Raising Goats – The Ultimate Guide
There are tons of benefits to learning how to raise goats. The biggest one is that you can become more self-sustainable. By raising goats, you won’t need to rely on grocery stores for fresh milk or meat. This can be a life-saver during a SHTF situation. Heck, even if society never falls apart, there are still many good reasons for raising goats- they will cut your dairy bill, get rid of weeds, and even serve as fun pets. In this article, we’ll talk about how to raise them. From preparing your property, to handling food and water needs, we’ll show you everything you need.
Preparing Your Property For Raising Goats
You can’t just begin bringing home goats without doing a little prep work. After all, you want to be sure that your goats are safe from predators and healthy. Here’s a glimpse of some of the things you’ll need to prepare before getting your goats:
- Build Housing: Like most farm animals, goats need some kind of shelter to stay protected from the elements and bunker down at night. When learning how to raise goats, consider adding a dedicated area for kidding or milking (if you decide to breed your goats). We’ll talk more about building your housing below.
- Build a Fence: Not only will a fence keep your goats in, but it will also keep predators out. Goats are curious animals, so it’s not uncommon for them to wander into the neighborhood without a care in the world. Additionally, things like wild dogs, wolves, and other predators would love to make your goats dinner, so you need to keep them out.
- Buy Feeding/Watering Equipment: When raising goats, you need to keep them fed and hydrated. Goats need grain, hay, and supplemental minerals to stay healthy. The ideal food choice depends on their stage in life and how you intend on using them. And of course, they need clean, fresh water daily.
- Build a First Aid Kit: Goats are prone to illnesses and accidents just like any other animal. For this reason, you need to be prepared for the common health problems you might face when raising goats. You may need to do things like give injections (to combat infections) or stop bleeding from trimmed hoofs.
Finally, make sure you “goat-proof” your yard or pasture. Goats tend to graze on whatever they can find (even potentially toxic plants). Make sure you remove all plants that you want to prevent your goats from eating. This is just a rough overview of how you should prepare your property for goats. Below we’ll dive deeper and address specific problems that tend to arise when learning how to raise goats. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. Let’s take a look!
How Many Goats Should You Get?
Before bringing home goats to build a more sustainable lifestyle, you need to determine how many goats you want. It’s recommended that you get at least two goats (so they can keep each other company). Ultimately, there’s no “right” or “wrong” number of goats you can own. It all depends on how you answer the following questions:
As a general rule of thumb, you should have about 20-square-feet of space per goat for resting and sleeping. Additionally, you should have about 30-square-feet of space for exercise. When raising goats, you want to give them as much space as possible to move around. If they’re too confined or cramped, they will become stressed. These are guidelines more than they are concrete rules. You’ll need to use your own judgement when determining how many goats your property can hold without cramming them together.
You budget will play a big role in determining how many goats you should get. I found a really great article that breaks down the annual cost of raising dairy goats (check it out here). You’ll need to think about the price of things like food, antibiotics (if they get sick), vet bills, etc. Expect to pay between $20 and $50/month per goat. So if you’re raising four goats, then it will cost you between $80 and $200 per month. This is a rough estimate, but should give you an idea about how many goats you’ll be able to afford.
Growing up, I was part of a big family. We used to go through at least one gallon of milk per day (sometimes more during the summer). Your dairy needs can help you determine how many goats you need. Most healthy dairy goats will produce at about 2-3 quarts of milk per day. For most families, this will be enough. But if need more, consider raising more goats. By producing your own milk, you’ll be able to offset the costs of having to buy dairy products at the store (it will also make you much more self-sustainable).
Raising Goats – Shelter
There are hundreds of ways to build a living area for your goats. I’d recommend that you do your own independent research until you find an option that suits your budget and building abilities. When learning how to raise goats, your animals need somewhere to sleep and rest. Your shelter should protect them from the sun, the rain, and the elements in general. Here’s a video showing a very simple goat shelter design:
Raising Goats – Water
Like all farm animals, goats need a daily supply of fresh water to survive. If you don’t keep them hydrated, then your goats won’t grow properly, they’ll become sick, and they won’t produce a lot of milk. When learning how to raise goats, aim for at least 1-4 gallons/day per goat. More if you live in a hot area like the desert, and less if you live in a cooler area. It’s possible to get by without a nearby water supply, but you’ll quickly find that hauling water back and forth can be a lot of work!
This is where it helps to plan ahead. If you dig a water line to your goat shelter, then it will save you a lot of time and energy over the long run. At a bare minimum, you should have a hose long enough to reach your barn. That way, if you ever need to leave your farm for a few days, you could use a float valve to regulate the amount of water your goats receive. When water is low, the float valve will allow water to flow in until the tank is refilled. Here’s how it works:
Raising Goats – Food
If you’re new to raising goats, here’s something you need to know: goats are very wasteful when it comes to hay. So if you’re going to buy hay for your goats, then you’d better have a hay feeder to go with it. This will reduce the amount of hay that your goats waste. You can buy hay feeders or build them yourself. The DIY approach is cheaper, but also more time consuming. But like all things, hay feeders aren’t perfect.
One potential downside is that your goats will knock them over when it’s empty. Another possibility is that several goats will try to stick their head through the same opening and get stuck! However, if you attach your feeder to a post, it will prevent the goats from tipping it over. When raising goats, a simple hay feeder is relatively easy to build. The tools you’ll need are: bolt cutters, a grinder, heavy wire, and zip ties. Once you’ve gathered the necessary materials, it’s time to build. Here are the steps:
- Step 1: Cut a 10-foot length of heavy wire using your bolt cutters.
- Step 2: File any sharp points that you see.
- Step 3: Roll up the panel vertically (like a tube).
- Step 4: Secure the ends using zip ties.
- Step 5: Place the feeder and fill it with hay.
This method is pretty simple, and there are even better ways to do it. I’m simply trying to lay the foundation for the basic designs that exist. If you type “Goat Hay Feeder” on Google or YouTube, you’ll see more efficient hay feeder designs. I encourage you to check them out until you find a design that works for your setup. Here’s a video showing a homemade goat feeder that dramatically minimizes hay waste:
Protecting Your Goats From Predators
When learning how to raise goats, a big challenge that you might face is keep them safe from predators. If you’re raising goats in a city, this won’t be a big concern. But if you live in a rural area, you may need to worry about animals like wild dogs, wolves, and other predators. The best way to keep your goats safe is to have a guardian animal. Believe it or not, dogs aren’t the only option for this. Other animals, which we’ll talk about now, can also serve as guardian animals. They include:
For hundreds of years, donkeys have been used to guard sheep. The reason why is because they have excellent eyesight and hearing, and are intelligent. When learning how to raise goats, you can use donkeys to protect them. The fact that donkeys hate dogs makes them very effective against wild coyotes. Another thing to know is that donkeys are heard animals. So once they’ve bonded to your goats, they’ll continue to stay with them throughout the day and night.
Llamas also make for good guardian animals. They have been known to bond quickly with goats, and they even eat the same food! Make sure that you invest in a castrated male llama. Male llamas can injure your goats by mounting them (and they can be aggressive towards humans as well). If you’re going to use llamas for raising goats, make sure you have a strong fence. If a guardian llama doesn’t manage to scare off a dog or coyote, the predator may end up killing him.
The most obvious choice for protecting goats is having guardian dogs. There are many different breeds to choose from, including the Anatolian, Komodor, Maremma, Ovcharka, Akbash, and Kuvasz. Many of these breeds are traditionally white, allowing them to blend in with your goats. A good guard dog will be very aggressive towards predators, and won’t stop until they kill the predator, or until the predator leaves. Great Pyrenees are probably the best known guard dogs for raising goats.
So, exactly “what” are you protecting your goats against? Here are some of the more common predators that you’ll need to guard against:
- Dogs: These are one of the worst goat predators out there. They’ll often attack your goats for fun, not because they’re hungry. Dogs have the ability to dig under fences, and most are quite fast and agile. If left unprotected, your goats won’t stand a chance. Note, both domesticated and wild dogs can be threat to your goats.
- Coyotes: When raising goats, coyotes might be a big threat depending on where you live. Eastern coyotes tend to hunt individually, while Western coyotes tend to hunt in packs. Coyotes will usually go for the throat during an attack, whereas dogs will usually go for the hind legs. That’s one way to determine what type of animal attacked your flock.
- Cougars: If you invest in a good livestock guardian dog, it will normally be able to protect your goats against cougars. But if the cougar is very hungry, there’s not much that your guardian dogs will be able to do (they might get eaten themselves). If you have more than one guardian dog, it will look more intimidating to cougars.
- Birds: Believe it or not, black vultures and ravens have been known to attack goats, especially when the goats are ill. While a bird might not kill a goat, it might gouge out an eye. Also, ravens attack in groups, so this can make it difficult to protect against them. You can help your goats out by having a safe and secure indoor pen.
When raising goats, other predators that you’ll need to watch out for include wild pigs, bears, wolves, and feral cats. And as sad as it sounds, humans have been known to kill goats for fun. Make sure you don’t tether your goats. If you do this, you’re basically offering them as bait to any predator in the vicinity.
How to Raise Goats – Bottom Line
Learning how to raise goats can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of hard work (especially in the beginning). To know what you’re doing, it’s going to take some trial and error. There’s no way to become a master just by reading an article. Although, I hope I’ve given you enough information to get started. To continue your education, I recommend joining a sustainable living forum so that you can interact with other people who are raising goats.