Getting any dairy animals is a very big commitment. However, I believe that they are a valuable part of your livestock preparedness. Even more importantly I believe goats are the best dairy animals for the survivalist.
Here are my reasons to recommend goats over cows for a survival situation:
1. A dairy goat is about one fifth the cost of a dairy cow.
2. Five goats can be fed one the same amount it takes to feed one cow.
3. If your your one cow dies you are out of luck. But the odds of losing all your goats is small.
4. Goats browse rather than graze and can make use of a wider variety of forage.
5. Goats are easier to handle
6. Because of their smaller size, goats are less likely to cause injuries or damage fences. Getting stepped on by a goat is trivial. Getting stepped on by a cow is not.
The downside is that it will take more time to milk five goats than to milk one cow. You’ll have to get five animals in and out of the stanchion, Wash five udders, milk five does (female goats), strip five udders, etc. But I really believe that the benefits of having the insurance of multiple dairy animals far outweighs the extra effort.
The main drawback is that the cream does not separate readily in goats milk so that you will not be able to skim the cream off. And therefore you will not be able to make butter. On the other hand, goat milk is much easier to digest, and many people who cannot drink cow’s milk can drink goats milk. And of course you can use goat’s milk to make yogurt, cream cheese, hard cheese, and ice cream, as well as use it in recipes just like cows milk.
As I mentioned earlier dairy animals are a big commitment. This is because they are traditionally milked twice a day, at the same time every day. Perhaps your current schedule doesn’t allow for this? There are ways to get around this and still being prepared. You could for instance milk in the morning but let the kids nurse during the day. You could also have a small herd that you do not milk at all, but instead just let them raise offspring until your family needs the milk. Or maybe have a small herd but don’t even breed them until TEOTWAWKI . (Needless to say, they will not produce milk if they do not give birth.).
For greater detail on raising goats, I recommend the book: Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats: Breeds, Care, Dairying by JD Belanger.