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 produce, but they are also very intelligent pets. Some people even keep goats as companions to other animals. If this sounds intriguing to you, read on because I am going to go over goats in more detail. After reading this article, you may even want to consider adding them to your own backyard or farm.
Different Breeds of Goats
Before I discuss how to raise or breed goats, I will list and describe several different breeds of goats. Once you choose which breed of goat would be the best option for you, you will have an idea of why you will be raising goats (cheese, meat, pet, fiber, companionship, etc.), as well as how big your goats will get when they are fully grown. Listed below are the most popular breeds of goats.
Alpine goats are a medium to a 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 are raised for their thick fleece. They are medium sized goats, that have long, thick coats, also called mohair. This breed of goats originated in Turkey.
This breed of goats is from South Africa. They have white bodies with a colored head and backward curved horns. Boer goats are usually bred for their meat.
Kiko goats come from New Zealand. While raising goats can sometimes be difficult, raising Kiko goats is easy because they can easily be raised in harsh weather conditions. Once again, this breed is well known for its meat.
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.
The LaMancha goat originated in Spain, but can also be frequently 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, on average, contains about 4.2% of butterfat.
The Nigerian dwarf goats originated in Africa. Once again, this particular goat breed makes great pets as well as produces wonderful milk. Although this breed is small, Nigerian Dwarf goats can produce up to 3 to 4 pounds of milk per day. They are commonly known to be the best dairy goats because their milk contains 6.1% butterfat. These goats also come in a variety of colors and patterns.
Nubian goats originated in Africa and India. Another name they are also known is Anglo-Nubian goats. They are a cross breed of African and Indian goats. Purebred Nubian goats were crossbred with British goats and therefore named Anglo-Nubian goats. Nubian goats are large in size but do not give much milk. Their milk contains approximately 4.6% of butterfat. They are very friendly and make great pets. 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 and disruptive.
Oberhasli goats, also known as Swiss Alpine goats, are medium-sized goats. They are bay color with clear black spotting all over their bodies. Their milk contains 3.6 to 4% of butterfat. Oberhasli Goats have a quiet temperament. This breed is great for showing and keeping as personal pets. Because they have powerful rear legs, these goats make a great pack goat and can be used to haul equipment on hiking trips with the proper training.
Pygmy goats originated in Africa. People often breed pygmy goats for their 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.
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 they are sheared, which usually occurs two times per year.
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. These goats are known for their meat, hence the name meat goats.
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 are the oldest breed of dairy goats and have a 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 nearly as difficult as you would think. 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 on which to graze your goats, that will help your expenses greatly because goats need grass! 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 and pastures for you to graze your goats, you will still need other types of food for them in the winter. Even if you are raising goats in a warm climate like Texas, it is important to have other types of food available. Besides, your goats will appreciate the taste of different foods once in a while.
As you have probably guessed by now, a healthy supply and variety of food are important for goats. Let’s see what goats actually eat. The following are some good food suggestions to feed your goats:
- Grass: It is important to have more food available 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 lawnmower. Depending on how many goats you get, perhaps you won’t have to mow the lawn nearly as often!
- Hay: Make sure the hay that you are providing for your goats 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 purchase 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 females goats are pregnant or lactating, grains can help provide extra vitamins, minerals, and protein to their babies. Grain can help give a slight boost in the female’s 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 should be enough for your goat to eat.
- Minerals: Rather than feeding minerals to your goats as a separate meal, use minerals as a supplement in addition to their meals. You can buy minerals at your local feed store.
- Vegetables: If you 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. Or use extra vegetables from your garden to supplement their food intake.
- Water: Goats need to have a good supply of water available at all times. You may need to check your water supply several times a day, depending on how many goats you have, how big the area where the water is kept, and what time of year it is. During the winter, make sure the water does not freeze. During the hot summer months, your goats will probably need more water.
How Big Will Goats Get When Fully Grown?
How big your goats get when they are fully grown will depend on what breed of goat you decide to raise and breed. If you get a smaller breed, such as the Pygmy goat, they will only weigh around 70 pounds when fully grown. Larger goats will weigh up to 310 pounds as adults. Therefore, you will need to do your research and determine how large the adult goats will grow for the type of breed you are considering to purchase. 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. The following are several fencing tips.
How to Keep Your Goats Safe
In order to keep your goats safe, you will need to have a very secure and high fence. You will also need to have a shelter for them when it storms outside. In this section, I will go over some tips and information that you will need to know to keep your goats safe.
Goats are great escape artists. It is common to have goats escape from their pen if they are not properly secured. 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, be sure to check it often for any weak spots that may need to be fixed. Also, purchase or build your fence so that is designed to keep out predators. If you have a tall enough fence that is designed to keep your goats enclosed, you shouldn't have to worry about predators. Even if your goats do not try to escape and the area is enclosed with low fencing, predators will have a better chance of hurting or killing your goats.
A shelter is essential when caring for goats. During rainy, snowy, windy, or hot weather, your goats will need to 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 when they do not want to or cannot go outside. Additionally, build the shelter close enough to your house so that you can check on the goats even during adverse weather conditions.
Although a shelter and a fence can provide protection for your goats, sometimes even that is not enough. If possible, you may want to have a livestock guardian dog or donkey near your goats. An animal can warn you if a predator is nearby so that your goats will be even more secure.
Keep Your Goats Happy
If your goats are happy, they will rarely not want to leave their yard. Supply your goats with plenty of food and water and keep their shelter clean. 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 you may ask yourself is raising goats profitable? The answer to this question depends on what type of goat you have, and if you plan on selling the meat, milk, fiber, or even the goat itself. 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 will need to sell the meat or milk from the goat. Additionally, goats will supply manure which can, in turn, be used to fertilize and enhance your own backyard garden or can be sold to other interested gardeners for a profit. 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 goats for their milk, you will want goats that produce high quantities and qualities of milk. If you are raising goats for their meat, you will need to choose goats that are bred for its meat. And lastly, if you are raising goats for their fiber, you will need goats that produce a high-quality fiber.
Sell Goat Products That People Are Looking for in Your Area
Many people who are lactose-intolerant appreciate and purchase goat milk and cheese. If you want to make a profitable business by raising goats, you will want to sell products that are in high demand in your area.
Go Higher in Price
Even if you were given your goats rather than purchasing them to begin with, the cost of feeding them, building and providing them with a shelter, or building a suitable fence can cost more money than what you would make from selling the goat products. Therefore, if you want to make a profit you will need to raise the value of the end product. For example, instead of selling goat milk, consider selling goat cheese. Goat cheese costs more than goat milk, which means you will be making a bigger profit. Or instead of selling a bag of fiber sheared from your goat, upgrade what you sell to yarn or a finished product. People do not mind spending the higher price of something if it has value to them.
As you can see, goats have a lot to offer. There are many different types of breeds, and I have listed the most popular types of goats. Goats are easy to raise. Goats require adequate fencing, water, hay, and trace minerals. Keep in mind though that goats can be loud so will you want to make sure that your area is zoned for keeping goats, and that you will not break any noise ordinances. Raising goats will require a bit of work and commitment but you may find that keeping goats is very rewarding and can be a profitable experience for you.