Have you ever thought about raising goats on your homestead? Goats are one of my favorite animals. They have so much personality and if raised correctly, can be some of the sweetest animals.
Basic Goat Care
Goats absolutely hate getting wet. So you will want to make sure you have adequate shelter for them. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. When we first got goats, they were babies. A large dog house worked perfectly for them. However, they grew up and outgrew that. Luckily for us, it gave us enough time to build them a bigger shed.
Goats are escape artists. I’m sure that they would give Houdini a run for his money! They can fit out tiny holes and jump out of things that you would not think they could.
We once had a buck that had to be separated from the females temporarily. Instead of putting up a new pen, we temporarily put him in a dog kennel. You know, the kind that is 6′ tall. He kept getting out on us and we couldn’t figure it out until one time we saw him. He climbed up the side (I really wish I had gotten a picture) and then jumped out!
A good rule of them is if your cat can get out, then so can your goat. Invest in a good chainlink fence and run a wire on the top and bottom.
You will want to make sure that they have a continuous supply of fresh and clean water.
Despite what everyone says about goats, they are actually very picky eaters. Yes, they do love to put everything in their mouth to try it, but they do not eat it.
Goats are ruminants so the majority of their diet should be from roughage. Things like trees, shrubs, woody plants, hay, and pasture. Sometimes this is not always enough so you may want to supplement with a mineral block and some occasional grain. How much you supplement will depend on what your purpose for your goats is. For example, milk goats will need more supplements than meat goats because they need more energy to produce milk.
Keep in mind that not all mineral is created equal. If you can, get stuff meant for goats. If it’s for sheep and goats, then you will need to supplement copper. Too much copper can be fatal to sheep, so it’s omitted in the stuff meant for both.
Baking Soda is important to always have available. Without it, they could get bloated and possibly die.
You will want to make sure that there are no poisonous plants in their pen. These include plants like Azaleas, Hemlock, Wild Cherry, Members of the laurel family, and many others. Cornell has a more comprehensive list of plants.
Goats love to jump and play around. Give them things like cable spools to be able to jump on. Be sure to move them very far away from the fence line so they don’t accidentally jump out!
You have to trim your goat’s feet every couple of months. There is a slight learning curve to it but it’s pretty easy to learn. You will want to trim the side walls (they are kind of like fingernails) and if needed, the pads of their feet. The worst part is if you accidentally cut too far and make them bleed. It’s a great idea to keep either blood stop powder or corn starch nearby just in case.
Choosing the right breed
There are more than 200 different goat breeds, so we won’t go through them all. The right breed for your homestead will depend on what you are planning on using your goats for.
Goat meat is far leaner than cattle meat. So you will want to keep that in mind if you are planning on using them for meat if a disaster ever strikes.
Dual-purpose Goat Breeds
A dual-purpose goat is one that is equally good at both producing milk and used for meat. There are a few breeds that are good for this.
Pygmy Goats are a miniature breed. They can be used for both milk and meat. Pygmy goats were originally bred to be meat goats but have value as a milk goat also. They are also pretty docile and easy to handle. Pygmy goats have a longer breeding season than most other breeds.
The Nigerian Goat is well suited for hot climates. They produce up to a quart of milk a day. Nigerian goats are also a smaller stature goat like a pygmy. They are a great dual-purpose goat since they can be used for both meat and milk. Nigerian goats are similar to Pygmy goats as they also have a longer breeding season.
Boer goats are the most popular meat goats. They are fast-growing and have great fertility rates. Because of their large and sturdy frame, they are also used as pack goats.
The males and weathers (a castrated male goat) typically weigh between 175 to 275 lbs when they are fully mature.
Tennessee goats are more commonly known as fainting goats. They are considered a novelty because they tip over when startled. They do this because they have a congenital condition called myotonia congenita, which is also known as Thomsen’s disease. This condition causes their muscles to seize up when they’re startled and then they tip over. Despite this, they are a great meat goat and excellent breeders.
Alpine goats are great milking goats. Some have been known to produce up to 2 gallons of milk a day with 3.5% fat content.
Spanish goats are said to have moist and tender meat. They have a medium stocky build making them a great meat goat.
Nubian goats are one of my favorite goat breeds. I absolutely love their floppy ears. They are a great dual-purpose breed. Some of the does produce up to 1 1/2 gallons of milk a day. They also tend to be a large and stocky breed.
Brush goats are actually a mixture of different breeds. They were bred to be extremely hardy and can survive in harsh conditions. It is said that they have really moist meat.
LaMancha goats have extremely small ears. People that aren’t familiar with the breed may think that you cut their ears on purpose. It is said that they are incredibly docile with pet-like qualities. Despite their appearances, they have a high milk fat content of 4.2%.
This is one of the hardiest of the meat breeds. They are native to New Zealand and were introduced to America in the 1990s. Their meat is very similar to the boar goat.
Saanen goats are often compared to Holstein goats. They produce up to a gallon of milk a day and are the largest of the dairy goat breeds. They are mild-mannered and although not as common, can be used as a meat breed also.
Rangeland goats are an Australian meat goat. They are wide, tall, and have short hair. They do very well in hot climates. Rangeland goats are often cross-bred with Boer goats to produce a heavily meaty animal.
Oberhasli goats are a native to Switzerland and produce 1 1/2 gallons of rich and creamy milk with a milk fat content of 3.6%. They are a smaller build goat and their meat is not very moist.
Sable goats are typically used as milk goats but can be used as meat goats as well. When full-grown, they average out to be around 145lbs. They are an offshoot of the Saanen goat breed. Their milk fat content is about 3-4%.
Black Bengal goats are very hard to find in the United States. They are a great dual-purpose goat although they are often used mostly for their meat.
Angora goats are popular animals for their soft fiber hair. It is softer than sheep wool. You will want to make sure you shear them once or twice a year. Keep in mind that if you only sheer once a year, the fiber will be more matted the next time you sheer.
A pygora is a cross between a pygmy and an angora goat. The result is a goat that is smaller in size like a pygmy but also has fiber hair like angora. Just like the Angora goats, you will want to make sure you shear them once or twice a year.
Why Goats are a good animal to have on your Homestead
Suitable for Small Areas
They only need about 250 square feet per animal. Remember that goats are very social animals so you will need at least 2 unless you are planning on spending a ton of time with it.
As long as you watch what they eat and how you handle the milk, goat milk can taste very good. Although sometimes a goat can have bad-tasting milk no matter what you do. I have issues drinking cows milk because it makes me sick, but I have no problem drinking goats milk. Some goats can produce up to 2 gallons of milk a day.
Goat meat is often referred to as one of the healthiest red meats.
I will admit that I have never tasted goat meat. We had every intention of it, but after bottle-feeding the babies, we grew too attached. If I bought a goat that I didn’t have an attachment to, I would totally try it!
Goats love eating brush so they are amazing for clearing land. On average it takes 10 goats about a month to clear an acre of land. Be sure to check with your local authorities on the local regulations to avoid any problems with animal welfare ordinances.
I have seen my fair share of mean goats. However, when raised correctly, they are one of the most loving creatures. We had an older goat that we would allow to wander around the yard. When I would come home, she would see my car, get all excited, and start running toward the car before I even parked it.
Why Goats are a Bad Idea to have on your homestead
As with most animals, you need to trim their hoofs. It is actually pretty easy to learn how to do yourself, but it is time-consuming and hard on your back.
Their Amazing Ability to Escape Fences
Goats can escape things that you wouldn’t think they can.
Goats are very susceptible to parasites. Because of this, it is very important to make sure that they get worked on a regular schedule.
If you don’t want to have to take your does somewhere every time you want them bred, you will have to keep a buck. Bucks can be very smelly during the breeding season. They pee all over themselves to make them smell all pretty for the females. Typically, the more they smell, the more females like them.
Destruction of all landscaping
Just like they are great at clearing land, they are just as good about destroying your gorgeous landscape that you worked so hard at. As long as you have a great fence you should be fine though.
Having goats can be a great addition to your homestead. You can get hair fiber, meat, milk, and tons of enjoyment out of them. Be sure to do your research before buying a goat any buy one from a quality line.