As a child, my family owned a couple goats as pets but I never really learned much about their care or what owning them entailed. To me, goats were cute little creatures that jumped, kicked and maa'ed their way into your heart and frequently drove you crazy with their antics. Once I graduated from college and moved back to Grass Valley with Scott, my husband, and daughter Zoey, we decided we wanted to get a couple goats to eat weeds and be pets. What we didn't anticipate at that time was how much we would enjoy our goats, and want more, but also how much work actually goes into their care an up keep. That is what leads me to my current post...what I wish I had known before I bought goats.
1. First and foremost - Goats are not solitary creatures.
Goats are herd animals and a single goat should not be kept by itself. It is my policy, that if you are purchasing goats from me, and do not already own one or more, I will only sell a pair or more to you. If they are kept alone they can become depressed, bored and destructive. Even if you think you have enough time for a single goat to keep it from getting lonely, humans just cannot give them the kind or amount of companionship a goat actually needs.
2. You should know why you want goats before you buy them.
I don't know how many times I've gone to the grocery store, bought a bunch of food, got home and promptly decided I still had nothing to make for dinner. This was always because I bought items without having a plan or purpose for them. Goats can put you in the same predicament as my aforementioned groceries. If you simply want a couple pets that's totally fine. Just know that you are getting a pet that can live just as long as a medium size dog (about 13-16 years) but can weigh between 50 and 200+ pounds depending on the breed.
Determining why you want goats will also help you determine what type of goats you can or should purchase as well as if you want purebred registered stock, grade (usually purebred but from unregistered parents so linage cannot be verified) or mixes.
If you want goats to help maintain your property, PLEASE remember goats are browsers and prefer to eat weeds and brush, not grass. If you want livestock to help control grass, sheep are a much better option as sheep are grazers.
3. There are LOTS of different breeds to chose from.
The most common breeds are Boer, Nubian, Saanan, La Macha, Alpine, Toggenburg, Oberhasli, Angora, Pygmy and, my personal favorite, Nigerian Dwarfs.
If you want meat goats, Boer goats will be your obvious go to choice, but Boer/dairy crosses can have the same good meat of the Boer, but can be much faster growing if they have a dairy, or part dairy, dam.
Some goats, such as Angora, produce very fine hair coats, called fiber, that can be used for weaving.
If you want dairy goats, you have many breeds to chose from and each breed has their pros and cons. I'll be making another post about the various dairy breeds and their different characteristics. There are some breeds that are also considered dual purpose, and are generally used for dairy as well as meat.
Lastly, if you're just looking for a pet, or goats to eat brush, any breed or combination of breeds will work and at this point, the choice would be based more on preference than actual need.
4. Contrary to popular belief, goats CANNOT eat everything.
As broad as goat nutrition is, there are plants that are poisonous to goats and will make them very sick, or even kill them, if they are ingested.
They also have specific vitamin and mineral needs, luckily a quality free choice loose mineral is usually enough to meet those needs.
5. Goats are escape artists.
If your goats stay in their pasture it's because they want to be there.
You have to have REALLY good fences before you bring goats home because they jump, climb, run and hid under anything they can find.
6. Goats are expensive.
Between the initial purchase of your stock, vet visits (because I have yet to find a goat that's not accident prone), feed and equipment be prepared to invest a lot of money into your animals. In return they will give you a lifetime of love, cuteness and cuddles.