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10 Reasons Why Keeping Goats is a Great Idea
Since getting my first goats over a decade ago, I’ve recommended many a backyard-homesteader to get into goats themselves. Today, I thought I would take the time to compile a list of 10 good reasons that you should consider raising goats too. (This is by no means an exhaustive list by the way!)
1. Goats are very friendly
I’ve put friendliness at the top of this list, because if they weren’t, the rest of these reasons would be nonstarters.
Friendliness in goats is the key to being able to handle them so easily. This includes leash training, halter training, showing, milking, hoof trimming, clipping, even turning loose or tying out to graze. While bottle-fed goats are friendlier than dam-raised kids, as a rule, any goat can be made to be friendlier with some patience (and treats). Besides the day-to-day chores of goat keeping, you can also train goats as pack animals or as draft animals. Obviously, this will require a friendly, trusting, and willing goat, but it’s definitely possible. (You can find out more about pack goats- and locate a chapter near you- by visiting the North American Packgoat Association’s website here.)
Growing up, my siblings and I took our goats on walks around the neighborhood. This was not only a great way to practice their leash manners, it also desensitized them to weird sights and sounds- important training for show goats. Plus we got a reputation as “the 4-H kids” which helped to endear us, and the goats, to our neighbors.
2. Fresh Milk from Small Spaces
If you’ve never tasted goat milk before- you’re missing out. It is a creamy, sweet, rich milk that tastes far better than that old grocery store fare. Not only is the taste of goat milk supreme- the nutrients found within are simply vital. Raw goat’s milk has smaller fat globules and lower lactose content than cow’s milk, as well as more protein and calcium per serving.
Another great reason to consider keeping goats for dairy on your homestead is that they naturally produce A2 milk. A2 milk has gotten a lot of media attention lately, because it can be more readily digested by people with sensitivities to dairy. Most cattle produce milk that contains more A1 protein than A2- which has led to a cottage economy of cattle breeders whose cows have the genetics for A2 milk production. Rather than trying to source and test for the A2 genes in a dairy cow, you could add a pair of doe goats instead and be assured of the digestibility and nutrition of the milk they’ll produce.
Beyond the nutrition and benefits of the milk itself, there is also the fact that keeping goats in small spaces is much more doable than keeping a cow in small spaces. Plus goats will mature quicker, and start producing milk sooner than a cow will. But perhaps one more underappreciated benefit of keeping goats for milk is that their milk output is naturally scaled to suit a family. They won’t produce so much milk that you’ll drown; but they’ll produce plenty for cheese-making, soap-making, and cooking.
You can learn more about dairy goats, here, from the American Dairy Goat Association. They maintain records on production, host shows, and offer registration for the various dairy goat breeds in the US.
3. Homegrown Goat Meat
Whether you raise goats specifically for the purpose of meat, or just butcher a few extra kids each fall; goats are a great way to grow high quality meat in small spaces.
Any breed of goat can be a meat goat, but some breeds have been developed over time for higher yields and faster growth. Boer Goats are the most popular breed of goat in the world. They’re pretty iconic- usually pure white with a red head and red hooves. They are prolific, year-round breeders, the does tend to produce twins every kidding. They mature quickly, and are hardy.
If you don’t want to specialize in meat goats, or don’t have the space to, butchering dairy breeds- or even dwarf and pygmy goats- will still yield delicious, high-quality meat for your family. In fact, goat milk is leaner and contains more protein per serving, and less fat, than many other types of meat.
The biggest advantage of keeping goats for meat, is that slaughtering and butchering goats is extremely doable, even with the most basic tools. Goats produce carcasses that are small enough to handle easily, even alone. They also won’t require any specialized equipment or difficult steps- unlike pigs that will require scalding and scraping. If you’ve processed a deer before, or even a rabbit, you’ll already have a really good start on what it takes to butcher a goat.
4. Brush maintenance & defensible space
Here in California, defensible space is a top concern. Our fire season has lengthened year over year, with some parts of the state at risk essentially year-round. Fortunately, keeping brush down can be as simple as keeping goats.
We originally brought sheep and goats to our property in California so that we could manage Manzanita and other overgrown brush. In a matter of months, they had most all of our brush taken care of, and we were well on our way to establishing a lush, grassy pasture.
Keeping goats for fuels management isn’t limited to only private landowners and backyard farmers. In our area, there are a handful of goat owners that offer grazing services for hire- there have even been goat herds grazing near Whiskeytown. Goats are efficient browsers that not only reduce the risk of wildfire, but can also play an important role in controlling invasive plant species. San Francisco even has a nonprofit goat-grazing business- City Grazers- that you can read all about here.
5. Hardy & no fuss
Having raised goats in both Alaska and California, one of their most impressive traits to me is how hardy and adaptable they are. From sub-zero temperatures, to scorching highs above 100*F- goats will adapt and tolerate it all. In the cold of winter, as long as they have adequate space to get out of the wind and snow, they’ll thrive. No insulation or heating necessary thanks to their rumen and thick cashmere undercoat. In the summer time, adequate water and shade will keep your goats happy. Much like deer, they’ll begin to browse in the cooler parts of the day, and rest when it’s at its hottest.
6. Handling/no trailer/smaller than cow/less equipment
Thanks to their tameness and smaller size, raising goats requires far less equipment than other kinds of livestock. I’ve been raising goats of all breeds and sizes for years, and have done so without a trailer. From bottle babies to mature bucks, you’d be surprised what you can fit in the back seat of a car or in the trunk of a suburban.
As far as their pens, housing, and milking equipment- goats can and will thrive with minimal inputs. We utilize a 10 foot x 10 foot plywood shed as our goats’ shelter right now, which serves them fine 12 months a year. Our fencing is basic 4 foot field fence, topped with barbed wire to keep out predators. Our milk stand was built out of scrap 2×4’s and plywood.
Compared to the infrastructure needed for a dairy cow or pigs, goats are incredibly easy. Keep your fences tight, and give them a dry spot out of the weather, and you’ll find that keeping goats is simple and fun.
Keeping goats for fiber is not as common as raising them for milk and meat. But their fiber is extremely luxurious and, surprisingly, valuable. You can expect to harvest a few ounces of cashmere from each goat annually- or a few pounds of fiber from each Angora goat annually.
I’ve never raised goats for fiber, but I’ve learned a lot about it from more experienced keepers than myself. You can find out more about Angora goats at the American Angora Goat Breeders Association site- here. More information about cashmere can be found here, at the Cashmere Goat Association’s website.
8. Cheese, yogurt
I consider cheese, yogurt, soap, and all of those other dairy projects to be a separate benefit from “just” milk.
For one thing, cheesemaking and soap-making can easily become their own hobbies, or even become part-time jobs.
The goat milk soap craze has really taken off, and farmer’s markets across the nation have booth after booth of people slinging soap. Etsy, Instagram, even Facebook Marketplace are practically covered in goat milk soap. This isn’t to say that there is no hope or too much competition for you. Instead, take it as a sign that there’s really something special about goat’s milk.
As far as cheesemaking, yogurt, etc. goat milk is a phenomenal ingredient. You can make all the same fresh, soft, young, old, etc. cheeses that you can from cow’s milk. Goat’s milk cheeses are delicious, nutritious, and a great way to store your milk long-term. You can keep your family “in dairy” even when your goat is dry. Cheesemaking doesn’t need to scary, complicated, or expensive either. A few good books, a large stock pot, and you’re well on your way.
9. Keeping goats is less expensive than ___…
Goats have a pretty low barrier to entry compared to other livestock, especially other dairy animals or draft animals. Bringing home a single cow can easily cost you $1,000… I’ve bought mature does several time for $250 or less.
Beyond the cost of buying the goats in the first place, goats also need less feed and less equipment than say, cows or pigs. I mentioned above the fact that you won’t need a trailer (or even a pickup!) to keep goats, which is going to save you the cost of buying and maintaining either one. Milking can be done with your bare hands. You can trim hooves on your own. Butchering goats needs only a .22 and a sharp knife. If you’re on a budget but want to get into livestock on your homestead- keeping goats may be the ticket.
10. Kids & possible income
Because of the wide variety of ways that they can be productive, keeping goats can be a good way for you to generate some income from a backyard homestead.
Keeping a doe in milk will require regular kidding- which will produce kids to sell, more breeding stock, or a way to fill the freezer. Keeping registered does and a registered buck can make the resulting kids easier to sell and more valuable. That doe’s milk can become a herdshare, cheese, soap, or get fed to say, pigs, and magically become bacon. Your buck could be leased out for stud service. Extra wethers could be trained for pack and draft jobs- sold ready to work. Or take people on guided hikes with pack goats. Host farm tours or petting zoos.
The options are limited only by your imagination.
10 Reasons for Keeping Goats- In Conclusion;
I’m a huge fan of goats. I’m always advocating that people add them to their homestead. Especially if they’re new to livestock, on a budget, or have kids. I hope this list has gotten the wheels turning, because getting into goats is (almost) always a good idea!
Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!
PS I’ve been raising goats for over a decade, but I’m getting a late start on the blogging thing. Keep checking back here for more posts all about keeping goats, milking goats, butchering, etc. etc. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about pigs, chickens, gardening, or canning- I’ve got you! Thanks again for reading!