For the Love of Goats
It’s not unusual for people to love their goats so much that they want more! But we all have our financial limits. So the next question is, how can your goats make money for you?
In this episode I’m talking about a variety of goat businesses, starting with those that don’t have a huge financial start-up investment and moving on to those that cost six figures to get started in most states.
I also mention the importance of being sure that you are doing everything legally and are covered in terms of liability.
These are the episodes that I mention where you can learn more about each business from someone who has done it:
- #25 Goat Milk Soap Business
- #26 Goat Landscaping
- #44 Agritourism on Ten Apple Farm
- #5 Angora Goats
- #27 Airbnb with Goats
- #18 Gelato with Nigerian Dwarf Goat Milk
- #33 Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery
- #16 Goat Law
Already have a goat-based business? Learn how you can use email to build a relationship with your customers on this episode Email: The GOAT for Marketing Your Goat Business
Online courses where you can learn more
- Learn more about starting your own business
- Learn to make goat milk soap
- Learn to make cheese and ice cream
Listen right here…
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For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.
Deborah Niemann 0:19
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode, which is brought to you by Goats 365, my membership program for people who are living with, learning about, and loving goats 365 days a year. Basic members get access to six courses covering housing, fencing, parasites, nutrition, and health, as well as things like composting goat manure and the basics of starting a goat-based business. Premium members also have the opportunity to attend live online meetings via Zoom to talk about goats. Visit Goats365.com to learn more.
Deborah Niemann 0:50
And now, we are going to get into today’s show topic, which is goat businesses. A lot of people email or message me and ask if there is a way that they could make money with their goats, because they love their goats so much, they want more, but they can’t really justify having 20 or 30 pets. So, what can they do to make some money with their goats, so that at least they’re not losing money, and hopefully, maybe, even they’re making some money?
Deborah Niemann 1:18
So, I’m gonna start with some of the simpler things that you can do, things that don’t have a huge startup cost. And then, I’m going to move on to things that are more expensive.
Deborah Niemann 1:28
Now, a lot of people immediately think of starting a creamery and a cheesemaking business. And I’ll tell you, right now, that’s going to be way down the list of things I’m going to talk about today, because the startup costs on that are really big. So, let’s get started with something really simple. And this was actually the first way that I made money with my goats, and that was to start making goat milk soap.
Deborah Niemann 1:49
This is a really good place for people to start, because you probably already have all of the equipment that you need in your kitchen. A lot of sources talk about, like, you have to have separate equipment. But seriously, you know, like, I use an 8-cup mixing batter bowl that is glass. You can wash your lye solution off of glass very easily; there is no reason that you need to have a separate glass bowl. The one thing that you do need to have that’s separate would be anything that’s porous, like if you have a rubber spatula or something like that. I’ve always had my rubber spatulas separate. But one time, my soapmaking spatula accidentally got into our regular kitchen drawer, and I used it to frost a cake. And afterwards, I licked it off. And it tasted like I was licking a bar of soap. So, not pleasant. And that was the point at which I said, “Okay, I’m gonna have different colored spatulas for soapmaking and the kitchen, so that this never happens again.” The cake was fine; it didn’t transfer the soapy flavor to the frosting. But, if you’ve ever licked a bar of soap, it’s just not a pleasant experience, and I really did not want to go through that again. So, don’t use anything that’s porous in both your regular cooking and your soapmaking. But, like, stainless steel pots, and glass bowls, and glass pitchers, then absolutely.
Deborah Niemann 3:15
So, you’ve already got a lot of what you need. I do have a video on YouTube that goes into detail on what equipment you need to start your soapmaking business, and it’s not going to be very much. A digital scale, which, you know, you get a good one for $20 or $30. So, it will last. And that was really the main expense that I had, was buying the digital scale. And then, you also want a stick blender—which I think, again, about 20 bucks. And yes, you really do need a stick blender. I knew one woman who insisted on using a spoon for years, and it would take her hours and hours to reach trace—that’s the point at which you can pour the mixture into your molds. I don’t know how she did that. Like, I never would have made a second batch of soap if it took me 3 or 4 hours to make one batch. So, you need that stick blender. It only takes… Like, really, trace is, like, 5 minutes, but the whole mixing process and everything’s like maybe 10. So, we can make, start-to-finish, a batch of soap in only 30 minutes. So, we have seven molds. So, if we want to make seven batches of soap, that’ll take us about 4 hours. And that’s typically what we do, because your cleanup time is going to be the same whether you make one batch or five or six batches. So, it’s like, you might as well make more if you’ve got the molds to be able to do that.
Deborah Niemann 4:31
The thing about soapmaking, though, is that in a bar of my soap, with the recipe I use, 20% of that bar is goat milk; the other 80% is oil. Now, if you’ve got your own pigs, and that other 80% can be lard, then you can say, “This is 100% from my farm.” Lard does not make the best soap. It’s not going to suds very much, so your modern consumer is going to probably feel like it’s not doing a very good job, because we equate suds with cleaning. So, otherwise then, if you’re buying all your oils… Like, you want to use olive oil and coconut oil and cocoa butter and things like that, that will make the consumer go, “Oh, that sounds cool,” then you’re gonna have to buy that. So, 80% of what’s in a bar of soap, then, is going to have to be purchased. But, you can still make a lot of money with this. If you buy it in bulk, like from a soapmaking supply company, especially if you don’t have to have it shipped to you, if you happen to have one nearby, or you buy things at Costco in large quantities, then you can definitely make money with your soap; it should be very profitable.
Deborah Niemann 5:40
And, I forgot to mention, Episode 25, if you want to hop on over after this episode, we talk about goat milk soap businesses. And that episode, we actually interview a goat milk soapmaker, and so you can hear more about her business and what it really means.
Deborah Niemann 5:56
The second business that does not take a huge ton of money to get started is goat landscaping. Now, this also kind of depends on what you already have. So, if you already have a trailer for transporting your goats, then that’s not something you have to buy at the beginning. However, you will have to buy a trailer if you don’t have one. So, the cost to start with this is going to depend on what you already have. Then, you would also need ElectroNet fencing. Temporary electric fencing is what you put up on the areas where you’re doing the goat landscaping.
Deborah Niemann 6:30
And, I just realized some of you may not know what goat landscaping is. And that is, basically, somebody pays you to bring your goats to their property to clear brush, because goats are browsers, not grazers. So, they love to eat baby trees, they love the bushes, and especially invasive things. And they’re really good in, like, hilly areas, where they can’t easily get to these bushes and stuff with heavy equipment. So, you put goats in there; they’re great climbers. They go in, and they eat all these things down.
Deborah Niemann 7:04
And they’ve been used all over the place. Ten, twelve years ago, you know, I used to post in my Facebook Group, “Goats are busy cleaning up the campus at Google,” or “Yahoo.” And they were used at the Seattle airport. They’ve been used at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. They’ve been used all over the place. They’ve been used at Arlington Cemetery. One of my favorite stories was, they were used in Seattle; it was an area near an underpass in Seattle where a lot of drug dealers were hanging out. And there were a lot of hypodermic needles. So, they didn’t want people going in to try and clean up this area, because of the risk of somebody getting poked and getting AIDS or some other blood-borne disease from one of those needles. Goats don’t get those diseases. So, they put goats in, and the goats went in, they ate down all of this brush, which then made it harder for people to go in there and hide and do illegal things. And so, that was a really interesting use of goat landscaping. And that was, like, 10 or 12 years ago; this was, like, so unusual that I would post it on Facebook every time I heard about it.
Deborah Niemann 8:18
Now goat landscaping is super common. And there are even companies who have franchised it; there are companies who do training on this. There are goat landscaping consultants who will work with you one-on-one to start your business. In fact, in Episode 26, “Goat Landscaping,” we talked to one of those people, and so you can hear their whole story. Because, it does sound too good to be true almost. You know, it’s like, “Oh, they’re gonna pay me to bring my goats over there to eat? Like, I’m gonna get to feed my goats for free, and they’re gonna pay me?” So, that sounds like a really good deal, but there’s some work involved. So, Episode 26 is when we interviewed a goat landscaper who actually does this, and so you can hear his whole story on Episode 26.
Deborah Niemann 9:07
The next thing that does not take a huge financial outlay would be agritourism. And we did Episode 44 with the lovely people Karl and Margaret at Ten Apple Farm in Maine, and they talk about their agritourism business that they have on their farm. They do goat hikes. So, people can come in, and they basically walk through the woods with the goats for just a couple hours; it’s not a big long thing or anything, but just for a couple hours, they walk through the woods with the goats. They also do some classes on their farm, where they teach people how to make different things, like cheese and stuff.
Deborah Niemann 9:45
And that does not take, really, much money at all to get started with that. In fact, you may not need to buy anything if you want just want to do agritourism. You know, in their situation, there’s really not a lot that they have. It’s, like, they had their goats there. And so, then they just kind of decided to hang up the shingle and say, “Hey, people, you want to come over and spend a couple hours walking through the woods with our goats?”
Deborah Niemann 10:09
One of the things that you do need to think about, though, with agritourism—really with any of these things. But, with agritourism, you’ve got people coming to your farm. So, you want to think about liability. But, that’s really the biggest issue, is you just want to make sure that your insurance is going to cover you when people come to your farm. So, if somebody trips on that hike or whatever, they’re covered.
Deborah Niemann 10:30
And people may think, “Well, what about goat yoga?” This is actually why I do not do goat yoga, because, as far as I know, there’s not a legitimate insurance company that covers goat yoga. I think the yoga people are like, “What? Goats?” And the goat insurance companies or livestock insurance companies are like, “What? Yoga?” Putting those two things together is just going to make it very hard to be able to find insurance that’s going to cover you. And I’ve even talked to somebody who does goat yoga, and she said she’s insured some people who do goat yoga. And I said, “But are they really covered? Like, if somebody trips over a goat, or if a goat knock somebody down, are they really covered?” And she said, “No, not really.” And she explained that to them. But, unfortunately, a lot of people think, “Oh, I just need to get a general business policy,” and that is not going to cover you for a lot of farm-related stuff. So, you really need to make sure that you are completely honest with your insurance agent about what you’re going to be doing, so that you get the right kind of coverage for what you’re doing.
Deborah Niemann 10:35
Number four on the list of things that don’t take a big outlay would be Angora goats. Now, Angora goats are a fiber goat. And this is one where people will ask sometimes, “Can you make a lot of money with that?” Because you think, like, “Ooh, an Angora sweater, that’s really expensive.” Well, an Angora sweater is really expensive, because Angora is not super common, and usually these things are handmade, and so that, you know, takes time.
Deborah Niemann 12:00
One of the things about Angoras, or if, you know, you’ve thought about, like, raising wool sheep to sell the wool, is that it’s really important that you love fiber. This is not something that you should really get into, like, if you don’t knit or spin or crochet, and you have no interest in learning how to do that. It’s going to be hard for you to sell it, because you don’t know what spinners and knitters and crocheters and weavers and all of these artists are looking for. And so, you’re not going to know how to prepare it.
Deborah Niemann 12:32
I’m not saying it’s impossible, because I do know somebody who started out with zero knowledge. You know, like, somebody asked her once if her wool was “superwash,” and she was like, “Oh, yes, we wash it really, really well.” Because, she had no idea that “superwash” was, like, a technical term for commercial wool that’s been treated so that it doesn’t matte and shrink and felt when it’s washed. So, she did learn, though, because, like, she was very motivated. She really wanted to do this, and now she has a very large business selling wool. But, if you’re not interested in fiber at all, then this is really not the business for you.
Deborah Niemann 13:15
But, if you want to do fiber, Angoras are a fabulous fiber animal. In Episode 5, we talk to Chris McLaughlin about Angora goats, and she talks about how Angora goats give mohair. That mohair grows really, really fast. And unlike sheep—most sheep are sheared once a year, a few breeds twice a year—but Angora goats are sheared twice a year, because they grow that mohair so fast. And so, you get a great yield from them. And, especially if you’re interested in attending fiber shows, it’s a really great thing.
Deborah Niemann 13:52
You know, so many people think, “Oh, just put it on Etsy!” Build it and they will come, right? That is not the way it works. People have asked me before, “Why don’t you sell your goat milk soap on Etsy?” Well, if you search for “goat milk soap” on Etsy, there are 20,000 hits—last time I looked. And, if you’re brand-new, you are not going to be at the top of the list. So, nobody’s going to find you. Like, you’re gonna have to drive your own traffic there. And then, why do you want to give Etsy a cut, if you’re going to have to drive your own traffic there? You might as well just have your own website.
Deborah Niemann 14:23
We have had a farm website since very close to the beginning. Like, you know, in the early 2000s, like, probably 2004 or so, we had our first website. That’s where we’ve sold all of our farm products, is on our website, because if you put it on Etsy or some other third party site, they’re going to take a cut. So, I would rather just, you know, have to pay the credit card company, you know, 2.5% or 3% and be done with it, and just use my own website and drive traffic to the website myself. Because the competition on Etsy is really pretty heavy.
Deborah Niemann 14:59
Once my daughters grew up and left home, that’s when I quit raising the wool sheep. Because, when they were home, we would go to fiber shows, and fiber shows is really the best place to sell fiber, because fiber artists want to be able to feel the fiber and know what it feels like before they buy it—especially spinners, because the feel of it is really important. So, if you can go to fiber shows, that is a really great place to sell your fiber. That’s actually where we sold most of our wool. So, once my daughters were gone, just selling it online, it really started to build up here.
Deborah Niemann 15:35
Moving on to number five. Now, again, this one may or may not cost you much to get started if you want to invite guests onto your farm. Episode 27, I talked to Tammy Gallagher, who’s got an Airbnb on her farm with goats; they actually built a little cottage for their Airbnb. So, that obviously was a pretty big investment for them. But, if you don’t mind having people in your house, and you have an extra bedroom, you could certainly do that for an Airbnb; that would cost you nothing. So, it just kind of depends on what you want to invest, and whether or not you want to do this. In addition to Airbnb, there’s also a place online called Hipcamp where you can advertise, and people can come out to your farm and they can camp. So, that’s another possibility.
Deborah Niemann 16:28
Again, these kind of go… This is a little bit into the agritourism part. And, you can make it more touristy if you want. You know, like, instead of just saying, “Here’s a place to sleep,” you can say, you know, “We’ll teach you how to, you know, make cheese,” or “how to make soap,” or “how to spin Angora into yarn,” and things like that.
Deborah Niemann 16:51
Now we’re getting into the expensive stuff. So, the first five are things that are not too expensive to get started: your goat milk soap business; goat landscaping; agritourism; Angora goats, so that you’re selling fiber; and then Airbnb or Hipcamp, something like that, where people are staying on your farm. Those don’t necessarily require a huge financial investment, because you don’t have a lot of equipment, you don’t have to build a lot of infrastructure necessarily. Now, the next two I’m going to talk about are really much more expensive. And that is, that if you want to sell something that involves the milk.
Deborah Niemann 17:30
I will say, in a few states, you’re able to sell raw goat milk, and that’s not going to be very expensive for you to get started, depending on the state. Like Illinois, we used to sell raw milk in Illinois up until 5 or 6 years ago, when the law changed. Now, you have to be a certified dairy in Illinois, and they’ve specifically made herd shares illegal. So, unless you’re a certified dairy in Illinois, you can’t sell raw milk. And so, we quit selling milk, because it would be more expensive. There’s no way we would ever sell enough milk to make it worth it for us to become a certified dairy.
Deborah Niemann 18:04
Now, if you want to do something where you are turning your milk into another product, there is no state… Like, even if raw milk in your state is legal, that does not mean that you can make other things with that milk and sell it. Once you get into pasteurization and stuff, you get into a whole different set of laws. And, even if you want to make it with raw milk, still, you’re getting into a whole separate set of laws that involve the health department and everything.
Deborah Niemann 18:34
So, in Episode 18, we talked to the folks at Sweet Doe Dairy in Vermont, who make gelato with their Nigerian Dwarf goat milk. And gelato is basically like ice cream. And that is a dairy, so they had to build a facility to accommodate all of that, and, they had to have inspections with the health department, and so on. And they get into all that detail in Episode 18. So, if you think you might like to make ice cream or gelato and sell that, then Episode 18 would be a great one for you to listen to.
Deborah Niemann 19:12
In Episode 33, we talked to the wonderful people at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, and they make cheese, which they sell, and that is really quite an expensive endeavor. When you get a dairy, you’re getting way into six figures. And, one of the interesting things about Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery was they thought they could reduce costs by doing a lot of the work themselves. And, once they were already financially committed and they were halfway into the construction, they discovered that the rules said that they had to have a lot of the work done by licensed tradespeople, which increased their costs a lot. So, if you think you would like to have a cheesemaking facility, that’s definitely a good episode to listen to.
Deborah Niemann 20:05
I really thought I wanted to do that a long time ago. And, it was about 8 years ago that the Illinois Stewardship Alliance had a really wonderful 3-day event, and it was held on Prairie Fruits Farm. And it was all about making money on your farm through agritourism, as well as some products like this. And, in addition to learning all about Prairie Fruits Farm, we also visited a couple of other dairies, and basically after that, I decided I didn’t want to do it. So, if you think you might want to have a cheesemaking operation, definitely listen to Episode 33 to hear what Leslie has to say about their experience. And then, if you have any small creameries in your area, I would really recommend that you go visit them to see what they had to do.
Deborah Niemann 21:06
One of the farms I visited, they thought they were going to be able to get away with building their cheesemaking facility for $100,000, because they were buying a cheesemaking operation that was, like, basically in a semi-trailer, and it was coming from Wisconsin—which is the dairy state. Now, you would think that if it was acceptable in Wisconsin, the dairy state, that it would be acceptable in Illinois, but it wasn’t. So, like, they spent $100,000 on that trailer that was supposed to be this all-in-one package, and they brought it down here, and when the health department went to inspect it, they insisted that they had to make a bunch of changes that wound up being pretty costly.
Deborah Niemann 21:48
So again, make sure that you really know what all the rules are in your state, and what kind of things you’re going to have to comply with, before you get started. And, one of the best ways to do that is to talk to other people in your state who are doing it. Because, you know, they had to go through the whole process, and so they know what’s required, and what the health inspectors are looking for, and all that kind of stuff.
Deborah Niemann 22:12
Now, before you even do that, if you don’t know how to make cheese yet, I have a cheesemaking course; the link will be in the show notes. So, I mean, you can see if you even like to make cheese. We love to make cheese. We still make cheese on a very regular basis. We’ve been doing it for 20 years; we’ve been making 100% of our own cheese for probably 15-16 years now. You know, it took us a few years to learn how to make all the different kinds, but now we’re able to make all the cheese that we use, including things like, you know, cheddar, Gouda, feta, mozzarella, and of course, chèvre—the one that most people just refer to as “goat cheese,” which is, I think still probably everybody’s favorite in the family. We make tons of that and eat tons of that. So, in the cheesemaking course, you can learn how to make all of those cheeses that I just listed, as well as ice cream. I have a really amazing Nigerian Dwarf goat milk ice cream that we make.
Deborah Niemann 23:07
And, if you are thinking of starting any of these businesses, another episode I want to call your attention to is Episode 16 on goat law. And, this is where we talk about things that you need to consider, just to make sure that you’re operating, you know, legally and everything, so that you don’t get into trouble. Because, the last thing you want is to wind up with a bunch of fines that are going to slow you down or anything like that.
Deborah Niemann 23:30
So, I hope this episode has been helpful to you if you have been thinking about starting a goat business. And, if you’ve got any questions, I would love to hear them and do my best to get an episode in the future on that. Also, if anybody has an insurance agent who really takes care of your insurance for goat yoga, it would be great to talk to somebody like that!
Deborah Niemann 23:54
Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. See you again next time!
Deborah Niemann 23:59
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!