Choosing the right live stock is one of the first steps of creating a proper homestead. Choosing between goats and sheep can be most confusing as their differences might not be that apparent to inexperienced eyes. So, if you are struggling to choose between goats or sheep for homestead then this article may give you some closure.
If you have to choose just one, goats are the better option for your homestead. Sheep and goats are both important assets to have on any homestead, but the choice between them often depends upon your preferences. Sheep can be difficult work with at times because they tend to be flighty creatures who don’t like being held or touched by humans; this isn’t such a problem for farmers that simply want wool from their flock. Goats, as intelligent animals, will require more of an effort when it comes to training them than sheep do – however in return you’ll receive meat (sometimes), milk production if bred correctly during mating season has passed, mohair which is valuable textile fiber used for making fabric** and other textiles****.
If you want to make an informed decision, you can find more details if you just keep reading.
Goats vs. Sheep – Which Is Better for Homesteading?
Whichever option you choose, it’s going to benefit you ultimately. But it also depends on the facilities you have at your homestead and the efforts you’re willing to invest.
Sheep are perfect for small homesteads in the rural area. They’re straightforward to deal with besides being smart and intelligent. Moreover, they suffer from fewer illnesses compared to goats. They’re relatively more docile than goats, who happen to be the king of troublemakers.
Besides, sheep will always eat grass as they are grazers. Goats will also turn to grass, but not with the consistency of sheep. They will also prefer to eat shrubs, twigs, and other leafy greens. You won’t be successful trying to keep them off of anything in their line of sight. Fortunately, that also includes weeds!
Sheep, on the other hand, will mostly eat grass except for areas on which they relieve themselves.
You will hardly find a day without commotion with goats around. They make incredible companions and care a lot for their owners. However, they are a master of the art of escaping and try to jump over your fence. So, you’ll also have to keep fencing costs in mind if you choose to get goats for your homestead.
With sheep you have to keep their wool sheered in the summer to keep them from overheating. But goats can’t stand wet places, so you’ll need special shelters for these animals too. Sheep are typically scared of new people and environments, due to this fact they don’t like being held or restrained either.
So, you’ll find better comfort in handling goats in this situation. That includes vaccination, deworming, and trimming the nails. Plus, the dairy products and meat of goats are healthy and have a lot of demand. My advice is to calculate the operational costs, housing facilities, and other costs. Determine your objectives and goals and make the right decision.
Things to Consider Before Choosing One
To speak the truth, between goats and sheep which would be best for you completely depends on your personal needs and available resources. So, here are a few things to consider before deciding on any one of them –
1. What Are Your Goals?
Your goals are essential determinants of what you’re going to choose between goats or sheep for homestead. You have to do some research on the market. There are so many profitable products you can get from both the livestock options.
Goat meat does have demand in the market and good nutritional value. They have lower cholesterol compared to lamb meat. It also has lower levels of calories and saturated fat. Besides, it’s even cheaper. Again, goat meat is the healthiest option for red meat.
However, lamb meat is very on-demand in the market as well. There are already niche markets for lamb meat besides being more tender and expensive. It has less fat compared to mature sheep meet, called mutton. But mutton is packed with more assertive flavours than lamb. It may also have a bit of a fatty smell.
The taste differs from breed to breed of the animals. So, you’ll get several benefits from goat meat as most people aren’t familiar with mature mutton meat that you can get from sheep. However, people are very familiar with lamb meat, so you’ll get a good deal of profit from it.
Plus, the taste also depends on how one cooks the meat. You can raise both goats and sheep for meat.
Fibre and Wool
Undoubtedly, you can get good profits from the fibers of goats and sheep. It is also a critical factor to consider. Some sheep breeds can be dual purpose, meaning they’ll give both meat and wool. Your goal also defines which animal you’ll choose from and what species.
Fibre goats can produce premium quality fibre besides a woolly sheep. Natural fibers are environment-friendly, ethical, and biodegradable. They have several uses in the market, so you should consider the livestock’s purpose before choosing.
In terms of dairy products, goats have a more advanced milk yield. Their milk is healthy and luscious. Although sheep do make tasty household dairy products, they don’t produce them as often as goats.
However, sheep milk is more digestible for humans and ideal for cheese production. It contains more solids than goat milk. Moreover, it is a more expensive option in the market as it is healthier with smaller fat and protein molecules.
Besides, it’s a tasty substitute for people who can’t tolerate cow’s milk. It’s richer in calcium and other minerals. So, if you want healthier dairy products from your livestock, you should consider going for sheep.
2. How Much Land Do You Have?
If you have a small homestead, it’s best if you reared fewer animals. Sheep will sustain under most weather conditions. However, I can’t say the same for goats. Goats are inherent trouble makers, so they will explore everywhere and possibly trample on gardens or eat pretty flowers.
You can rear six to ten sheep in one acre of grass. For 100 sheep, you need 30 acres of pasture. If you have more land, you can accommodate more sheep. So this is an essential factor to consider when you make a decision.
You’ll find a similar calculation for goats as well. However, you can’t accommodate as many goats in one acre of grass as you can for sheep. In one acre, you can keep six to eight goats.
It’s best if you chose one of the two if you have limited space. You also have to consider additional sheltering facilities like fences, protection from wind, and sheds. As mentioned before, goats are intolerable of wet weather. But sheep are unaffected by that most times.
While you consider how many land’s you can accommodate for your homestead, you also have to consider the nature of your terrain. Goats are suitable for uneven and rocky landscapes, while sheep are most comfortable on bare and grassy lands. Sheep can be contained quickly, while goats will always try to jump over the fences.
3. Feeding Goats Is More Difficult
Sheep are organic lawn-mowers and will graze your homestead while keeping it tidy. A healthy pasture will also guarantee the happiness of your sheep. Moreover, they won’t consume the grass on which they defecate.
Goats, on the contrary, are browsers. They will consume all sorts of greens. Moreover, they also love roughage and will eat leaves and twigs from trees and bushes before turning towards the grass. Weeds are no exception to their diet.
4. Goats Are Brilliant Escape Artists
You will need sturdy and robust fences to keep your livestock safe as well as contain them. Threats exist for both sheep and goats, but goats are comically also threatening to themselves. Let me explain.
As mentioned before, they love to escape. They are madly attracted to what lies beyond fences, so they’ll likely jump over it and try to venture. Most people say that even though goats are affectionate companions, handling them is like taking care of teenagers.
They love making trouble and always get caught too. You certainly won’t have relaxing days with them around. So you’ll need firm fencing and sturdy ones at that also. Moreover, there have been instances where goats have tried to jump over fences and ended up getting electrocuted.
On the other hand, sheep are more prone to danger from predators outside the fence. However, you can get trained guardian dogs or any other animals like donkeys or llamas to keep them safe inside. Dogs will do an excellent job of guarding them. So, consider the costs of maintaining a dog too.
Therefore, you have to consider the building and maintenance costs of the fences too. It has to be robust and sturdy if you choose to keep goats. Despite being sturdy, goats might find a weak spot and exploit it. On the other hand, you get a dog to guard your sheep and cut down fencing costs by a lot.
For sheep, you can smooth non-electric wires. However, electric wires will also do fine. For goats, you will need smooth and high electric wires. If you don’t have high fences, make sure you climb-proof the roof to prevent them from jumping.
Wooden fences and chain-linked fences will also do fine. Moreover, stockade panels will also serve a useful purpose in fencing. Make sure not to keep any gap in your fence or keep the goat house near the fence’s perimeter. You’ll risk an escape performance from the goats. However, happy goats don’t flee.
5. Breeding and Shearing
Breeding sheep is not tricky. However, breeding goats do come with their fair share of challenges. Breeding sheep are easier than goats. However, they produce more babies than sheep. Some species will make two to four babies per year. But most sheep give only one to two babies per year.
A goat can conceive two times per year with two babies in each pregnancy. However, if you want dairy products, you’re going to have to breed female goats. That includes dealing with male goats called bucks. It’s more challenging to deal with bucks than rams because of several reasons. But more on that later.
I think I should note that even though Sheep have few babies per pregnancy it is also the same reason why they have fewer birth complications than goats. So, this can be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask.
You have to shear your sheep two times every year. If you’re raising fibre goats, then you’ll also have to shear them twice a year. This is the case for Angora goats. It’s usually done in early spring, and the beginning of fall will maximize the fibre. However, cashmere is combed and plucked.
For sheep, it’s best if you used electric sheep shears, and for goats, a pair of scissors or hand shears will do an excellent job of shearing. It does require some skill, so make sure to use the correct tools for it.
6. Housing Facilities
You’ll have to think extensively about how you’re going to house your livestock because it will eminently add to your overall budget and costs. Remember to consider your comfort levels because you’ll be spending quite a part of your day there.
You don’t need refined housing for the sheep and goats. Please make sure they’re safe and not confined all the time closely. Rotate your livestock and have a shelter to protect them from wind, predators, and rain. A shed with three walls will be adequate.
Keep the shed and their bearings dry and clean. Make an individual and isolated space for birth and injured livestock.
7. Buck vs. Ram
Bucks are male goats and very tricky to handle. They like to urinate on their faces during breeding season. Moreover, they’ll also put their heads in the urine streams of other goats. Ugh, how disgusting! They’re also very aroused most of the time and perform specific” actions” on themselves rather than, um, females.
Rams aren’t that difficult to deal with. If you still want goats for your homestead but don’t want to deal with bucks, you can artificially inseminate the females. This will add to your operational costs.
8. Deworming and Smell
Goats are more sensitive to worms, and they’ll need herbal or chemical treatments. Sheep are not prone to intestinal worms, so you won’t have to deal with the worms regularly.
Moreover, goats are stinky animals. Especially in the breeding season, all goats smell. You’ll have to get milk soaps to get rid of the odor.
You need to castrate lambs within 12 weeks of birth. They’re castrated because female lamb meat adds to its flavors. It also reduces aggressive behavior and unwarranted pregnancies. You’ll only need one single male for breeding, even for an enormous herd.
Goats are very sex-crazed, so they will most certainly disrupt the lives of lactating goats. Moreover, as with the lambs, their meat will also not taste good if they’re not castrated within a few months of their birth. Fortunately, it’s easier and not as painful as you’d think.
Which Is More Profitable?
Many factors come into play that affects the rate of profits from rearing livestock. Most people say goats are marginally more profitable, though they will make you work for it. Some of these factors are the price of meat, dairy products, operational costs, maturity, offspring, and many more. Here are a few.
Goats only take 300 days to mature on average, but sheep will develop in 390 days. However, sheep sell more than goats. Their dairy products, meat, wool will give you a good deal.
The primary food of both goats and sheep is grass. But they do require some supplementary feeding for winter and if you want to keep them healthy. Sheep need more supplementary food for the goats. Goats know most of the time what’s right for them, so they’ll make good choices regarding their nutrition.
Offspring, Milk, and Wool
As I’ve mentioned before, goats will produce more offspring and milk. They also mature faster. A goat can lactate for ten months, but a sheep will lactate for only eight months. Generally, a sheep can produce about two liters of milk daily while a goat can give double of that.
So, goats or sheep for homestead – which should you choose? For me, it’s definitely goats. They are way more loveable and just easier to handle overall. But only you can choose which would be best for you.
If you’re a first-timer and want to choose livestock for your homestead, you’re now aware of how many factors contribute to your decision. You’ll have to care for their specific needs all the time. You will need a clear plan for making profits and farming them. Undoubtedly, you’ll get there if you are serious about rearing livestock and love it.