To make a long story short, raising dairy goats is extremely economical... for me. The following figures are based on my own costs. Obviously these may vary and if you are thinking about getting goats, be sure to research your local prices. If you want to know the bottom line without reading this long article, skip to the end and read the "Bottom Line" paragraph.
We'll start with expenses. My actual expenses are in parenthesis.
Animals: varies widely depending on breed, registration status, sex & age, and seller (a homesteading neighbor will probably sell for less than a dairy goat farm). You will need two goats unless you have sheep or other animals for companionship.
Doe/nanny: ($0) - $400
Wether [for companionship... registration not needed]: ($0) - $50
Feed: If you live in a warm climate, feed costs will be a lot lower. Hay is necessary for doe and wether, grain is more necessary for does, especially pregnant or milking does. Right now I'm giving a tiny amount of grain with corn to the wether. Too much grain for male goats can cause urinary problems.
Goat Feed: $17 per bag x 1 bag per quarter = ($68)
Hay: $5 per bale x 2 bales per month x 5 months = ($50)
Breeding the doe: Like the cost of an animal, this can vary widely. If you breed with a registered buck, it will cost more. If you breed with the neighbor's buck, it will cost less.
Breeding: $0-$100 ($50)
Other costs: There aren't many other costs associated with raising goats. Wormer and/or shots will cost some. We bought a reusable coffee filter for filtering the milk. Pruning shears can be used for hoof trimming. Hubs built our goats' pen and Adi's milking stand out of scrap lumber. Fencing was already in place. Obviously there are a lot of things you can buy that you don't need to raise goats. These are listed in the bottom group.
Coffee filter: ($5) ___
Pruning shears: (already have)___
Wormer/shots/medication: (not needed yet)___
Milking stand: (Hubs made from scrap lumber)___
Fencing: (pre-existing hog panels)___
Heated water bucket:
Automatic milking system:
Stainless steel milking bucket:
Include the cost of labor if you wish. I think the benefits of the labor (see below) outweigh the costs. If you are not milking, expect to spend 10 minutes per day feeding and watering. Now that I'm milking, it takes 1 - 1.5 hours per day; 30 minutes at night and 30 minutes in the morning. This is quite a commitment because you won't be able to go anywhere before your morning milking and you will have to be home before night milking unless you make arrangements for someone else to milk the goats.
My total costs: $173
Now we'll talk about benefits.
The main benefit you'll get from having dairy goats is obviously "free" milk. There are several ways to calculate the value of this. The amount of milk you get depends on the breed of goat and how much you are feeding her.
Milk: 1 quart per day x 10 months = 75 gallons milk= $225 (price of cow's milk at Kroger)
*Side note: At Kroger, real goat's milk cost $4 per quart, bringing the value of 75 gallons to $1200.
This year I will save $225 by not buying milk at the grocery store. However, I will save even more by making my own cheese and yogurt. Hubs and I don't typically drink milk as a beverage.
Cheese: 35 lbs x $3/lb. = $105
Yogurt: 140 qts x $4/qt. = $560
Drinking Milk: 5 gal. x $3/gal = $15
Total value of 75 gallons = $740
Kidding: Aside from milk, you should also get 1-4 kids from your doe. If the kids are registered, they can fetch a nice price. If not, you can keep the males for meat or keep the does to add to your milking herd. Unfortunately our kids died this year.
Kids: ($0) - $400
Other benefits: Without my goats, nothing could have dragged me outside for fresh air this winter. I. Hate. Being. Cold. Milking morning and night forces me to get fresh air and exercise every day. "Having to milk" is a good excuse/reason to leave a party or not go to church too early. I've also learned about milking goats. This knowledge and experience could give me the credibility to write a book or teach a class someday if I wanted to. OR with this knowledge I could grow my heard and start a dairy business.
Is it economical?
In my case, yes.
Costs of raising goats: $173/yr + work
Benefits of raising goats: $740/yr + fresh air and exercise
Total savings: $567/yr + better health
As with any other hobby/project, the key to keeping it economical is NOT BUYING MORE STUFF. I don't know how many times this winter I was tempted to buy a heated water bucket so I wouldn't have to carry water every day. But I resisted and saved $40+, and got more exercise because of it.
Is it economical for you? That depends. You probably won't have a pair of goats fall into your lap like I did, so consider that initial investment. However, if you are going to buy a big expensive farm-animal pet anyway (llama, horse, goat, dog) I would seriously consider buying a dairy goat. My Nigerian Dwarves are friendly and small enough for me to handle on my own. We haven't noticed the dreaded "goaty" taste in any of our milk products. They can also be shown at county fairs and the like if you have children in 4-H.
It's a much better (and economical!) idea than getting a dog, anyway. :)