Goat LoversRaising goats can be a rewarding experience or one fraught with frustration. Goats are one of the first steps beyond raising small livestock but the process should be treated with respect. Namely, research and a thorough understanding of the needs and requirements of having goats (they are social animals and need a companion.) That being said, goats have a way of charming and delighting their keepers with their engaging personalities and amusing antics and you may find yourself becoming a goat lover for life.
Basic Care and Set UpHaving an understanding of what goats need in their care and set up will prevent frustration and potential heartbreak. Goats are very intelligent, curious, and often mischievous creatures who often need to be protected from their most basest instincts.
The most basic and essential need before acquiring goats is a sturdy and goat proof fence. Goats can climb and they can crawl. Fences that are not taut and secure will often fail under the continuous scrutiny and testing of a goat herd. Remember the movie Jurassic Park? Goats test fences just as the Velocioraptors did, searching for systematic weaknesses they can exploit. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about the goats escaping and eating your family but you do have to worry about the injury and potential death that awaits your goat on the other side of the secure fence.
Dogs find goats hard to resist and there are many heart breaking stories of escaped goats meeting their untimely deaths at the paws of neighborhood pets. For most small-scale or subsistence efforts, a net wire fence is adequate. If you have a large breed such as Nubians, it can be beneficial to top the net wire fence with a single strand of barbed wire. Make sure you do not select a net wire where the goats can stick their heads through because horned goats can become trapped and victims of passing predators.
Other than secure fencing, goats need adequate feed and plenty of fresh water to drink. Although goats have been known to eat clothes, some types of metal, and other scrap, do not feed them as a matter of course. They are famous for their ability to forage and can be excellent in clearing brush or blackberry brambles. They actually prefer brush and trees to grass and can strip trees of bark and decimate an orchard.
In addition, goats should be supplied a good quality grass hay and unless they have access to a large fenced plot of brambles and pasture, they need to be supplemented with a high quality grain feed. A supplement of minerals will help ensure your goat’s nutritional needs are adequately satisfied. Most goat feed supplies can be found at any local farm and feed store.
Choosing the Right BreedPrior to deciding on the breed of goat you want, it is important to note that as with all livestock, goats can be subject to diseases. Choosing healthy stock is the best way to prevent future disease or parasite infestations. It is often a good idea to seek out someone with experience to help you in selecting your primary stock as they will have a better idea of what to look for. Ask the breeder or person selling the stock whether they have received their vaccinations or whether they have been wormed. In general, a goat should:
- Have clear and bright eyes (their pupils are rectangular.)
- A smooth and shiny coat.
- Good appetite and drinking water regularly.
- A bright affect, curious disposition, and alert demeanor.
Now that you have determined the goats are healthy, let’s review the common goat breeds to consider for your homesteading efforts. There are two different types, dairy and meat goats, with breeding respective to either purpose.
Nubian – a popular dairy goat, Nubians come in a variety of colors and patterns. In ideal settings, a Nubian can produce over 3,000 lbs of milk a year (4.8 percent butterfat). They are also meatier than other dairy breeds and many people raise them as dual purpose.
LaMancha – a petite dairy goat, LaMancha goats produce 1,050 – 3,000 lbs of milk a year at 3.9 percent butterfat. They are sometimes seen with “elf ears” or no external ear flaps at all.
Boer – One of the most popular meat breeds is the Boer. They can get up to 350 lbs for bucks and mature quickly, often bearing twins or triplets in breeding.