Forget Dogs. This Woman’s New Best Friends Earn Her $10,000/Year

September 22, 2016
by Christie Post
Contributor

When Pam Lunn lost her high-paying corporate job in the ‘90s, she bought a goat as a pet — long before it was cool.

Lunn calls her goat her “mid-life crisis.”

“Just like a dog they stick [their] nose underneath your hand,” she says. “They love cookies, Doritos, Tostitos.”

It’s not just Lunn’s goat that’s particularly friendly — new research from Queen Mary University of London suggests goats are just as clever and affectionate as dogs.

Goats: From a Pet to a Small Business

Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

A volunteer milks a goat at The Dancing Goat in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 8, 2016. Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

With milk prices reaching nearly $4 a gallon in 2001, Lunn had a “Eureka!” moment: Why not drink the raw goat milk to save money?

Lunn’s young children begin to drink it and they liked it, too.

So she started The Dancing Goat in Tampa — on a budget of less than $100.

Her farm grew and so did the number of goats. Her latest count after starting the business 15 years ago? Eighty.

The goats are named after coffee, flowers, animals and even the people who helped birth them.

“This is Mochachino and her daughter Frappuccino,” Lunn says as she walks into her barn, where she’s greeted by two of her goats.

Lunn treats them like lap dogs. Kneeling down, they give her kisses one by one.

“All right girls, you happy?” she says. “I love you.”

Goats: Not Your Typical Pet

Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

A goat plays in the playground at The Dancing Goat in Tampa, Fla., on Friday July 8, 2916. Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

This isn’t your typical pet. Dogs are expensive — raising a fur ball could cost you $3,000 in the first year, according to the American Kennel Club.

At least a goat can make you money — as Lunn has found out. She sells goat milk, soap, cheese and yogurt at farmer’s markets and local stores.

It’s not easy, though — it takes an army. Lunn’s farm has 35 team members, most of whom are volunteers and students from local chapters of the Future Farmers of America.

Her team helps tend to her goats. Each goat needs to be milked twice a day. Teamwork makes the dream work!

“We work on peanuts and praise,” she says, laughing.

I wouldn’t call the price of raw goat milk “peanuts,” though. Customers pay $12 per gallon. I know — sticker shock!

The farm has regulars, but you never know who will show up to buy some. While I was at the farm, Joshua Maria, a traditional Catholic missionary, rolled up on his scooter — long robe and all.

Maria found the farm on realmilk.com. He has strong feelings about store-bought milk: “You are better off drinking white paint.”

Lunn claims it takes $85,000 a year to run the farm, and she makes close to $10,000 in profit.

Even though her farm makes money, Lunn says, it’s a challenge to make ends meet. Her husband is on disability, which brings in some extra income.

Lunn says thankfully the family had paid off their home before she lost her job, which makes it possible for them to operate the farm.

She survives by following this motto: “Recycle, reuse and repurpose.” Once a week she goes to Goodwill to buy used restaurant and milking equipment. She also barters with her veterinarian, grocery stores and farmers for hay and other supplies.

Occasionally she’ll receive donations. The best one so far? A restaurant-grade cooler for the milk.

Got (Goat) Milk?

Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

Baby goats say hello at The Dancing Goat in Tampa, Fla., on Friday July 8, 2016. Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

A dairy goat costs about $100, according to Mother Earth News. The goat’s raw milk can keep you healthy. In fact, it can be much more easily digested by some people than other forms of milk.

And you don’t have to have an entire goat farm to reap the benefits of this relationship. Just one goat can provide your family with raw milk for a couple of years.

It saves you money because you don’t have to buy the milk yourself. Plus you can sell the excess milk. Hello side gig!

If you have overgrown weeds, problem solved! Goats are living weed wackers. Their chompers can cut through grass like a lawnmower, improving the soil and decreasing the risk of fire.

Are you the outdoorsy type? Your new friend can carry your belongings.

And children can learn from raising the animal as a 4-H project.

It’s an investment that pays off and loves you back.

The Next Generation of Farmers

Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

Pam Lunn holds chickens at The Dancing Goat in Tampa, Fla., on Friday July 8, 2916. Heather Comparetto / The Penny Hoarder

Lunn mentors the next generation of farmers, including the FFA students who volunteer on her farm. Someday she hopes her children, who are now adults, will take the reins.

Until then she’ll keep milking. Her favorite part?

“Just walking out and being loved in the morning,” she says.

“Our milk is pretty good, too,” she adds.

Your Turn: Would you buy a goat to make extra money?

by Christie Post
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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