So you have a flock of chickens, an ever-expanding vegetable garden, and you are well on your way towards increasing your self-sufficiency and sustainability. But what about goats? You often see them on lists of the best “homestead animals,” and fresh, raw milk would be nice too, right? Before you start researching the nearest goat breeder and building an enclosure, there are a few things you need to consider.
Know the terminology
Before you buy goats, you must speak the language of goat breeders. Baby goats are known as kids, adult males are bucks, females are does, and neutered males are wethers.
Local laws may not allow them
Check laws in your area to make sure that goats are permitted. Many neighborhoods and towns will not allow goats because they can be destructive if they escape.
Goats serve different purposes
If you want goats for the joy of having goats (totally understandable) or to want them to keep your grass under control, then you can cross a lot of things off your list, and you should get a few wethers and call it a day. If you want to use goat milk to make cheese, lotion, or to drink, you will need a buck and a doe and a way to keep them separate when it is not breeding season. Meat goats will also have different requirements, so keep that in mind as you brainstorm.
There’s a difference between mini and standard
Common standard breeds such as Nubian or Alpine, can weigh between 100 and 200 lbs., while mini-goats like the pygmy and Nigerian dwarf will usually get no bigger than 100 pounds. These small breeds are popular in urban homesteads because they usually fall under the weight limit for backyard livestock. Plus, they are easier to handle and transport, if needed.
They need room to roam
A single miniature goat will need at least 135 square feet of space to play and roam around, while a standard size goat will need double the room. As you add more goats to your herd, you will need to expand the space accordingly.
They are very social
A bored goat is a destructive goat. These animals can get extremely lonely and need a friend to play with, cuddle with, and keep them company. Always have at least two goats at a minimum.
Goats can live a long time
Your goat could live up to 15 years or longer, so you must understand the commitment you are making when you choose to purchase goats. It is not incredibly simple to rehome goats either, especially wethers, so make sure that you are prepared to handle their seemingly boundless energy for longer than a few years.
Fencing is key
If a goat can escape from an enclosure, it will. Even if you think they shouldn’t be able to, they always somehow seem to find a way. They will often use extreme athletic talent to escape their pen, simply because they are bored or just because they can. Invest in tall panels, or other fencing specifically recommended for goats. Talk to goat owners to get their best advice on fencing and don’t slack on quality to save money…it will cost you in the end.
They’ll eat everything
Goats will eat any and all foliage. Closely examine any plants on your property (yes, even outside the enclosure) and get rid of anything that could prove harmful to your new, hoofed friends.
Goats need shelter
Though goats are pretty hardy, they need some shelter to keep them protected from the elements during the hottest and coldest days of the year. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be very sturdy and able to withstand the weight of your goats traipsing on the roof. Yes, they’ll probably end up on the roof…somehow.
You’ll spend a lot of time with them
Goats can be incredible friends and companions and can even be trained to walk on a leash or come when called. Spend lots of time with your goats when they’re young to help get them accustomed to being handled and make any milking or vaccinating easier. Prepare to lose hours simply staring at the goat pen because they are just so darn fun to watch.
If you have goats, what do you wish you learned before you got them? Let us know in the comments below!