Are you considering a goat as a pet or livestock? Here is a list of interesting facts, and realities, of goats.
1. Goats are bovines, and closely related to cattle. They are ruminants, which means they digest their food in two steps – first by eating raw materials (usually some form of grass or hay), then by regurgitating semi-digested ‘cud’ and eating the cud. A goat’s diet should consist of about 90% pasture or hay, and 0-10% grain. Goats are also browsers, which means they will eat some shrubs, tree bark and other available plant species. Goats do not normally eat tin cans or garbage, but are very curious and may get into trouble by exploring.
2. Good fences make good neighbors. Goats are very agile, and some can jump over 5 feet high – this means they need very good fencing to keep them contained. The best goat fencing stands higher than the goats can jump and can withstand climbing and leaning (but does not allow a goat to get their head stuck through).
3. Most goats live between 10-15 years, which means they take a lot of commitment. There is a wide range in breed characteristics, and adults can weigh anywhere between 22 to 300 pounds. Also, depending on the breed, goats may or may not have horns. A goat without horns is ‘polled.’
4. A female goat is called a doe or nanny, a male goat is called a buck or billy, and a baby goat is called a kid. A castrated male is called a whether. Bucks go through a period called a ‘rut’ when they are ready to breed. The rut is characterized by a decreased appetite, a strong interest in does, and most notably a strong smelling musk odor. A doe can have 1 to 6 kids per kidding, however 1 to 2 is more common.
5. If you have baby goats born with horn buds and do not wish to have adult horned goats, they need to be de-horned within 3-5 days after being born. We recommend this be performed by a veterinarian or other professional skilled in goat dehorning. Occasionally a goat will get a scurl, which is a regrowth of horn tissue. If a scurl occurs, it is best to seek veterinary advice sooner than later so it can be more easily removed.
6. Goats are generally a hardy species, however they can have medical issues. Some common examples are ingestion of toxic plants, internal and external parasites, and some vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Most of these can be prevented with pasture management, dewormers and vaccines.
Please consider all of these points when thinking of getting a goat as a pet or livestock. Some other great references are: