What Should I Do?

Should You Raise Goats?

Considerations before you start
Thursday, June 26, 2014, 2:04 PM

Raising goats is a great way to save money and become more self-sufficient as a family. Goats are really easy to raise and can provide you with meat and milk.

Despite what you may have heard, goats aren’t smelly, messy or eat things like tin cans. Many people who own goats compare them to dogs – they play, don’t smell bad, and can be trained to follow you or play. Goats are very social animals and are very friendly to raise.

If you’ve ever considered raising a goat or two, here are some reasons that you should:

Why Keep Goats?

So what’s your reward for keeping goats? If you raise the dairy goats, each doe will give you about 90 quarts of delicious fresh milk every month for 10 months out of the year. You and our family might drink the milk or use it to make yogurt, cheese, or ice cream. Surplus milk may be fed to chickens, pigs, calves, or orphaned livestock and wildlife.

From each meat wether (castrated buck), you will get 25 to 40 pounds of tasty, lean meat, which may be baked, fried, broiled, stewed, or barbecued. If you raise fiber goats, from each adult Angora you will get 5 to 7 pounds of mohair twice a year. From each Cashmere goat, you will get less than 1 pound of down per year.

Each doe you breed will produce one kid or more annually; some does kid twins year after year. Every day, each goat will drop a little more than 1 pound of manure, which makes for good fertilizer for the garden.

Buying Goats

There are over 200 different breeds of goats that all have different strengths. Some are great for milking, some for meat, some are very space-efficient and others are great for hauling. You can determine what you want to use your goats for and purchase the best goat for your needs.

milk goats

Dairy Goats
In the United States, there are a few different breeds of goats that are good for milking: Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen and Toggernburg.

Alpines, Oberhaslis, Saanens and Toggenburgs typically do better in cooler climates. LaManchas and Nubians originate from warmer tropical and desert climates and do better in warmer climates.

You won’t be able to tell how productive a doeling (young female goat) will be when she matures. But you might be able to get a good idea of how much milk she’ll produce by looking at her dam’s milk production.

An average doe yields about 900 quarts of milk each year. A good milking goat will have a soft, wide, round udder; teats that are the same size and won’t drag on the ground, a well-rounded rib cage, a strong jaw, strong legs and soft skin with a smooth coat.

meat goats

Meat Goats
Throughout the world, keeping goats for meat is a more common practice than milking. Only a few bucks are needed for breeding. In the United States, there are two types of goats that are kept primarily for meat: Boer and Spanish breeds.

The most popular goat breed for meat is the Boer. They originate from South Africa and have a white coat. A mature doe weighs 150 to 225 pounds. A mature buck weighs 175 to 325 pounds.

Spanish goats were the most popular goats before Boers came along. They got their name from Spanish explorers who left them to breed and provide meat for future expeditions. Because the goats vary in shape and color, the term Spanish doesn’t refer to a specific breed. However, a mature doe will weigh 80 to 100 pounds while bucks weigh 150 to 175 pounds.

mini goats

Miniature Goats
Miniature goats, true to their name, are smaller than full-sized goats and produce less milk and meat. However, this also means they eat less, require smaller housing and are better for colder climates when they can spend more times indoors. There are two breeds of miniature goats: African Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf.

The Pygmy has a muscular build and is great for meat. A mature doe weights 35 to 60 pounds. A mature buck weighs 45 to 70 pounds. The Nigerian Dwarf is better for milking and produces about 300 quarts of milk a year – about ⅓ the amount you’d get from a regular-size goat.

How Many Goats? How Much Space Do I Need?

The first thing to keep in mind when raising goats is that they are social animals and need a friend.  So 2 goats is usually a minimum for how many to start off with. One of the biggest mistakes of new goat raisers is getting too many goats for the space they have. Are you going to want your goats to roam? If so, you’ll need about 20-square feet per adult for feeding and sleeping; plus another 30-square feet per adult for roaming and proper exercise.

You’ll also have to determine whether you want to breed your goats. You’ll need to seriously consider whether or not you should even purchase a buck and what implications that would have on the size of your herd.

If you’re planning on breeding, you’ll also need a pen for the kids. A standard pen size is about 4 foot by 5 foot. If you’re breeding multiple does, you’ll have to clean out and sanitize the pen between breedings.

Preparing Your Property

There are few things you’ll want to consider for your property before you start raising goats.

You’ll want to build some type of shelter or housing for the goats. Sometimes this can be as easy as a shed or a pre-existing shelter. However, you may want to dedicate more space to milking or feeding areas. You’ll want to make sure your shelter is dry and draft-free. You can cover the floor with wood shavings (not cedar), straw, or hay.

Goats are very smart and curious, which means they will try and get out of their pen and explore the neighborhood as much as possible. You’ll want to make a fence that is very sturdy and will hold your goats in and keep predators out.

You’ll also want to make sure you have food storage containers, bowls, hay mangers, mineral feeders and water buckets.

Feeding Goats

Goats can be put to pasture on a grassy or wooded area. They will typically eat shrubs, grass and young trees. It’s important to rotate pastures to keep your grass growing and your goats properly fed.

Even if you do put your goats to pasture, it’s important to add hay to their diet. You can feed hay free choice – give the goats as much as they desire. Young goats or pregnant and milk-producing does may require an extra goat “concentrate,” or goat chow.

What Advice Do You Have?

Have you raised goats or looked in to it? How did it go? What advice do you have for others who are just starting on their journey?

~ Brandon Garrett


Brandon Garrett is a preparedness consultant and team member of The Ready Store.  He writes informative articles and information for the ReadyBlog, the Ready Store's blog and educational section pertaining to topics of the economy, resiliency, and preparedness issues. 

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6 Comments

KennethPollinger's picture
KennethPollinger
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2010
Posts: 653
Been thinking about doing this

Can't thank you enough.  Ken

thebrewer's picture
thebrewer
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 7 2012
Posts: 110
Two goats on the way

We're building a pen now for two goats we just purchased. They will be ready to be separated from their mother next week. My wife and kids are pretty excited. I on the other hand have trepidations. I am very happy with my flock of chickens and love what they provide, but goats, only time will tell.

Cherihuka's picture
Cherihuka
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 18 2012
Posts: 41
thoughts on pros and cons

I've been tossing this idea around for about 2 years. I like what goats have to offer: meat, milk products - it takes 1 gallon of high fat milk (I've heard it can be hard to separate the cream) to make 2 sticks of butter-- possibly fiber and fire mitigation by eating undergrowth, and possibly pull a cart).

I can't decide on a breed (for one), and am torn about what the costs will REALLY be.

Having had chickens now for 3+ years I am well aware that if you can't free-range them (winter snow for half the year -then we have drought), your eggs will cost well over what store-bought would be. One of my neighbors complained about having a $300 egg laid last winter. I love having them and won't quit because for me, they are "food security", if we can continue to feed them. I am now making investment of time and money to try growing some feed to mitigate those costs, as well as prepare for a day when the feed stores might not get their shipments.

I think the article oversimplifies what all is involved, especially cost-wise. "Raising goats is a great way to save money and become more self-sufficient as a family. Goats are really easy to raise... "

There will be a significant financial outlay, to get set up unless you collect nice quality pallets and dismantle them and then use them to build with. Buckets or metal trash cans to keep mice out of feed, and electric fence- so you can move them around your property for grazing-  or any fence, and that alone could be hundreds.

The goats themselves are priced all over the place. For instance, a website online that raised a fiber breed wanted $600 per doe. I found someone local by accident, who only wanted $100., and we are in a high cost of living area.  How would you ever know you were getting a fair deal? What about disease mitigation/costs?

According to goat-link and goatworld.com: "Every goat producer eventually is threatened with the possibility of having CLA (abscesses, internal and external) in their goat herd. CLA is possibly one of the most controversial topics in goat management."  There is a CLA vaccine - animals need two shots the first year, followed by annual boosters. And they need to be de-wormed annually.

If you don't keep your own buck, (which I hear ARE very stinky because they emit a scent), then at minimum you'll pay for breeding, and need a way to transport them, and vet oversight (at least to being with). And straw for bedding. And tools to clear it out with and a place to put it all (assume you have a huge garden).

You'll have to buy a trimmer and learn how to trim hooves (unless you really do a lot of effort and create cement/rock areas they will access to naturally wear them down). Some great ideas out there for such things, but it does take space, money and time.

Salt blocks with the minerals they need are $8 (for now), and they last a long time, but I remember whenever there is an increase in drought that their is a correlating price of hay going up, and not just by a little. In fact the cost of hay has not panicked horse owners I know as much as availability at some points. At those points they would pay anything - and did! I'm sure grain is on/will be on the same trajectory.  (With the recent droughts are more stories of  horses being let go on dead-end farm roads or even let go in the wilderness). 

Butchering time will come with it's own expenses too (after you buy the freezer).  If you want to save the hide, that's an extra cost too.

I keep asking myself how that 75% of humanity that eat goat meat/milk as a staple, keep those goats in places without feed stores or hay fields, or grain, or mineral salt blocks. If I can find out, then maybe it would be easier to take the big leap.

 

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 201
Hay isn't needed


Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 201
Damn! It ate my comment...

I had a long, nicely formatted comment with links, and it disappeared when I pressed "Save!" AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 201
It's not so bad
Cherihuka wrote:

There will be a significant financial outlay, to get set up

If you have pasture, the main expense is fencing. We use three-strand electric, with a fourth grounded (at the top). It's more expensive, but use 17 gauge steel wire, rather than the cheaper poly wire, which will only last a couple years -- or until the goats learn they can go right though it, which ever comes first.

Quote:

The goats themselves are priced all over the place. For instance, a website online that raised a fiber breed wanted $600 per doe. I found someone local by accident, who only wanted $100., and we are in a high cost of living area.  How would you ever know you were getting a fair deal?

Ask to see milking records. If they don't have milking records, don't pay much.

Quote:

Every goat producer eventually is threatened with the possibility of having CLA

I think you're mixing two diseases: CL, or caseous lymphocitis, is one that has pustules that break and spread to the ground and other animals. It's nasty and incurable. Does pass it to kids in their milk.

The other is CA, which is a form of arthritis that can eventually make them lame.


Quote:

they need to be de-wormed annually

If you have them on natural browse, like a hedgerow, the need for chemical worming goes way down! Make sure they have access to plants with high tannin levels, such as Scotch Broom, Cedar, Chitum, etc. This controls intestinal parasites fairly well. I then spot-worm individuals, rather than schedule-worm the entire flock. Over-use of chemical wormers causes resistance to develop.

Quote:

... your own buck, (which I hear ARE very stinky

Bucks normally stink only when in "rut," typically in fall or early winter.

Quote:

You'll have to buy a trimmer and learn how to trim hooves

No big thing. Use secateurs (that's Canadian for "garden shears"), although hoof-trimming shears are thinner and easier to use. Do them every month, or it becomes a much bigger job. They can go permanently lame for lack of trimming, but it's no big thing.

Quote:

I keep asking myself how that 75% of humanity that eat goat meat/milk as a staple, keep those goats in places without feed stores or hay fields, or grain, or mineral salt blocks.

I think the websites and books make it more complicated than it really is. Make sure they have access to pasture and browse, don't feed them grain (except a tiny bit to lactating/pregnant does), and learn how to tell their worm load via eye-white checks.

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