How to raise goats:
When I asked Katie Cordrey (local goat aficionado) about raising goats, she summed up the whole experience pretty well: “Goats will climb EVERYTHING. Goats will EAT EVERYTHING. They are endlessly curious and destructive. If you get a Nubian – floppy ears – it will never shut up. They will probably butt your dog, or your dog will chase them and they’ll die. You need two – they’re herd animals and should have company. You will have a hard time keeping them in a fenced area unless the fence is really good and you’ll end up chaining them, then the neighbor dogs will harass or kill them and you’ll have to dispose of the dead bodies. They have to have a shelter and straw bedding in winter – preferably on top of an old pallet or something to keep them off the ground, and it has to be changed out regularly. They’re sensitive to the cold and damp. Their hooves tear up the ground, so expect mud. You will never have a wildflower if a goat is nearby because she’ll eat it. If you want to try the insanity, go with an Alpine or a Saanen. Unless you want to move to another part of the world to escape the stench, don’t get a buck. A wether is OK. They live 15 to 18 years, so be sure you want to be a goat mama that long.”
What breed of goats you decide to raise will depend on whether you are raising them for milk or meat. Whatever your reason is for raising goats, they will need a lot of space. Each goat will need at least 10-15 feet to move around and be happy. Goats will also need a covered area where they can get shelter from the elements.
Goats will eat everything. They are great for trimming your lawn and getting rid of invasive plants. There are even goat grazing businesses that will rent out goats for trimming lawns and getting rid of brush. I have heard one hilarious story of some goats chewing on a lady’s flower print dress. Some people will rent out goats to protect their property from fires since goats will eat most of the underbrush.
It’s important to understand the goats are herd animals, which means that they do not do well on their own. A solitary goat will bleat out loudly and create a lot of noise. However, solitary goats are known for bonding with other hoofed animals such as sheep.
Fencing for Goats:
You can spend a lot of time and money on fencing for your goats. Goats are crafty little bastards and containing them is easier said than done. As with most farm animals, the better their environment inside their enclosure the less likely they will even try to escape. You can either build a paddock system or move them from one fenced area to another every week or so.
You can also put in portable fencing that you can move around your property. One week you can have them graze your lawn, the next you can put them to work clearing brush, and the next week you can have them out to pasture. If you have happy goats, you will only need a couple strands of electric wire to keep them contained.
Raising milk goats:
If you are raising goats for milk, you should be wary of keeping a buck around. When male and female goats are kept in close quarters, the male can become aggressive and release pheromones that can affect the flavor of your doe’s milk. However, when bucks are raised in a herd, and are raised in close proximity with others, they won’t feel the need to ‘perfume’ themselves as much as they would otherwise. It’s the same with most if not all mammals. If a male is kept isolated for an extended period of time, he will go absolutely bonkers when he is finally introduced to a female.
In order to continue getting milk from a goat, you will need to breed her every year. Goats will produce milk for around 10 to 11 months. However, they will not lactate indefinitely. Obviously they produce milk to feed their offspring. As such, you will either need a buck, send her off to a farm with a buck, or borrow a buck for his equipment.
Sometimes milk goats can get something called Mastitis. Mastitis is fairly easy to spot and is commonly caused by poor sanitation and milking practices. Symptoms of Mastitis include clots/blood in the milk, lumps and hardness in the udder, reduced milk production, and a swollen/tender udder. However, a little clotting or blood might not be due to Mastitis. You should keep a test kit handy. A test kit is relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
Mastitis is commonly caused by bacteria. The best way to prevent Mastitis is to wipe the teats before and after every milking. This can be done either with a warm rage or sanitized wipes. Keeping the udder and teats clean is of the utmost importance. If your goat gets Mastitis, it’s important to milk her every hour in order to flush out the tainted milk and bacteria.
Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about raising goats is that it takes time. Milk goats have to be milked every 12 hours. If you are going on a trip, you need to make sure that there is someone responsible enough to come over and milk your goats. As with any animal, goats are a commitment. They depend on you. How would you like it if you needed someone to relieve your bladder and one day they just decided not to show up?
Popular Goat Breeds:
Alpine Goats: Alpine goats are known for being especially good milk goats both commercially and domestically. They are of medium size weighing around 125lbs and have horns along with erect ears. As their name would suggest, the breed originated in the French Alps. Besides being good milk goats, they are also known for being hardy animals with the ability to adapt to various climates. Alpine goat milk has a lower quantity of fat compared to other goats and cows, making their milk a healthier option.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat: As the name would suggest, Nigerian Dwarf goats are small in stature and originated in Nigeria. Nigerian Dwarf goats are typically less than 25 inches tall. Females should be less than 22.5 inches tall in order to be considered Nigerian Dwarf goats. They are known for producing milk that is high in fat. As such, they are the preferred choice for making cheese and butter. They produce a surprisingly large amount of milk for their size. The average Nigerian Dwarf goat can produce a little over a quart of milk a day. They are especially sought after as pets not only for their size, but also for their mild temperament.
Spanish Goat: Spanish goats are bred as a meat goat. They are known for being exceptionally hardy and excel at clearing brush. Because of their hardy nature, they do well living in the wild. Due to a tremendous amount of crossbreeding, the Spanish goat breed is threatened, and appears on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy watch list. Due to their small udders and teats, Spanish goats are not typically used as milk goats. However, because of their hardy nature, they can breed out of season.
Saanen Goat: The Saanen goat breed originated in Switzerland. They are white in color and are exceptionally prized as milk goats due to their high milk production and relatively easy management. Saanens are one of the larger breeds with does averaging around 135 lbs. Their milk typically has a butterfat content of 3-4%. Though they do well in colder climates, they do not generally thrive in hot climates. Saanen goats have been popularly used in hunger relief programs such as Heifer International due to their size, ease of care, and productivity.
Australian Cashmere goat: Obviously, Australian Cashmere goats originated in Australia and grow a dense cashmere coat during the winter months. Austalian Cashmere goats were used in the 1800’s in an attempt to develop a goat fleece industry in Australia.
Anglo-Nubian Goat: Anglo-Nubian Goats were developed in Great Britain using goat breeds from both North African and the Middle East. Due to their Middle Eastern heritage, they thrive particularly well in hot climates. They are a good dual purpose goat for both milk and meat. Although they produce somewhat less milk than other milk breeds, they are large making them good meat goats. Does average around 135lbs and bucks average around 175lbs. They are known for being exceptionally fond of human attention and will even call out to their caretaker when they desire attention.
Funny goat story by Katie Cordrey:
“I was living in a stud-wall cabin without running water and electricity. In addition to caring for a dozen cows and seven goats, I worked a regular job. My habit was to come home and turn my car to the cabin to light the door with the headlights in order to unlock it.
One particular night, I followed my routine only to find that there was no cabin door. My mind was racing: What could have happened? Was someone inside? Should I go in? Call the police?
Having worked myself into a state of fear, I managed to get out of the car, heart pounding, and approach the cabin.
The door was down, lying flat on the floor. The floor was covered with flour, beans, popcorn, sugar… all the contents of my food shelves.
I heard a noise in the bedroom and reached to the top of the food shelves for my flashlight. My shallow breathing was punctuated by a loud ‘click’ as I switched it on. Tippy-toed, creeping slowly toward the bedroom door, I held my breath and shined the light through the opening.
Eyes. There were a dozen eyes shining back at me. Wild animals? I flashed the light across the room. GOATS!
Six does were curled up on three beds, blinking sleepily at having been disturbed. I shouted, “Get out!” They were unmoved. “Out!” I yelled. They blinked.
I grabbed a broom and began sweeping them off the bed. Reluctantly the first one moved off the bed and stood. I swatted her on the butt and she trotted out the door. One by one, the goats vacated the cabin. Just as the last one cleared the door, my whether goat, Goatus Maximus, “Max” poked his head in the door and let out a bleat.
The next day I discovered that Max had escaped confinement and in his joy, decided to celebrate by letting the girls out of the barn. He’d jumped up on the barn door and dislodged the turn latch. After that, he must have butted down the door and thrown a party.
Yep. Goats are the true party animals.”