Thinking about getting your first goat? This is a great time of year to consider it. Goats make excellent pets, and are a wonderful way for children and their parents to enter the world of animal husbandry on a small parcel of land.
When I was a child, we had a small farm where we raised chickens, sheep, two Jersey cows for family milk, and a couple of beef steers. Goats weren’t even on the radar.
That all changed when I got married, and wanted to have my own mini-farm. With only one acre of land, we did not have enough room to repeat everything from my childhood.
Still, I was determined to do something. Rabbits came first. Then chickens. We had meat and eggs now, but no milk. If only space would allow a Jersey cow. Was there an alternative? Perhaps a goat or two? Yes, we would have a dairy goat. We would drink the milk, use it for homemade ice cream, cheese, and if there was enough to spare, we’d try making soap.
We acquired our first dairy goat at a livestock auction. The one we chose was a brown mixed-breed with airplane ears. I was so nervous I could hardly bid. I went home that evening with a happy five-year-old son, and a goat that needed to be milked. We named her Gertrude–Gertie for short. Thankfully, she stood still as we milked beautiful streams of pure white milk into the stainless pail. We were in business!
After several years of trial and error, mixed-breed kids, and goats with poor udder attachment, we joined a goat club, and graduated to registered Nubians with good pedigrees that we purchased from people who had been raising and milking goats for many years. We wished we had started there.
When we began, there was no such thing as the Internet. We purchased several good books on raising and caring for dairy goats. The books are still available, and are helpful reference tools. There is also a plethora of material on the Internet, and a lot of it is excellent. If you are already thinking about taking the plunge, and beginning to do your research, I’d like to offer this short, elementary list of items to consider.
Ten Suggestions for Entertaining Your First Goat
1) Peruse the internet and/or purchase books on raising dairy goats. After reading and researching, you may feel overwhelmed. This is okay.
2) Go ahead and start looking. Contact your local 4H club. Someone there should have contacts for you. With a little bit of common sense, and knowledgeable people around you, you will do fine.
3) Buy only healthy stock. Try to avoid a livestock auction. Reach for your wallet when you find someone who has begun to look like his goats and loves talking about them.
4) Provide shelter from sun, rain, and wind. This is important! Your goat will decide when to use it.
5) Feed lots of tin cans. Just kidding!! Contrary to popular belief, goats are finicky eaters. Provide good pasture or browse, or good quality hay and grain. Why do goats have the reputation for eating tin cans? They like the glue under the label.
6) Fresh water must be available at all times. Your goats will not drink contaminated water.
7) Provide a social life. Get another goat or be prepared to spend a lot of time with yours. They love company and attention. Go ahead and get at least two. They’ll be happier and so will you.
8) Build a good fence. Your neighbors will not be amused by having a goat over for lunch–especially in their carefully manicured rose garden. Goats are experts at climbing over or crawling under poor fences. Electric fencing is a good option.
9) Don’t worry about what your friends think. There are a lot more goats in the world than cows. Sixty percent of the world’s milk drinkers are drinking goat’s milk. It is naturally homogenized, easier to digest, hypo-allergenic, and delicious when cooled quickly.
10) Enjoy your goats. They are friendly and affectionate. Treat them like your favorite pet, and you will be rewarded many times over. And if your friends still wonder about you, don’t worry, you have new friends.
Certainly, this is just a beginning. Deciding which breed you want will be the next step. Enjoy the process, and involve your children. Goats are great to have around.