Goats? What do I need to know before I get into this?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by BirdyMe, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. BirdyMe

    BirdyMe Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm a teen 4-H'er, and I've wanted goats for about 5 years now. I've raised chickens for ten years, and rabbits for five years. My parents are great- they encourage me to take on new projects- but they're very clear about the fact that they will not pay for them. I totally understand that, and it doesn't bother me. I've payed for every cent I've spent on the rabbits, and took over paying for my chicken/duck/goose feed and such a few years ago as well.

    So...I still really want to get into goats, at least for a while. I've done limited research, but I want to hear a few things from people with experience:

    -The things I've read or heard say that goats will eat just about anything. Meaning, they don't have to have fine pasture like sheep. IF this is true, then our property would be fine (mostly brushy undergrowth and woods with a few grass patches here and there). Will goats be fine on this kind of property?

    -How much space generally does a goat need (I'm looking to get Dwarves). How much area will I have to fence in?

    -What type of fence works best with goats?

    ^Those are my top three questions right now. Just wondering what people with goats have to say about this. I appreciate any advice! :)
  2. Stacykins

    Stacykins Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 19, 2011
    Escanaba, MI
    I hope those answers help a bit!
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I second that your property sounds great for goats. They're browsers, so they like the brush and undergrowth.

    I also second the cattle panels. They'll get expensive if you're fencing a very large area. We used our goats to eat down blackberries around the perimeter of our property, so we used four panels to make a portable pen. We used our perimeter fence for one side, one panel each on the end, and two panels parallel to the perimeter fence. We moved the pen to new browse when the goats would eat the blackberries down, then put them back on the eaten spot a few weeks later to have them nibble off any new growth. Worked a treat, our blackberries are now much more controlled. We used trigger snaps or baling twine to hold the panels together. We were fencing nubians and boers and had no problems with them going over the fence, but I hear this is highly variable by goat. Some fence easily, some will never fence.
  4. BirdyMe

    BirdyMe Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks for the answers! :) I'm so glad our property checks out as good so far!! This leads to another question though:
    -Are there any plants poisonous to goats?

    I had thought about doing cattle panels, since they're readily available here. I had also thought about hot wire, but I'd rather not go there unless I absolutely have too, because of the cost's involved. Although fencing in a large area with cattle panels is going to be pricy too....hmmm....anyone know of other ways of fencing in goats? I have probably 1 1/2- 2 acres that could be fenced in. Ideally I'd like to get enough fenced in to where I won't have to give them much hay...in the winter of course they'll need it. But if possible, I'd like to keep them off hay in the summer. Especially with the way hay prices look for the coming year!

    As far as shelter goes....would a three sided shed be fine for goats?
  5. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    We fenced our 3/4 acre goat pasture with non-climb horse fencing and inside of that I ran a hot wire about a foot off the ground to keep the goats off the fence. Otherwise they will throw themselves bodily against it as they walk, scratching themselves, climb up with their front feet, rub and butt their heads on it, just on and on. I think mine touched the hot wire once, now they leave the fence alone. I used cattle panels to section off part of the barn for them and they are pretty rough on that too, just have to make sure it's held in place with sturdy posts.

    It sounds like your property should have plenty of browse for them over the summer. Mine don't eat any hay at all from March until mid November where I live. If they are breeding or milking they'll need supplemental feed though.

    A three sided shed should be fine, that's what mine have. They just need to be able to get in out of the wind and rain.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2013
  6. michickenwrangler

    michickenwrangler To Finish Is To Win

    Jun 8, 2008
    NE Michigan
    I third the cattle panels. My goats (I have full size goats of various breeds) are climbers. My does have cattle panel fencing in a fairly small area. My meat goats are fenced in with a horse round pen panels, although those are very expensive (I picked them up cheap from people getting out of horses). I would not recommend those for Dwarf goats unless reinforced with wire fencing because they could slip underneath too easily. One of my smaller pens is nothing more than 4 round pen panels, a gate panel and a calf hutch. That is reinforced with wire and it makes a dandy kid pen, breeding pen or isolation pen.

    Also, even if the goats' pen does not include brush, you can stake them out like dogs for small amounts of time for browsing. Beware! Remember that a tethered goat has quite a large area in which to browse. I staked out my goats quite a bit last summer to clear out raspberries, goldenrod, wild grapevines, balsam fir and elderberry shrubs. Not only did they clear those out, they also ate all my coneflowers and badly mangled an apple tree. Daughter was angry since she always shows coneflowers at the fair every year.

    My does have an enclosed shed but my meat goats have a 3 sided shed I slapped together out of pallets. This has been a very cold Michigan winter and they are doing quite fine, I put fresh straw in once a week for insulation against the frozen ground. You may also be able to find some used calf hutches or large doghouses which would be fine housing for smaller goats.
  7. BirdyMe

    BirdyMe Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow, thanks all! :)

    I'm so glad the property sounds like it should be plenty for them over the warm months! I had forgotten about tethering them out so they can browse elsewhere....if I were to do that, would you all suggest a halter or a collar? So sorry about the cone flowers michiwrangler! I feel you though...all of our flower gardens are fenced in to keep the geese out already! x)

    We actually have one of those calf huts right now! I didn't think about it until it was mentioned. It's not being used for anything, so that should work!

    Thanks for the extra ideas on fencing as well! Seems like cattle panels are my best bet. We also have some of the horse fencing lying around unused, and it's still in excellent condition, so I might combine the two. If it comes down to it, I'll get a hot wire to put on the inside edge.

    Anything else I should know about sheltering/fencing goats? I really appreciate you all taking some time out of your day to answer my many questions! :)

    Next set of questions! :D

    I'm looking to get two Nigerian Dwarves. At least one doe for milking, and either another doe or a wether to keep her company.

    Do goats need grain year round? I'm assuming a doe will need grain if she's kidding/lactating. But will she (under normal circumstances) need grain otherwise? And how about a wether?

    Also, do goats need salt/minerals?
  8. michickenwrangler

    michickenwrangler To Finish Is To Win

    Jun 8, 2008
    NE Michigan
    I have both halters and collars, I prefer collars but I use the halters on the Angoras when I shear and when taking them for walks. I have a few goats that I can leave out on tethers for hours, but I have 2 does that get tangled up in the cable within 30 seconds of staking them out.

    A calf-hutch should be fne for 2 NIgerian Dwarves. 2 of my goats can squeeze into one and they are bigger than ND's.

    Grain ... it depends. It depends on hay quality, brush quality, calorie needs and the individual goat. Our 4-H leader doesn't grain--not even his pregnant and lactating does. The guy I got my Alpine and her Alpine/Boer daughter from doesn't grain either. The 4-H Leader maintains a "goat plot" of weeds and grapevines and feral garden produce (a forgotten garden that reseeds itself) in addition to alfalfa hay. The latter guy has his goats on 80 acres.

    I grain. Every goat/sheep on my property gets grain. Though my fiber animals technially don't need it, I give them a handful once a day just so they don't feel left out. And I use that time to look them over and trim hooves.

    Nigerian Dwarves are small and easy keepers so if you do feed them grain, they will not need much, especially wethers.

    Salt & minerals ... depends. They are often added to grain, most goat keepers have free access to loose minerals (as opposed to mineral salt blocks used by cattle) for their animals. I use blocks for my meat goats, loose for my dairy does. You may want to ask around to see if there are any mineral deficiencies in the local soil. Here in Michigan, the soil is notoriously low in selenium so a lot of people who breed ANYTHING (horses, cattle, sheep, goats) supplement with selenium blocks or injections, but there are places in the western US where selenium is high in the soil and can lead to poisoning if the grain has added selenium. So your best bet is to find local goat owners and ask them what they do.
  9. Mac14

    Mac14 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 21, 2012
    Northern California
    I'm somewhat in this boat too. Everyone is giving nice info here, but there is also the site backyardherds that go through goats, sheep, cattle, rabbits, and horses. I hope it works out for you! :)
  10. Coop Cleaner

    Coop Cleaner Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 14, 2013
    Bedford, IA
    We got into goats last year. It gets quite expensive before you have any return. Seem like you are always giving them medicine or a treatment for something.
    We have Boers for meat-which we haven't tried yet. Also have Lamanchas for milk and I did milk for a while last spring before we went on vacation. They are really
    loving and easy to handle. We just had a new on born 2 weeks ago. I also got a start on Nigerian Dwarfs by getting 2 does and a buck. We expect a population
    explosion in March!

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