When I moved to the country, I couldn’t wait to get started with goats! I had these idyllic expectations of gently milking my cute little goats, petting them, and training them to pull a cart. But the goats had other ideas! They were full of crazy, funny antics, and they did not want to pull a cart one bit. On the good days, I loved it, and some days I wondered, should I actually raise goats?
Do you love goats? If you do, and you can provide food, shelter, vet care, and pasture, then you might want to raise goats for milk, meat, fiber, and friendship. On the other hand, if you can’t manage the stubbornness, smelliness, vet care, and other challenges of raising goats, you might want to consider a different animal for your backyard or homestead.
In this article, we’re going to talk about whether or not you should raise goats on your homestead. We’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks of owning goats and give you some ideas about whether or not goats are right for you. Let’s get started!
The Benefits of Raising Goats
Goats produce milk.
Typically, people associate raising goats with raising dairy goats. Certain goat breeds, like Nubians or Nigerian Dwarf Goats, provide rich, delicious milk. There are many benefits to drinking goat’s milk. Some people with milk allergies MAY be able to drink goat’s milk but check with your doctor first. You can also make dairy products such as cheese and butter and soap products, as well. Fresh, ice-cold goat milk tastes much better than store-bought goat’s milk and doesn’t necessarily have that ‘goaty’ flavor that many people associate with goat milk.
Goats don’t take up a lot of space.
Goats don’t need fancy accommodations and are pretty cold-hardy, too! I started with two little goats in a dog pen with a dog house. The goats were perfectly happy to snuggle up together. You can keep several goats in a small fenced-in area, especially if they are Nigerian Dwarf Goats or another small breed.
They produce good meat.
Many people will raise goats for their meat, too. Some goats are great dual-purpose goats, meaning you can raise them for both their meat and their milk. Often, people raise milk goats and take their extra males to the butcher for the meat.
They eat weeds.
Goats are worth their weight in gold for weed maintenance. In fact, they’ll even eat poison ivy without harm. So if you have a weedy area that you need to have cleared, a few pet goats will easily do the trick. And you can rent them out to other families that need brush and weeds removed, as well.
You can have a petting zoo.
If you have calm, friendly, well-trained goats, they can be a traveling petting zoo for churches, fairs, and even schools.
Goats produce excellent manure for fertilizer.
Put your pet goats to work by using their manure. It isn’t ‘hot’ like chicken manure, so you don’t need to compost it before you add it to your garden. Instead, just till in some goat manure before planting for an all-natural, time-release fertilizer.
Some goats produce hair for yarn.
Hair goats produce wonderful fibers that you can spin into yarn or sell to knitters and crafters. Most hair goats aren’t good milk goats, but you can find cross-breeds that do both reasonably well.
Goats make great pets.
Goats make great companions! I had a pet goat that just loved to be with people. He would hop over the fence and come sit on the porch, waiting for the kids to come home from school. If they didn’t come out to say hello, he would push his head through the screen door and wait for them to give him a little attention.
Even funnier was the day I received a text message from the neighbor, saying the goat was hanging out with him! Goats are a lot of fun, and they’re really smart, too. They can learn their names, how to do tricks, and how to pull a cart (if they’re willing!)
There are a lot of cool breeds, colors, and sizes to choose from.
There are milk breeds, meat breeds, fiber, and dual-purpose breeds. And, of course, there are pet breeds, like fainting goats, that are just plain fun! Some breeds are gentle, some are frisky, and some are very friendly!
Goats usually get along with other animals.
For example, most goats will get along well with donkeys, sheep, ponies, and even chickens.
The Drawbacks of Owning a Goat
Goats are herd animals.
Goats don’t like to be alone. They’re herd animals, so they really need a couple of buddies to feel safe. You can mix them with other animals, though, like sheep or even miniature donkeys.
Goats are stubborn.
You just can’t make a goat do anything it doesn’t want to do. For example, if my goats didn’t feel like being milked, we would have to bribe them to get up onto the milking stand. And if they were mad about that, they would knock over the milk bucket with a wayward kick. A motivated goat will learn fun tricks, but a stubborn goat might not!
Goats can be noisy.
Nubians are talkative, noisy goats, so you don’t want to have them in a peaceful, quiet neighborhood. Goats in heat can be noisy, too, which might just drive your neighbors nuts.
Goats can be very naughty!
Goats don’t like to follow the rules, so if they can be naughty, they will! They’re like toddlers with four feet. They’ll nibble your rose bushes, trample your flower beds, and even climb on your car. If you forget to close the back door, you might find them in the house and discover one jumping on your bed.
You need to feed them according to their specificiations.
Some people think that goats will eat anything – because some do. But other goats are incredibly picky eaters. They won’t eat their hay once it hits the ground, and they certainly won’t eat just grass. So you need to give them fresh hay daily as well as minerals. Milk goats should have pellets, too, to make sure they are getting enough nutrition to produce milk.
Goats need regular vet care.
Goats can get sick. They are prone to diseases like listeria, which can be fatal. They also need to be dewormed yearly and have their hooves trimmed so they can walk properly. A hair goat needs to be sheared one to two times per year, and at the right times, so they aren’t too cold in the winter. You’ll need to find someone that can offer these services to your goats- or learn to do it yourself.
Sadly, I lost a goat to listeria. I was concerned about the disease being present in my pasture, but the vet explained that she probably contracted it before she came to us, and it took a while for her to show symptoms. Unfortunately, goat losses happen, and they can be very hard.
Goat males can be dangerous.
My goat was out of control, and when he wanted to mate, he was downright dangerous. You couldn’t go into the pen without him chasing you down and challenging you to a duel with his horns. Eventually, we got him castrated, which calmed him down. You need an intact male if you’re going to have a breeding program, but they can be dangerous. If you don’t have your own male, you’ll need to make arrangements with someone who does for driveway breedings, which can be challenging.
Goats sometimes stink!
I admit it. Even well-groomed goats can get stinky! Male goats in rut love to wear their own urine as a form of goat cologne, and they have a strong goaty smell. Their poo can be smelly, and so can the hay they sleep in. If odors bother you, then goats might not be the best choice for you.
You need good fences if you’re going to raise goats.
There’s an old saying that goes your fence will only hold a goat if it can hold water! In other words, it is hard to keep a goat inside a fence if it wants to get out. My goat discovered that he could climb over the pile of snow that fell from his goat house and then escape! I found him headbutting the bumper of my van, which consequently needed to be replaced.
You shouldn’t raise goats if it is illegal to raise goats where you live.
Before you run out and buy a couple of goats, you need to check with your local township or city office to make sure it is legal to keep a goat where you live. There may be restrictions on livestock depending on your location and the size of your property.
It can be difficult to fence in a goat if they want to get out. The key is making their pasture so wonderful that they just don’t want to leave.
Goats are amazing animals! If you can love them and have the ability to meet all their needs, then yes, you should raise them. If you want milk, meat, or fiber, and you can provide:
- Shelter and fencing
- Fresh food and water
- Vet care
- Entertainment and attention
Then you should definitely get goats! They are incredible animals for small homesteads and even backyard pets.
On the other hand, if you can’t handle things like:
- Naughty or stubborn behavior
- And stinkiness
Bother you, or you can’t meet all your needs, then maybe goats aren’t right for you. In this case, you should visit some goat friends at a local zoo and consider a different animal for your homestead.
All in all, goats make great pets and fun companions; I wouldn’t have it any other way!