Choosing a home dairy animal

One of the most important questions we have found when building our homestead from scratch is "What is of high value to us?" 

There are so many ways we could tackle this property. We could focus on the farm side working on fencelines, improving genetics, improving pasture etc. We could work on the ecological side of regenerating creeklines and getting rid of weeds. I could raise and preserve all our fruit and vegetables. I could sew and knit all our own clothes and household items, and I could become a cheesemaker. Every one of these is a good and worthy avenue to pursue and master. Hopefully, eventually, I will tackle all of these things in one form or another. 

But not necessarily all at once. 

One of the things I wanted when we moved here was a dairy animal. To provide our family with nutrient-dense, quality raw milk. It is very difficult to buy raw milk in Australia as there are strict laws and large fines around it. There are ways to skirt these by cow sharing, but to do that you need to have people around you doing a cow share program. We looked into getting a Jersey x dairy cow, but I faltered knowing dealing with the sheer volume of milk day after day, week after week was likely going to be more than I could handle. Our family uses about 3L of milk daily; a dairy cow might as much as 10-20L/day in their peak milk production, even when calf sharing. We don't have the solar to support a second fridge needed to cool and store that volume of milk, nor the space to have a specially dedicated cheese storage fridge in the yurt. 

Instead, we settled on a dairy goat. 

Her name is Hoopla and she is a British Alpine. 

We actually got two goats initially but they escaped into the bush. It was a huge blow and I was a teary mess and riddled with guilt over making a mistake that lost them in the first place. I was blessed that their old owner Sandra visited and helped me look for them, kindly sharing her similar goat-keeping woes over the years and reassuring me with similar stories. Thankfully we managed to get Hoopla back. Hopefully, Mona has found herself a new home with a farmer somewhere way over the ridge.    

Goats are highly social animals and should always be with at least one other goat, so Hoopla goes and visits with the Boer goats when she needs company. To be honest she prefers to be near the house and us with the two border collies. But she is due to kid at the end of the month, and then she will have her babies to keep her company. We are also on the lookout for a second British Alpine, I would love one from her old flock as her breeder Sandra is a wonderful woman who cares deeply about her herd of dairy goats. She makes beautiful goat's milk soap and you can find her at Mountain Goat Soap. I have found her products to be very gentle and nourishing, especially on sensitive skin and hair. 


We settled on a dairy goat rather than a dairy cow for various reasons. Firstly the volume of milk suits our needs and current yurt living situation perfectly. We should have enough fresh milk to keep us in milk, yoghurt and a little fresh cottage cheese/ricotta almost perfectly. And frankly, that is about all the time I will have to spend on preserving dairy products. If there comes a time I want to delve more deeply into cheese making I can always milk a second doe, but whether I milk one or two goats can fluctuate in response to the season we are in. Feeding and tending to Hoopla takes about 30 minutes a day when she is in milk. 

She is due to kid at the end of the month so I am currently not milking. But I have just started getting her used to the stand again. While she is eating her dairy meal I brush her, pat her all over, talk to her and run my hand over her udder and teats so she is used to the routine and is relaxed and confident when milking time comes around. 

Health benefits

Goat milk is incredibly nutrient-dense. Goat milk is naturally A2, which many people find easier to digest. It is lower in lactose than cow's milk as well as being naturally homogenized and gentler on the tummy. It is higher in protein and it contains more vitamins and minerals than cow's milk too.  

Nearly all baby animals can tolerate goat's milk, without scouring which is a testament to its digestibility. Many babies who cannot tolerate cow's milk can tolerate goat milk, and those with eczema often find goat's milk reduces their flair-ups, both when consumed or applied to the skin in the form of soap or creams. When we first got Hoopla she was in milk and we all found we felt better drinking her fresh milk. Especially Grant who drank goat milk as a child due to health issues. 


A goat is significantly smaller than a cow, and as a 5"3 woman, I can easily handle a goat. If she startles or missteps she is not likely to hurt me badly, which was a consideration due to living remotely with limited phone reception when away from the yurt. I am confident handling goats, I am less confident handling cows. 


Raw, fresh goat's milk is a different product than what you can buy from the supermarket. It is mild and creamy in taste. Goat milk cheese is delicious and has a wonderful bite to it due to its unique combination of fatty acids, which makes it quite sought after. Though currently, I do not want to delve too deeply into cheese making due to time, energy and space constraints, it is certainly something I look forward to exploring in the future once we have expanded the yurt. 


Goats are diverse browsers, meaning they do well on a combination of pasture and woody weeds. In this season of climate change and the prediction that we will experience longer droughts and more extreme temperature changes, it makes sense on our property to have goats as they can utilize both the pasture and the bounty of woody weeds which they love. This gives us added climate and food source resilience. 

Though we don't generally supplement our boer goats feed, we do give Hoopla a mix of dairy meal twice daily and add we add in lucerne hay when she is in milk to increase her butter fat content. But a pair of dairy goats will eat significantly less than a dairy cow which is a financial benefit too, as well as being easier to manage in drought or for those on a smaller property.

Incorporating into our systems

When bringing an animal onto a property, whether it be large animals like a pig, cow, or goat or small ones like chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs it is important to consider how they will interact with the local landscape. Some questions to consider might be....Is your climate suitable for the breed, can you buy the necessary feed locally for a good price? Does the animal interact with your landscape and other animals in a positive and beneficial manner? How many kms will the food they require travel from the source of production to you? Can you grow the majority of the food the animal needs yourself? How will you deal with their waste products to gain the most benefit from them? What kind of fencing and infrastructure will they require? 

Perhaps the most important question is; Do you realistically have the time, energy and resources to ensure the animal is looked after the way it deserves to be? Ie can your goat/cow/whatever freely undertake all the natural behaviours that are inherent to its species like running, climbing, browsing, moving freely, socializing, sleeping and escaping the elements. 


A goat is cheaper than a cow. Hoopla was a well-bred, proven, fully-trained dairy goat and she cost us around $450. Mona the goat we lost was about $500. Similarly, a fully trained, quality dairy cow might cost around $2000+ Goats are easy to transport to the vet in a time of sickness. We can lay a tarp in the back of the car and drive a sick goat to the vet if necessary, avoiding the call-out fee which is often necessary with a large animal like a cow. They are often easier to treat due to their smaller size. Goats cost less to feed and require smaller doses of medication when unwell. 


In our situation, a dairy goat makes sense logistically, not only due to the kind of land we have but also because we are already keeping Boer goats. When our dairy goat is in season and ready to be bred, she can go and visit our boer billy goat. We don't need to worry about finding a bull, buying semen or getting someone in to artificially inseminate our dairy animal like we would with a dairy cow. Logistically that makes keeping goats for milk significantly easier, and cheaper too. 


Though space isn't an issue for us, a dairy goat can be kept in a smaller space than that which is required for a cow. Hannah Molony from Good Life Permaculture has a wonderful video about urban goat keeping which she does at her suburban Tasmanian home you can check out HERE. But the benefit for us is that we can keep our dairy goats in our house paddock, which works in beautifully with our more intensive growing systems. 

And finally....

When choosing things to do on your property whether you have a big or small place, enjoyment and pleasure and passion should certainly be a consideration in anything you add or bring onto the property if you want it to be a sustainable venture both emotionally and in a practical sense. I love goats. They are my favourite farm animals to date. They are funny and full of character, and I am confident and enjoy being around them. For us, having a goat for fresh milk makes sense for our property, in this season and with the time and energy I have to invest into milking. 

We are more likely to get the most out of the things we enjoy doing and to do them to the best of our ability which maximises the return on every level. For example, if we hate kale, we are not going to nurture it to get the best yield. It would be better to use the time, space and resources to grow something we love to eat. (I am just using kale as an example, I actually love kale! But it seems to be a somewhat divisive vegetable)

It's the same with a dairy animal. 

Just because someone else keeps a dairy animal and you like the idea of it, it doesn't mean it is the right choice for you in this season. Be realistic about your time, energy and resources in the season you are in, not the season you wish you were in. Only you can decide what is of high value to you in this season, remembering we all walk to the beat of our own drum.  

Much love,



  1. Hi Emma, it looks like you and Elsie have found a new friend in Hoopla. I grew up with house cows and took over the morning milking when I was in my teens. Yes there was a lot of milk and cream, but we were a big family.

    1. With a big family a house cow certainly would have its benefits! Our main issue is cooling and storing the milk with our limited power. We would need a second fridge which we just don't have the power to run at this point in time. Perhaps one day! A house cow would work so well with pigs too, I know Sally from Jembella farm raised many beautiful pigs utilising her house cows milk, it would be fun to experiment with one day perhaps. xx


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