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Which is Better? 
A Dairy Goat, Mini Jersey Cow, Mid-sized or Standard Jersey Cow

Information researched by Jewell's Jerseys.  Visit them at www.minijerseycows.com.

Which is better to own - a dairy goat, mini cow, mid-sized or standard Jersey cow?  It all depends on your goals and personal preferences.  I have owned dairy goats, mini dairy cows, and mid-sized Jersey cows.  I am sharing my perspective based on my animals and what I have read. Perhaps some of my experiences can help you if you are trying to decide whether owning dairy cows or dairy goats is the right option for you. My personal preference in is a small 44" Jersey with a high udder with longer teats.  It is the PERFECT cow for me.
 

 


Chart Comparing Goats, Mini Dairy Cows, and Standard Cows
 



Cost
Size
Feed Issues
Milk Quality
Milking by Hand
Shelter
Fencing
Breeding
Flies
Hoof Care
Property Damage

Manure

 
Dairy Goats

Alpine Dairy Goat
Maiden at 3 Years
She gave over 1 gal/day while at 2x/day milking.
 
Mini Jersey Cow (Any Mini Dairy Cow)
38" to 42" Tall

White Mini Jersey Cow
Buttercup at 2 Years Old  -  41" Tall
She averaged 3 gal/day while at 2x/day milking.
 
Mid-sized Jersey (43" to 48")
Standard Jersey  (Avg 51" in 2012)

Jersey Dairy Cow
MGGD of our Blossom
Not ours but a beautiful standard Jersey.
 
Cost
Goats are a terrific choice if you are needing to economize.  Good dairy got kids (and sometimes adults) can range from $150 to $1000 depending on location and quality. I would expect to pay about $300 for good midline goat.  A great show goat may run as high as $1000.  Goat price will vary based on conformation, milk production, and seller.

Mini dairy cows are rare. As a result, mini dairy cows or Mini Jersey cows cost about $2000 to $5000 depending on age, conformation, and seller. Mini Jersey cows that are considered more "pure" jersey are closer to the $5000 mark, while others may be less.  Heifer calves will cost about double what bull calves cost. Mini dairy cows that are A2/A2 are quite rare. Expect to pay premium prices for A2/A2 Mini Jersey Cow.
Standard and mid-sized Jersey cows vary widely in price. Calves can be as cheap as $250 or quite expensive depending on seller and bloodline. An average price for an average cow (over 48" tall) in milk would be about $1500 to $2500.  Mid-sized cows are harder to price.  A small 43" mid-sized Jersey cow that is A2/A2 may bring $5000 from a private seller while another small 43" calf, with A2 type unknown, sold by a large dairy will only be $800.
Size
Goats are a terrific little size as compared to Mini dairy cows and particularly, standard dairy cows. Just about anyone, including young children, can handle a mannered dairy goat. Because dairy goats are under 30" tall, they can be transported in mini vans or even cars while cows require trailers. Goats are agile animals and can jump up on milk stands and can turn around in small spaces while cows cannot. Mature weight is about 125 to 150 pounds, depending on breed.

Mini Jersey cows are 42" tall or less when they are full grown. Handling this size of a cow is wonderful. Just about anyone can do it, including individuals with little or no cow experience. As calves, they are small enough to be transported in mini vans or in the back of trucks with relative ease. They require less space overall and are easy to work with in smaller spaces. Mature weight is about 550 to 700 pounds depending on actual height, build and conformation.

Mid-sized Jersey Cow:  Range 43" and 48" tall and 700 to 900 pounds.
Standard Jersey Cow: Average 51" tall, according to AJCA linear appraisals in 2012. Standard cows weigh 900 to 1100 pounds.

The term " mid-sized" was coined after the emergence of the mini Jerseys to distinguish Jerseys that were slightly taller than minis but smaller than average standard sized Jerseys.
Feed Issues and Requirements
Goats eat approximately 5% of their body weight a day.  Goats are browsers and prefer brush and bushes to grass or hay. I had a wonderful pasture of mixed grasses and red cover.  While the goats ate it, they were not very good at acting as lawn mowers.  Do not buy a goat to keep the pasture down, unless you want to use it to keep the weed/brush level down. Goats require higher mineral levels than cows and the flavor of the milk will be effected if proper feeding and minerals are not given.

Cows eat approximately 2 to 4 % of their body weight. The more dairy a cow looks, the more food it will take to maintain body weight since so much of its energy is used in milk production.  Many miniature dairy cows, including some Mini Jerseys, have had a little bit of beef crossed into the bloodlines. This beef generally increases feed efficiency. Overall, mini dairy cows are more feed efficient (require less feed/pound of body weight) than standard dairy cows.  Good quality grass hay, minerals, and grain will help keep a cow healthy.
Full size dairy cows generally require more feed per pound of body weight than mini cows, due to generally higher milk yields and less feed efficiency.  Obviously milk production levels will play a large role in feed conversion.  The more milk per pound of body weight, the more feed required to maintain weight. Mid-sized cows are likely to be more feed efficient than standards unless the mid is producing extremely high volumes of milk. Some lines of Jerseys are more feed efficient than others. New Zealand Jerseys tend to be more feed efficient than US lines.
Milk Quality and Volume
Goat milk is healthier than cow milk. Goat milk causes fewer allergy reactions and can be fed to human infants as well as baby animals.  Not only do we drink our goat milk but we keep goats specifically to feed to baby animals that need extra nutrition or are sick. Goat colostrum is a tremendous healer. Goat milk contains
A2 Beta-Casein, smaller fat globules, is naturally homogenized and has shorter chain fatty acids. Goat milk is much easier to digest than cow milk.

Goat milk can have excellent flavor. Goats that have a proper diet, including sufficient minerals will have milk that is delicious. My kids prefer goat milk flavor to cow flavor.  However, brush and weeds in the pasture usually effect the flavor of the milk and can cause off flavors as will mineral deficiency in goats. Illness or exposure to bucks can also cause off flavors.

Goats typically produce between 1/2 and 1.5 gallons of milk a day, depending on the goat and herd management.  Because goat milk is naturally homogenized, cream cannot be separated without a mechanical separator. In my opinion, this is where goats take a back seat to cows.  While goats have cream, it cannot be turned into butter.

Mini Jersey cows tend to have very high cream content in their milk. If you are looking for a small dairy animal that produces significant cream lines, a Mini Jersey may be the perfect choice. My girls produce between 15% and 30% cream in their milk, depending on the season and overall milk volume. We love our cream.  Now that we have experienced the joys of natural cream, we will never be without a mini dairy cow.

The flavor of Jersey milk is excellent in my opinion. The color of the milk is slightly yellow and as a results makes true yellow butter.

Mini Jersey dairy cow milk volumes vary tremendously.  Depending on your specific needs, you can look for a cow that is more likely to give the amount of milk you need.

One huge advantage to Mini Jersey dairy cows is that you can almost feed two minis for the price of one large standard cow, particularly if it is a feed efficient mini. If they are bred 6 months apart, you always have milk. Two minis are better than one standard in my opinion.


Standard Jersey milk is essentially the same as mini Jersey milk.

Standard Jerseys produce 4 to 8 gallons/day avg.
Small Jerseys produce 2 to 5 gallons/day average.
Minis produce 1 to 4 gallons/day average.

One advantage to a mid-sized cow is that it can be cut back to once a day milking and you will still get 2 to 4 gallons a day, depending on the cow.  However, 1 gallon from a mini may be perfect for some people.

The wonderful thing about home dairies is that the milk is NOT pasteurized which adds to the health benefits of the milk.

It appears that more standard and mid-sized Jersey cows have A2 Beta Casein than mini dairy cows. Most Mini Jersey bulls contain A1 Beta Casein so the cows that are A2/A2 are few and far between. Slowly, as breeders breed for the trait, more and more A2 mini cows are becoming available.
 

Milking by Hand or Machine
I love milking goats.  That actual effort required to squeeze a goat teat is less than that of a cow so my hands tire faster when milking cows verses milking the same quantity of milk from goats. Goat udders are soft  as compared to cow udders. Goats have two teats while cows have four. In a well positioned udder, those teats are positioned in front of the hind legs.

Goats can jump up onto a stand with ease. Their agility makes it easy for them to move their legs to accommodate a milker.
This is the one area where I believe mini dairy cows take a back seat to standard and mid-sized dairy cows and dairy goats. Mini dairy cows are too close to the ground to comfortably milk. Mini dairy cows should have high, well attached udders so the udder doesn't interfere with milking into a regular bucket.  If the udder is too close to the ground it can be nearly impossible to attach a claw from a milk machine without making adjustments.

I built a milk stand for my minis to put them at the height I like for milking.

Small standards are far better than minis when it comes to milking because there is more room to milk.  Sometime you can feel like you are "standing on your head" when milking a mini.  IF a mini has a HIGH udder, then it isn't as much of a problem.  I prefer cows that are 44" with high udders for milking.  Milking by hand or machine - it doesn't matter.  Give me a 44" cow with a high attached udder any day for milking.
Shelter
Goats require shelter in inclement weather whereas cows are able to handle rain and cold without shelter, although I would recommend shelter for all animals.  Goats do better in dry, hot weather whereas cows handle wet weather better than goats.  Really dry, hot weather is hard on cows.

Mini dairy cows are smaller than standard cows and so the shelter space required for them is less.  Cattle panel shelters work well with mini dairy cattle.
The taller the cow, the more space required to house the cow.  There is little difference between a tall mini and a small mid. However, there is a great deal of difference between a small mini and a tall standard cow.
Fencing and Pasture Space
Goats take a back seat to cows in the fencing area. Goats require woven wire or six strand electric fencing. Male goats are masters at escaping. My does never had much desire to escape from their pastures as long as I had woven wire.  Bucks tend to jump on fences which is destructive on fencing.  Goats tend to rub on fencing which can be destructive on fencing.

Goats require less pasture space than cows.  The number of goats you can keep on one acre vary will depend on the type of vegetation you have. Generally, 5 to 10 goats can run on one acre.

I like using woven wire fencing for mini dairy cattle because their calves are so small they can accidentally get through other forms of fencing.  I have seen a little calf escape through a 6 strand high tensile electrified fence (a new born only hours old which would have died if I hadn't found her).  Mini dairy cows are so short that a top electric wire or barbed wire is not necessary to keep them inside the fence. They don't rub on fences and generally respect them.
Mini Jersey cattle require less pasture space than a standard Jersey.  Roughly 1/2 to 1 acre is adequate.

High tensile electric fencing is a cheap option for standard sized cows.  Woven wire works great too.  Cows can jump.  So be aware of that little fact.

I NEVER recommend barbed wire for dairy animals as it can tear an udder.

Plan on 1 to 2  acre of grass for a standard sized cow.

Breeding
Goats are easy to breed if you have access to a buck. Simply put them in the pasture and you are good to go. Bucks are generally not dangerous and even children can be around them. However, there are drawbacks. Bucks stink and flavor the milk.  Bucks are destructive on fencing.  Bucks can have obnoxious personalities.  As a rule, they should not be housed with milking does if you drink the milk and care about flavor.

Goats are harder to AI than cows. Statistically, there is only a 50% success rate for goats. Even if you AI, you need to plan on having access to a buck just in case the AI does not work.

Goats are seasonal breeders.  You can only breed them from about Sep to Jan.  Occasionally that is extended but don't plan on it. Goats can be bred at 7 months old as a rule. Gestation is only 5 months.  Often, goats are kidding approximately 1 year from the time they were born.  Some breeders prefer to wait until they are older but 7 months is a normal breeding time, if they are sufficiently big and healthy.

Mini Jersey cows must be bred by a small bull either with live cover or via AI.  Mini dairy cattle CANNOT be bred by standard sized bulls without risking the safety of the cow.  At times this can present a little bit of a challenge but can be overcome easily with planning.

Mini Jersey semen is a bit more expensive than standard Jersey semen.  It usually costs $75 a straw verses $20 a straw for standard Jerseys. Shipping costs are $100 for mini straws while standard Jersey shipping costs are about $50. AI is an excellent option of breeding Mini Jersey cows.  To see bulls with semen for sale, visit my bull page.

Mini Jersey bulls tend to have better personalities than standard sized Jersey bulls. Mini Jersey bulls are safer to handle and a much better option for breeding than owning a standard and having a standard sized bull.  Fencing for a mini bulls does not need to be as extensive as standard sized bulls.


Mid-sized or standard Jerseys are probably the easiest to breed because they can be bred to just about any bull.  Usually they are bred via AI. AI is cheaper and safer than owning a bull.

Standard and mid-sized Jersey cows are generally easy calvers, particularly if they are bred to Mini Jersey bulls.

Cows, both mini and standard sized, are not seasonal breeders. They can be bred at any time during the year.  They cycle about every 17 to 23 days (average 21 day cycle). This makes it easy to plan the pregnancy of a cow. It is easier to identify heat cycles and exact breeding times when you have two or more cows.
 

Flies Oddly enough, goats do not attract flies like cows do. There will be flies in the barn and feed, but seldom on the goats themselves. Perhaps a few flies here and a few there. That may not seem like a big deal but if you milk in the barn or near the barn, not having flies in your face is helpful. Cows tend to have clouds of flies that follow them which makes milking a goat a more pleasant experience. My goats tend to jump if flies are them so be careful when milking. Smaller cows mean slightly fewer flies.  Smaller cows have smaller manure piles.  The more dung, the more flies.  There will still be a cloud of flies surrounding your little dairy cow, but fewer flies in general. If you don't want to deal with flies while milking, it is helpful to spray the barn and use some form of repellant on the cows.  For sanitation reasons, DO NOT allow the cow into the milking area other than during milking time. The cleaner the milking parlor, the less the flies. Cows mean flies. There is no other way around it. When you milk a cow, in July and August, flies are a part of the experience. If the milking parlor is enclosed and distance away from where the cows are kept, the fly population will be drastically decreased. I imagine in commercial dairies they are eliminated all together but generally in a home milking situation, there will be flies. The cleaner the milking area, the more sanitary the milk.
Hoof Care
Goats require periodic hoof trimming.  I usually trim my goat"s hooves every 3 to 4 months.  Once I had a goat that had to have her hooves trimmed monthly because they grew so fast.  Goat feet will be destroyed if they are not trimmed. 

If a cow is given adequate minerals, it will seldom, if ever, have to have its hooves trimmed.  If cows hooves have to be trimmed, you will likely have to have it done professionally.

Standard Jersey cows would have the same hoof care as Mini Jersey cows.
Property Damage
Goats can be particularly destructive on fencing.  On the other hand, they weigh so little that they seldom rut up the ground. They may wear away grass from a given area but they don't cut up the ground with heavy hooves..

Mini Jersey cattle or any mini cattle are ideal for minimizing property damage. Mini cattle do not climb on fences and are generally small enough that they don't rut up the ground.  In high traffic areas, during rainy seasons, mini Jersey cattle will leave hoof marks but not like larger cattle.  Larger cattle can destroy ground due to their weight.

Standard dairy cows weigh more than mini cows and rut up the ground, particularly when it rains. A small standard will not create as many problems as a larger standard. A standard cow does not seem to do the same amount a damage as a horse but it is significant.
Manure
Goats have hard, little, round pellets for manure. They produce far less than cows. They leave the barn cleaner and less smelly than cows. Their pellets attract less flies. Goats never poop while on the milk stand unless they are significantly stressed.  Goats are smarter than cows and that includes pooping while milking.  Goats seem to "get it" and don't poop while being milked.

While mini cow manure is more obnoxious than goats, it is less obnoxious than standard sized cows.  Until I owned a cow, I had no idea how much manure one animal could produce. I didn't think about where I would put it or how much it would get in the way.  Mini cows produce mini piles while small standards produce mid-sized piles.

Standard sized cows produce a lot of manure.  Most of the time, my cows hang out in the pasture and I don't have much manure clean-up but during the winter, they prefer the barn at night and I get to muck the stalls. If you are hand milking, cows may poop while being milked which can create a sanitation issue.