Who doesn’t want adorable bouncing baby goats, rivers of fresh raw milk to drink, or having dreams of all the wonderful dairy products you can create to stock your larder with? You could be in the group that just want a few goats as pets with sweet little ears to scratch and love on. I know I did!!!
It’s a very common dream, and after chickens, I would say goats are one of the most popular animals to be interested in adding to your homestead. But where to start and what do you need to know?? Below are answers to some of the most common questions I get asked!
1. Community: The most important is that goats are herd animals. This means that to be safe and emotionally happy goats need to live in groups. They get very attached to their herdmates. I have a very regal old lady goat whom has given me lots of daughters and its very endearing to see her surrounded by her now adult daughters of various ages snuggling in one big pile together at night. Consider that when you get goats, you will need at least two females, or a female and a wether ( castrated/ neutered male) to keep her company. A best practice for herd health is to usually get at least a pair of buddies from the same farm. They are far happier moving with a friend!
2. Space: Of course, the more space the merrier!! That being said if your space is well planned and clean it really does not have to be huge. Many miniature and Nigerian dwarf goats do well with a play yard and a giant doghouse. My sleeping stalls are 10x16 and can comfortably house 8 Nigerian Dwarves, 6 mini-Nubians or 4 standard goats, with their babies for the night. Though this is way too crowded for more than overnight or a few cold/rainy days. They should also have access to a play yard. Mine is 40x40 and has 4 stalls leading to it. Your play yard and barn should be fenced very tightly to keep out predators (which can sometimes include the playful family dog!) and these are in addition to any extra pastures or paddocks. More below on predators!!!!
3. Your Shelter: You don’t need something fancy. But you do need at least three sided shed for the goats to live in to keep the wind off and feet dry. Ideally it should have a lifted floor or sleeping benches to keep them clean and dry during the rain. Goats do not do well being wet. Like I said above a giant doghouse can work well for a few goats. A lifted floor could simply be a pallet with more slats attached or a foot or two of gravel covered in sand added inside the shelter for good drainage.
4. Yard or pasture Fencing: There is an old saying that warns you that “if your fence wont hold water” it won’t hold a goat. This can be eerily true! Especially with Nigerian Dwarf babies. You will want to make sure and have your fence all the way down to the ground with no spaces at all and pretty small fencing spaces.
5. Feed. The most important is clean water and a good quality horse hay (in the valley a well fertilized tifon 85), alfalfa ( or alfalfa pellets), a goat pellet (non medicated if your drinking their milk) Plus free choice baking soda, salt and a loose minerals (blocks are hard on their teeth).
6. Other things?? If you will be having babies or milking I suggest having one-two small stalls beside or connected to your main pen for any does that need extra privacy for kidding (baby goats being born!) and to use as an overnight nursery if you plan to be milking your does. An additional space or stall for feed, milk stand and goat supplies. In the simplest arrangements many people have cleaned out a corner of their garage to tuck in a milk stand, goat feed, and supplies.
That’s the main big things! Make sure to stay tuned for goat health thoughts, milking your goat, and many, many more posts!!!