They are a lot of work!
When we are at events we get so many questions about goats. Where to get them, what kinds, how many, will they clear yards, how much space do they need....it goes on and on.
People see our cute and friendly goats and get excited. This is completely understandable. That is why we are out in the community with our fun and friendly animals.
You should know; however there is a lot to consider before getting some goats.
Here are a few points for a reality check:
How much space? I would suggest 1-3 acres set aside for your animals. Plenty of space makes for happy animals. Having woods nearby for the goats to get fresh leaves is a plus also. You can have a smaller area and feed hay (vs. pasture); but I would rather give plenty of pasture and supplement with hay. Also, too cramped can lead to sickness. The animals poop and pee where they are. Too confined gets dirty very quickly and stinky!
How many goats? I would suggest 3! Definately not 1 solo goat. They are herd animals and need buddies to help keep watch. 3 seems to be a good stable number. If you have less, you risk the goats being nervous and getting sick from stress. Ever have an ulcer, GERD, or Migraines? If so you know all about psycho-somatic stress. Goats get this also!
What kind of fencing? Yes, your goats need fencing to both keep them in and keep predators out. Coyotes, stray dogs, the neighbors dog. If they get out they will eat whatever green things are growing around them, be it honey suckle or your flower garden. Setting up some good field fence to contain them is essential. Either pasture fence or sheep and goat mesh fence is what I use. If you are going to keep pygmy goats you may need to go smaller with 2"x4" mesh horse fence. The saying is if you can throw a bucket of water at it and it goes through then a goat can get out. Big goats can jump over fence and the little ones can just wiggle right through it. Referencing point number 1, if you give them plenty of space they are happy and less likely to get out. Keep them well fed, clean, and building climbly thingies helps also. Some people use portable electric; but for long term I am not comfortable with this.
What kinds of goats? Pets or working animals? Dairy or Meat? If you just want some pets, any goats will do. Pygmies (Nigerian Dwarfs) are popular for this reason. They are fun, high energy, and very friendly if socialized well. You can have goats with less space and less feed. As a working animal they are meat goats and some have success as dairy as well. If you want dairy goats, the more traditional Alpine, Nubian, Saanen, etc. are the larger variety goats. You can get a gallon plus per day when they are in milk. While they do not give as much meat as a meat breed, they can be used for this purpose also. Nubians are a good dual pupose goat for meat and high quality milk. In the end think about why you want the goats and if you want something from them. There are even fiber goats you can sheer! Sheering is a lot of work!
How much work are they? Goats are an every day job! They require fresh food: hay and grain. Clean water daily. Protection from the elements like rain & snow. They get sick. You must learn basic goat veterinary care. If you breed goats you will need to care for babies. If you milk goats you will do this every day. Goats may require medications all hours of the night. They give birth at night sometimes. To take good care of them is a 24/7 on call job. Think about having another kid! (Pun intended)
What if I go on Vacation? It is way more complex than feeding your cat or goldfish. Are you willing to feed my goat grain and/or hay? Depending on your schedule 1-2 times per day. Are you willing to milk my goat? Are you willing to bottle feed my babies? I have a sick goat, are you willing to give shots for 3 days? Finding good help is hard. Vacationing is difficult. Spring Break time is also kidding time. Just make sure they fit your lifestyle.
Is this like your opinion man? Yes, goats are about experience and finding what works for you. Horns or no horns. Grain or pasture only? Hay only? Treating illnesses. Vaccinations. Bottle feed or raise on the doe (mom). I've found that 50% do it one way and 50% do it the other and both seem to be right. Finding what is right for you and sticking with it to make it work seems to be the key.
Lastly; will they clear my land? Yep, they sure will. Think desert. They will eat the bark off your trees and kill them. They will get rid of honey suckle, thorns, and most of the stuff you do not want though too. Be prepared to monitor what they are eating and fence off trees or protect them in some way. Food is food to a goat!
So, in summary, they are a lot of work! Look before you leap. Do not be impulsive about getting goats. Learn about them for a few months and spend time working with them if you can. Volunteer or watch a friends farm for the week. You can't learn to be a parent from reading a book. Life is the best teacher.
All this being said; I love my goats and it is worth it. Then again I do not watch football; so I got to do something with my time!
Thanks for reading: Farmer Rob
Rob Burns is the owner of Good Green Earth Farm