Raising Goats....

Want to be convinced that goats are delightful, practical, useful?  They have also been described as sociable, intelligent, inquisitive, clever, and resourceful.  Their milk is delicious and their antics entertaining.  Does this make them the perfect little livestock?  We love our goats and they have their benefits, but they are not for everyone.  So for a more balanced overview of what raising goats entails, here are some important points.

 1.  Boundaries.  A goat's goal in life is to climb on, jump over, or squeeze through whatever obstacle is in the way Good fences are essential.  Pregnant with triplets, a goat will balance precariously on top of a hay feeder, and a petite kid will demonstrate her agility and resourcefulness infinite times.  But with a sturdy fence, foresightedness on the owner's part, and basic carpentry skills, goats can be managed safely and happily, and their owners can have peace of mind.  For the same reason - that the intelligent goat's goal in life is to challenge the ingenuity of their less intelligent human owner - grain must be kept out of sight and out of reach so that they do not gorge themselves and bloat.

2. Routine Care.  Goats, especially dairy goats, require routine care.  Being ruminants, goats need a balanced diet, with adequate amounts of selenium, copper, iodine, and other minerals.  Their nutritional requirements change during pregnancy.  The goat owner must know symptoms of deficiency and how to treat and prevent deficiencies.  Good browse and hay (alfalfa is the best) is a requirement for lactating goats.  The owner should also be comfortable administering shots and vaccines.  Other things to consider are trimming hooves (it's good to do this monthly), disbudding kids with an iron (the most humane and effective way of disbudding), castrating male kids who are to be raised as pets, and drawing blood for blood tests of infectious diseases using a needle and blood collecting device.

3. The Nitty Gritty.  Dairy goats raised for milk will have to be bred to produce milk and begin a new lactation cycle, usually once/year.  This means breeding season, bucks, and baby kids!  Does and bucks in fall heat can be ornery and stubborn.  Bucks at the best of times are stinky and have gross behavior - when they are in rut multiply that times 10.  During breeding season, bucks and does will wail to one another across the fence line and escape if given the chance.  Know what to expect and how to manage them during this time.  It's important to have a breeding schedule, of who to breed to who and when, and mark on the calendar when the kids are due.

4. Responsibility.  Owning goats requires dedication and responsibility from the owner, whether for pets or dairy.  If you own a dairy goat, she must be milked at regular intervals; otherwise, her milk production will decrease or mastitis could be an issue.  If you own pet goats, they will still need care and attention from the owner.  Goats are social creatures.  Each goat needs at least one other caprine companion, as well as adequate shelter, fencing, pasture and browse, feeders, buckets, grain, hay, mineral supplements, and dewormer. 

Every person can decide whether the benefits of owning goats are worth it to their family and circumstances.  In our family and to many others across the country, the answer is a certain "yes."  This all takes some time and some money.  On the other hand, the benefits of drinking raw, organic milk are priceless for health and well-being.  Not to mention the fresh goat cheeses and yoghurt that are better than anything you can buy in the grocery stores.  Goats can enrich your life in many ways, just know what you're up against, be prepared, and most importantly - be willing to learn new skills, have fun and enjoy your critters!

For more about the good, the bad, and the best parts of owning goats:

Over the Rainbeau, by Lisa Schwartz
Lisa Schwartz enjoys her life to the fullest - this book is full of beautiful pictures, seasonal observances, and recipes using goat milk and cheese. 

Goat Song, by Brad Kessler
Simply beautiful.

Homegrown & Handmade, by Deborah Niemann
A resource book on living with intention.