8 min read
Small family of Sheep on a small family Farm in Central Texas during summer time with green grass to eat and a nice sunny day

This is an excerpt of Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide, ANR-2457.

There are numerous reasons for raising dairy goats or sheep, such as the love of animals, 4-H projects for youth, the satisfaction and enjoyment of fresh milk and dairy products, or wanting to start a business.

Considerations Prior to Starting a Goat or Sheep Dairy

The reason for starting a business is extremely important, because it will determine the breed you select and the type of facility to build. Never go into any business venture unless you are certain it is both practical and feasible.

Consider the following questions before you start a goat or sheep dairy:

  • Is the dairy an investment or hobby?
  • Will you apply for grants or loans (government, commercial, or private) to finance your operation?
  • Do you have both the financial means and property to support your operation?
  • Will you have the help you need to run your operation at all times?
  • Are you going grade A? If so, do you have a market?
  • Will you be an organic producer?
  • Do you need to produce a year-round supply of milk?
  • What products will you make (cheese, fudge, soaps, or lotions)?
  • Will the products be seasonal?
  • Will you be raising replacement animals or will you be purchasing them?

Once you have made your decision, follow these guidelines:

  • Gain as much knowledge about the industry as possible before you begin.
  • Determine equipment needed. This will greatly depend on herd size and if processing is a factor.
  • Determine your operation goals and select animals that will meet these goals as well as market demand.
  • Establish facilities and equipment before purchasing animals.
  • Buy only from a trusted and reputable breeder!
  • Have a veterinarian examine all animals for potential diseases before buying them.
  • Do not experiment with breeds or treatments.
  • Buy fewer but higher-producing does.
  • Check alternative markets.
  • Disbudding is a must.
  • Bucks are trouble and dangerous; they require extra management.
  • Goats and sheep do not move away from pressure; they move toward it.
  • Goats and sheep are pack animals. Purchase at least two when you start.

The dairy industry is a seven-days-a-week job, mornings and evenings. You probably will not become rich in this business. If you are in it to make a profit, you must always keep your return on investment in mind. Do not make decisions based on emotions.

In starting your goat or sheep dairy, build a network. Meet people at shows and meetings. Identify established producers with similar goals. Consult Extension agents. These people will be the most useful in helping to promote your endeavors.

Dairy Facility Laws and Standards

Before construction or operational planning begins, you must become familiar with the laws and standards of dairy operations set forth by the Alabama Department of Public Health. These concepts must be integrated into your business model in order to build a legal, successful business. For clarification of any of the items shown, contact the Alabama Department of Public Health at (334) 206-5375.

  • Alabama state law prohibits the sale of raw milk to individuals for human consumption.
  • All operations must meet the standards outlined and described in the Alabama State Board of Health Administrative Code, chapter 420-3-16, “Production, Processing, Handling, or Distribution of Milk, Milk Products and Frozen Desserts,” and/or chapter 420-3-17, “Production, Processing, Handling, or Distributing of Milk for Manufacturing Purposes, Dry Milk Products, Butter, Cheese, or Condensed Milk Products.” These rules apply regardless of size and scope of operation.
  • The local office of Natural Resources Conservation Service must be contacted to determine if your operation must develop a waste management plan.
  • The Alabama Department of Environmental Management must be contacted to determine if your operation needs an animal-feeding permit.
  • The environmental office of your County Health Department must be consulted if an on-site waste disposal system is to be used for restroom waste.
  • An outline of your business plan should be submitted for review to the Alabama Department of Public Health. An initial sketch of your facility’s floor plan, including drains, equipment, and operational flow, must be provided prior to the Health Department’s initial on-site visit.
  • Careful consideration should be given to how finished products (if applicable) will be handled for delivery off-site to another facility.
  • Compliance with local and other governing agencies should be determined.
  • Careful consideration must be given to treatment and feeding of lactating dairy animals.

Milk Parlor Construction

  • flooring: concrete or other impervious material sloped to a trapped drain or gutter
  • walls/ceilings: metal, concrete block finished, smooth finish, waterproof wood panel, vinyl, or other impervious material
  • holding lot: covered concrete pad to hold animals waiting to enter milking parlor; should be sloped away from barn with curbing
  • milking platforms for small dairy animals (goats, sheep, etc.): metal or treated wood, painted
  • lighting: adequate lighting provided
  • ventilation: adequate ventilation required (preferably electric roof or window fans)
  • housing or loafing barn: separate and away from milking barn and holding lot

Milk Room or Milk House Construction

  • floors: concrete, tile, or other impervious material sloped to trapped drain
  • walls/ceilings: metal, finished concrete block (walls)
  • doors: solid, water-resistant, open outward; metal, treated wood, painted, self-closing screen (in addition to solid door)
  • windows: ledges sloped downward 45 degrees (screened if opened)
  • lighting: adequate, shielded lighting
  • ventilation: adequate ventilation (wall or ceiling vent fan recommended)
  • plumbing: may be exposed in milk room and must consist of hot and cold–running water; include two-compartment sink equipped with utensil racks and separate hand washing sink with hot and cold–running water
  • adequate size: sized to accommodate all equipment and not crowded to preclude proper cleaning
  • milk cooling facility: mechanical cooler or bulk tank not to be located directly over floor drain
  • proper concrete pad: poured outside milk room with a wall port (self-closing door), centered over pad for sanitary transfer of milk from tank to truck; overhead protection required
  • equipment construction: must be compliant with 3A standards and be PMO approved with milk lines (glass or stainless), steel bulk tank (stainless steel), and milk cans (stainless steel, seamless, umbrella lid design)
  • milking equipment: must meet 3A standards and be PMO compliant

Plant Construction

  • location: no low-lying flood-prone areas; suitable drainage system to provide rapid drainage of all surface water
  • building: of sound construction, kept in good repair, effectively sealed
  • floors: concrete, tile, or equally impervious material smooth finished, sloped to trapped drain; wood floors allowed in rooms where packaging materials, supplies, and dry products stored
  • walls/ceilings: concrete, smooth finished, metal, vinyl tile board or other impervious material
  • doors: solid, water resistant, open outward; metal, treated wood, painted, self-closing screen (in addition to solid door)
  • lighting: adequate, well-distributed lighting to allow maintenance of sanitary conditions; at least 30-foot candles throughout the plant and at least 50-foot candles where dairy products are graded or examined for condition and quality
  • ventilation: adequate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning for all rooms to maintain sanitary conditions through the use of exhaust or inlet fans, vents, or hoods; proper filtering devices to eliminate dust and dirt from incoming air
  • toilet: must be provided; must not open directly into any room where milk or dairy products are processed, manufactured, packaged, or stored; doors self-closing; proper ventilation required
  • laboratory: must be provided in an area separate from the processing and packaging area; must be adequately equipped and properly staffed to provide for quality control including analytical testing.

Water Supply

  • public: municipal water supply
  • private: well or spring; located well out of low drainage areas, at least 50 feet away from possible sources of contamination; must have concrete slab around pipe, sealed and protected from any outside contamination (human and animal excreta from toilet room, septic system, lagoon, and barn or livestock area), poor drainage, and toxic chemical contamination (vacuum pump oil drainage, chemical storage area or building); drilled wells with casing at least 10 feet belowground and extending above concrete slab; well casing cover overlapping and tight fitting to prevent contaminated water from entering top of well casing

Waste Disposal

  • toilets: Check with local health department for septic system approval.
  • animal waste: Check with appropriate agency for approval.

Alabama Dairy Goat/Sheep Budgets

The Alabama dairy goat budget will assist you in estimating the potential costs and returns for Alabama dairy goat operations. It is not a production or how-to guide but rather a planning and estimation tool. Prices and costs are based on the best estimates available at the time the budget was prepared. It is important that producers develop their own budgets using the appropriate values.

Terms you need to familiarize yourself with include the following:

Herd information. This includes the number and average weight of does and bucks in the operation. It also has the number of kids that are marketed (sold) plus the average weight of all kids that are sold. The “Milk Produced CWT/Doe/Year” is the average for all milking does.

Note: The number of kids marketed is based on several factors. Conception rate, kidding rate, mortality rates, and cull rates all affect the number of kids that are available to be sold.

Gross receipts. This is the amount that the producer receives from the sale of milk, market/breeding kids, and any cull animals that are sold.

Variable cost. These are out-of-pocket costs associated with producing milk and keeping the herd maintained. Some of the costs include hay, feed, pasture (fertilizer, lime, seed, etc.), medicine, marketing, transportation, etc. Land rent and labor are also included. It is assumed that the producer will provide labor. Larger producers may need to hire labor.

Income above variable costs. This is gross receipts minus total variable cost. This measurement allows the producer to determine if out-of-pocket costs will be covered.

Fixed costs. These costs are incurred whether you produce or not. They include depreciation, interest, insurance, property taxes, etc.

Net returns to risks and management. This figure is sometimes referred to as profit. It is more correct, however, to call it a “return to all resource costs except management.” If the figure is positive, the producer will be rewarded for his/her management efforts and the entrepreneurial risk taken. This is the figure that management should use to make decisions and compare alternatives.

Capital investments. This reflects the investments that are made in the enterprise that are capitalized over a number of years. Milking equipment, breeding livestock, and buildings and equipment are included in this part of the budget.

For questions and more information, contact any of the following Extension specialists:

  • Max Runge, Extension Economist, (334) 844-5603
  • Ken Kelley, Regional Extension Agent, (251) 867-7760
  • Robert Spencer, Urban Extension Specialist, (256) 689-0274
  • Boyd Brady, Extension Specialist, Dairy, (334) 844-1562

Dairy Goat and Sheep Production Variables

Goats

Table 1 offers a snapshot of production information that can be used in a variety of ways, such as selecting animals to produce a product that is most suitable to your needs, or to provide a comparison of how your goats are producing compared to other goats of the same breed.

Production records should be only one tool used in breed and animal selection; each breed has its own characteristics. These characteristics, along with personal preference, should play a part in the selection process.

Keep in mind, individuals within a breed may vary in milk, fat, and protein production. We strongly recommend studying an individual animal’s records, as well as the breed records, prior to purchase. It is important to visually access any animal before purchase. Have a licensed veterinarian perform a pre-purchase check to prevent introduction of disease into your herd.

Table 1. Dairy Goat Production Variables

1 Total number of goats processed as of May 2015
2 Average number of days each goat has been in lactation since May 2015
3 Average pounds and percentages of milk, fat, and protein produced during this lactation

Source: Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA); processed at the Dairy Records Management System (DRMS), Raleigh, North Carolina. A vast majority of these goats are raised and cared for under management practices of the southeastern United States.
Breed Number of Animals1Average Days in Milk2305 Milk3305 Fat Lbs3Fat %3305 Protein Lbs3Protein3
Alpine1430251187860.63.253.02.8
La Mancha255230171763.13.752.33.0
Mixed247437174669.04.057.83.3
Nigerian Dwarf41920050331.26.221.64.3
Nubian563222136561.24.549.13.6
Oberhasli152251171455.73.247.02.7
Saanen1156251190065.83.554.72.8
Sable60208153552.93.441.02.7
Toggenburg173249156649.03.144.02.8

 

Sheep

Milk testing for sheep is a new program that started in 2016. This program is still in the pilot phase and is called P-SMTP for the IDGR-IFBR. There are presently no production records published specifically for dairy sheep production in the Southeast.

Establishing a Valid Veterinarian-Client- Patient Relationship

Establishing a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is essential. Your veterinarian plays an important role in pre- venting, diagnosing, and treating disease, and in developing a health care provide a prescription without a valid VCPR. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration define a valid VCPR as follows:

  1. A veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of the animal(s) and the need for medical treatment, and the client (the owner or manager of the animal(s) and the need for medical treatment,
  2. There is sufficient knowledge of the animal(s) by the veterinarian to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animal(s).
  3. The practicing veterinarian is readily available for follow-up in case of adverse reactions or failure of the regimen of therapy. Such a relationship can exist only when the veterinarian has recently seen and is personally acquainted with the care of the animal(s) by virtue of examination of the animal(s) and/or by medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal(s) are kept.

 

Read more from the Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide.

Download a PDF of Dairy Goat and Sheep Operations in the Southeast Production Guide, ANR-2457.

Did you find this helpful?