Days-old goat kids play

Days-old goat kids play in the dairy barn as an orange-and-white barn cat watches at Friendly Franseen Acres.

Iowa ranks third in the nation for total milking goats, with the inventory up 3% in the last two years, standing at 32,000 dairy goats and 217 licensed dairies.

The Iowa State University Extension dairy team recently completed a survey of the licensed goat dairies in Iowa. While they are processing the data, dairy program specialist Fred Hall has jumpstarted conversations with dairy goat producers. The extension dairy team held its first program with concurrent programs in Orange City and Elkader Dec. 14.

“With 60 in attendance, the topics included financial and tax issues, herd health, forages, milk quality and colostrum plus each location had a producer panel discussing the challenges of managing dairy goats,” Hall said.

In Orange City, the speakers included: Tom Thaden of the Northwest Iowa Farm Business Association in Sheldon, Iowa; Dr. Chris Duemler of Brodhead Veterinary Medical Center in Brodhead, Wisconsin; Daniel Olson of Forage Innovations in Lena, Wisconsin; Leo Timms of Iowa State University in Ames; and Shanna DeHough of Big Red Barn Soaps & Lotion in Sheldon. The producer panelist also included Rod Van Wyk, Tim Schmidt, Mary Larson and Shanna DeHough.

ISU Extension polled those in attendance.

• From those responding, 57% identified as producers and 34% as hobbyist.

• Respondents represented 2,395 milking goats averaging 7.3 pounds of milk per day, raising 1,220 kids plus farming 2,811 acres to raise feed.

• The average length of time the producers had been milking goats was 13 years with over 55% planning on expanding their business in the next five years.

“From the same survey, we evaluated the increase in the level of understanding for all nine topics and found for both locations the average increase was 0.7 with 52% showing an increase in all areas,” Hall said. “The highest change was for how changes in tax law affects their dairy business.”

According to Hall, plans to adopt a practice or technology as the result of a program is the truest measure of success for Extension programs.

“From each educational presentation we noted seven primary issues and asked attendees their intention to adopt or recommend making that change to their client,” Hall said. “The average committed-to change was 85% with the highest commitments in using standard body condition score for does using Famacha scoring.”

The multiplier effect of participants sharing the information from an educational program is also an important aspect of ISU Extension. From the responses, Hall and his team anticipate an additional 202 people will receive the information from the program, shared by in-person participants.

To evaluate the economic impact the program had on attendees, the survey asked them to estimate the benefit on an annual per milking goat basis, the range was “no benefit to over $50 per goat.” The aggregate benefit for the program was $68,976.

Hall also asked if respondents experienced or had seen indications of personal stress in farm families, and 64% indicated they had and 14% had been prompted to take some action or intervention.

“At the Orange City meeting on Dec. 14, all producers who attended responded that they would like to have a dairy goat field day in 2020,” Hall said. “So look for a field day in 2020. We’re considering several hands-on demonstrations, such as cheesemaking, hoof trimming and breeding and artificial insemination programs.”

Hall also asks any dairy goat producers with an interest in hosting a field day or just attending field days or meetings, to reach out to him. He can be reached at 712-737-4230 or

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.