Monday, December 3, 2018

Goats on the Homestead: What to Consider!

If your are considering the addition of small animals or livestock to your homestead or farm, consider the dairy goat.  Goats are hardy and thrive with attentive simple care.  Their size makes them easier to handle than other livestock.  Because of their size, the space and feed needed to maintain goats is more practical and less costly.  

The milk is delicious and nutritious!  Milking can be done easily by anyone willing to learn including your children. The milk can also be used to make soap, yogurt, and cheese.  Goat milk is more easily digested and does not cause allergies like cows milk.

Goats are good for the family.  Your children learn to be responsible in caring for a living animal.  If that goat is properly cared for then it provides food for your family.  Many life lessons are learned from raising animals.

Goats have personality!  They are curious and easily bond with people.  The kids are so fun and delightful!  Never a dull moment.

Important Things To Consider

There are some important time and commitment issues to consider before you step into this new adventure.  This is just an overview.  Future posts will focus on more detailed care, but perhaps this will help you determine if goats are a good fit for you and your homestead,

1.  Be sure you don't have an allergy to goats. Find someone with the breed of goats you are interested in and spend time with them and in their barn.  This will also help you determine if goats are an animal you would enjoy.

2.  A goat needs to be milked twice a day for 6- 8 months of the year.  There are ways to milk only once a day,  but for highest yields milking twice a day is the best option.

3.  Goats live 10-15 years.  They have relatively few health and kidding issues, but you need a basic knowledge of goat illnesses and disease.  They require immunizations and testing for CAE and CL to have a clean herd.

4.  If grazing, you need to manage the pastures to prevent overgrazing. 

5.  If you do not have grazing options a good source of alfalfa is a must.  Goats also need grain and supplements and clean water.

6.  Goats need a good shelter from the elements

7.  Good fencing is required they are adventurous, climbers, and chewers. 

8.  Goats can produce every year.  You need a plan to sell and manage the offspring

9.  A buck must be kept on site or be available close by for breeding.  Bucks are smelly and obnoxious  but access to a good buck is extremely important for good breeding and milk production.

10.  In some areas, it is hard to find a vet with experience with goats.

11.  Babies need to be dis-budded for easier management and hooves need to be trimmed.  You can learn to do both these chores.

12.  Goats usually have 2 or 3 three kids.  They are social animals and need at least one companion.

13.  Goats have a strong hierarchy social order.  You need adequate space and feed areas so that the dominant animals do not guard feed and keep others from eating.

14.  Mature bucks have a very strong musky order and unpleasant habits during breeding season that make handling them an unwelcome task  They also should be kept separate from the does and milking area.

I have been raising Nubian goats for 21 years and love my goats! I have had Alpines and meat goats but Nubians are my favorite.  I love the ears and their personalities.  I look forward every spring to new babies and fresh milk.  If you are committed and able to provide the necessary care, goats are a wonderful and rewarding addition to your homestead.  My next post will focus on housing goats.  

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