You might be interested in getting goats for any number of reasons, including property tax exemption, weed control, 4H or FFA projects, homesteading, pets, etc…
When thinking about getting goats, there are some important things that you should consider.
- What kind of goats
- Protection from predators
- Access to forage and hay
- Veterinary care
1. What kind of goat is right for you and your lifestyle?
What type of goat do you want? Do you want goats for milk, fiber or meat? Some breeds are even considered dual purpose or all-purpose, but they have been specialized for one of the above.
Also, do you want boys or girls? Wethers (castrated males) make great pets. If you want to breed and plan to have intact males and females, they’ll need to be penned separately. Some breeds of goats are fertile as young as 8 weeks old and breeding at this age can be deadly for the doe as she is not large enough to birth kids. Breeding is not suggested until does are at least a year old. Bucks can be stinky in the fall during breeding season. They like to perfume themselves with their own urine to attract the ladies.
There are 3 basic groups of goats, including dairy, fiber, and meat.
Considerations: Does have to be a year old before bred and then it’s 5 months gestation before you can have milk
Special care: Milking one to two times per day is a time commitment
Common breeds: Alpine, Anglo-Nubian (Nubian), Lamancha, Nigerian Dwarf, Oberhasli, Saanen, Toggenburg
Considerations: They need to be shorn twice a year. This is pretty easily done by yourself with clippers or shears.
Special care: Just trying to keep their fleece clean can be difficult if you have a lot of burs or stickers
Common breeds: Angora, Cashmere
Considerations: If you have a hard time with the thought of goats you raise getting processed for meat, this may not be the best choice
Special care: Easy – They are pretty much set with just food, water and shelter
Common breeds: Boer, Kiko, Kinder, Pygmy, Savanna, Spanish, Myotonic (Fainting goat)
Goats need to be provided shelter from the weather. What type of housing they need might depend on where you live. Goats in warmer climates may just need a three-sided shelter that provides shade, wind block and a place to get out of the rain. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll need a more weather-proof shelter. Bedding should always be provided.
Things to consider are protection from:
Additional shelter considerations should include:
- Ease of cleaning: soiled bedding will need to be removed
- Ventilation: poorly ventilated shelters can cause respiratory issues
- Direction or facing of shelter: which direction does the wind and rain blow?
Goats are escape artists and there’s a saying that goes, “If water can go through it, so can a goat.” While this is an exaggeration, goats are pretty resourceful at finding weakness in your fence line. A no-climb type fence works best. There is welded wire which is less expensive but not as durable as woven wire. Goats climb and push against welded wire and break the tiny welds over time. Also, welded wire bends and doesn’t return to its original shape.
Some people choose to run a line or two of electric fence near the bottom third and/or across the top. This can prevent goats from testing the fence and also keep dogs or predators from pushing under or jumping over the fence.
4. Protection from predators
Goats are a prey animal. No matter where you live, there are predators. Domestic dogs can often be the biggest threat in urban or suburban areas.
Predators for goats include:
- Large predatory birds such as eagles, hawks, owls
- Wild cats such as bobcats, mountain lions or cougars, lynx
5. Access to forage and hay
Most goats will need access to hay in addition to what is available in their pen, unless they are on acreage with ample browse (trees, weeds, bushes, grasses). Also, certain breeds or life stages require feed, such as young goats, lactating/nursing does, and does at the end of their gestation.
6. Goats need hoofcare
Hooves should be trimmed on a regular basis, approximately every 2-6 weeks. Trimming hooves is easy to do and hoof clippers are sold in most farm, ranch and feed stores. How fast a goat’s hooves grow varies by season, feeding program, rocky ground vs sandy soil, and other factors.
7. veterinary care
Many veterinarians do not treat goats or don’t have much experience with goat care and treatment. Do some research and find a veterinarian near you that has experience with and is willing to offer veterinary care for your goats. Ask what experience they have and talk to other goat owners nearby for veterinarian referrals.
Many medications are not labeled for goats and many are prescription only. Finding and establishing a client patient relationship with a veterinarian is crucial to the health of your herd.
Quick Facts About Goats
Goats are browsers.
They love trees, leaves, bushes, and weeds. They don’t typically graze like horses.
Goats like to climb.
They will climb on whatever objects are available to them including benches, cars, platforms, trees, etc.
They have a pecking order.
Like horses, goats will establish a hierarchy. The dominant female in the herd is called a “queen”.
Goats are herd animals.
They do best with goat companions. You shouldn’t own just one goat as they will be really lonely and won’t thrive.
Bucks and does should be kept separate.
Bucks can and will breed beginning around 8 weeks old. You should wean bucklings and separate them at this time. It is extremely dangerous for does to be bred at a young age and can result in death of the doe. Does can get pregnant as young as 3 months old.
reasons you SHOULDN’T get goats
- Your property zoning prohibits goats
- You like to travel often and don’t have a reliable farm/pet sitter
- You have very young children and you want them to learn responsibility but aren’t willing to do the work yourself
- You have dogs that you are unwilling to keep separate from your goats
- You don’t have the financial ability to provide medical care when needed
Buck – a male goat with reproductive organs intact
Doe – a female goat
Kid – a baby goat
Doeling – a female baby goat, usually under a year old
Buckling – a male baby goat under a year old
Wether – a castrated male goat, unable to breed
Kidding – when a female goat has babies
Freshening – when a dairy goat kids or has babies, replenishing her milk supply
Junior doe – a female goat that is under two years old and has never had babies
Senior doe – a doe that has had babies
FF – first freshener, a doe that has had babies for the first time
Yearling – a goat that is one year old
Disbudded – a goat that has had their horn buds cauterized so they will not grow horns
Polled – a goat that has no horns, this is a genetic trait
Dry – the doe is not currently producing milk
In milk – the doe is currently producing milk
Dam raised – a kid that was raised by its mother, not bottle raised
Bottle baby – a kid that was raised by bottle feeding, not by its mother