Raising Goats on a Backyard Farm
Transform your backyard into a farm perfect for raising goats using this tried and true guide and, in no time, enjoy fresh goat milk among other benefits.
“Get Your Goat” is a complete handbook for keeping all breeds of goats in your backyard, whether you’re in a rural, urban, or suburban setting. The author’s invaluable experience keeping goats in a unique setting is at the heart of this incredibly useful, practical guide.
COVER: QUARRY BOOKS
Happy goat farms make for happy goats.
Is a backyard goat farm right for you? You do not need to live on huge acreage, but you do need time, passion and a sense of humor to make your backyard farm a paradise for raising goats. Brent Zimmerman’s Get Your Goat (Quarry Books, 2012) answers all your questions about keeping goats for milk, meat, fiber or companionship. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4, “Goat Needs.”
Evaluating Your Space
Do you have the space to keep goats? To raise happy, healthy goats, you will need room in your backyard for a goat pen and a goat house, as well as storage space for the goats’ food and other goat-related supplies such as straw. And you must know what to do with all that soiled goat bedding that you will clean out at least two or three times a year.
Planning Your Backyard Farm
How much room you need will depend on how many goats you will house. Each goat should have ample floor space for sleeping, generous space at the feeding trough, and access to an outdoor enclosure. If you are breeding your goats, keep in mind that your herd could double or triple each spring. (For more details, see “Backyard Goat Housing” further along in this article.)
- The placement of the goat enclosure within your backyard is also an important decision. In a farm setting, the placement of the enclosure is determined more by convenience than science; it may be simply a fenced pasture attached to the barn. In a smaller setting, you’ll have to think more carefully about where you are going to set up your goat area, giving consideration to your goats, your neighbors, and of course, yourself.
- A goat’s pen should have areas of both sun and shade, which can be provided by an overhang attached to their housing or a large tree.
- It should have protection from strong winds. The goats’ pen should be attached to the goats’ house, where they will also seek shelter from the elements.
- The goats’ pen should be free of ornamental plantings and exotic grasses. Other plants such as ferns, rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel are poisonous to goats. If there are young trees in the enclosure, they should be well protected (that is, fenced); otherwise, the goats will make a quick meal out of them.
Plants may be poisonous or cause negative effects for several reasons, and the level of toxicity depends on several factors, including the stage of growth of the plant, which part of the plant the animal consumed, how much was ingested, and for some plants, at what stage of decay the plant was eaten.
The Danger of Toxic Plants
Cyanogenic plants such as milkweed, mountain laurel, pit stone fruits, and leaves interfere with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Death is usually very rapid. Photodynamic poisoning is usually more of a concern for animals with areas of unpigmented skin. Rape and St. John’s wort are photodynamic plants. When they are eaten in large amounts, sores develop on the skin when exposed to sunlight. Other plants, such as ferns, if consumed in large amounts may cause internal hemorrhaging.
Contact your local health department or agricultural extension agency for a list of poisonous plants in your area.
Backyard Goat Housing
Goats are not too particular about their housing. Plenty of happy goats live in what could, at best, be described as rudimentary housing, and plenty of happy goats live in dairy barns that could be described as luxurious. As long as they are safe and have adequate room and protection from the elements, your goats will adapt well to any housing you can supply. Remember, just because it might work for your goats, you should ask, is it workable for you? In addition to the goats’ safety and comfort, you will want to construct housing that makes it easy for you to do your daily chores, with high ceilings and wide doors or aisleways.
Two’s company. The first thing to consider when constructing housing is the maximum number of goats you will have at one time. All the goats need enough space to lounge about without being trampled on. They need individual space at the hay feeders to ensure they get their share and access to clean water at all times.
- A 4-foot by 9-foot (1.2 by 2.7 m) stall is ample space for a goat and her kids, providing they have access to a yard. Two does need about 70 square feet (6.5 sq m) of housing space.
- Your goats’ housing should be connected to securely fenced outdoor space as large or small as you can accommodate.
- Use common sense when deciding your goats’ spacing needs. If their housing is open and airy and connected to a big yard, you can get by with a smaller footprint in their housing. If the outdoor area is very limited, you may need to give them more space indoors, as that is where they will be spending the majority of their time.
Raising Goats Safely and Securely
If predators of any kind are a threat, you need a way to close your goats safely inside their housing when you are not around to supervise. If you are considering windows in their housing, make sure they are above the head of the tallest goat when she is standing on two feet and leaning against the wall (about 5 1/2 feet [1.7 m]) or covered with bars or tight screens so she can’t accidentally poke her head through, break the glass, and cause injury.
You will be going to the goat barn a minimum of twice a day. The easier you can make it on yourself and the more comfortable it is to work, the more enjoyable your goat experiences will be. You will need to clean out your goat barn several times a year at least. Having enough headroom to stand up straight will make this job much more tolerable and less backbreaking. Wide doors or double doors to get your small garden tractor or wheelbarrow through are always a luxury come cleaning time.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Get Your Goat, published by Quarry Books, 2012.
Originally Published: April 23, 2012
Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas66609-1265
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Raising Goats In The Backyard – A Complete Guide
Introduction to raisingGoats in the backyard
People think about getting backyard goats for several reasons such as for milk, entertainment, and companionship, or even for help in keeping some of the weeds trimmed. But before you consider getting a goat, it is important to know how to keep them healthy and happy. Goats play an important role in human nutrition, food security, and household income, social and cultural functions. They provide useful products like milk, meat, and skins as well as manure for crop and fish production. Goats are a very important component of an integrated production system.
A step by step guide to raisingGoats in the backyard
Goats are a great animal to add to your farm and they are easy to handle, they produce a large amount of milk, and they’re also a source of low-fat meat. If you grow crops on the farm, you’ll be glad to know that goat manure makes great fertilizer too. Goats need adequate land for grazing or foraging and some heavy-duty fencing, but other than that, raising goats is no more difficult than any other farm animal.
Select breeds for raising Goats in the backyard
Super cute and super tiny Pygmy and Dwarf goats are perfectly backyard sized. Pygmy goats grow to half the size of a typical goat breed (about 60 pounds, the size of a medium dog). In a 15-foot x 25-foot space you can set up an area for two mini goats (of course if you can give them a bigger area, these little adventurous and mischievous animals would very much appreciate it). You will want to build some solid fencing to keep them in as they can be escape artists but they can be a lively and fun addition to any backyard farm.
Despite their small size, they can be used for meat, but backyard farmers keep them for other purposes. Goats give excellent manure for your garden. Dwarf goats are excellent milkers, with the average doe producing up to 2 pounds of milk per day. If you aren’t interested in breeding and keeping up with daily milking routines, Pygora goats are adorable little fibre producers. Pygoras yield a silky cashmere and mohair fibre that can be knit into super warm clothing for you and your family. Before buying goats, consider how much land you have to raise livestock on, paying particular attention to existing fences.
How much time you plan on spending caring for the goats will be the main factor in what kind of goats you get. For fresh goat milk, a dairy goat near the end of lactation will provide you with an idea of what is involved in milking without an excessive amount of milk. A Pygmy goat is great entertainment and companionship for children (both young and old). If brush control is the main concern, any breed of goat will do an adequate job, whether it gives milk or not. When buying goat breeds for milk, it’s a good idea to watch the goat being milked to confirm that there is no mastitis, damaged teats, and unusual tasting milk.
Some other Goat breeds are;
A local breed has the best chance of resistance and adaptability to the diseases and the diet of the area, choosing a local breed is always the best place to start a healthy goat herd. Goat breeds can be divided into three main categories;
1. Indigenous breeds which have been naturally selected for adaptability to harsh environments and which are used for meat production, but are also important for cultural purposes.
2. Meat breeds have been specifically bred for meat-producing characteristics.
3. Dairy breeds which are all imported breeds and include Saanen goats and Toggenburg goats. These are breeds that have been selected for milk production and are used for the production of milk and processed milk products like cheese and yogurt.
Importance of raising Goats in the backyard
Goat-rearing is the preferred activity of poor families for the below reasons;
1. In India, the goats are among the main meat-producing animals. Along with meat production, goats are also suitable for milk, fiber, and skin production. They produce high-quality manure which helps to increase crop production.
2. The goat is a small animal; goat rearing is a manageable activity and requiring a comparatively small area.
3. Capital investment is low; therefore, a poor family can start the activity easily.
7. Goat farming can be a profitable occupation for a farmer and can fit well into mixed farming.
8. Goats are cheaper to maintain, easily obtainable and have a friendly disposition.
9. Goats are capable of adapting to several agro-climatic conditions ranging from arid dry to cold arid to hot humid. They can be raised in plains, hilly tracts, and sandy zones and at high altitudes.
10. The goat, the parts of a goat’s body and the products prepared from goats’ produce, etc., are saleable in the market and many cottage industries are based on goats and the goat rearing activity. The milk of a goat is used for the treatment of several diseases.
11. Milk can be obtained many times a day from a goat. Also, there is no impact on the quantity of milk if there is a delay in milking.
Size of Goats (Mini vs. Standard)
There are two sizes of goats such as miniature and standard-size breeds. Standard-size breeds, such as the Nubian and Alpine, weigh between 100 and 200 lbs. or more. Some mini-goats like the pygmy and Nigerian dwarf tend to be popular in urban areas because of the many local restrictions on goat size and weight (these smaller breeds tend to weigh 100 lbs. or less). If the backyard is miniature as well, make sure that the tiny “kid” goat or goats you bring home won’t grow up to be bigger than you are expecting.
Space requirement for raising Goats in the backyard
For space requirements, goats need a pasture area and at least a three-sided shelter or small barn where they can be protected from the elements. In indoors, goats have about 15 square feet per animal, and that in the outdoor pasture 2 to 10 goats can comfortably reside in 1 acre.
Goats prefer group spaces when it comes to housing and a small backyard barn is an ideal shelter for a goat or two. Does should have 20 to 30 square feet of indoor space apiece, while bucks require about 100 square feet. In the winter season, bed the floor with straw or wood shavings, but leave it bare in the summer to prevent flies and other pests.
Housing and fencing requirements for raising Goats in the backyard
Goat housing is simple and keeps them dry and draft-free and they are happy. A three-sided structure is enough for mild climates and it’s helpful to have a small stall for isolating a sick or injured goat or for a pregnant goat to give birth. Packed dirt will suffice for a floor in the goat house, but it must be covered with a thick layer of bedding like wood shavings (not cedar), straw, or waste hay. Keep bedding clean and dry, spreading new layers on top and removing and then replacing all of it as needed.
Fencing is a little more complex and goats need a very strong fence that they can’t climb over, knockdown, or otherwise escape from. If there is so much as a tiny hole, and they will find a way to get out. Then, they use their lips to explore their world, so if a gate latch is loose, they can wiggle it open with their lips and escape. They chew almost everything like rope, electrical wiring, and so on, are all fair game. Goats can jump and climb too, so your goat house must have a climbing-proof roof.
A smooth high-tensile electrified wire is ideal if you want to take an existing fence and then make it goat-proof. You can use a nonelectric fence at least 4 feet high but aim for 5 feet for active breeds like Nubians. Brace corners and gates on the outside so the goats can’t climb up. You can use wooden fencing, stock panels, a chain-link fence, and you can combine a wooden rail fence with woven wire. Smaller breeds of goats like the pygmies need at least 135 square feet per goat. Larger standard goat breeds like Nubians, need twice that much space per goat, so plan accordingly. The square footage of the space needs to be multiplied by the number of goats you have since they want the room to move around each other. Enclosure fencing of at least 4 to 5 feet high is also a necessity for all goats as they are very agile and good jumpers.
In case if you miss this: Pig Feed Chart and Pig Weight Chart for Beginners.
Feed and water requirement for raising Goats in the backyard
Most goats eat a pound of grain per day, and up to 4 pounds for large meat goats or lactating dairy does. They will also eat between 4 and 5 pounds of hay or forage per day, and they should have access to a mineral block so that they aren’t missing any crucial nutrients.
Goats prefer clean, fresh, and well-conserved forage. Goat feed is made up of about 74% tree and shrub leaves and 26% grass. Goats daily need 24 hours access to freshwater and hay, as well as a mineral feeder. For pet goats, replenishing the feed can be done once a day. Goats that are pregnant, as well as milking goats, require more hay and a grain feed is incorporated during the late stages of pregnancy.
Goats will eat most plants in the backyard like grass, weeds, shrubs, trees, flowers but they eat in patches. Be sure, if you are going to house goats on the property, to keep them separate from your prize roses and be aware that many ornamental shrubs like azaleas, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and ferns, are toxic to goats. Keep goats away from these plants if you have them and be sure to talk to your veterinarian to find out what other plants you need to be concerned about in your backyard or area.
Identification of a sick Goat
Your goats will let you know when something’s wrong, but you want to recognize the signs. You want to investigate further or begin taking action if you see the following signs of illness;
· Not chewing cud
· Not getting up
· Pressing her head against wall or fence
· Not eating
· Not urinating or straining to urinate
· Not drinking
· Hot udder
· Limping or staggering
· Ears held oddly
· Isolating himself from the herd
· Grinding teeth
· Unusual crying
· Runny nose or eyes
Goats need veterinary care
Just like dogs, cats and other pets, goats require regular veterinary examinations and vaccinations throughout their lifetimes, which can last for 15 to 18 years. They should be dewormed twice a year and have their hooves trimmed approximately every 6 weeks. Goats are born with horns, which should be removed (a process called disbudding) by a veterinarian when they are only a few days old to minimize the trauma of the process. Then, their horns need to be removed so that they don’t injure themselves, a person, or another animal. Regional goat enthusiast clubs or breed registries are good sources of referrals.
Common health problems for Goats
You should familiarize yourself with the diseases and parasites that can affect goats. Coccidia, worms, and lice are examples of such parasites, but they are easily managed. You’ll want to keep hooves healthy through proper trimming. For lactating goats, proper udder hygiene is crucial because it prevents mastitis, an inflammation of the udder. As with any animal, there is a lot to learn about keeping goats healthy.
The most important thing to know about goats is that while they are very cute and can be lots of fun, they require a lot of thought and care to be kept properly. All goats need fresh hay and grain and eat a huge volume of food daily, so prepared to haul heavy hay bales and bags of pellets to the goat yard often. All goats need extra, higher-protein grain and require supplemental minerals, especially copper, provided as a loose powder or as a compressed brick salt lick.
Find an exotics or farm animal veterinarian who will be available to serve goats. Goats are susceptible to several chronic diseases. Vaccinations and routine preventative treatment for worms and other parasites are necessary for all goats, and you must consult local veterinarians regarding what is required in your area.
Commonly asked questions about raising Goats in the backyard
Can a goat live in a backyard?
Goats are only one choice for backyard livestock, but their versatility and small size allow them to fit different needs.
What is the best shelter for goats?
A hoop house can give enough shelter for goats. And during the grazing season, trees for windbreaks, a three-sided shed, or a pole barn with just a roof may be enough for goats.
How many acres do you need for 2 goats?
The poor ground may support 2 to 4 goats per acre while better pasture may be able to support 6-8 goats per acre. If you are adding goats to cattle, you can add 1 to 2 goats per head of cattle.
How many acres do Nigerian dwarf goats need?
Per acre of pasture for grazing, most sources recommend about 1/10 of an acre per goat, making 10 goats in an acre a reasonable number for grazing.
How tall should a fence be for goats?
Perimeter fence height must be at least 42 inches tall. A high wire (electrified), or an offset wire set one foot inside the fence near the top, can be needed if goat jumping is a problem. As a rule, goats will crawl under rather than jump a fence, so the bottom wire must be kept close to the ground.
How many goats does it take to clear 1 acre?
A general rule of thumb is that 10 goats will clear an acre in about 1 month. Though, stocking rates as high as 34 goats per acre have been reported.
How do you take care of a pet goat?
Goats need plenty of clean water, freshened daily. Consult with an exotics or farm animal veterinarian on the best foods for a goat; do not assume that foods labelled for barn-yard animals are safe for goats.
In case if you are interested in How to Start a Livestock Feed Production, Cost, Profit.
12 Tips for Keeping Goats in the City
Move over chickens, and make way for the goats. Just as it has become increasingly popular to keep chickens in America's backyards, more people are raising goats on city and suburban lots.
Jennie Grant, a Seattle goat keeper who Time magazine dubbed "the godmother of goat lovers," has had a hand in making that happen. Grant founded the Goat Justice League in 2007 to advocate for legalizing dairy goats in Seattle. That effort led to successful campaigns to legalize goats in Long Beach, California, and the Twin Cities. While Grant said the league is not as active as it once was, she continues to maintain the group's website as a way to offer advice about backyard goat keeping and to provide information about how to change local ordinances that ban goats. Grant has also written a book, "City Goats, the Goat Justice League's Guide to Backyard Goat Keeping," that provides how-to advice for keeping goats in residential communities. It also includes a chapter about how to legalize goats where ordinances prohibit them.
"Goats are a really fun experience and serve as a reminder of how out of touch we are with farm animals and how little people know about them," said Grant, who keeps two does, Snowflake and her daughter, Eloise, in a 20-by-20-foot area in her backyard. Here are 12 tips she shared for raising goats in your yard and keeping them, yourself and your neighbors happy.
Check On Codes
The first thing to do is to find out if your county, municipality or homeowners association allows goats where you live. Ordinances and regulations can include terms such as agriculture, livestock or nuisance animals, language that can be confusing even to seasoned government officials. Be sure to check noise ordinances in your research as some breeds of goats and males that have not been neutered can be loud at times. "Un-neutered males also can be very smelly and should not be kept in a densely populated area due to their poor hygiene habits," Grant emphasized.
You Can't Have Just One
This was something Austin, Texas, urban farmers Jennie Peterson and her husband, Brett Davis, learned through an unexpected experience. Their landscape crew — she is a landscape designer, he is a landscape contractor — showed up with a terrified male goat trussed up in the back of their pickup in October 2012. "Somebody gave him to them, and they all live in apartments," Peterson said. "They wanted to eat him for Christmas dinner, so they brought him to our place to keep" until it was time to come back and get him. Peterson and her husband already had chickens, ducks and a potbellied pig, so they figured how much trouble could it be to keep a goat for a couple of months. "I had heard from so many people that goats are really friendly, but ours wasn't," said Peterson. "So I started asking people on Facebook and Twitter ... we have this weird goat. Why's he acting so strange?" That's when she got her answer. "Of course, it never occurred to me that goats are herd animals. You need to have two or more. They don't feel safe and secure when there's just one goat." A single goat also may express its unhappiness by frequent and loud bleating.
Know the Method Behind Your Madness
Before you get goats, be sure to ask yourself why you want to take on the responsibility of caring for them. Is it to ensure a fresh and steady supply of dairy products such as milk, or to make cheese or yogurt? (This is very doable.) To have as pets for you or your children? (Also doable.) To slaughter for meat? (This will work — unless you give them a name, see No. 5!) To mow down unwanted vegetation? (You will probably be disappointed — or worse if they escape and eat the roses of your neighbor, especially if that person happens to be the blue-ribbon champion of the local rose society.)
Choose a Breed That Meets Your Need
Goats that stay small at maturity are smart choices for backyard environments, Grant said. For localities that have a weight limit on goats in residential neighborhoods, the two kinds that Grant says will stay under 100 pounds are mini la Manchas and mini Oberhaslis. Both of these breeds are excellent for producing milk, said Grant. Be sure there is a stud buck of the breed you choose in your area. One of the surprises that people often experience when they start raising goats is that the females have to bear kids to produce milk, Grant said. Pygmy goats make great pets for people with no interests in getting milk from their goats, she added. If one of your goals for raising goats is for dairy, Grant advises against getting a male. "It's far more economical to just bring your doe to a stud buck when it is time to breed," she said, adding that only serious goat keepers who know what they are doing should keep intact males. Accidental breeding when females are too young to breed or inbreeding can lead to serious consequences for mothers and babies.
Be Careful in Giving Your Goats a Name
People become attached to animals they bestow a name to. This can be a problem if you have to give up your goats for any reason, something Peterson and her husband realized when the landscaping crew returned for their goat. Perhaps sensing his fate, the newly arrived goat wouldn't let anyone near him, even to feed him. For her part, Peterson tried not to get too close to the goat, either, at least emotionally. She didn't want to get attached to him knowing what would happen when the crew returned, so she decided she wouldn't even give him a name. But, in trying to calm him down, she unwittingly did exactly that. "I would talk to him and say 'Hey, buddy, how's it going?'" After several months of feeding him, and trying to win his trust, her "buddy" became "Buddy." With a name, the attachment she had tried to avoid was sealed, and she and Buddy bonded. When the crew came back to get him, she said, "No! You can't have him." All of their goats now have French names, and Buddy has become Goatier, which Peterson proudly pronounces as "GO-tee-aaay!"
Make Sure You Have Enough Space
Whatever your purpose in getting goats and whatever breed you choose, be aware that two small goats will require a minimum of 400 square feet devoted solely to the goats, said Grant. "This is a very small area," she said, "and you'll need to create entertainment for them." She suggested building stairways to nowhere they can climb or balance beams where they can play. A clever way to create additional space in small backyards is to build a shed that allows the goats to access a rooftop deck via a ramp or another means. "This will help keep the shed from taking away from the goats' outdoor space," said Grant.
And speaking of sheds...
You Will Need a Covered Goat Shed
Having a goat shed is important because goats want to get out of rain, snow and wind, just like people do. You'll need to provide a covered shed for that, Grant said. Her book includes a chapter on sheds with a diagram of what she calls the new and official state of the art Goat Justice League goat shed. Whatever style shed you build, "It needs to have some sort of protected floor that stays dry so they are not laying in mud," she advised. It will also need to have walls that cover at least half of the sides of the shed. Ventilation is important to prevent respiratory problems. You won't, however, have to provide supplemental heat to the shed as long as the goats can stay dry and avoid drafts. "Cashmere is the winter undercoat of goats, so in essence they grow their own warm underwear," said Sue Weaver, a hobby farmer who keeps goats on 29 acres in the southern Ozarks near Mammoth Spring, Arkansas, and once raised goats near Pine City, Minnesota. The author of the book "Goats: Small-Scale Herding," she "likes to blanket really old goats and sick goats when it's bitterly cold." Horse-like blankets designed for goats are available at places that sell goat supplies, but it's also easy to tailor miniature horse blankets and foal blankets to fit them, too, Weaver said. A good example of a well-fitted goat blanket can be seen (or purchased) at Horseware Ireland.
You Will Need Food and Water
Goats will not get enough calories from roaming around a small backyard and eating available vegetation, Grant said. A goat giving 3,000 calories a day in milk simply can't get enough calories from eating vegetation alone. She suggests supplementing what they will find in your yard with hay, goat chow (available at feed and seed stores) and boughs of branches from blackberry bushes and maple and apple trees. They will also require a steady supply of fresh water. Many plants, however, are poisonous to goats, including ones commonly found in home landscapes such as azaleas, laurel, common milkweed, lantana, oak/plum/cherry trees, wisteria and yews. Poison ivy is also, no surprise, poisonous to goats.
Prepare a Milking Stand With a Stanchion
Assuming you want dairy products, plan on milking twice a day, once daily as the days grow shorter. After the goat gives birth, plan on picking up this same tempo after two to eight weeks of rest. You will need a milking stand with a stanchion for the females to place their head in and where they can reach a tasty treat while you milk them, Grant advised. "You have to train them to be milked," she said. You also have to train yourself. "It takes practice to get the hand movement down," Grant said. Without a milking stand you almost have to lie down on the ground to milk them, especially with a short goat.
Get a Buddy
If by now you're thinking that goat keeping is time consuming, you're right! "You're going to need backup," Grant said. She suggested finding a neighbor who wants goat milk and is willing to help you in your goat-keeping project in exchange for free milk. Helpers will need to be trained, though. Grant recalled that once when she was away, a neighbor who helped her broke a finger on the collar of one of her goats. Grant's insurance company picked up the medical bill but warned her if there was another incident involving liability she would have to get rid of the goats.
Build a (Very) Sturdy Fence
Goats are supreme escape artists. Grant quotes an old Greek saying in her book that it's easier to fence out water than it is to fence in goats. While she pointed out that this is an exaggeration, she also stressed the importance of keeping your goats in your yard and out of your neighbors' property where they might find their way past the prized rose bushes and onto the top of a newly purchased luxury car. Your fence will need to be at least 52 inches high and can be made from a variety of materials, including panels, chain links or woven wire.
Don't Plan on Moving Anytime Soon
If you are going to raise goats, you need to be stable, Grant said. "It's so much work to prepare the goat yard and goat shed that if you are going to get goats you need to plan on being in your house awhile," Grant said. Another consideration about moving is that if you have goats and you're going to uproot you and the animals, you'll need to be sure the new community has a zoning ordinance that permits goats. Otherwise, you'll have to find a new home for them, which can be traumatic if you and your goats have bonded.
The USDA is not aware of a government agency or private group that tracks how many homeowners nationwide keep goats or that assists them with advice about backyard goat keeping. If you want advice for keeping goats in your region, do an online search for a local goat-keeping group or contact your local extension office. If you need help finding an extension office, a regional office might be able to assist you.
How to Raise Goats In Your Backyard
Reading Time: 5minutes
You’ve decided to get a goat or two and try them for awhile, but don’t know where to start. If you have never owned any livestock before, but want to learn how to raise goats in your backyard, getting started is a simple but big step. Goats are only one choice for backyard livestock, but their versatility and small size allow them to fit many different needs. Maybe you want an animal for brush control, or you’re tired of chasing cows and want something smaller to deal with. I don’t blame you!
Everyone knows that goat milk is healthy, but many people wonder: Is goat meat healthy? Turns out, goat meat is lower in cholesterol than beef. You can take a goat to be butchered without a trailer and not have several hundred pounds of meat to freeze. Goats make just as good (or better) pets as dogs or cats, but they give back more than just companionship.
Before buying your goats, consider how much land you have to raise livestock on, paying particular attention to existing fences. If you have no fences, you can try electric wire or build fences as you go along. A holding pen is necessary for any animal, as you will need some way to contain them occasionally, such as to give vaccinations or other care.
How much time you plan on spending caring for the goats will be a major factor in what kind of goat(s) you get. For fresh goat milk, a dairy goat near the end of her lactation will provide you with an idea of what is involved in milking without an excessive amount of milk. A Pygmy goat is wonderful entertainment and companionship for children (both young and old). If brush control is your main concern, any breed of goat will do an adequate job, whether it gives milk or not.
Although you may be tempted by the price and convenience, as a new buyer, it’s best not to start off purchasing your first goats from a sale barn, as you won’t know anything about the animal’s background or why the owner is selling it. There is usually a good reason why the price seems so cheap. Even a goat that has registered papers is no guarantee that the animal is free of diseases; it just means it came from registered parentage.
Your local library should have at least one good book on how to raise goats in your backyard, with associations and other resources for raising goats listed in the back index. Send off for free information on the different breed associations and compare the information about each goat breed. Most associations have a list of members and can tell you where to find other goat farmers closest to your area, or a district representative to help you.
Look in your local paper (including the small newsletter types) for several issues in a row and make phone calls to find out what goat breeds are available in your area. You will also save time driving around until you have a better idea of what you want. You can also place an ad to find a specific goat breed, requesting other goat owners and goat farmers to contact you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when buying your goats. Check the animal thoroughly, taking note of things like how many teats it has and if its feet are trimmed. Take some time to handle the animal, too. A reputable seller will welcome your interest and be more than happy to allow you to give the goat a good “look over.”
It’s usually best, as a new owner learning how to raise goats in your backyard, to start with a few animals instead of starting out with a sizable herd. Give your goats time to get used to each other. Remember, goats multiply fast every year, and three females can turn into ten in a matter of about a year if you keep all of them. Some people sell or even give away the male kids almost as soon as they are born, so that they can have extra goat milk for home use, and keep the females. Be sure newborn kids have had an adequate supply of colostrum, even if you don’t plan on keeping them.
If you are looking for a bred doe, in hopes of milking her when she freshens, ask for a written guarantee that the doe is truly bred. Size is not an indication of being bred or how many kids a doe has inside of her. Ask questions to determine how many kids the doe has had in her previous year, if the kids were free from abnormalities, and how old the doe is now. Make sure that you also request copies of any lab tests for things like CAE, TB, or Brucelossis to keep for your own records.
When buying goat breeds for milk, it’s a good idea to watch the goat being milked to confirm that there is no mastitis, damaged teats, or unusual tasting milk. You should also ask for a lesson to get you familiar with handling the goat if you’ve never milked a goat before! Temperament on the milking stand is an important factor – some goat farmers will be unwilling or unable physically to deal with training the animal. Just remember that no goat is perfect, no matter how good the genetics or pedigree records are, so don’t be shy about asking the owner why they are selling the animal.
Once you’re ready to actually buy your goats, ask for a bill of sale or some kind of receipt to prove your ownership, and if the goat is registered, be sure that the registration papers are part of the deal. Don’t be afraid of repeating the question clearly until you get a “yes, with papers” or “no, not with papers” answer. Some registered herd owners sell quality animals at regular “milk stock” prices (without papers), keeping the best show quality goats for their own breeding purposes. There may be an additional cost to change registration papers to reflect new ownership. Fees can vary, depending on whether or not you are a member of an association, so you may want to consider becoming a member at the same time that you register the animal or animals in your name.
Having a buck is recommended if you have several goats, but if a friend or neighbor has one nearby, find out if you can borrow it in order to get your does bred. (It usually takes about 30 days.) Most goats are bred in August and September, although some are “held back” until about February in order to stretch the milk supply through the year.
Dairy goats usually freshen (or kid) in the spring and the heaviest peak of milk production seems to be about the same time that the grass and clover are growing the thickest. This gives the milking goat the best possible browsing arrangements available all year long, and the young kids are easily tempted to start eating more grass and nursing less.
Baby goats are usually available in abundance in March and April, with a few born in February. If you plan on starting your herd slowly by raising them as kids on bottles, it will be awhile before you can expect to have fresh milk, but they will be very tame and easy to work with come milking time. It’s a pleasure to see them grow up this way.
In September and October, prices start a seasonal drop going into winter. This is the best time to buy goats to increase your herd size. Owners decide to sell a few of their “extra” does before carrying them through another winter. Chances are that the breeding buck has already bred them in August or September, and it is only a matter of waiting a few months before milking time.
If you’re ready to learn how to raise goats in your backyard, do your homework. You’ll be an educated buyer, a future producer, and a whole lot happier for having made the right decision before picking up your goats. You will be prepared to make the best choices possible and get a goat!
Originally published in 2002 and regularly vetted for accuracy.
Setup backyard goat
What you need to have for your goats and some hints in our experience:
- To keep things efficient and your goats happy & healthy-
1) Good Fencing, PastureFree ranging for goats is ideal and your goats should like to stay around you and your place, since they appreciate a save home base and you as there shepherd. But even if you can offer them this natural way of live, variety of plants and exercise, you need at least a night pen and save enclosure for them for the time you won’t be around; to keep the goats in and predators out. Cattle panels or even better, horse panels (smaller mashes where goats don’t get stuck with there heads and goats kids can not slip thru) are great, but not affordable for everybody. You can also go with mash wire. The “horse wire size” is to prefer on that fencing as well. Check for goats that may get stuck in fences. If you can not free range your goats, because of neighbours, highways or too many predators in the area, fence an area as big as possible as goat pasture. Also offer something in the pasture for them to jump and climb. To protect against PREDATORS use night lights, Radios (choose a talking channel) and “Nite Guards” (solar blinkers) > see extra hand out
2) Low Water TroughChoose a size that can hold enough water for the goats to ensure they will always have water, even if you leave for a day and can not fill it up soon. But also make sure it is not too high, so smaller goats can reach it as well. Place the trough in a shady place to keep the water fresh in hot weather. To prevent squirrels or even chicks from ending up in the trough, simply place an old oven rack or something similar leaned towards the side in the trough, that way little creatures that might fall in can climb back out.
3) Mineral Salt BlockGoats need a lot of minerals. For several areas with selenium deficiency, like ours, you need to offer them also plenty of extra selenium. The right kind of salt lick for those areas is the Traced Mineral Selenium 90 block. They are usually only available in big sizes, but that is fine even for a few goats, it will last quit a while. The smaller blocks available usually don’t carry the extra selenium. Keep the block from the ground and in a dust free area. Outside the barn, near the water trough in a raised pen or basket with holes in the bottom works great.
4) Hay FeederChoose or build one that has a pen under the rack, to keep the hay that falls thru the rack off the ground. That way you keep the hay clean, your goats eat it all up, you won’t waste as much hay and the feeding area is from becoming a mess. If goats have the choice, they do not eat hay that was fallen on the ground, was stepped on or got messed up in other ways…
5) ShelterDry and wind proof shelter is necessary for cold, wet and hot weather. For the bedding we prefer sawdust/shavings to absorb moisture. To make it extra cosy, you can put straw on top of it. Clean the barn out frequently.
6) Water Heater For The WinterGoats need to have always fresh and unfrozen water. For winter time, we prefer heaters that jump only on below freezing/ De-icer. Those save you energy and avoid over heating of the water. In really cold weather goats like warm water though, you can offer warm water any time you like. For water heaters that heat all the time you can ad a thermo plug in, which will turn the heater off, when it gets above freezing. Heated buckets are usually more spendy and don’t seem to have the lifetime of separated heaters. If you have a plastic trough, make sure the heater is save for those.
7) Hoof TrimmersDepending on how much your goats can room and wear there hoofs down by walking and climbing, you will need to trim the hoofs between 2 to 6 times a year. Get a clipper in a size that fits in your hands well.
8) Hay, Grain and BranchesGrass hay should be available as much as the goats like to eat (except if they look overweight, which could especially happen in miniature breeds and goats that don’t have enough exercise). Around 5lbs per goat/day is recommended. Grain and goat feed can be fed by choice ones a day, but only after they have had there hay first to get there ruminants going before. If you only feed grass hay, you should feed your goats grain especially in winter; ½ to 1 lb per goat/day should be fine. To avoid bloating, you can ad baking soda. If you feed alfalfa hay, this has already plenty of protein and grain is not necessary needed (but a nice treat). Be careful with hay sold as feeder hay. Goats will like the weeds, which are usually in it, but while you carry it around to feed it, you will spread weed seeds around and those will sprout. Also never feed hay with mould! Do NOT use products labelled "for sheep & goats" because they are woefully insufficient in the amount of copper needed by goats.
A feeding example, based on how we feed: During summer we free range the goats and rotate pastures a lot. During winter we feed grass hay in the morning and alfalfa in the evening. Our does get grain during kidding season. During the day we feed tree branches to all the goats, pine and other needle trees. They love to eat the needles and bark (which are loaded with minerals and vitamins), it keeps the goats from getting borrowed in the winter pens and allows them to follow there natural eating habits, which is browsing thru a huge variety of different plants and shrubs. Try it, your goats will love it.
Another hint: Ones the branches are eaten up so far and pealed, shredder them and you have the chips in addition to there sawdust/ shaving for bedding.
We also feed kitchen scratch like peels from washed apples, potatoes and oranges and all kinds of vegetables (except for rhubarb and nuts). Never feed anything mouldy. Goats eat pretty much everything but it needs to be in very good quality/ fresh. For poison plants, please do your own research, as we never had a case of poisoning in our goats. They are usually smart in avoiding those plants.
Enjoy Your GoatsJ
Find further information at the links to the left.
Over the past few years, owning goats has become more popular. Who hasn’t seen the adorable videos on the internet of baby goats (see below)? For many, the trend of raising goats started with keeping chickens. Backyard chickens helped us rediscover the joys of animal husbandry and homegrown food. Moreover, people want self-sufficiency and they also want to know that their food has been produced responsibly, without a long list of suspicious ingredients.
Whether you want to branch out from chickens or want to become more self-sufficient, goats are the way to go. They provide all of the benefits of meat and dairy cattle, but at a much lower cost and in much smaller spaces. Is raising goats for you?
What Raising Goats Requires…
- Check regulations in your area. Some cities and homeowner’s associations prohibit livestock because of pest, disease, or noise concerns. If there are no prohibitions on raising goats, then you’ll just need a little bit of fenced-in land. Use either a 6-foot high cattle grid or electric fence so that your goats can’t jump out or push through the barrier. You can keep 2-4 goats on an acre of poor, sparse pasture, and 6-8 goats on good, fertile land. Remember, good pasture doesn’t necessarily mean weed-free—goats tend to prefer weedy forage to plain grass.
- Consider space. Goats prefer group spaces when it comes to housing. A small backyard barn is an ideal shelter for a goat or two. Does should have 20-30 square feet of indoor space apiece, while bucks require about 100 square feet. In the winter, bed the floor with straw or wood shavings, but leave it bare in the summer to prevent flies and other pests.
- Feed and water. You’ll need an assortment of feeders for hay and grain, and water troughs that are large enough to provide hydration all day long. Most goats eat a pound of grain per day, and up to four pounds for large meat goats or lactating dairy does. They will also eat between four and five pounds of hay or forage per day, and they should have access to a mineral block so that they aren’t missing any crucial nutrients.
- Go smaller? If you don’t have a lot of room, dwarf goats require roughly half the indoor and outdoor space that standard goats need. Dwarf goats also eat less—up to two pounds of grain per day and three pounds of hay.
- Pests, diseases. You should also familiarize yourself with the diseases and parasites that can affect goats. Coccidia, worms, and lice are examples of such parasites, but they are also easily managed. You’ll need to keep hooves healthy through proper trimming. For lactating goats, proper udder hygiene is crucial because it prevents mastitis, an inflammation of the udder. As with any animal, there is a lot to learn about keeping goats safe and healthy.
Which Goat is Right for You?
- If you’re raising goats for dairy: If you are interested in dairy goats, Saanens are considered the gold standard. Lactating Saanens produce up to nine pounds of milk per day, with 3.3% milk fat and 2.9% protein. Despite the lower milk fat and protein percentages, Saanen milk is still considered the best for cheese making because of the large fat globules it contains that improve the texture of the cheese.
- If you don’t have a lot of space: Nigerian Dwarf goats are ideal for smaller spaces. They are roughly half the size of standard goats, and they produce half as much milk: 3-4 pounds per day. Their milk has approximately 6% milk fat and 4.4% protein.
- If you want goats for meat: The goat meat industry relies heavily on Boer goats, and with good reason. These are the largest, most well-muscled goats that you can find. Does of this breed reach 225 pounds live weight, and bucks can grow to a massive 300pounds! Boer goats can also be milked, but they don’t produce as much milk as dairy breeds, and with smaller teats (sometimes four instead of two), they are more difficult to milk than most other breeds.
- If you’re raising goats for dairy or meat: Nubians are a good go-between breed. They are considered a dairy goat but are stockier than most dairy breeds, so they are sometimes raised as meat or meat-and-milk goats. They produce an average of six pounds of milk per day, which is considered among the best, with 4.9% milk fat and 3.7% protein. Does can grow to up to 135 pounds, while bucks reach roughly 160 pounds. Or consider pygmy goats if you have space constraints. The meat breed of choice. They look very similar to Nigerian Dwarf goats but don’t produce as much milk. Pygmy goats weigh 75-85 pounds on average—an ideal size if you don’t need or want much more than 30-50 pounds of meat in the freezer.
Keep ExploringSours: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/raising-goats-31360
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