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So, You Want to Be a Goat Owner…Things You Should Know

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Getting a goat isn’t as simple as bringing one home and leaving it to roam your backyard. Even if you’ve been a lifelong pet owner, it’s essential to keep in mind that goats have different and unique needs from other common pets.

Many problems that new goat owners face can be avoided if you have the right information before you buy your first goats. Here are a few things to think about before you make the commitment to become a goat owner.

Where will your goats live?

The type of fencing or pen you choose will be dependent on the size and breed of goat you are getting. Goats are very active and can be hard to contain. Also, consider how much space you will need. It is recommended to have at least 200 square feet of outside exercise space per goat, and at least 10 to 15 square feet of inside sheltered space per goat. You may need more space depending on the size of goats you choose – these figures are guidelines for miniature or dwarf goats. Keep in mind that in limited space, there will not be much food naturally available, so you will need to provide hay for the goats.

What will your goats eat?

Goats can be picky eaters with easily upset digestive systems. Protein, fiber, and minerals such as copper, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and thiamine are but a few of the critical elements essential to health and reproduction.

Goats are what are known as ruminants. This means that they should consume mostly roughage like woody plants and shrubs. They should also be able to forage on hay and pasture. To keep goats healthy, offer a supplement of coarse grain goat feed. Of course, water is also essential; goats should have access to an adequate supply of freshwater at all times.

Goats also require hay, especially in colder months. Be sure to have a dry place to store hay throughout the rainy and winter months. A veterinarian familiar with goats can also help you develop the best nutritional plan for your goats.

 How will you keep your goats entertained?

Keeping them in a limited area means your goats will need to be taken out to get more exercise. Did you know you can take goats on hikes? Make sure to account for the time you will need to spend helping your goats get enough activity.

You will also need to provide toys such as log, stumps, tires, and other things for goats to climb on and explore. Goats get bored and lonely when alone, and a lonely goat will be a noisy goat because they will call for a companion. Be sure to have space and resources for at least two goats.

You will need to keep your goats protected and healthy

Each goat owner should find out the predators in their area and purchase livestock guardian animals that fit their needs budget. In addition to livestock, guardian dogs, donkeys, and llamas can be used successfully for this vital job.

Goats also need to be kept free of parasites. Medications can be used against parasites, but these can contribute to resistance. Some goat owners have had success with herbal deworming techniques. Either way, you will have a much lower risk of parasites if you can rotate your goats through different pastures, if you have space. Chickens may also help limit parasite levels and reduce the frequency of deworming needed.

Be sure to ask your vet what health supplies you should stock at home ahead of time, in case of any animal health emergencies.

What type of goats would you like to get?

Before getting goats, you should think about what you would like to use them for. Goats can be raised for milk, meat, fiber, or simply kept as pets. Depending on your intended purpose, certain breeds will be more suitable. You may also want to breed goats and raise them for sale or raise goats for shows or competitions.

Keep in mind that your goat breed should suit your climate as well as your goals. Goats prefer drier weather with under 25 inches of rainfall per year, but some breeds are more adaptable to different conditions.

The gender of your goats is also an important consideration. Castrated males, called wethers, are the best low-maintenance pets. Intact males have stinky urine and a strong mating drive that makes them difficult to handle. If you want to have goats for producing milk and cheese, you will need to look into breeding females. Either way, make sure that your goats are used to humans and have been handled since they were young; otherwise, they can be somewhat feral.

Rember, there are many things to consider before getting goats, and raising them is not as easy as looking after a dog or cat. When deciding whether goats are right for you, try chatting with other local goat owners and vets, and read books catered to your chosen style of goat-keeping. The more research, the better!

-Susan Patterson

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