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Raising goats is a fun and rewarding experience for the entire family and always the first place company wants to visit.
Goats are in my opinion the most versatile and useful livestock to raise on any homestead, however, they do require quite a commitment all 365 days of the year.
They are loving and loyal, providing your family an abundance of milk, cheese, meat, brush control, amazing garden manure and even some extra cash if you choose to sell them or the bounty they provide. The excess milk is also a fantastic treat for the rest of your livestock and farm animals. They are easily trained to pull garden carts and tillers and can even substitute a pack mule if necessary.
Before getting started, you will need to decide where you are going to put them and how you want to feed them. Commercial feed and hay is an option for some farmers, however, goats prefer to browse most of the day so providing them an area with the proper variety of vegetation is your best choice for happy, healthy and self-sufficient goats (where feeding is concerned anyway).
The total cost of feeding your goats, the acreage you will need and the number of goats per acre depends greatly on the area and quality of brush and vegetation your land can provide. For example, a quality area will easily support 6 to 8 goats per acre with little or no supplements, where a poor quality area would only support 2 goats per acre and also require extra feed supplements.
A few examples of things to look for or plant in the goats area would be Virginia Creeper, Kudzu, Honeysuckle, Crab Apple, sunflowers (perennial varieties if they grow well in your zone), Alfalfa, Barley, Rye, Acorns, etc. Minerals are also important for goats and you will need to be sure they have access to a mineral block at all times, so be sure to add those to your list of items to store, in preparation for disasters/SHTF. Of course, you will also need to make sure the area you choose will have easy access to water at all times in both their pen/shelter area as well as in the pasture.
Goats are notorious for being escape artist, so proper fencing before you even get your first goat is a must! We used 5ft welded wire, with wooden fence post cemented into the ground. Shelter from weather is also important, however, they do not need a tightly closed, humid area. An open enclosure with about 20sf of space per goat is sufficient for larger breeds and 10sf each for smaller breeds such as pigmy and dwarf. Most goats are very weather hearty, even in fairly extreme temperatures, as long as they have good cover from wind and rain. We suggest their enclosure also be fenced and gated, with the gate opened for them each morning and closed each night (extra protection from critters such as Coyotes and Bobcats).
Which Breed to Choose:
Personally, I believe the breed you choose is an individual choice that goes more along with what appeals to you and your desired purpose for your goats. There are many different breeds, each with their own strengths and weaknesses based on your location and situation. If you are wanting to raise goats for extra income, it is also important to research your particular market to see which goats are the most desirable to your potential customers, as this varies greatly depending on the area in which you live. If you are looking for a pure meat goat, particularly to sell for that purpose, I would suggest looking into Boer goats. If you are looking for a pure dairy goat, particularly to sell for that purpose, I would suggest Nubian goats.
We chose Nigerian Dwarfs, which are mostly considered a dairy goat, with (in our opinion) the best tasting milk. Their milk also has a higher butterfat content, which makes them an excellent choice for making cheese, butter and soap. They are not quite as meaty as a typical meat type goat, so would not fetch as much per pound to sell as food, but their meat is very tasty and would do well providing a decent amount of meat for any family homestead. They are also one of the few goats that breed year round vs. during a specific season, so it is much easier to have milk and meat available year round. Because of their delightful personalities, smaller size, heartiness and general easy care, Nigerian Dwarfs are also considered a favorite in the pet market, which provides and additional outlet for extra sales and bartering.
Grooming and Health Care:
As with all animals, it is important for your goats to have proper health care and grooming. Grooming goats is fairly easy, as they love to be brushed. Keeping their hooves trimmed can be a little taxing, especially on your back, but thankfully it is usually a very quick and easy process. All health care issues should be discussed with your Vet prior to purchase, to determine if there are specific concerns for your area.
Despite all of your best efforts toward health care, proper vaccinations, worming, etc. you should still expect some disease, parasites and mortality. It just comes with the territory, as is usually the case with most farm animals. I would be leery of anyone who claims to have a 100% disease/parasite free herd. If this is not something you think you or your family can handle, then raising goats is probably not for you.
On the other hand, if that does not bother you, they will surly bring you and your family much joy and an excellent bounty of resources, making them a fantastic addition to raise for family preparedness, particularly during times where traditional resources will be scarce.
Alicia and Mike