Keeping Goats Can Be Loads of Fun!
Post & Image By Laura Sue Stewart
Have you ever thought about getting a backyard goat?
People think about getting a goat for lots of reasons: milk, entertainment and companionship, or even for help in keeping some of the weeds trimmed. Before you consider getting a goat, it's important to know how to keep them healthy and happy. Here are a few things you should consider before getting your first goat.
What to consider before you get a goat
The very first thing to consider is if owning goats is permitted where you live. Check local codes and zoning regulations to determine if goats can be kept where you live and if there are any restrictions regarding goat size, shelter types, or noise. Also, make sure your neighbors will be tolerant.
There are two sizes of goats: miniature and standard. Standard size breeds generally weigh between 100 and 200 lbs. or more. Mini-goats are smaller and weigh up to 100 lbs. Mini-goats tend to be more popular in urban areas because of local restrictions on size and weight.
If your backyard barnyard is miniature, make sure the tiny “kid” goat or goats you bring home won't grow up to be bigger than you are expecting.
Goats are active and playful. A miniature goat requires a minimum of approximately 135 square feet of romper room; a standard-size goat needs twice that. Remember to multiply that number by the number of goats you have.
An enclosure should provide part sun and part shade, and protected from strong winds. An attached, draft-free shed or barn for cover, sleeping, and protection from predators and extreme weather. Goats can jump and climb, so your goat house should have a climb-proof roof.
You will also need somewhere to safely store food and bedding, and somewhere to dispose of soiled bedding, which makes great fertilizer when composted. Good fencing is a must! Goats like to rub on fences, especially when shedding, and they will try to stick their heads through fencing to get that grass that is greener.
These clever creatures love company
A very strong fence that they cannot climb over, knock down, or otherwise escape from is needed. Goats can be very clever about getting out of enclosures.
They use their lips to explore their world, so if a gate latch is loose, they can wiggle it open with their lips and escape. They also like to chew almost everything – rope, wiring, and so on, are all fair game. Whether you use wire or wood you need to be diligent in keeping it repaired.
Goats are a herd animal. They are most happy when in the company of other goats, so it is best to have more than one. Goats will also recognize and bond with their owners. When raised around people, they tend to enjoy being petted and can easily learn to eat from your hand and will sometimes nibble on clothes.
Keeping goats happy & healthy
Goats can be pastured on grass or browse, eating shrubs, flowers, and young trees. Multiple pastures are helpful so they graze evenly. Unless your goat is young, pregnant, or producing milk all that is needed is pasture or browsing, and free choice hay. Hay should be fed along with the grass since they also need the dry forage along with the fresh. Plenty of fresh water, salt and minerals are needed at all times.
Check out the frolicking goats in this video:
Goats hate insects! They are easily bothered by flies so they should be protected from them. There are a lot of ecologically and environmentally friendly ways to keep off the bugs, such as fly traps and fly eliminators.
Regardless of whether the weather is cold or warm, always make it a point to maintain a clean and sanitary goat pen. This will prevent flies from bothering your goats, and it will help avoid germs or dangerous bacteria from getting into contact with your goats.
Goats are generally very trainable and can be taught to walk on a lead, carry a pack or even pull a small cart around the yard. Stay away from a buck (male) unless you are interested in breeding. Not only are they harder to keep contained, they can be a bit smelly and have a tendency to be aggressive. A doe or wether will make the best pet. Dehorning is preferred if you have small children or don't want to deal with horns. But, if handled correctly from birth, horns shouldn’t be a problem.
The final and most important thing to know about goats is that while they are very cute and can be lots of fun, they require a lot of thought and care to be kept properly. Consult with a goat-savvy vet to ensure proper feeding and care.
Goats are great pets if you are willing to do the work needed to keep them healthy and happy. They are a long commitment, up to 12 – 15 years, but with proper care, they make a great addition to your family.
After growing up on a small farm, farming is something that came naturally for Laura Sue Stewart. Her farm consists of raising dwarf goats for pets; a small cow/calf operation; chickens; and, horses. When not farming, Laura Sue works part time for the Kittanning Public Library as a library assistant and part time for the Armstrong Conservation District as the Mobile Environmental Display Coordinator. Laura Sue lives near Kittanning.