Raising goats is a great idea for your family because there are many benefits to keeping them. They’re lovable, easy to take care of, are a healthy source of milk and produce low-fat meat. Not to mention, they make manure that works well as fertilizer. If you want to get started right away, here are some basics that you need to know.
Housing for Your Goats
Firstly, you need to forget that you’ll only be keeping one goat, even if you just need one doe to produce milk. You’ll have to keep, at the very least, a doe and a wether (or two does, etc.) because they’ll get lonely. Make your housing arrangements for more than just one goat.
Goats aren’t picky when it comes to the housing so you don’t have to put in too much of an effort. All you need to do is keep them in a dry place that’s free from drafts and they’ll be comfortable. A simple three-sided housing structure will do fine for temperatures that are mild. In case one of your goats gets sick or a doe is pregnant, it’ll help to have a smaller, side stall to isolate her at that time.
For the housing floor, use packed dirt as a good insulator and cover it with a thick layer of wood shavings, waste hay or straw. Replace their bedding as needed to stay dry and clean to avoid accumulation of bacteria that can cause disease.
Now for the hardest part. Although the housing won’t require much effort, the fencing will. Goats are naturally curious and have the habit of wandering off when unsupervised, and especially if you have a garden nearby, chances are that’s why they want out so bad! Set up a good fence to keep them in place, one that your goats can’t jump or climb over, or knock down. They can easily escape out a hole you might have thought to be too small, and they’re smart enough to unlock a gate latch with their mouths. In other words, if you don’t have time to keep on the watch, then put the most effort into keeping them fenced in.
Feeding Your Goats
The average-sized goat eats about two to four pounds of hay per day, minus what they forage. And if you do want to allow foraging, plenty of space will be needed or a good rotation plan. (Keep this in mind if you plan to raise them in a backyard.)
You can pasture your goats on grass and shrubs. As mentioned, rotating them to different areas is a good thing so they graze evenly. Pasture and/or hay is good for them, but they will also benefit from a diet that includes a bit of grain (fed after grass or hay) and alfalfa for extra protein.
Raising Goats For Milk or For Meat
Goats produce a lot of milk. The average adult doe can produce around 2-3 quarts to 1 gallon of milk per day, depending on the breed and whether she’s given birth. As for meat, goats can produce 40-50 pounds of meat, if raised to market age/weight. Check around and learn about the different breeds for both milk and meat so you’re sure to make the right choice.
Although this basic overview covers a few things you need to know before buying goats, take some time to learn even more, so you will have little to no trouble getting started. Go to a friend or family member that has goats on their farm, ask if you can dive in and help them; it will be a good learning experience for you, helping you to prepare for raising your own goats someday. Happy Farming!