Should You Raise Goats?

Written by Brandon Garrett

Raising goats is a great way to save money and become more self-sufficient as a family. Goats are really easy to raise and can provide you with meat and milk.

Despite what you may have heard, goats aren’t smelly, messy or eat things like tin cans. Many people who own goats compare them to dogs – they play, don’t smell bad, and can be trained to follow you or play. Goats are very social animals and are very friendly to raise.

If you’ve ever considered raising a goat or two, here are some reasons that you should:

Why Keep Goats?
So what’s your reward for keeping goats? If you raise the dairy goats, each doe will give you about 90 quarts of delicious fresh milk every month for 10 months out of the year. You and our family might drink the milk or use it to make yogurt, cheese, or ice cream. Surplus milk may be fed to chickens, pigs, calves, or orphaned livestock and wildlife.

From each meat wether (castrated buck), you will get 25 to 40 pounds of tasty, lean meat, which may be baked, fried, broiled, stewed, or barbecued. If you raise fiber goats, from each adult Angora you will get 5 to 7 pounds of mohair twice a year. From each Cashmere goat, you will get less than 1 pound of down per year.

Each doe you breed will produce one kid or more annually; some does kid twins year after year. Every day, each goat will drop a little more than 1 pound of manure, which makes for good fertilizer for the garden.

Buying Goats
There are over 200 different breeds of goats that all have different strengths. Some are great for milking, some for meat, some are very space-efficient and others are great for hauling. You can determine what you want to use your goats for and purchase the best goat for your needs.

milk goats

Dairy Goats
In the United States, there are a few different breeds of goats that are good for milking: Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen and Toggernburg.

Alpines, Oberhaslis, Saanens and Toggenburgs typically do better in cooler climates. LaManchas and Nubians originate from warmer tropical and desert climates and do better in warmer climates.

You won’t be able to tell how productive a doeling (young female goat) will be when she matures. But you might be able to get a good idea of how much milk she’ll produce by looking at her dam’s milk production.

An average doe yields about 900 quarts of milk each year. A good milking goat will have a soft, wide, round udder; teats that are the same size and won’t drag on the ground, a well-rounded rib cage, a strong jaw, strong legs and soft skin with a smooth coat.

meat goats

Meat Goats
Throughout the world, keeping goats for meat is a more common practice than milking. Only a few bucks are needed for breeding. In the United States, there are two types of goats that are kept primarily for meat: Boer and Spanish breeds.

The most popular goat breed for meat is the Boer. They originate from South Africa and have a white coat. A mature doe weighs 150 to 225 pounds. A mature buck weighs 175 to 325 pounds.

Spanish goats were the most popular goats before Boers came along. They got their name from Spanish explorers who left them to breed and provide meat for future expeditions. Because the goats vary in shape and color, the term Spanish doesn’t refer to a specific breed. However, a mature doe will weigh 80 to 100 pounds while bucks weigh 150 to 175 pounds.

mini goats

Miniature Goats
Miniature goats, true to their name, are smaller than full-sized goats and produce less milk and meat. However, this also means they eat less, require smaller housing and are better for colder climates when they can spend more times indoors. There are two breeds of miniature goats: African Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf.

The Pygmy has a muscular build and is great for meat. A mature doe weights 35 to 60 pounds. A mature buck weighs 45 to 70 pounds. The Nigerian Dwarf is better for milking and produces about 300 quarts of milk a year – about ⅓ the amount you’d get from a regular-size goat.

How Many Goats? How Much Space Do I Need?
One of the biggest mistakes of new goat raisers is getting too many goats for the space they have. Are you going to want your goats to roam? If so, you’ll need about 20-square feet per adult for feeding and sleeping; plus another 30-square feet per adult for roaming and proper exercise.

You’ll also have to determine whether you want to breed your goats. You’ll need to seriously consider whether or not you should even purchase a buck and what implications that would have on the size of your herd.

If you’re planning on breeding, you’ll also need a pen for the kids. A standard pen size is about 4 foot by 5 foot. If you’re breeding multiple does, you’ll have to clean out and sanitize the pen between breedings.

Preparing Your Property
There are few things you’ll want to consider for your property before you start raising goats.

You’ll want to build some type of shelter or housing for the goats. Sometimes this can be as easy as a shed or a pre-existing shelter. However, you may want to dedicate more space to milking or feeding areas. You’ll want to make sure your shelter is dry and draft-free. You can cover the floor with wood shavings (not cedar), straw, or hay.

Goats are very smart and curious, which means they will try and get out of their pen and explore the neighborhood as much as possible. You’ll want to make a fence that is very sturdy and will hold your goats in and keep predators out.

You’ll also want to make sure you have food storage containers, bowls, hay mangers, mineral feeders and water buckets.

Feeding Goats
Goats can be put to pasture on a grassy or wooded area. They will typically eat shrubs, grass and young trees. It’s important to rotate pastures to keep your grass growing and your goats properly fed.

Even if you do put your goats to pasture, it’s important to add hay to their diet. You can feed hay free choice – give the goats as much as they desire. Young goats or pregnant and milk-producing does may require an extra goat “concentrate,” or goat chow.

What Advice Do You Have?
Have you raised goats or looked in to it? How did it go? What advice do you have for others who are just starting on their journey?

Updated October 18, 2013

10 Comments

  1. NewRancher wrote:

    What a timely article, I am thinking of getting some goats!

    My needs were to get goats to help keep my property clear without having to mow all of the time. I understand that goats are good at this, and they eat weeds and plants that other animals will not, like the dog fennel that grows down here like a weed, horses avoid eating this so eventually the entire paddock will be taken over by it.

    What kind of goat would be best for this task? I am in south florida.

    October 19th, 2013 at 6:06 am
  2. Ben from Texas wrote:

    I have an elderly friend that has goats and there’s more expense and work that it sounds like.First your feed bill,then a pen and water..If you want milk, the doe has to be pg or she won’t give milk so you’ll need a buck in the pen thats not castrated,or borrow a buck from some other goat farmer to service her ever time she starts dropping on the milk supply. Then when she drops a baby eventually you’ll have to feed it also if your going to milk her.Cheese can be made but you’d better be a hard worker to do that ..It can be done but time consuming..When she needs to be milked she has to be milked,no letting it go for 3 or 4 days,or you’ll need to keep the kid on her to draw down the sack.Another problem is getting attached to them.Preventing you from butchering them when you’ve got a dozen of them to feed or care for..I’ve been raising chickens for a long time and they do NOT pay for them selves in eggs and meat.Only getting into raising chickens or goats in my opinion will earn any money..

    October 19th, 2013 at 7:06 am
  3. Hooligan wrote:

    The article didn’t mention all the laws to consider. I’d love to have a dairy goat, but my city council has made pretty much everything you can imagine illegal. I think it’s illegal to exist here. I’m seriously considering a mountain cabin far away. If that happens, hello dairy goat! Thanks for the article. Very informative and a good place to start the research.

    October 19th, 2013 at 9:37 am
  4. KMcD wrote:

    The first thing you need to do is go find a vet that is good with goats and get several serious reference books on breeding and health.
    I raised goats for 13 years and while you hit the high points you missed a major maintance factor: worming for parasites. Goats keep intestinal parasites and you must worm on a routine basis to prevent illness and even death. The worms are mostly microscopic and you never see them. Add to this flukes that can infest your goats liver. We wormed on every three weeks schedule and had to rotate meds each time to prevent parasitic immunity from occurring. Meds are moderate to expensive. There is no homemade concoction that works trust me.
    They get pediculosis (lice) on occasion, coughs, colds, udder infectIons and a whole gamut of things that you just can’t believe they are susceptible too. There are a number of plants that are toxic and must be kept out of reach. They do love, love poison ivy. Then wipe that mouth on you and presto you get to itc for a week. They require routine hoof care. You must be careful to not introduce a goat infected with Caprian Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE). It causes a severe illness and can cause females to abort their pregnancies, is almost always fatal in your kids and often leaves the surviving goat too crippled in the hooves to walk normally.
    All this said they are quite hardy but need a fair amount of maintance on a daily basis. They are fun as they have a society with in the group that rivals any political maneuvering humans can conceive. They are certainly a good herd to keep in small farms and if you are willing to put up with all of this go for it.

    October 19th, 2013 at 9:49 am
  5. KMcD wrote:

    For New Rancher, just a note that goats, like deer are browsers and do not eat grass. Sheep and geese eat grass but not as much as you would want them too. Sheep are dull, dumb and nasty. I got in and out of keeping sheep quickly. Goats require a different hay than most livestock, don’t buy them fancy hays. Hope yours bring you as much enjoyment as my guys did me.

    October 19th, 2013 at 10:00 am
  6. Rick wrote:

    We raise Nubians and mini Nigerians, wonderful fun animals. like article state they are likes dogs in a way, playful attention hounds ( we have a buck who thinks he’s a dog , loves his head scratched and belly rubbed and pesters you till for more he even naps on the porch with the other dogs). IMPORTANT ADVICE, install a prison style fence. Goats have nothing to do ALL day except to plan there next jail break. I love my goats they are wonderful pets most of the time, other times (jail breaks time) they are minions of Satan
    .

    October 19th, 2013 at 12:58 pm
  7. jon wrote:

    RMcD wrote that goats do not eat grass, which is not true. They like to browse and will eat the trees and bushes first. Then they eat everything else, including the grass.

    October 19th, 2013 at 2:44 pm
  8. Tammy wrote:

    What perfect timing! The day we received this email we were on the road to pick up our Pygmy buck Max and Sunday our doe Zoe. We wanted them to help teach our children how to be responsible. The buck had lice which with treatment is almost gone now. We are bottle feeding so it is a lot of work considering we are away at work for 10 or more hours a day. However, the joy they have brought has outweighed the trouble, so far. They have learned how to walk with a harness and leash in 2 days. They seem to be quick learners. Thanks to those that have posted, it is helpful to know. If anyone knows of a good website on how to take care of them when they get minor issues please let me know.
    Have a blessed day!
    Tammy

    October 22nd, 2013 at 6:56 am
  9. wcfujita wrote:

    I purchased three Boer crosses last spring. I bottle fed them for several weeks. That took a lot of time but it is what I wanted to do. Now that they are grown and we have everything setup for them they are about as much work as a dog. They take up as much time as you want to dedicate to them. I pick/clean their stall every week. Fill their hay crib as needed and fill water every day. I quite enjoy them and I would definitely get more. We planted two pastures with Rye grass & clover and they love that but we move them around our wooded property to help us clear and man are they good at it.They are little piggies that eat a lot of brush.

    If you are thinking about getting goats I would read about them, talk to people, and find a vet that handles goats (there aren’t many).

    November 12th, 2013 at 11:44 am
  10. S.Lynn wrote:

    OMG! A neighbor down the street raised rather large goats. The males made the most unbelievable smell urinating and marking their territory. I would never have them. And when I’ve tasted goat cheese all I can taste is that smell when walking by the neighbor’s yard.

    November 18th, 2013 at 8:27 pm

What Do You Think of That?