Raising Goats for Fun and Profit

Learn about owning these independent and affectionate creatures from someone who’s been there.

  • A young goat in a pasture
    A young goat in a pasture.
    iStockphoto.com/Judy McPhail
  • Boer goats are a popular meat breed that produces very well on pasture.
    Boer goats are a popular meat breed that produces very well on pasture.
    Idaho Stock Images/Chad Case
  • Goats in the barn doorway.
    "The door’s open. Do we make a break for it?"
  • Nubian kids suckling from their mother.
    Nubian kids nuzzle up to the dinner table.
    iStockphoto.com/Isaac Toy
  • Five goats take to the trees to find their favorite treat.
    Five goats take to the trees to find their favorite treat.
    iStockphoto.com/Mosaik Photography

  • A young goat in a pasture
  • Boer goats are a popular meat breed that produces very well on pasture.
  • Goats in the barn doorway.
  • Nubian kids suckling from their mother.
  • Five goats take to the trees to find their favorite treat.

Raising goats can be fun, rewarding and frustrating – all at the same time. My first goat, Zygota, was a hellion. Milking was a battle where she performed a flamenco dance, often stomping her foot (triumphantly, it seemed) in the milk pail. If she was bothered by something, such as seeing a chicken or a cat, she would use her teeth to throw her feed bucket across the milking parlor. If I was late for milking, she would “self-suck.” Weaning involved constant screaming. To top it off, she went under, over and through fences.

Not all goats are like Zygota. If they were, no one would raise them. Zygota’s daughter, for example, was a saintly creature – docile, obedient and an excellent mother. But here’s a hot tip: If you’re about to buy an adult goat, you’re more likely to get a hellion than a dream goat. Goat owners rarely sell their great animals; the difficult goats are sent to market.

Getting your goat 

At livestock auctions, you might be buying health problems, even if the animals were healthy when they went to market. Goats can suffer from “shipping fever” triggered by the stress of shipping and confinement, and they may have contracted diseases. If you buy a goat from a farm, you can avoid some of these problems.

It’s best to buy goats from an environment similar to yours. This will make the transition easier (e.g., less of a shock than going from a flock of 200 to a flock of two, or vice versa). For example, a friend of mine once bought a Saanen, a docile, pure-white breed. He couldn’t understand why the mild-mannered goat became increasingly agitated, recoiling at his touch and jumping when flies landed on her. The former owner came over and was shocked to see the goat outside. It turns out the goat had been kept in a barn all her life and was now sunburnt. She was kept inside for a week, then introduced gradually to sunlight.

If you want to raise a goat organically, try to find one that has been raised using natural health care. A goat that has been given commercial dewormers and antibiotics regularly will be less likely to thrive in an organic setting.

Ideally, buy two or more goats from the same farm so they are familiar with one aspect of their new setting. It’s critical to have a companion for your goat, such as another goat or a sheep. That said, my terrible goat flirted shamelessly with my ram until she conceived (but didn’t carry to term) a “shoat” or “geep.” After that, she took every opportunity to beat up ewes. Lesson learned: ensure the companion animal can’t mate with your goat.

11/2/2013 2:36:26 AM

Since the owner is a Canadian resident, she may not know about The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF). They know the laws about selling raw milk in the USA: http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/raw_milk_map.htm Only 8 States outright ban raw milk sales. Another thing to consider is Once A Day (OAD) milking (http://gianacliscaldwell.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/once-a-day-milking-a-viable-option-for-quality-of-life/). Due to my husband's dementia being out of control, I went to OAD 2 years ago as that is all the time I had. Kids are bottled raised because I want gentle kids when sold and I have my ID Permit to sell unpasteurized milk & products (queso blanco and cajeta are heated to higher temps, so fall under different rules). I am also on milk test and with my Saanens, milk production is down only by 1 to 1.5 lbs over their 2x a day (TAD) weights. Weight differences will vary in different herds and even among each goat. Twice a day took more time to milk which decreased time I could spend cleaning pens, barns, trimming feet, etc. OAD has freed up my time and that allows me more time with all my goats. Mastitis issues has actually decreased with OAD milking. I'm not sure why but I'll take it! Good article overall.

2/11/2010 10:56:04 PM

I'm very disappointed in this article that describes a "Nigerian Pygmy goat". These are two distinct and separate breeds although they do come from a common background. Nigerian Dwarf goats are a true dairy breed, recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). They are bred for refined dairy character which includes producing up to 2-3 quarts of milk per day and I have heard of some giving up to a gallon per day. Pygmy goats are not bred for dairy production and not recognized by the ADGA. Some consider them a meat breed due to their muscular, stocky build although they're bred mainly as pets and for show. Pygmy goats are being crossed with Nubian dairy goats to produce what is referred to as the "Kinder" with the purpose of producing a medium sized milking goat for smaller homesteads.

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