What I Wish I Had Known About Goats Before Getting Them (But I Wouldn't Change a Thing!)
I begged my husband for goats. I pretty much demanded them, I'm ashamed to say. I pleaded. I cried. My poor husband. He didn't really like them much...but he got them for me anyway. Our first go around (yes, we've done this twice--I'm determined), we got Pygmies. They didn't work out very well, actually, for either of us. They were too small for milk, and not very friendly. But recently, I talked my man into some more goats!
"We can have milk! I'll take care of them! You won't have to do a thing!" I said. Yeah. Well, we'll see about one of those things. (The milk.) Turns out, we both take care of them, and my husband has had to do a LOT, including building a better goat pen for our three new "kids." And put up more fences. And take us to the vet in the middle of the night. Yes. I love my husband--he is the BEST man in the world!
Needless to say, there are quite a few things I'd wished we had known about goats before getting them, and I'm going to share these things with you! I hope you learn from our experiences!
You might also want to find out about: What You Need to Bring Home Ducklings, What You'll Need to Bring Home Chicks, Seven Things I Wish I Had Known About Raising Turkeys.
Note: There are affiliate links scattered throughout this article, and if you click on one, I'll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you SO much for helping support Healing Harvest Homestead! Heidi
Goats are Actually Picky Eaters
Goats do not eat tin cans. I can tell you that. However, they DO eat cardboard, paper bags, bark off trees, and other strange (and mostly fibrous) things. And. They don't eat horehound (the invasive weed/bane of my existence---the ONE thing I wish they would eat!). They don't necessarily eat what you want them to eat.
We were feeding our goats alfalfa and grain (which they loved, and which I was happy they loved), and then our baby boy got sick. REALLY sick. Like, he could have died. It turns out that the alfalfa probably has too much protein, and the grain has the wrong minerals. We should have been just giving him grass hay, like we feed our horses. And maybe a teeny, tiny bit of grain once in awhile. And proper minerals.
So when we switched our little herd of three over to grass, they had a FIT! lol It was pretty funny in a way. They really let us know! And if you don't know how goats can sound when they're mad...well, they are very LOUD. But finally they calmed down.
Part of why they calmed down is because we give them the run of most of our property. We try to keep them out of the fruit trees, though. They love to eat foliage and leaves....and bark.
Goats are Little Houdini's
However. Goats are little escape artists! Or, should I say...they can get into places you'd never believe?! When we discovered our goats LOVE the fruit trees (and not just for the shade--but to devour), we fenced those trees in! But those little stinkers managed to knock down the fence, or sneak into the side, or climb in the back way...all to get to those fruit trees. Now we have a better fence.
Here is our poor almond tree now.
I can't even show you some of our other trees. It's pretty sad. My husband was VERY angry, but I reminded him that "goats will be goats" and the "goatness of goats" (a take off from Joel Salatin's book I highly recommend everyone read: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs.) He's gone through stages: Anger. Resignation. And finally, he is getting a little sense of humor. Thank goodness! :-)
When a Goat Gets Sick, He REALLY Gets Sick
We had an incident a couple of weeks ago. I'd say Sammy, our baby boy (buckling) was about six months old. Turns out he had a case of Urinary Calculi, and I'll write more about that later---but it nearly killed him. After a trip to the emergency vet, he was fine.....but it was pretty scary. That whole experience was a lesson I won't be taking lightly. Goats need more care than I was led to believe.
Everyone says, "Goats are easy! Get a backyard goat!" But....after that (and the fruit trees), I would say they are NOT easy. And sometimes things happen that are just plain scary.
Turns out---it was our fault he got so ill. We were feeding them all wrong! And bucks have quite a different anatomy than the females, so you really have to be in touch with their mineral intake--both what they are and aren't getting.
That I Would Cry When the Babies Need to be Sold
You can't just keep having babies. You just can't--especially when you are very limited on space, like we are, here on only 2/3 acre. So, when our goats had babies a couple of years ago, we had to sell some of them off. I cried. I actually did.
Billy Goats are SUPER Gross! And Stinky.
This is not our first experience with goats. A few years ago, we had a few pygmies. Turns out....they were not for us. But one was the cutest little baby boy. Then. He grew up. And became a MAN. A MAN Goat!
Male goats are truly stinky. I can't describe it. They also pee in their mouths, pee on you, and chase anything female around (including my poor daughter-in-law, who is probably still traumatized).
Billy goats need to be separated from the females, unless they are fixed. We didn't know this either. They'll ruin the milk because of the hormones they help release in the female goats, and that's that. It's all about breeding for those guys.
If you're going to keep a male goat that is not for breeding purposes, you will have to have him wethered, or castrated. That's where our little boy is headed, once he gets Big Mama pregnant!
You Need to Pick the Right Breed for YOU
We started out with Pygmies--because...CUTENESS! But honestly, my husband and I have a rule. Everything on our property needs to have a purpose. Cuteness isn't one of them. Plus, they weren't friendly. Maybe it's because of where they came from, but these little goats never let us actually love on them.
So. Two years later, to today. I did some research (which I should have done from the beginning). We decided upon Nubians. We got two unrelated baby Nubians--a boy and a girl, now about 6 months and 5 months old. Then we got a full grown half-Boer, half-Nubian Mama. She had recently lost her kids to some dogs who were loose, and we didn't know how she'd do with us and our dogs. Luckily, we have some really AWESOME dogs, and over the past three months, they all get along great!
These goats we have now are friendly, personable, are part of the family, and hopefully one day soon, we will have milk, and they will meet the "usefulness" factor of our home life here. Regardless, they are an awful lot of fun. I never get tired of being around them, and they always make me laugh!
Goats Waste a LOT of Hay
Oh. My. Gosh. I can't tell you how messy they are! But luckily, we have chickens. And any extra hay everywhere gets swept up and used in the chicken coop. Waste not. Want not. Right?
That I'd Need to Learn About Minerals...and Proper Feeding
You know. I thought feeding horses was tricky. Until I got goats! After the emergency stint, I realize feeding goats comes into a completely different category, probably because of their digestive system set-up.
I still need to call the Cooperative Extension office and find out about the mineral content in our soil up here. Call me a doubter in the government, but I sort of doubt they'll be able to tell me much. But call, I will. Especially after "the incident" with our sick boy a couple of weeks ago.
Basically, you need to find out what kind of minerals you have in your soil and water so you can supplement if you need to.
That I Would Just Love Goats SO Much!
Did I mention I love our goats? Yes, I do. Even though they've managed to eat all my potato plants. Even though they go where they are not supposed to. Even though they have managed to get into a closed metal hay storage truck. I LOVE them. They are fun, entertaining, a great deal like super large happy puppies. They love us right back, too! They follow us everywhere, and wait for us to come out of the house---not just to feed them, but to interact. I wouldn't change a thing.
Yes. I think everyone should have a couple of goats. Well. If you want.
Do you keep goats? What are your experiences? I'd love to know! Share in the comments!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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