Many hobby farmers enjoy keeping goats.
This may be due to their quirky personalities, their relatively low cost of upkeep and also their practical uses, such as providing milk, fiber and meat.
If you are considering introducing these intelligent little rascals onto your farm, see below for information on necessary goat care and upkeep.
Shelter for Goats
Goats do not require the Taj Mahal of barnyard buildings. A three-sided shed that blocks the wind and rain will keep them happy and healthy. Plan on building a shed that provides 10 to 15 square feet of space per goat, if they also have outdoor space. Installing a concrete floor is a bit of an added expense, but many farmers find they make cleaning and upkeep a lot easier. Using straw as bedding works well for goats.
Fencing for Houdini
When fencing your property for goats, keep in mind that they are commonly referred to as “little Houdinis,” for their ability to escape many fence types. That being said, many farmers use woven wire fence that is at least four feet tall and held up by sturdy wooden posts. Electric fence wires should be placed near the top and bottom of the fence to keep the goats in and the predators out. If your goats are particularly talented escape artists, we suggest using stock panels for fencing.
Goat Feed and Nutrition
It is a myth that goats can eat everything from tin cans to old shoes. They may chew on objects to see if they’re plants, but eating inanimate objects would make them very sick. Goats are browsers, which means they like to eat shrubs, small trees, berries, twigs and plants. They are not solely grass grazers like sheep, so a pasture that is partially wooded is perfect for goats. In addition to browsing, goats should also have fresh water, a high quality goat feed, hay if extra roughage is needed, vitamins and minerals, which often come in the form of a salt lick. Goats can easily become sick if their food is moldy, so we suggest storing their food in plastic trash cans with lids that are kept up off the damp ground.
Please note, goats can get very sick from eating certain plants. Please research and remove plants that are toxic to goats.
Healthcare and Grooming
Exercise is very important for a goat’s physical and emotional health. Goats are not happy to stand around in the field all day. They are very intelligent and get bored easily. They love toys and goat “playgrounds,” which give them opportunities to climb. Goats also must have playmates, so don’t plan on getting just one goat. They need friends!
With all this goat play there are bound to be accidents, so be prepared with a goat first aide kit. Ask your veterinarian what they suggest you include in the kit. Also, ask your vet about their suggested deworming and vaccination schedules, as these are very important to keep goats healthy.
Just like dogs, goats require regular bathing, brushing and they will need to have their nails, or rather hooves, trimmed once a month to prevent bending, cracking and infection.
Whether you are thinking of getting goats for their milk, fiber, meat or just to keep as pets, we hope this beginner’s guide to goat care will get you on your way toward a future of many goat adventures!