Goats get a lot of hype in the homesteading/farming community. But I wish in the midst of all the posts and articles I’d found on the benefits of goats, someone had taken the time to fill me in on some of the negatives and just some of the “heads up” things about owning goats. So that’s what I’m doing here today!
When we bought our first goat we had been married 4 months and I was 3 months pregnant (hint: Don’t buy baby animals when pregnant!). We were on the way to visit my mom and I happened to see two baby Nubians for sale along the way. Well, we swung by to “look”, fell in love, and took two 3 week old goats on our vacation to my mom’s as well.
Then we got home and realized we had nowhere to put them. So they lived in the pantry while I worked from home. Not a good idea. Baby goats are LOUD! Especially when you just pulled them away from their momma. I would not recommend having them in town.
Thankfully, we had just purchased a 4 acre piece of land on the edge of town, so my husband took a couple days off work to build them a barn to live in until we could get fencing up.
Lesson #1 – Secure EVERYTHING when you own goats
We learned this lesson the hard way. Remember those two baby goats we brought home and built a barn for? Well, we had a pallet leaning up against the wall in the barn that we were going to use as a gate.
One day we came in to feed them and they had knocked that massive heavy pallet over on top of themselves. One goat was sitting there with her head sticking up between two slats. The other one wasn’t so lucky.
Even if you think something is waaay too heavy for a goat to move, secure it.
Lesson #2 – Pay Extra For A Good Fence
When we first got goats we figured a goat is a goat when it comes to breaking down fences, right? Wrong. We have a friend who has Kiko goats (meat) and they are constantly breaking fences, finding holes in them and running off, and basically just being destructive.
We have Nubians, Alpines, & one Lamancha (all diary). They have gotten out of the fence a couple times due to our cows breaking a fence or a fence tie rusting off. But they don’t run off.
Even when our goats have gotten out of the fence, they stayed close to home. They don’t like being too far away from their barn. Meat goats, in my experience, could care less.
You might be thinking, “well that’s a no brainer! Let’s get some dairy goats!” But hold up. Read the rest of this article before you make any quick decisions on owning dairy goats!
Type of Fencing
We have tried several different types of fencing. The one we’ve found that works the best is the rolled sheep fencing. You can get it for $1/linear foot, which is pretty good when it comes to fencing! We use t-posts to secure it alternated with 4×4 wood posts.
You have to be careful with this though if you have baby goats (kids). Young ones love sticking their heads through the openings to eat the grass on the other side of the fence. If you let them grow their horns out, you’ll be pulling stuck goats out of the fence all day long.
So if you plan to breed your goats and don’t/can’t keep a constant eye on the young ones, I’d go with the same fence, just one meant for horses. Like this one. It’s more expensive, but it could save the life of your goats (and your sanity).
Lesson #3 – Worm Your Goats REGULARLY
If your goat is looking really skinny and sickly, chances are it has worms. 9/10 any time our goats are sick, it’s because of worms. If you have your goats in a wooded area you might not have this problem as often, but if they are on pasture you will.
Worms kill goats faster than anything else. I’ve seen goats that died within 24 hours or less. One day they are bouncing around in the field, the next they are dead behind the barn.
We give all our goats a dewormer once a month, whether they look sick or not. When it comes to worms, it’s much better to prevent than to treat.
If your local farm supply store is out of dewormer, we’ve used chewing tobacco. An old time farmer gave us the hint once when we were in a pinch. It worked like a charm! Just get the cheap stuff at your local gas station. It’ll work till you’re able to get some medicine for them.
Lesson #4 – When Owning Goats, Keep Your Goats Friendly
Goats are wild animals. Let’s start with that.
Just like with any other animal, if you aren’t out playing with it every day it’ll start to get skittish. And a skittish goat is NOT fun to catch when it comes time to give it medicine! These animals are masters at evasive manuevers.
I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve ended up spread eagle on the ground after lunging for one of the newer members of the herd.
The good news is, goats have a weak point: food.
They can’t resist a handful of sweet food or grains. So my suggestion, take the time to visit your goats at least once a day if not more often. Bring some treats for them and let them eat out of your hand. This will got a long way to making them friendlier and easier to catch when you need to.
To go along with that, invest in some good, sturdy collars. There will be times when you need to lead them to a new pasture, load them into a trailer to visit the vet, or catch them for a new buyer.
A goat does NOT go where a goat does not want to go. Period.
And generally speaking, if a goat thinks you want it to go somewhere, it wants to go in the opposite direction. So short of picking the goat up and carrying it (I wouldn’t recommend), a collar and lead line are your best friend.
Lesson #5 – Have A Plan For The Milk Before You Start Milking
This is a more recent lesson for us. We were SO excited to finally start milking our goats this summer. We had a buyer for one of our bucklings and finally had two pastures set up so we could split the other kids from the moms in order to start getting milk.
Luckily we have two refrigerators.
Because the amount of milk we got was ridiculous! We only have 4 does we were milking, and it seemed like each day we went out we were getting more and more milk.
By the time we had to call it quits we were getting 1.5 gallons a day (and could have gotten more!) and I had dozens of pint and quart mason jars filled with milk filling up my fridge.
So we made cheese! Spreadable pesto cheese to be exact. It was really fun and easy and we got it to the point that you couldn’t even tell it was made with goat milk instead of cow’s milk. We spread it on crackers and sandwiches. Mmmmm soooo good!
But one can only eat so much of the same cheese for a snack… And since we have yet to master any other form of cheese (though we have wasted about 4 gallons of milk trying to make mozzarella cheese), we turned to trying to sell our milk.
We found one buyer, but with how much our goats were producing, we needed more like 10 buyers!
And thus our milking days came to a close.
At least temporarily. So moral of the story? Know what you’re doing with the milk before you start milking. Because once you start, it’s really hard getting your goats to dry up again, and it looks so painful for them!
So if anyone has any hints on how to help your goats dry up without spending 4 weeks slowly milking them less and less, please let me know!
Overall, owning goats was one of the best decisions we could have made for our family. It got us started on a path towards being more connected to our food. And taught us a lot of lessons and valuable disciplines (like driving out to feed and water them once a day). And seeing our girls playing with the babies…. I mean, what could be better than that??