Goats are herd animals and they thrive in groups. I’d recommend getting 5-6 goats as a starter herd but it’s very important that you’re prepared BEFORE buying the goats. Make sure you get young, healthy goats from a reputable source. Look for goats that are four to six months old. At this point the goat should not look like a gangly teenager, but a strong and healthy adult. Before you go, take some time looking at other goats so you can get pretty good at picking out the healthiest goats that will be the best producers. Read more about how to recognize unhealthy goats here. Make sure you get your goats from a clean farm that gives the animals plenty of space. A happy goat from a good farm will far outperform discount goats from random Craigslist people. Check out this great article for some more goat buying tips.
Feed and Water Me
Unlike in cartoons, goats don’t eat absolutely everything they come across. Don’t try giving your goats tin cans and expect them to stay healthy and happy. They also won’t be happy if you expect them to totally clear out overgrown pastures. Take some time to mow a large pasture and get rid of most brambles before you get your goats. After that, your goats will happily keep the grass under control and probably eat some things you don’t want them to as well. Goats are a lot like deer in that they wander and eat whatever they feel like when they come across it. The good news is that over time your goats will develop favorite plants and will reseed them in their droppings. My goats love the mint I planted next to the fence and have spread it all over the place.
Most farm supply stores will have goat feed. Goats will forage for a lot of their diet but you can also provide them with supplemental food from the store if you don’t have enough land to fully sustain them. Food is cheap and they’ll follow you wherever you go if you have a handful of feed.
It is very important that you provide fresh water for your goats at all times. I use a trough that I fill up daily and also have this automatic animal waterer mounted on the fence to provide extra fresh water.
Goats need a bit of shelter to get out of the weather. A simple 3-sided shelter with a good roof should be sufficient. Goats like wood and straw, so a lumber floor or some wood platforms with fresh straw will keep them happy.
Goats are also vulnerable to predators so you either need to have a regularly cleaned barn for them to sleep in at night or preferably a guardian animal (dog, llama, or donkey). I love dogs, but remember that your guardian animal is NOT a pet! More information about the benefits of each type of guardian animal can be found here.
It’s also important for you to be prepared for sick or injured goats. Make sure you prepare a first aid kit that includes a blood-stop powder. Goats can sometimes get their horn broken off and you need to be ready to prevent infection. Here is a great checklist for the must-have items for your goat first-aid kit.
Deal With My Weirdness
Goats are weird, hilarious, stubborn, ornery, hyper, and disgusting creatures, sometimes all at once. Be prepared to waste hours watching your goats and laughing at their hijinks. Don’t be afraid to give them something to climb on or to roll across the pasture.
Goats are ruminants which means you might see and hear some weird things, but it’s important to understand the biology of your herd. Read more here.
You’ll definitely need to be prepared for some Houdiniesque goats that are constantly trying to escape. Remember that they aren’t trying to make you angry, they are just curious creatures who always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence (or high up in your neighbor’s tree).
If you buy good fence and keep your goats as happy as possible inside the fence then you shouldn’t have too many escapees, but it will happen.
Watch me Play
Goats LOVE to play especially when young. They will bound all over, around, and on anything in their pasture (including each other). As long as there is nothing sharp or dangerous in their pen, you can just sit back and watch their silliness.