Do you get “free” eggs or “free” milk? If you think it’s free, think again. Your chickens do not produce free eggs. Your goats do not produce free milk. And when you are drowning in eggs or milk, you may be tempted to just give it away. I wanted to breakdown the actual costs associated with common livestock before you get too far in debt trying to care for these creatures. So what is the actual cost of raising livestock?
Actual Cost Of Raising Livestock
Initially, all animals have to be brought to the homestead. Rarely, though it does happen, is livestock left behind when old owners sell and new owners buy a piece of property. We were hoping that the previous owner’s Brahma would stick around, he didn’t. But that being said, we had to bring almost every single animal onto this property. How much did that cost us?
Our goats are our most expensive creature here. We have spent about $3,000 on the goats we bought. Bebe, Stella, Finnegan, and Sébastien are the only ones we haven’t paid for since they were born here. That also doesn’t count their registration fees. That gives an average of $375 per goat. But we paid way more than that for some of them.
The chickens are by far the cheapest animal on the homestead but still pretty expensive at about $5 each. Ducks were about $10 each. The more “exotic” or heritage breeds are obviously more expensive.
This comes in a couple of different forms but the most common is fencing and housing. We were lucky enough to get our fencing installed pre-inflation. The cost of the fencing alone has almost doubled, not to mention the T posts, clips or gates. Our cost was right at $1200 for the 3 goat pastures.
Our initial coop cost us about $500 and while I really liked it, we out grew it quickly. Now, we have a metal shed that houses our chickens and ducks for the night. That set us back another $500 but effectively quadrupled our square footage.
Our goat barn is another cost that is pretty high. I think we paid about $2200 in materials for it. Unfortunately, it’s not great and is going to need to be torn down and rebuilt not only at a better location, but also bigger because we have more goats now. The cost of rebuilding is estimated at $1500.
This is probably the most flexible of all the costs because you may not need to buy hays, grains, and other feeds. I talked in depth about how much hay a goat needs here. But something else to consider is that it’s very difficult for animals to get their nutritional needs 100% met with browse or forage alone.
My feed bill is about $400-600/mo depending on the time of year and what they need. In the winter, they eat more grains and hay so the cost is closer to $600+. In the summers, I don’t have to feed as much because they have access to all the browse, forage and bugs that they could ever eat. The bucks have to stay in their pasture in the summers because they get a little too excited to see my girls. So I still have to hay them.
Supplements are another cost to consider into the actual cost of raising livestock. Goats need minerals. Chickens need extra calcium. During kidding season, I will go through a bulk pack of Tums in about a month. Then there’s the iodine, iron injections, B complexes and more. I spend about $500 every 6 months in supplements.
Vet Care/ Medications
Within the first 48 hours of having Oakley and Bailey, I had spent over $300 on them. They had gotten into mountain laurel and Bailey almost died. I also spend about $200 a year on fecals. I could do them myself but it’s easier and more time saving to have the vet do it. The vet comes out once or twice a year to do a herd health check and make sure that they are doing good. Getting 12 goats to the vet would be almost impossible. In 2021 we spent $3,000 in vet bills. In 2022, we are on part to spend $5,000. That includes the fecals, prescription medications, wormers, and other supplements.
I went pretty in depth in these posts about what to have on hand throughout the year.
But there is so much more.
Bedding runs us about $600 during the winter. In the summer, we just keep the barns mucked out and have them on dirt floors. But in the winters, it gets so raw and wet that it’s better for them to have some sort of bedding.
Buckets, troughs and other feeders: My initial investment was somewhere around $200 for these and I plan to have the ability to replace them every year or so.
Then we have things like hoof trimmers, syringes and needles, milk pails, glass jars for milk and cheese making supplies. We’re probably another $500 there.
So our total cost for 2022 for all of this was: about $12,000.
For 2023 we are on par to hit $20,000. The split between chickens and goats would be about $2,000 for chickens and about 18,000 for goats.
But What Do We Get Out Of It?
The average cost of goat milk is $9/ quart in my area. Each girl gives me about a quart of milk a day so each one produces about $270/mo worth of milk. They didn’t give me any milk last year, so we’ll count the estimated $18,000. If they keep production at $270 x3 girls in milk, my milk will cost me $8,280. Yes, cost me. They don’t save me a dime. Unless we sell babies and even then, it won’t make up the $8,280.
The chicken eggs go for about $5/dozen in my area and I get about a dozen eggs every 2-3 days. So we’ll say 2.5 days for a dozen eggs. If they keep production up for the whole year, which they should since we have different ages on different laying schedules, they will cost me $1,280 a year. They also don’t make me a dime.
So Why Do We Keep Them?
Well, the goats help clear the land and that helps keep the predator population down. If the goats can keep the brush down, it allows us to see and take care of predators. They also provide compost for the gardens. Goats are also my form of therapy. I’ve been to counseling over the years and I’m just not a fan of talking my problems out with strangers. But give me a goat? All that stress melts away. AND they’re adorable.
Chickens are probably the best cost to advantage ration. They eat all the spiders, grubs, termites, and other nasty things. They help turn the soil in the winter and the tomatoes love their compost. If they get too old or too mean, they go to freezer camp. They give us eggs.
Beyond all of that, the animals have taught all of us patience. They’ve taught us to care for things more than ourselves. The animals have also taught compassion for our food, whether it be milk, eggs, cheese or meat. The goats have shown the boys biology lessons that they never would have gotten in the city or in public school. They’ve taught us life skills that we never would have gotten without them. And most importantly they’ve taught us about death and how to cope with it.
And that is worth more than money.
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