You know the old saying, “if I knew then what I know now?” Well, I believe a homesteader must have come up with that quote. On a homestead, mistakes and misjudgments are the most common way to learn.
There is something about living through a mistake that embeds that lesson in our minds and makes this way of learning a valuable one—a way of earning our stripes so to speak.
And my stripes are now your checklist of how to raise goats in your backyard. Your goat care 101 introduction to raising and caring for your new herd.
No matter where you live, goats need to have some sort of shelter. They need a place to get out of the elements—the rain, snow, wind, even the sun. A sheltered area to cool off or dry off.
The type of shelter you need will depend on the seasons where you live. If you live in a warmer climate, a lean-to will be enough, whereas a colder climate will require a barn or shed.
Goats long to graze, so having some sort of pasture set up is important.
A few acres will easily suffice for a medium sized herd. Be sure if you have any trees in your pasture that you want to keep, you have them protected in some way. A cattle panel that is bent to the shape of a square and staked out far enough is really all you need to protect the tree.
Goats love bark and will eat it all off along with any leaves and branches they can reach.
Another saying that comes to mind here is, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” I swear that one was started by a goat owner. No matter how nice the pasture is on the inside of the fence, your goats will believe it is better on the outside. For that reason, you need good, sturdy, and reliable fencing.
There are many different types of goat fencing, but I prefer an electric fence. I find that this fence will keep in a properly trained goat at all times.
Notice I said trained. That is because having a reliable fence is only half the battle. Your goats need to be trained to respect that fence so they stay away from it.
It’s true, goats can live on pasture alone but more often than not, you will need to supplement with grain and/or hay. This again all depends on where you live. Know what your area is deficient in so you can supplement with the appropriate feed and herbs.
Preventative health care is much easier than dealing with sick goats. Invest in the proper feed so you’re sure your herd is healthy at all times.
More particularly, fresh water. Goats are very picky, and for that reason, their water needs to be fresh at all times (or at least daily) to ensure they drink what they need. Use waterers that are easy to dump and refill.
When it’s hot, I find that offering fresh cool water encourages goats to drink much more often. This prevents dehydration from occurring on really hot days.
Be Hands On
If you want healthy and happy goats, you need to be an observant owner. Touch your goats, look at your goats, walk around your goats every single day. This will make it obvious when something is off. Goats are masters at hiding their symptoms, and by the time they are obvious, it may be too late.
Know your goat’s physical manner and behavior so the slightest sign of them acting off is obvious and you can treat things quickly and more efficiently.
Goats are some of the most rewarding animals to have on a homestead and going that extra step in these areas will help you have a herd that is healthy and happy.