Goats may be small, but they're full of spirit, which is why they're so much fun to raise. Since goats are social creatures, farmers will want to have at least two. New farmers should keep their herd small to begin with until they learn more about the animals. Keeping them contained and healthy is a lot of work, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
There are many different kinds of goats, and many have been bred to suit specific purposes. When deciding what breed of goat to buy, it's important to determine what the desired product is. If raising goats for dairy or cheese, the Anglo Nubian is one of the most popular breeds, with a high milk yield and deliciously rich butterfat content. Another good option is the LaMancha, a breed with an excellent milk output and a docile, calm nature.
If raising goats for fiber, the Angora is far and away the most popular choice. Their hair is referred to as mohair and is a popular choice for yarn and sweaters. It's flame-resistant, insulates well, and can be sold to crafters and corporations alike. Angora goats will need to be sheared yearly and require a very specific diet. Another desirable fiber goat is the cashmere, which produces cashmere wool. There are many different sub-breeds of cashmere goats, so take some time to research and determine which one is best for the farm.
Housing and Care
Goats hate getting wet and will therefore need a warm, safe, dry shelter. It's important to make sure that the shelter is large enough to comfortably house all of the goats, and depending on the size of the herd, multiple shelters may be necessary for bucks and does. Make sure there are no protruding nails, sharp gaps, or unfinished corners. Goats are naturally curious and will thoroughly explore their home.
The floor of the shelter can be composed of dirt, gravel, concrete, or even rubber. No matter what material is used, it should be regularly cleaned to keep the shelter fresh and sanitary. Goats will also need a source of food, such as hay or grain, which can be provided in a manger. They will graze on weeds and brush in a pasture but should not be made to depend solely on what they can forage.
In terms of intelligence, goats are incredibly smart, outperforming chimps on some tasks. Goats enjoy trying to escape from their pasture and have proven to be adept escape artists. A good, strong fence is absolutely critical for any goat farm, as the animals will attempt to run through it, fit underneath or through small gaps, or even climb it. Make sure the fence is tall and strong to prevent escapees.
Goats will need regular medical care, particularly when it comes to deworming. This can and should be done under the supervision of a vet, but dedicated farmers will want to familiarize themselves with basic medical procedures to be able to quickly respond to a cut, gash, or birthing. Depending on the breed, goats may need to be disbudded. This is a process in which the budding horns of a young goat are removed and cauterized to prevent them from growing in.
There is some debate over whether or not to disbud goats, as it is a painful procedure. The pain can be alleviated through vet-supervised anesthesia, but should the horns be left, it's important to note that there is an increased risk of accidental goring or injury to other goats or small children. Ultimately, the decision is up to the farmer. The important thing is to make sure that the goats are safe, happy, and healthy.
Benefits of Raising Goats
The most obvious benefit of raising goats is the food and fiber they produce. A good dairy goat can produce several gallons of milk every day, and extra kids (baby goats) can be sold to other farmers. However, many find that the process of caring for goats is extremely rewarding in and of itself. Goats have sweet, playful natures and can be trained to walk on a leash or carry supplies on backpacking hikes. Spending time with these friendly, social creatures can be extremely relaxing, and for families with small children, raising goats can be a great way to learn about responsibility.
For more information on raising goats, explore the resources below: