Hello and welcome back to the Gubba podcast! I’m Gubba, a first time homesteader following in the footsteps of my homesteading forbears. In this podcast I discuss prepping, homesteading, and everything in between. Today I want to discuss with you all about goats.
What you need to know before getting goats, the basics, and I’m inviting you to come along on my goat adventure as I now have 4 goats! If you follow me on socials, you have seen them and they’re so stinking cute! I have four Nigerian dwarf goats that I got for milk. People like to talk about chicken math, but for me it has become goat math. I started with 2, now I’m at 4, and will be at 6 soon. I’m telling myself I will stop there, but I love how easy of a livestock animal they are.
For me and my area at least, so I wanted to share all of the knowledge I have accumulated if you are wondering if goats are right for you and what you need to know about getting them.
So whether you're considering getting your own goats or simply curious about these remarkable creatures, this episode is for you. Let's get started!
What are goats used for?
A little bit of background Goats have been domesticated for thousands of years and have served humans in various ways. They are versatile animals that provide milk, meat, fiber, and even companionship. Goats are closely related to sheep and cattle. They are known for their incredible agility, curiosity, and adaptability, making them excellent foragers and climbers. You can see the curiosity on a goat’s face, the world is at their hooves and they just want to play and get into trouble. Some people love that and others do not.
When it comes to owning goats, there are a few essential factors to consider. First, you need to understand the specific needs and requirements of goats. These animals have unique dietary needs, housing requirements, and health considerations. Let's break it down step by step.
What is a goat’s diet?
Diet and nutrition are crucial aspects of goat care. Goats are ruminants, meaning they have a four-chambered stomach designed to efficiently digest plant-based materials. Their diet primarily consists of roughage, such as grass, hay, and browse. It's important to provide them with a balanced diet that includes essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, goats require fresh, clean water at all times. So if you’re thinking of getting goats, plan ahead of time their watering situation. Currently, I have water feed buckets that I use. One I keep inside their shelter and another out in the run that the chickens use as well. I get them fresh water every morning or night depending on how dirty it is or if they need more. I’ve found that the goats don’t like to drink out of the water that the chickens do even though it is clean. Goats can be picky!
What do you need for housing goats?
Housing is another vital aspect of goat ownership. Providing a secure and comfortable shelter is essential to protect goats from harsh weather conditions and predators. The shelter should have good ventilation, be well-drained, and have enough space for goats to move around freely. Additionally, a secure fence is necessary to prevent escapes and keep predators at bay. I would make sure that moisture is not an issue in your goat’s shelter. They do not like to be wet and it could actually be hazardous to their health. You can do something as simple as a three-sided enclosure. They are tolerable to hot and cold, but water is something they will not tolerate.
How to treat goat parasites?
One downside of goats is that they are susceptible to parasites. This was a big con for me when I was originally looking at dairy animals. I didn’t want to deal with treating for parasites and de-worming, but I have come to learn it is not as difficult as it seems. You can do fecal smears to get counts on worms or have a veterinarian do it. You can also check their eyelid coloring to see what the load of parasites is. You essentially pull down their eyelid and you want it to be red or pink. If it is white, you are in the emergency zone and need to treat immediately.
All of this information I learned while spending some time with an experienced dairy goat owner. They showed me how you pull down the eye lids, what colors to look for and how white is a serious emergency for your goat. So regular monitoring of their body condition, temperature, and overall behavior is essential to catch any potential health issues early.
This goat owner used a holistic herb powder for their goat dewormer and that is what I am using as well. I didn’t want to have to subject my goats to constant pharmaceuticals if I didn’t have to. Plus, you have to toss the milk with pharmaceuticals. Herb treatment of parasites you generally don’t have to. Land of Havanah is what I am using. I just top dress their feed with the powder according to their weight and current parasite load and use it for maintenance.
Are goats social?
Aside from understanding goat diet and goat parasites, one important consideration when owning goats is understanding their social nature. Goats are herd animals and thrive in the company of other goats. It's recommended to have at least two goats to provide companionship for each other. They also appreciate human interaction and can develop strong bonds with their owners if given proper attention and care. I heard that a single goat is a LOUD goat. They will cry because they are lonely. Be careful though, you may start with 2 goats then end up with a bunch like me. They’re so fun!
If you want to have dairy goats for milk, you then need to have a plan to breed the goats. I mean if you want a sustainable herd for meat or fiber too, you will want to figure out how to breed your goats. Whether by AI, owning a buck, or renting a buck. Figure out that system before getting goats so then you don’t have to deal with the hassle later. Another fascinating aspect of goats is their reproductive cycle. Female goats, called does, can reach sexual maturity as early as four months old, while males, known as bucks, become sexually mature around six months old. It's important to understand the breeding process if you're considering raising goats for breeding purposes. Consult with experienced breeders in your area to learn what others are doing.
How often do Nigerian drawf goats go into heat?
My Nigerian dwarf goats go into heat every 21-28 days which is nice because I can really plan out my milking schedule for the year. I don’t want to milk during the winter so I will plan to breed them in November for summer babies. Other breeds of goats have different times they come into heat, so research your breed and when they come into heat to decide what is right for you and your homestead.
When it comes to selecting the right breed of goats, it's crucial to consider your goals and the intended purpose of your goats. Different breeds have different traits and characteristics. Some are better suited for meat production, while others excel in milk production or fiber quality. Research various goat breeds and choose the one that aligns with your specific needs and resources. I wanted to have goats for milk so I landed on Nigerian dwarfs because they have the highest % of butterfat in their milk and I am all about the fat! They won’t produce as much milk as other breeds because they are smaller goats, but their milk tastes delicious and I actually love how small they are. I don’t think I will ever want normal sized goats.
Are goats grazers or foragers?
Now, let's address the common myths and misconceptions about goats. One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that goats eat everything. While goats are excellent foragers and have a varied diet, it's essential to provide them with a balanced and appropriate diet. They should not be allowed to eat toxic plants or consume excessive amounts of certain foods. It's crucial to research and provide them with a safe and nutritious diet. I’ve been out to watch my goats eat and they definitely pick and choose what they want to eat. They don’t just put their heads down to the grass like sheep and cows.
Do goats escape their fencing?
Another misconception is that goats are escape artists. While goats are known for their climbing abilities, they can be trained to respect fences and boundaries. Providing a secure fence with the appropriate height and material can prevent most escape attempts. Additionally, spending quality time with your goats, providing mental stimulation and enrichment, can help reduce their desire to escape. I haven’t had any issues with my goats and I just have t-posts and some field fencing. T posts and hog paneling will also work well to keep them enclosed. I think the stories that I’ve heard of people hating goats resulted from them not having good fencing. I’m sure they would be a huge pain if they were constantly getting out.
Lastly, owning goats requires dedication, time, and effort. They are not low-maintenance animals and need daily care and attention. They rely on their owners for food, water, shelter, and healthcare. Before deciding to own goats, make sure you have the necessary resources, knowledge, and commitment to provide them with a good quality of life. I would like to say though that they are a breath of fresh air and a walk in the park compared to my dairy cow that I had last year. Cows are ginormous whereas goats are a fraction of the size, so you know what that means? You can keep them in a smaller area more contained area. Seriously, I am loving my goats and how easy they have been. Again, I attribute that to having solid fencing.
Well, that concludes our episode on the basics of goats and what you need to know about owning goats. I hope this episode has shed light on the wonderful world of goats and inspired you to learn more about these incredible animals. If you're considering goat ownership, remember to research, plan, and prepare adequately. I appreciate you spending your time here and hope to see you next time!