Raising Goats 101: An Introduction for Beginners

Raising goats can be fun and lucrative

For the beginner or small-scale farmer, goats are a good choice as they are easy to raise and don’t require too much space or maintenance. Raising goats can be lucrative and can also be a lot of fun. Goats can be raised for their milk, meat, or for fiber, and also make wonderful pets. The breed you choose will depend on which market you decide is best for you.

Raising Goats for Milk

Goat’s milk is becoming increasingly popular both as an alternative to cow’s milk, and to produce goat’s milk cheese. For people that are lactose intolerant, goat’s milk offers a palatable alternative dairy product. Dairy goats are capable of producing more than 1000kg of milk in ten months. Some popular dairy goat breeds include: Saanen, Toggenburg, and La Mancha goats. These breeds have large udders and are more suitable as milk producers than other goats, but all female goats will produce milk. Dairy goats may not be suitable for bushy areas, as their large exposed udders can get scratched on brush.

Raising Goats for Meat

Goats are also farmed for their meat. Goat meat is the meat of choice in many countries – it makes up 63% of red meat consumed around the world – and while it has not been favored by Americans in the past, it is becoming increasingly popular. With about 1.5 million pounds of goat meat imported to the U.S. Every week, the demand for goat meat currently far outweighs the supply. Goats meat is easier to digest and is lower in cholesterol than other red meats; it also contains less fat making it a healthy alternative. As this is an emerging market that is still in the early growth stages, this a good time to get started in this sector. Popular meat goats include larger breeds such as the Spanish, Boer, and Kiko goats, but the stocky Dwarf goat is also bred for its meat. However, goats make really good pets, so you may want to opt for milking goats or mohair goats instead 😉

Raising Goats for Fiber

Angora goats are often farmed exclusively for their luxurious mohair fiber, which is superior to sheep’s wool. An Angora goat can produce 10kg of mohair per year, which can be fairly lucrative if you have a large herd of Angora goats.

Stocking Rates

Goats can be kept together with other animals, such as sheep or cattle, in multi-species herds. In terms of stocking rates, the rule of thumb is that six goats are the equivalent of one cow on good grassy pasture, and ten goats are the equivalent of one cow on poor pasture that contains lots of weeds or brush. Unlike cattle, goats are not selective grazers, and will not only graze grass, but also weeds, brush and shrubs. This can be a great benefit, as it will control weeds and bush encroachment, and yield more returns in terms of meat per acre.

Goat Fencing

Goats do tend to be quite good at going under and over fences, so robust fencing is necessary to contain them. An electric netting fence for goats will provide a quick and easy solution for containing your goat herd. Alternatively, you can either construct a multi-strand high tensile wire fence at the correct height for the breed of goats that you are keeping, or you can use standard fencing and run an electric hot wire along the bottom and top of the fence, offset by spacers, to prevent your goats from going under the fence, or jumping over it.

Other Things to Consider

Your goats will need some protection from the weather, they will also need to be treated for internal and external parasites to keep them healthy and prevent disease. Depending on your pasture they may require additional feed supplements, such as hay, grain, or concentrates.

Featured Image by Fir002, via Wikimedia Commons
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