Getting Started with Goats
By Michele Cook
When I dove head first into my hippie plan, I knew I wanted milk goats. I make cold-processed soap and one of my favorite ingredients is goat milk. There was just one little problem…I had never owned a goat. Horses, cows, a pig, and chickens yes, but I was brand new to the small ruminant world. All I knew was I didn’t know a whole lot about goats.
Deciding on a Breed
All goats are not built the same. I had seen the cute fainting goats, big Boer goats, and some that people told me were “just goats.” I knew I was looking for dairy goats, so I began my breed research there. I asked around, watched way too many adorable baby goat videos, and in the end, I decided I was going with Alpine goats.
These goats were big and sturdy — a plus for a newbie like me. They also had a long history of good breeding and were a top producer of milk.
Getting the Property Ready
“If it won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat” was the saying a kept hearing when I asked around about goat fencing. Turns out, there is some truth to that old adage. Of course, I can’t learn things the easy way. After one goat decided to hop the fence and eat my lilies down to little nubs, I decided it was time to beef up the fencing.
Off to the Tractor Supply we went to replace our sagging, four-foot cattle fencing with five-foot woven wire goat fencing. Ha! That should keep you in, I thought as I locked the gate in front of my little escape artist. Except, it didn’t. Not ten minutes later, I was washing dishes, and out the window I watched the little devil wander through the yard looking for more foliage to destroy.
Another (rather expensive) trip to town, and we had added a top hot wire to the fence. So far, it has kept her contained.
Finding Some Goat People
While internet research is great, I wanted to find some local people I could connect with to talk about all things goats. I had one friend who was invaluable in dispensing goat advice about feeding, breeding, hoof trimming, and everything else I needed to know about goats, but he no longer had goats, and I felt a little bad relying solely on him for information.
When a Facebook post came across my feed about the New River Sheep and Goat Club, I was excited but hesitant. The club was local, but only by rural redneck standards. It was a two-hour drive to the next meeting, and I had to be a member before I could attend. No try it before you buy it.
For $30 bucks I decided to give it a try, and I am so glad I did. I met great people, and they had the Veterinarian from Virginia Tech as the speaker. I was in goat heaven. I learned more in that meeting than I could have ever learned surfing the internet.
Today my goats have gone on a date, and I should have my first kidding experience in mid-May. Between my own research, my friend’s advice, and the goat club meeting, I am feeling mostly prepared. One thing I can say with certainty: I am a goat owner for life.
Photos by Michele Cook.
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