful attention to your breeding program and breeding improvements over the years will bring that price up. Some of the larger volume breeders are selling 100-200 kids per year. At my cost and profit numbers, that’s a profit potential of $18,000 to $37,000 per year.
As your quality increases, so does your market potential. Markets depend on location to a large extent, but in my area, there is a consistently strong pet market, so all wethers find homes each year. Breeding stock is also in high demand, and those kids appeal to a different group than the pet wethers do.
Because goats make such great homesteading animals, there is an exceptionally strong market within the homesteading movement and if you already have contact with homesteading groups, you might find your market made for you.
If you have appraisal scores, show results and milk test results, you can increase your market to a wider range of breeders. It’s important to note that one of the biggest volume breeders in my relative area does none of those things and still sells well.
- Fiasco Farm (good resource for basic goat knowledge)
- Raising Dairy Goats: Mother Earth News
- Old Mountain Farm
- Castle Rock Farm
- Dill’s Goats
- KW Farms
Breeding goats is one of the highlights of my life. They are incredible creatures, full of antics, personality and great tasting milk. If raising animals is one of your interests, I encourage you to consider dairy goats as one of your ventures.