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The Ins and Outs of Raising Goats

An intriguing member of the Bovidae family is the goat.  The goat is closely related to the sheep, with over 300 different breeds.  Not only are they a very popular farm animal for the products that they give, but they also can make intelligent pets.  Some people even keep goats as companions to other animals.  If this all sounds interesting to you, read on because I'm going to go over goats in more detail in case you want to consider adding them to your backyard.

Different Breeds of Goats

Before we get into how to raise goats, let's first go over the different breeds of goats.  Once you choose which goat would be the best option for you, you will have an idea of what you will be raising goats for (cheese, meat, pet, fiber, etc), as well as how big your goats will get.  There are many different breeds of goats.  Below I've gone over the most popular breeds of goats.  

Alpine Goats

Alpine goats are a medium to large sized breed of domestic goats that are known for their very good milking ability.  They do not have any markings.  The breed originated in the French Alps.

Angora Goats

Angora goats are raised for their thick fleece.  They are medium sized goats, that have a long, thick coat, also called mohair.  This breed of goat originated from Turkey.

Boer Goats

This breed of goat is from South Africa.  They have a white body with a colored head and backward curved horns.  Boer goats are usually bred for their meat.

Kiko Goats

Kiko goats come from New Zealand.  While raising goats can sometimes be difficult, raising Kiko goats is easy as they can easily be raised even in harsh weather conditions.  Once again, this breed is well known for its meat.

Kinder Goats

Kinder goats are bred for both milk and meat.  They come in a variety of colors and patterns and can be bred anytime in the year.

LaMancha Goats

The LaMancha goat originated in Spain, but can be easily found in the United States.  LaMancha goats are medium in size, and they are very friendly.  Not only do they make great pets, but LaMancha goats are well known for their milk.  Their milk contains about 4.2% of butterfat.

Nigerian Goats

The Nigerian goats originated from Africa.  Once again, this goat breed makes great pets, as well as produce wonderful milk.  Although this breed is small, they can give up to 3 to 4 pounds of milk per day.  They are known to be the best dairy goats, as their milk contains 6.1% butterfat.  These goats also come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Nubian Goats

Nubian goats are also known as Anglo-Nubian goats.  They are a cross breed of African and Indian bucks, and were raised in England.  Nubian goats are large in size, but do not give much milk.  Their milk approximately contains 4.6% of butterfat.  They are very friendly, and would make a great pet.  Keep in mind that Nubian goats are very vocal.  If you have neighbors near you, you may not want to get this breed since they may be too loud.

Oberhasli Goats

Oberhasli goats, also known as Swiss Alpine goats, are medium sized goats.  They are bay color with clear black spotting all over the body.  Their milk contains 3.6 to 4% of butterfat.  Oberhasli Goats have a quiet temperament and are medium sized.  This breed is great for showing and keeping as pets.  Because they have powerful rear legs, this goat makes a great pack goat, with the proper training.

Pygmy Goats

Pygmy goats originated in Africa.  People often breed pygmy goats for meat, but this breed of goat also makes a great pet. Their milk only contains 3.3% of butterfat, but it is still often used for making cheese.

Pygora Goats

The Pygora goat is a cross breed of the Pygmy goat and Angora goat.  It is raised to produce fine fiber.  Usually Pygora goats produce up to 6 pounds of fleece each time you shear them, and they can be sheared twice per year.

Saanen Goats

Saanen Goats are a white colored breed of goat, named from the Saanen valley in Switzerland. By the late 19th century they had spread across Europe. Saanen Goats are heavy milk producers, but their milk is low in butterfat as compared to other dairy goats.

Spanish Meat Goats

Also known as Brush goats, this goat breed originated in Europe.  They are short but have a strong build.  This goat is known for its meat, hence the name.

Tennessee Fainting Goats

This breed of goat often faints or becomes nervous due to their genetic imbalance.  The Tennessee Fainting goat will provide both meat and fleece.

Toggenburg Goats

Toggenburg goats are the oldest breed of dairy goats having medium sized body.  This breed of goat comes in various colors ranging from fawn to dark chocolate brown with white marks on the body.  Toggenburg goats are raised for their milk, and their milk is usually made for making cheese.  Their milk only contains 3.3% of butterfat.

What Do I Feed Goats?

Raising goats is not near as difficult as it sounds.  With that being said, you will need to provide food, water, and shelter for your goats.  One of the greatest expenses is for their food.  If you have land for your goats to graze on, then great!  Let your goats out to roam on your land, and enjoy watching them mow the lawn for you.  But even if you have plenty of land for your goats to graze on, you will still need food for them in the winter.  Even if you are raising goats in Texas where it does not snow very often, it is important to have extra food on hand.  Besides, your goats will appreciate the taste of different foods once in a while.

By now I'm sure I've convinced you that food is important for goats.  Now it is time to see what goats actually eat.  Here are some good food suggestions:

  • Grass - Yes, I know I said that it is important to have more food besides grass, but if you have a large lawn take advantage of it and let your goats graze on it.  Not only will your goats love the taste of fresh, green, grass, but they will also act as your lawn mower.  Depending on how many goats you get, perhaps you don't even have to mow the lawn any more!
  • Hay - Make sure the hay you're getting is not hay that is sharp and yellow.  Goats like hay that is green, such as alfalfa, timothy, or Bermuda.  You can either buy hay bales, or buy the hay in bags or pellets at your local feed store.
  • Grain - Goats don't need grain to survive.  They can happily live on grass and hay.  But grain can be a nice treat for your goat.  Also, when they are pregnant or lactating, grains can help provide extra vitamins, minerals, and protein.  Grain can help give a slight boost in the milk production, as well as offer great milk for the baby goats (kids).  Keep in mind that you should not feed your goat too much grain.  A handful a day can be enough for your goat to eat.
  • Minerals - Rather than feeding minerals as a meal for your goats, have minerals around for your goats at all times.  You can buy minerals at your local feed store.
  • Vegetables - If you happen to have extra vegetables left from dinner, rather than throwing them away give them to your goats as a treat.  Carrots, greens, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and even raisins make a great treat for goats.

Water

Make sure your goats have water at all times.  You may need to fill it a couple times a day, depending on how many goats you have, how big the bucket of water is, and what time of year it is.  During the winter, make sure the water is not frozen. During the hot summer months, your goats may need more water.

How Big Will Goats Get?

How big your goats will get depends on what breed of goat you get.  If you get a smaller breed, such as the Pygmy goat, they will only weigh around 70 pounds. Larger goats will weigh up to 310 pounds.  Therefore, to answer the question "How big will goats get?" you would need to look up the breed you will be getting. If you will be getting a large goat, make sure the fencing you have is strong, secure, and tall.  This is especially important if you have a male goat.  I'll be going over fencing tips below.

How to Keep Your Goats Safe

When it comes to goats, you will need to have a very secure and high fence.  You will also need to have a shelter for when it storms outside.  In this section, I'll go over all the tips and tricks you'll need to know for keeping your goats safe.

Fencing

Goats are escape artists.  It is common to have a goat escape from their pen.  It is more common to have a male goat escape from their pen because they have large horns that can break down fencing.  If you will be planning on keeping goats, whatever you do make sure the fencing is strong and secure.  Electric fencing is recommended.  Make sure the fence is high enough.  Once you have installed your fence, make sure to check it once in a while for any weak spots.  Also, make sure your fence is designed to keep predators out.  If you have a tall fence that is designed to keep your goats in, you shouldn't have to worry about predators.  But if your goats are not trying to escape, and you keep the fence low, predators have a better chance of coming in and getting your goats.

Shelter

Shelter is another must-have.  During those days when it is raining, snowing, windy, or really hot, your goats will seek shelter.  Make sure you build a shelter that is big enough to fit all your goats. You may want to have a water and food source in the shelter, so that your goats can eat and drink even on days that they don't want to go outside.  Also make sure you build the shelter close enough to your house so that you can check on the goats often.

Protection

Yes, a shelter and fence will provide protection for your goats, but sometimes that is not enough.  If possible, you may want to have a livestock guardian dog or donkey be with your goats.  A llama may protect your goats as well.  However, make sure you have more than one llama, and have shelter for them too.

Keep Your Goats Happy

If your goats are happy, they most likely will not want to leave their yard.  Make sure you give them plenty of food and water, and keep their shelter clean.  Spend time with your goats, and give them special treats once in a while.  Make sure you have a high fence and something to protect them (livestock guardian dog, donkey, llama, etc.) so that they feel safe.  If your goats are happy, you won't have to worry about them trying to escape.

Is Raising Goats Profitable?

One question that may arise is this:  Is raising goats profitable?  The answer to this question depends on what type of goat you have, and if you will be selling the meat, milk, fiber, or even the goat.  If you will be raising goats as pets, most likely you will not be raising goats for profit.  In order for you to raise goats for profit, you would need to sell the meat or milk from the goat.  Here is some information on how to breed goats for profit:

Decide Which Breed

This is a very important decision to make.  If you will be raising a goat for its milk, you will want a goat that produces a lot of milk.  If you are raising goats for their meat, you will need to choose a goat that is bred for its meat.  And lastly, if you are raising goats for their fiber, you will need a goat that produces a lot of fiber.  Angora and Pygora goats are well known for their fiber.

Sell Goat Products That People Are Looking for in Your Area

A lot of people who are lactose-intolerant appreciate goat milk and cheese.  If you are wanting to make a profitable business by raising goats, you will want to sell products that are on demand in your area.

Go Higher in Price

Even if you received free goats, the cost of feeding them, building a shelter, and building a fence can be more money than what you receive for selling goat products.  Therefore, if you are wanting to make a profit you will need to raise the price.  An even better option is to increase the value of the goat product.  For example, instead of selling goat milk, sell goat cheese.  Goat cheese costs more than goat milk, which means you will be making a better profit.  Or instead of selling a bag of fiber from your goat, upgrade it to yarn or a hat.  People won't mind spending the price of something that has great value.

Summary

As you can see, goats have a lot to offer. There are many different types of breeds, the most popular of which I have gone over. Goats are easy keepers, mainly requiring fencing, water, hay, and trace minerals. Keep in mind though that goats can be loud.  Make sure that you are zoned for keeping goats, and that you won't be breaking any noise ordinances.  Also, keep in mind that goats will give you a good supply of manure that can be used for your garden, or given to gardeners.  It all will require a bit of work, and commitment but many people find that keeping goats is very rewarding.

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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