When you think about homesteading there is a pretty good chance that several things come to mind. Chickens and gardens tend to be at the top of that list but what about goats? Homesteading with goats is very popular for a variety of reasons but it’s not always the first thing new homesteaders think about. Cows and sheep might be first on your mind but you’d be surprised to find out that goats can meet a lot of your homesteading needs in one cute and mischievous package!
Homesteading with goats was an easy decision for me for a lot of reasons and while some of those reasons might be a bit biased due to my experience with goats as a teenager there are also a lot of practical reasons to have goats on your homestead. This is especially true for smaller homesteads where you may not have enough room for some of the larger livestock options.
Homesteading With Goats
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Practical Reasons For Homesteading With Goats
Most people think of large farms when they think of livestock. They think of rolling pastures with cows, horses, and herds of grazing sheep. I have to admit it’s definitely a nice vision and, given the chance one, I would probably jump on. However, a growing group of people has taken to homesteading on smaller plots of land. a couple of acres and in some cases urban lots. While your ability to have livestock might be regulated by zoning restrictions there is no reason that you can’t have goats on a small homestead if the law allows it.
Goats require far less living space the cows or horses and are happy in groups as small as two so there is no need for a large herd. sheep can also be kept in relatively small herds and are of similar size but most people find goats to be more people-friendly and easier to handle. Generally speaking, you can keep between six to eight goats per acre of land. This number might change depending on the breed you choose (Nigerian Dwarf goats like we have required far less space than a larger breed would) but this low space requirement makes them perfect for smaller homesteads.
If your homesteading dreams include a vision of home-raised milk but you don’t have the room for a cow then fear not! your dreams are still in reach! While a dairy goat gives less milk than a cow would you can keep several does in less space and provide more than enough milk for your family needs. A good dairy goat will give you about 3/4 to 1 & 1/2 gallons of milk a day.
This number changes drastically based on the breed you choose so if milk is one of your main goals I highly suggest not only doing some breed research but also buying your animals from a breeder focused on milk production. A registered animal with milk stars in its pedigree is far more likely to produce well than an animal that has been bred solely for looks or pet qualities. While some people balk at the idea of goat milk (or have only tried store-bought goat milk where a lengthy time on the shelf produces a ‘goaty’ flavor) many people report that properly handled, fresh goat milk tastes slightly sweeter than cows’ milk.
Goat might not be the most popular meat in the United States but it is a staple in other areas of the world. It’s interesting to find that goat meat is the most widely consumed red meat around the world with about 63% of the population eating it on a regular basis. Goat meat has more iron, similar levels of protein, and lower levels of saturated fats, calories, and cholesterol than beef or chicken.
If your homesteading dreams include sustaining your family with home-raised meat sources but you don’t have the room for a herd of steers the goats might be a good answer to your problem. Just like dairy goats, there are several breeds of goat specifically bred to be meat animals. these breeds tend to grow quicker and be of a stockier nature than your typical dairy goat. However, just like chickens, there are also a good number of dual-purpose breeds so if you want both meat and dairy from one herd you have options. Many breeders use their does for dairy purposes and grow out any extra males for the freezer. Keeping in mind that you can’t get milk without breeding your animals a dual-purpose breed makes a lot of sense for a small homesteader as you get two products from the same animals.
Perhaps you are not interested in meat or dairy but would rather spin your own yarn. Sheep might be the obvious answer to your problem but they tend to be skittish and harder to handle. Many people get nervous when it comes to shearing a sheep, a task that requires a fair bit of strength and dexterity. Goats make this task slightly easier as they tend to be more people-oriented if handled from a young age and Angora goats can be shorn standing up. Many people use something similar to a milk stand to shear their goats but you can also halter break your animals and teach them to stand tied to a fence while you complete the chore.
Angora goats tend to be shorn twice a year and grow 8-12 pounds of fiber a year. Unlike meat or milk production a lot of the time people prefer castrated males (wethers) for their fiber herd. Because wethers are not stressed out by breeding hormones they tend to grow beautiful coats year-round for their whole lives. they also come with the added benefit of not having kids – if you don’t want the hassle of breeding, kidding, and selling unwanted offspring every year then a herd of fiber wethers might be just what you’re looking for.
We’ve all heard the jokes about goats eating tin cans. It’s not entirely true – goats do like to mouth things and will certainly chew on things out of curiosity, but they can be pretty picky too. My goats won’t eat feed that they spill on the ground and will pick through the hay for the best bits leaving the rest to rot much to my annoyance.
What is true, however, is that they love to browse. Like deer, goats enjoy stripping and eating leaves off of brush and trees. they will happily eat the leaves of plants that we consider a nuisance such as kudzu and cheatgrass. This makes goats an ideal option for homesteaders that are looking to clear out some invasive plants without resorting to chemicals or expensive equipment.
Fun Reasons For Homesteading With Goats
Goats are entertaining little creatures. I love to watch my chickens as they go about their day but they are far less likely to make me laugh on a regular basis. Watching a couple of goat kids leap around in the field is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Goats are also very curious and while this can be a double-edged sword (see fencing below) it can also lead to some funny sights. I came out one morning to find one of our goats with half of a chicken feeder on her head because the kids had forgotten to pick it up after letting the goats out (they love chicken feed more than anything else it seems like). She was trotting around like a dog with a cone of shame while the rest of the herd and most of the chickens were horror-stricken. Pretty sure everyone thought there was a legitimate monster on the loose. Luna couldn’t really understand what all the fuss was about (no worries we had it all straightened out in a few moments and no one was hurt). It’s not the only time their curious nature has gotten them into some funny predicaments.
Most people think of dogs or cats when it comes to companion animals and horses can make from some pretty loving companions if you’re lucky enough to have the room for larger livestock but very few people know that goats can make for a very loving companion. Goats love their people once they get to know you and will happily follow you around the farm or lay and graze by your side while you’re relaxing. You can even teach them to wear a harness and go hiking with you in much the same way that you can train a dog. As a child, I had a goat that would ride in the car, walk on a leash, and enjoyed going to the beach. Goats are far smarter than most people give them credit for so don’t discount them as a fun and unique pet choice for a homestead!
Cons Of Keeping Goats On Your Homestead
If there were one item that might keep new homesteaders from considering goats then I expect it would likely be fencing. Goats are clever, curious, and surprisingly good at finding ways out of the pasture. When we brought Luna and Cyra home I spent the first two weeks fixing sections of the fence that I thought looked fine but they quickly proved otherwise. When we brought Mar’s home he found spots that the girls had overlooked! Ours have never tried to jump over the fence (one of the reasons I bought Nigerian dwarfs rather than a larger breed) but they are very good at low crawling under the fence and pushing open gate latches.
Thankfully they don’t have a tendency to wander, mostly they want to play on the deck or eat my garden. Still, I would prefer that they stay in the pasture. Goats will challenge your fences and require a pretty secure installation. I highly suggest woven wire fencing with small holes that goats heads can’t fit through. The height of your fencing should be at least 4 feet, perhaps more if you buy a larger breed and you must never place goat play equipment (or your wheelbarrow when cleaning stalls) too close to the edge of the pasture or they will use it as a springboard to go over the fence. Some people have found electric fencing useful for containing particularly clever or troublesome animals. Electric fencing has the added benefit of deterring predators as well, which is a nice side benefit.
Some goat breeds are noisier than others. Nubian’s in particular have a reputation for being a bit on the noisy side but all goats will probably learn to yell at you for food or treats whenever they see you outside. They can be noisy during the breeding season or when females are in heat. The goats on our homestead are far less noisy than our Guinea Fowl but some neighbors may still take offense.
However, if you’re starting a homestead then animal noises are just a part of your new life unless you plan on sticking with quail and rabbits.
For the most part, I don’t feel that goats smell overly bad. Like most animals as long as pens are cleaned regularly there isn’t too much of a problem and goat poop smells far better than cow or pig poop in my opinion. The exception to this rule might be a male goat in rut. Bucks can be kind of gross when they are trying to impress their ladies and some people find the scent they put off pretty offensive.
You can avoid this problem of homesteading with goats by learning to artificially inseminate your does (which can be expensive), paying for a stud service so you don’t have to keep a buck full time yourself, or giving your boy a bath on a regular basis. Trimming their beards and washing their heads, bellies and front legs can help keep the smell to a minimum.