A Beginner's Guide to Goat Farming
Goats were our second type of livestock we added on our farm, right after, you guessed it: chickens! As part of building up our dream of starting to produce as much of our own food and nutrition as possible, goats played a big role. Of course, it did not hurt that they are cute!
When moving to a more rural neighborhood or buying some land or house "in the country" many people and family's are looking for farm animals and pets. Though chickens tend to be the overall gateway animal, goats are right behind them and are a favorite to add.
When looking to add goats to your family, there are a few things to consider:
1) Consider your why. Are you looking to add pets? Livestock for meat production? Land management? Livestock for diary production? Breeding stock?
2) Consider where you live. Are there restrictions you have to worry about due to city, county or HOA rules and regulations? How much space do you have? If adding as a pet, will these be outdoor or indoor pets? Do you need to build infrastructure?
3) Consider the care of your new animals. How much time do you have on hand? Do you know what to do in case of a health emergency? Are there close-by veterinarians to take care of farm animals such as goats?
These are all important questions to ask and, though you may not have all answers ahead of time, ideally you will be as prepared as possible ahead of adding livestock to your farm or family.
Why do you want goats?
Your why is pretty important, as it will play into the remaining questions and should be answered before bringing in livestock. Depending on how you answer this question, you will be making a decision of which breed would work best for you.
We decided on Nigerian Dwarfs for a multitude of reasons:
they are a small enough breed where we do not need a fence higher then 4 feet
they are small enough to handle easily
they produce great milk quality
they produce very cute kids
Our goats produce enough milk in order to provide for fresh milk for us, and still have enough milk on hand to make our own cheese and dairy prodcuts as well as to support our goat milk soap production.
Are you able to keep goats?
The last thing you want to worry about when adding livestock or a farm pet is to get attached, only to have to then rehome the animal. You may have a hard time keeping farm animals if you have to worry about HOA, city or county restrictions with hoofed animals. Goats, just like other livestock, imprint to you if you spend enough time with you. They rely on you to assure they have a safe place to stay and enough room to live comfortably.
Goats are browsers and overall do not need tons of care. You won't have to take your goat on a walk. They will be perfectly happy in an enclosure as long as they have some room to browse, climb and jump.
Wether you have rocks, spools, or other structures for your goats, they are pretty good at entertaining themselves.
So the next question would be how you will contain them wherever you live. Do you have a fenced in yard? A pasture? Do you have a structure for them to retreat to for inclement weather? Luxury accommodation is not neccessary, however a basic shelter to get out of bad weather is definitely something you will need to provide.
How will you take care of your animals?
Goats are a fun animal to have around with lots of character. Though they do not need much, proper care is still required. A frew things you need to consider are shelter, access to water and unlimited hay, as well as wether you supplement with some grain.
There are nine types of minerals goats require to maintain health; selenium, zinc, copper, calcium, phosphorus, iodine, iron, manganese, and sodium. A mistake many novice farmers make is feeding their herds large amounts of grain-based goat feeds.
Many supplements can be found in tubes to administer easy, and you are able to supplement with mineral blocks. Animals are amazingly self-sufficient and typically know when they need something. A few things we like to keep on hand are:
mineral blocks. If you can find mineral blocks infused with garlic, even better!
Copper Bolus (goats require copper in their diet)
Clay (in case they eat something they shouldn't)
Dewormer (we do not have our herd on a maintenance program, but administer dewormer when needed only)
during kidding season we also keep kid paste and colostrum on hand for emergencies.
Other then the above, your goat needs CDT vaccination every year to assure best health. You are able to administer all this yourself. If you are not comfortable doing so, I suggest finding a local vet you are able to call for emergencies as well as for routine health checks.