Sadie loves raising her goats, and they are easier to raise than most people think.
Goats are friendly, curious, and, at times, feisty. They make good pets, helpful dairy animals, and a wonderful addition to the homestead. Maybe you are just in the beginning stages of deciding if you want to add goats to your homestead, or maybe you are just looking to know more about the care and needs of these animals. I am here to give you a run down of what it takes to keep and care for these animals.
Goats are pretty easy when compared to some farm animals. They don't require a lot of constant care, and there is the added bonus that they eat all those pesky weeds in your yard—including poison ivy! I know some cats and dogs that are needier than most goats. Give them a shelter, food, and water, and they are happy. Remember that goats are herd animals, so plan to have enough space for at least two goats in order to keep them happy.
Goats are pretty hardy, but they do require a shelter to allow them to get out of the elements. They do not like to get wet and can also become sick when they are out in inclement weather with no shelter available. The shelter does not need to be fancy: a simple three-sided structure is sufficient. The open side should face south unless this happens to be where your wind comes from. Also, be sure to pitch the roof away from this opening. You should plan on having at least 20 square feet of space indoors per goat, though you can go a little smaller if you have chosen a miniature breed. A dirt floor is best for goats as it provides better drainage and won't rot like a wood floor.
Bedding isn't necessarily a must: straw or sawdust is good to use in the wintertime, but I usually don't add any bedding unless it is needed in the warmer months. They make quite a mess with their hay, so they make their own bedding in the summer. If you do provide bedding, be sure to clean it out at least once a week in the warmer months. In the colder months, you can layer bedding and clean it out completely about once a month.
Goats can be hard on fences, so make sure you construct a strong one. You can choose from a variety of options, such as electric, woven wire, welded wire, or cattle panels, but it should be at least four feet high, and tight enough so that they cannot push it down. Goats can jump higher than you think when they can get a running start, and they also have a tendency to push on a fence, especially when they see you coming with treats or attention. It can be a good idea to run a strand of electric wire along the top of your fence to keep them from leaning on the fence and knocking it down or bending it over.
You will need to provide at least 200 sq. ft. of space per goat in your fenced run, although again you can go a little bit smaller if you are raising miniatures. Remember this is a minimum, and your goats will be much happier with more space to run and play. They also lead very well and can be tied out to eat in different areas of your yard. Just make sure you check on them often when they are tied out, since they can, and will, get themselves wrapped around things as they eat their way through leaves, grass, and weeds.
This should go without saying, but your goats will need a constant supply of good fresh water. You can give them warm water in the winter, which they will appreciate. They drink a lot, so invest in an automatic waterer or check daily. We use five-gallon buckets filled once a day around here.
Goats require some supplemental feed—especially does who are in heat, pregnant or in milk. Bucks in rut also require more feed. Most feed stores will carry a feed suitable for goats. Open does only require one to three cups per day, depending on their size and weight. Pregnant does and bucks will need about three cups a day. Milking does need a lot more: I let mine eat as much as she wants while she is getting milked, and I also feed her a bit at night too. Wethers only need a small amount, no more than a cup.
You also need to make sure you provide hay for them daily as well as forage. They will make a huge mess with their hay, and it will seem like they are wasting most of it since they won't eat it after it is on the ground. Buying or building a hay feeder with some type of surface to catch all this hay is a good idea, and they will waste less. Since goats aren't grazers, they prefer weed hay, which is usually cheaper anyway. They love alfalfa too, and you can give them that as a treat now and then.
Forage is very important. If they have eaten down their yard, try and let them out to browse at least once a day and throw them weeds and trimmings from your yard work. My kids have a great time bringing treats to the goats: leaves, weeds, dandelions. Make sure you know your yard too....goats love to eat, but they can't eat everything, and some things are poisonous to them. Fias Co. Farms has a great list of plants that are toxic to goats. Most of the time, they will avoid those things that will make them sick, but not always, especially if forage is hard to come by.
The only other thing you will need to provide for your goats is loose minerals. They need their vitamins just like us! Most feed stores or Tractor Supply will have minerals for goats. Make sure they are labeled for goats and not sheep, as sheep cannot have the amount of copper that goats require.
Now that we've covered living and feeding arrangements, I want to talk about the routine care you need to provide to keep your goats healthy.
- Hoof Trimming: Goat's hooves are like fingernails that need to be trimmed. Invest in a good pair of trimmers that are nice and sharp. Keeping their hooves in good shape is very important and isn't a job to be ignored.
- Worming: You will also need to keep an eye out for intestinal worms and treat as needed. You can go with chemical wormers- which are becoming more and more ineffective as worms get resistant to them. Or you can go with herbals. We have always used an herbal dewormer and have only had one goat have a problem that couldn't be solved with them. And I blame myself for forgetting to give the weekly dose of the product. Your local feed store will have all the chemical worming medicines, and you can purchase a great herbal formula from Molly's Herbals.
- Vaccinations: As in people, not everyone believes in vaccinating their animals, so if you are one of them, you can skip this part. I don't vaccinate for everything, but I do believe that every goat should be vaccinated for Tetanus. It's not a pretty disease, and it can be near impossible to recover from even if caught early. Do your research and make an informed decision, but I would highly recommend vaccinating against this one thing.
- Emergency Situations: As with any pet, make sure you are prepared for an emergency. Have a medicine cabinet with basic supplies and the number of a vet who is knowledgeable about goats. Goats are hardy, but they can get into trouble. They could break a horn, get injured, or come down with a severe case of worms. You don't want to play around, so be prepared.
Can't Decide Which Breed of Goat to Get?
- Raising Goats: How to Choose a Breed
Do you want to get goats? Read this summary of the many different goat breeds to find out which one suits your needs best.
© 2012 sadie423
Orange on June 15, 2020:
Thank you so much for the info.
MEL SHELL on July 30, 2019:
MY GOAT DOES NOT LIKE LETTING KIDS TO NURSE, HOW OLD DORS KIDS NEED HER MILK
Nuraddeen Aliyu on July 12, 2018:
Good idea on how to raise a goat, thanks.
phonet on April 10, 2018:
Denise on September 13, 2017:
Very helpful thanks
Cat walks on February 26, 2017:
Trimming my goats hoof was very hard so I left it to the professionals it hurt them when I tried
Tara McNerney from Washington, DC on May 27, 2012:
Thank you! I one day want to own my own goats and this gave me a very thorough picture of what to expect. Voted up and useful!
How to Raise Goats on a Homestead or Small Farm
We have been raising goats for several years. And my husband has a lifetime of experience with raising cattle and various other livestock.
My husband grew up on his family’s cattle ranch where he learned the needs of livestock. And he learned from his father who also had a lifetime experience from growing up on his family’s farm.
I’m sharing a roundup of posts that I’ve put together over the years with our experiences.
I’d like to consider this as a one stop place filled with all of the information to help you on your journey with raising goats.
Save this list and refer to it whenever you need some guidance when learning how to raise goats.
Goats can serve so many awesome purposes. Whether you want to raise them for dairy, meat, fiber, or use them for brush clean up. They even make excellent pets!
They are wildly entertaining! Just look up baby goat videos on social media. Goats are also master escape artists. It really is quite impressive to watch them learn how to get into places they’re not supposed to be in!
I’ve watched our goats climb a tree just to jump over the fencing. Smart animals!
What You’ll Find in this Goat Raising Guide:
- Best breeds of goats for various purposes
- Tips for fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum in goats
- Baby goat care
- How to DIY your own goat feeder
- Build a simple goat shelter
- And more!
Goat Health Tips
As with raising any animal or livestock, regular health care is necessary. Those with experience know how to spot the signs of certain conditions or administer vaccines.
And there are other times where it is necessary to call a professional. Personally, I always prefer and recommend that anyone should consult with a veterinarian for guidance.
This will help in proper treatment options and to prevent a misdiagnoses.
Raising Goats for Beginners
When we first started our homestead journey, I knew that I wanted to raise goats as pets. I dropped hints for my husband often. And like any big undertaking, it had to become his idea before we purchased our first group of goats.
So the first thing that I started to do was research the types of goats that I wanted to raise. Since I wanted to raise goats as pets, my heart was set on getting a couple of Pygmy goats.
Again, I had to help encourage my husband with the idea that we needed Pygmies. And we didn’t start out with that breed initially. It took some time, but we eventually purchased a couple of Pygmy goats.
Our first goat purchases were Alpines, LaManchas, Nigerian Dwarfs, and Boers.
It has been several years since our first goat purchases. And boy, have we learned a lot through these years.
So, here I’ll share some of our experiences and lessons learned with raising goats.
Choosing the Best Goat Breed for Your Needs
When it comes to selecting a goat breed, there are several to choose from. Some of them even serve dual purposes.
I knew when we started out that I wanted to raise goats for pets. But now we raise ours for a variety of purposes. We raise goats for grazing land & brush clean up on the ranch, for dairy, we breed our goats, and we use them for companionship.
Obviously Pygmy goats have a special place in my heart, there are a few other goats to raise as pets that I would recommend. And these can vary depending on your available land space, if you have children, and if you want them to serve as a dairy goat as well.
Alpines and Nigerian Dwarfs are just a couple of great options to keep as pets as well as for dairy!
In our experience with raising goats, I always suggest to start with raising your goat when they’re young. If you have the opportunity to bottle feed your baby goat and handle them often, they will be much more tame.
Handling the goats often, petting, snuggling, and giving them love will make the goats more friendly, lovable, and tame.
Train goats and teach them manners while they are young. Young goats want to jump up and climb on everything, including people. And if they aren’t trained properly, this behavior will continue when they’re adults.
Also, I’ve seen some people who want to rough play with their baby goats. This can teach the goats to be aggressive in later years. Something you definitely don’t want to deal with.
Does and some wethers are probably the best options for keeping gentler goats around and as pets. If you want to breed your goats, you’ll want to consider adding a buck or two, depending on how big your herd is.
We currently have a Boer and a Pygmy buck for breeding. When we aren’t in breeding season, they should be separated from the does.
The larger breeds should also be separated from the smaller breeds during breeding time to prevent injury to the does during pregnancy and labor.
Preparing Housing & Fencing for Goats
Depending on your climate, you can keep your goat housing pretty simple. They will need shelter from the elements and predators, strong fencing, room to run and play. And a few other simple things.
During the winter months, we keep our goats in a barn with a fenced in pen with plenty of room for them to roam. And during the warmer months, we use the goats for grazing and keep them in with an electric fence and use this goat shelter.
Our winters here get pretty cold, so I would definitely recommend that you have some sort of hay or bedding for your goats to keep warm. Just be prepared to muck out the stalls often. And good ventilation is super important.
Goats are also natural escape artists. I would make sure you have solid fencing that is at least 4-5’ tall. We also line our fencing with cattle panels to ensure the little ones don’t escape.
For awhile, our goats kept getting out despite having 5 foot fencing. The little stinkers were climbing in the tree and jumping down over the fence!
So double check that there isn’t anything they can use to help them escape.
If using electric fence, goats will find a way out if it isn’t “hot” enough. So always test that connection and use the proper power source recommended by the manufacturer.
Whenever raising goats or any animal really, you’ll always want to ensure you’re providing them with good quality and nutritious food.
We feed ours hay from the pastures. We do give grain on occasion, but sparingly. It is more of a treat for the goats. They really need good quality greens.
Goats have high requirements for copper in their diet. And you’ll want to make sure that you have minerals available for the goats.
We keep salt & mineral lick tubs out for our goats to use as needed.
Goats are natural foragers and if you have the extra space for them to graze, they will love it! Here are a few tips for avoiding poisonous plants for grazing livestock.
And of course, you’ll need to make sure that goats are getting plenty of fresh water.
One more feeding tip, goats are pretty picky. They usually won’t eat any hay that has fallen on the ground. And this leads to a lot of waste and that can become quite expensive.
My husband built a couple of these goat feeders from pallet wood to help reduce waste.
Maturity & Fertility Basics
Most goats should usually reach maturity by about 6 months. This can vary depending on the goat breed. On average, they will reach puberty anywhere from about 4-12 months.
Goats usually breed seasonally, but some may be able to breed year round.
This is only a problem if you keep a buck with your does and don’t separate them when they don’t need to be pregnant.
The gestational period for a goat is typically 5 months. When a goat goes into labor, you may notice her behavior is “off” from what is normal for her.
All you’ll need to do when your goat goes into labor is to make sure she has some place safe, ensure she has quality food and water available.
You’ll want to make sure she has privacy and space, but still check up on the progress. There may be times where you’ll have to assist in the labor if complications arise.
And you’ll definitely want to keep your Vet’s number on speed dial in the event of an emergency.
Check out this raising baby goats post for more information about kidding and baby goat care.
A Few More Tips for Raising Goats
Goats are herd animals and do best with a companion or more. I always recommend to anyone to purchase your goats in pairs or if you have the space, to add a small herd.
This will keep them happy and prevent loneliness. And it is something to consider if you’re planning on raising goats for milking or raising goats for pets.
Some goat breeds are more playful than others and will require more space to roam and explore. A ranch, farm, homestead, or small acreage are ideal situations for raising goats.
If you live in city limits with some space for goats to explore, make sure you check with your town’s by laws before you make your goat purchases.
A couple of other questions, I’ve received recently. Goats will only come into milk when they have given birth, called kidding. You won’t have to worry about milking your does if you don’t breed them.
Also, I wouldn’t recommend keeping goats indoors. They are natural foragers, so I can’t imagine they would be happy staying indoors for long term. They may appreciate the extra attention. But they will also create a mess and probably break or chew on various things in the home.
How To Look After Pet Goats
Goats are among the most favorite farm animals raised as pets. But not everyone is lucky to own pet goats because of restrictions like city ordinances, the size of the area needed, or simply the time needed to raise the farm animals. To help you decide whether pet goats are right for you, here’s what you can and cannot expect from pet goats.
Things to Expect from a Pet Goat
Pet goats are unlike common pets as cats, dogs, birds, or rodents. If you have a goat for a pet, expect to…
1. Buy constant supply of goat feed
Goats eat an awful lot of feed. So expect to buy constant supply of goat feed such as grass and alfalfa hay. You can also buy goat pellets from farm supply stores, but these probably are an expensive staple for chewing. The pellets are good for pet goats’ main diet, but hay and leafy greens are the cheaper alternative to satisfy goats’ penchant to chew.
2. Have an intelligent pet
When it comes to intelligence, goats may come second, but they can never come last. They are curious animals able to respond to your call or to your mood. You’ll observe that if you go near your goat happy, they will react happy too. If you go near them mad, expect a cold reception from your goats also.
3. Visit a farm vet regularly
Despite being sturdy pets, goats need regular vet visit for deworming, vaccination, and hoof trimming. Sometimes there voracious appetite gets them in trouble when they mistaken garbage or fabric for food. They’ll need surgery to remove the ingested foreign object if this happens. Goats need disbudding, too, which only a vet is qualified to perform.
Things NOT to Expect from a Pet Goat
If there are things you can expect from pet goats, there are things you cannot expect from them too. For instance, don’t expect to…
1. Potty train a pet goat
You might hear some successful stories about goat potty training, but generally goats can’t be potty train. They’ll go whenever and wherever they want to go. That’s why you can’t keep goats inside your house.
2. Have a cuddle time with a pet goat
Goats are pretty tamed pets some don’t mind – even loved – being hugged. However, you can never take a goat inside for a cuddle time while you watch TV. They need their space and their independence out and about in your yard.
3. Have a diligent living lawnmower
If you expect to sell your lawnmower now that you have pet goats, don’t. Goats are not efficient at keeping your turf checked they prefer overhead greenery such as trees and garden flowers better than your low turf grass. That goes to say that pet goats and lush garden don’t mix.
Pet Goat Trivia
If you have pet goats or have observed goats in some farm, you might notice them constantly chewing. Where do they get their cud? Like cattle, goats are ruminants. Meaning, they can regurgitate food from their stomach back up to be chewed as cud. In fact, rumination, or chewing, is vital for proper digestion among ruminant farm animals. Goats normally ruminate if they’re relaxed and unstressed just hanging out with friends under a tree or in their barn.
Where to Buy Pet Goats
The best place to shop for pet goats is to visit farm fairs or visit petting zoos if they some for adoption. You can’t get pet goats by going online, so take some time out to visit farms. Use this opportunity to watch how goat farmers raise the farm animals, too, so that when you go home with your new pets, you have a good idea what to do.
How to Raise Pet Goats
Although they’re farm animals, goats can be raised in suburbs, too. Just make sure there are no ordinances in your area that may prevent you from raising goats as pets. Pygmy goats are the most popular goat species raised as pets, and raising pygmy goats as pets is not too difficult to learn if you’re dedicated and willing to learn.
Origin of Pygmy Goat Breed
The pygmy Goat breed is originated in West Africa (Nigeria). This goat is also known as miniature goat, dwarf goat, Nigerian pygmy goat, African Pygmy Goat.
The Pygmy Goat imported to Europe. Now they are more popular in Europe than in Africa. Some goats exported from Europe to the United sates in 1950. Presently Pygmy Goats is popular in many countries as pets.
Raising Pygmy Goats as pets are becoming trend day by day in the United States, Europe, and Australia.