I often joke that our goats need to get jobs to earn their keep. Because the idea of sending our herd of Dwarf Nigerians and Boer/Kiko crosses off with briefcases seemed far-fetched, I started researching options to offset the cost of keeping the hay manger filled and discovered several profitable goat businesses for small farms.
1. Rent Your Goats for Brush Removal
Goats love nothing more than a brush buffet. Operating a goat rental business lets goats get paid to eat. Golf courses, parks and recreation departments, colleges and other large landowners often rent goats for brush removal. The price—and number of goats required—varies with the size of the project. You’ll need goats, a trailer to haul them to jobsites and portable electric fencing. Some goat herders also place livestock guardian dogs with their herds to protect the goats overnight. You can start a solo business or purchase a franchise from companies such as Rent A Goat and Rent a Ruminant.
2. Make Goat’s Milk Soap
Handcrafted soap is popular—even the New York Times covered the trend. If you have dairy goats, consider learning how to use their creamy milk to make soap. Books such as Goat Milk Soapmaking and Natural Soap at Home can provide basic instructions; signing up for classes with an experienced soap-maker can provide valuable hands-on experience. Look for classes taught by dairy farmers; you’ll learn how to make soap and get valuable information about using and storing goat milk in handmade soap. The startup costs are minimal (a scale, measuring cups, pots, staple ingredients, packaging) and, on Etsy, the price for a single bar of soap starts at $5.
3. Host Goat Yoga
Yogis started rolling out their mats in pastures in 2016, and goat yoga has quickly become a popular fitness trend; some farms even have waiting lists. Classes are hosted on the farm so you’ll need space for parking and an option for participants to use the bathroom. Partner with a local yoga studio to hire an instructor and use social media to promote classes. Check the rates for drop-in yoga classes in your area and remember to build the instructor’s wage into the fee you charge for the class. Expect students to hang around for a while after classes to snap photos with the goats.
4. Produce Milk & Cheese
Research shows that goat milk and cheese are experiencing slow but steady growth among consumers. Goat’s milk has more calories and fat than cow’s milk but it also has more protein (and the same amount of calcium). Establishing a goat dairy is a major undertaking. A University of California report estimated startup costs in excess of $240,000 to run a herd of 500 goats on 55 acres. You’ll need to check with local, state and federal regulations pertaining to the processing and sale of dairy products. If you’re considering a long-term investment in a goat dairy, see our article, 9 Items You Need to Start a Goat Dairy.
5. Raise Goats for Meat
If your goats are pets, sending them to the slaughterhouse might be unthinkable, but for some farmers, raising meat goats is a profitable business. The U.S. imports about half of its goat meat because farmers aren’t raising enough goats to meet the demand. Goats require less space than cattle, and their meat is leaner than other red meats. Florida A&M University estimated annual operating costs to raise meat goats in excess of $12,000. Start with meat breeds such as Boer, Kiko and Spanish goats, and look for USDA-certified processing facilities. Goat meat is an important source of protein in several ethnic communities and might sell better at specialty markets than traditional grocers and farmers markets.
Your goats might never have 9-to-5 jobs or 401(k)s but, with some planning and creativity, it is possible to put your goats to work and develop a profitable business on your hobby farm.