Should I get goats?
In case you missed it I'm writing a series of bossy posts about whether or not I would recommend The Farmstead animals (not the actual animals, mind you, but the type) to others. We've already covered, Should I get chickens? (which I hope you will, but if you don't, you can always come visit ours).
So now, the question at hand, Should I get goats?
My answer is, YES! An emphatic and resounding yes! I l-o-v-e our goats. The day we brought them home I told the handsome man I felt like I was getting a dog and a pony all in one day. They are wonderful wonderful creatures with personality plus. (pictured right, Mr. Nick with the boys the first day we brought them home from the rescue.)
Here's the down and dirty:
- Goats need shelter. At least three sides. Unlike sheep they hate the rain. If it's even remotely sprinkling you'll find them under cover. Their hair is totally different. When I pet a sheep I have to dig my hands in to even get close to skin. With a goat you can part back the hair and see skin.
- Goats need to be fenced. And when I say fenced I mean FENCED. They are notorious escape artists. We have a pretty secure fencing system (three strings of tightly pulled, close together hotwire) around our current 2 acres of free range forest and Mrs. Robinson can't be bothered to stay in. I think she just suffers the shock to get through. Because everyone else is in she doesn't roam far, she just doesn't want to be contained. I don't blame her. (I get you Mrs. R, you can't hold us down). In most cases you will need to fence because you won't have the lazy luxury of an animal who roams still not being able to roam far enough of your property (and neighbors who are kind enough to not care). Fencing is as much to keep the animals in as it is to keep the animals safe (think, dogs). Which brings us to our next point.
- Do you have a dog? Dogs and goats are not necessarily the best candidates for lifelong friendships. That's not to say that dogs and goats aren't able to get along, I'm just saying that if you already have a dog it's probably best to pair them well. Even Turkish is less than impressed with Mrs. Robinson because she is hard on him (when I say she's hard on him I mean she bullies him around the barnyard and doesn't let him get away with anything). It's a good thing yes, but it's also a situation that could be bad if there was a hint of meanness in Turkish.
- Goats eat a lot of your plants. It's one of the reasons we got them. We had a big forest with lots of overgrown blackberries and brush. We knew we didn't want to use chemicals and we knew we didn't want to bring the tractor through and disturb the roots. So we got goats! Now don't get me wrong, I was thrilled when they trimmed my pampas grasses for winter, but I'm not sure I'll be thrilled if they don't leave them alone for Summer.
- Goats are really bossy. When I say really bossy I mean REALLY bossy (are you noticing there's a lot of caps lock in this post?) It's one of their most endearing features but if not properly managed, you can end up with a heap of trouble on your hands (reference: goats are master escape artists).
Now for the good stuff!
- Goats are very affectionate and smart. Ours know their names, come when they are called and can even do tricks. They love to be scratched (yes, even Mrs. Robinson likes to get a good scratch in when she thinks no one else is looking) and will often try to climb into your lap just to get closer to you.
- Goats are incredibly social. And, as their pack leader, they will need to be where you are. This is why goats work as, you guessed it, pack goats. This also means if you pen them up to go do something else (because you know they will be in your face "helping" if you don't) but are still in their line of sight, they cry like sweet little babies. "Whhhhhhyyy? Whhhhyyy did you leeeeaaave me?"
- Goats are pretty cheap to maintain. They can live quite happily on high quality hay, which if you buy in the right season is economical. We feed ours grain because we use an herbal wormer that we mix in and because they came to us pretty underweight from the goat rescue (not the rescue's fault...they just made a quick transition from the slaughterhouse to us). If you are letting your animals graze they can get even more of their nutritional requirements from nature...but be careful, plant nutrition is not very high in the winter so you'll need to supplement. Just watch your goats, they'll tell you if they're still hungry, and if they don't you can always perform a body score analysis to make sure they're healthy.
Okay, so you're still in? Here's a few more tips:
- Check your local rescue! You'd be surprised how many goats are out there who need a home. I know I talk about petfinder.com all the time but it's true, and they have a whole section for Barnyard animals. Read more about our rescues here >>
- Pick a goat that suits your needs. If you're going to pack they say that bottle-raised wethers are best (a wether is a neutered goat or sheep). Bjorn and Toto are bottle raised and wethers (which is one of the reasons we got them) and it's true. They are very bonded to humans. Mrs. Robinson on the other hand is a mystery. We don't know her story, but, if I had to guess I think she probably got culled from a dairy herd for personality. She's a pill to put it nicely. But even she will pack with us, although she prefers to dawdle and then sprint to catch up. Watch a clip here >> But then, she wasn't rescued with the idea of being a pack goat. We knew we wanted a milker so we picked a LaMancha because we had read really great things about their milk quality. Again, if you are going to rescue just work with them...they will know their goats well enough to tell you if someone would make a good pack goat or not.
- Decide on whether or not you want horns. If you're going to pack they say horns are best because it helps the animal regulate their temperature. However, Bjorn and Toto didn't have their horns when we rescued them so we didn't go that route. And then, once we got our first de-horned goats we set the tone for the rest of our barnyard. You see, goats know whether or not they have horns and will beat up on the goats who don't have them...we couldn't have that. So now, for us, no goats with horns.
- You cannot get just one. It's cruel. Goats are social. Most rescues will not adopt to you if you only plan on taking one. They neeeeeeed each other. So even though Tori Spelling only adopted one, that doesn't make it right. Goats are best in at least a pair.
And now time for some mythbusting:
- Goats will not eat tin cans. In fact, I'm not even sure where this myth came from as our boys are incredibly picky. Their favorite treats are watermelon, bananas and apples but even the banana peel is a hit or miss. And if it's touched the ground, well, forget about it. Dirt on my food? Unacceptable!
- Goats will not mow your lawn. While I've seen our goats eat grass I wouldn't count on them to mow my lawn (but we've got the animal for that...just wait).
- Goats do not smell! Okay, let me rephrase. Wethers and Does do not smell. The goats who smell are the Bucks. When they go into rut (breeding time) they spray urine and semen on themselves. I know what you're thinking...why didn't I think of that? No? Just kidding, it's kind of gross, I agree. But that's why we don't have a Buck. When we bred Mrs. Robinson we took her up the street to Donna at Edelweiss Acres for a little love. And I tell you what, Mrs. Robinson came home stinking to high heaven. It took weeks to get the smell of that Buck off of her (probably less if we had bathed her, but we prefer to let the animals self-clean). So, just bred-doe aside, goats do not smell. Mr. Nick is actually convinced that Bjorn and Toto smell like cologne. I think they just smell like sweet hay, which I love. But, then again...I love goats :)