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Raising Backyard Goats

Updated on August 29, 2014

Raising Goats

Adrian and Holly
Adrian and Holly

Goats can be raised for milk, or meat, and are a good addition to any small suburban backyard farm. My neighbors raised their eyebrows initially, but once they realized my goats would be no trouble, they quickly accepted the newest goat members of the community.

Milk Goats - Harry and Holly
Milk Goats - Harry and Holly | Source

Raising Goats for Milk

How to Raise Milk Goats

For those new to the idea of raising goats, female goats are called does. They are dairy goats if they are of a breed that produces a lot of milk. Some of the common dairy breeds are Saanen, Boer, La Mancha, Alpines, Nubians, and Toggenburgs, just to name a few. A dairy goat can be a mix of breeds. As long as the doe produces a decent amount of milk, it is a “dairy goat.” Goats can also be raised for fiber, meat, skin, or as pets.

To keep a doe producing milk, does are bred once a year in the fall or winter. Does go into heat as early as August and my be bred as late as January. The kids, or baby goats, are born approximately four months later. Does generally produce 2 kids. The female kids, or doe kids, are typically raised as dairy goats. The male kids, or buck kids, can be kept in tact and raised as a buck for breeding. Adult bucks can service as many as 10 does, so you only need one buck if you have a small herd. Some people do not keep a buck at all because they are quite smelly, they can be difficult to handle and somewhat dangerous when they are in “rut.” Rut is a sort of “heat” that bucks go through. In tact bucks aren’t recommended for the backyard farm. For a small fee, usually around $25 per doe, you can take you goats to be bred in the Fall saving you a lot of expense and hassle in raising a buck.

The male kids that are born to the doe each winter/spring are sometimes castrated. These castrated male goats are called wethers. Interestingly enough wethers make wonderful pets. They are the more docile and easy to get along with than bucks, obviously. But many also feel they make better pets than does. My wether is my favorite of my goats. Wethers, or castrated male goats, are usually raised for meat, fiber, or as pets.

Housing goats - winter photo
Housing goats - winter photo

Goats Housing

Where to Put the Goats You are Raising

Before you bring home your goats, you will want to consider how you are going to house them. There are a lot of different ways to do this and a lot of different opinions on how it should be done. I purchased a small “barn” shed for raising my backyard goats. It was quick, easy and delivered. To raise goats in your backyard, you truly just need to give them a place of shelter from rain, snow and cold weather. This can be done with a very basic sloped roof structure and no floor. My goat barn has a floor, but I often wish it didn’t. It requires frequent cleaning. If there were no floor in the goat barn, the waste would simply compost into the soil.

To raise goats in your backyard, you will need a good fence. If you read online about how to construct a fence to keep in a goat, you will find that many people claim it is difficult. We constructed ours out of cattle panels and chicken wire. Our goats have never gotten out. It is important not to have to many goats in one area. If they do not have what they need to forage in a yard, they will often try to stray. Our entire yard is 3/4 of an acre with a woody area. Goats love to eat trees and leaves. We keep our goats in the back and tether them out front occasionally. I will never have more than 2 adult goats and 2 kids in our yard. They simply wouldn’t have enough to eat.

You will need to provide your goat some type of shelter. Goats are animals that are very timid and sometimes scared. They are considered prey by coyotes, wolves, and many other animals. If you live in an area with predators, consider a barn that locks at night. If you are not concerned with predators, you’ll still need to provide an open shelter so that the goats can escape the rain and have some shade.

Why are you interested in raising backyard goats?

Why are you interested in raising backyard goats?

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Goat Shots and Wormer

Caring for Backyard Goats

Goats are prone to get worms. Goats have hard, marble-like poo. If it is soft, at all, and loses it's marble shape, chances are your goat has worms or some other illness. If you see small pieces of "rice" in your goats poo, those are tape worms. In addition to wormer, your goats will need shots to prevent disease.

Raising Goats YouTube Videos

Lamancha Goats

Lamancha Goats
Lamancha Goats

Goat Eyes

Look Closer at Raising Backyard Goats

Goats have slanted irises, which give their eyes a distinct appearance. Interestingly, as the day passes and evening comes around, their irises become round. By the time I venture out to lock up my goats for the late evening/night. Their irises are perfectly round and they look just like people eyes.

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Using Goat Milk

Benefit from Raising Backyard Goats

Goat's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk, so YES, you may want to drink it. Goats produce a lot of milk! Many dairy goat breeds produce up to 3 liters a day. That is a bit less than one gallon of milk. If the kids are done drinking the milk from their mom, that's quite a bit of goat milk just for your family... and from only 1 goat! Many dairy goat owners experiment with making goat milk yogurt, cheese, butter, and soap as a way of using goat milk. Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Goat Milk Soap
Goat Milk Cheese
Goat Milk Butter
Goat milk Yogurt (Easy for Beginners)

Note: A very simple and efficient way to make goat cheese is to make goat yogurt first. Then, get a yogurt strainer and let it sit in the strainer in the refrigerator for a few days. This strains it and makes a soft cheese for eating, or using in recipes in place of cream cheese.

Kid - Only a few days old

Snowflake
Snowflake

Feeding Goat Kids and Adults

What do Goats Eat?

Goat kids drink their mama's milk. It doesn't take long for them to begin grazing for grass, weeds and leaves too though. Once the kid does this, it will begin eating any grain you normally feed to adult goats.

Goats will eat weeds, grass, grain, your garden, and your flowers. A goat is willing to chew on just about anything that grows in your yard. My goats have also chewed on my plastic flowers, so they will chew on things that don't grow too.

Goats do favor trees! They like the leaves and if you have planted a small tree anywhere near your goat pen, watch out. The goats will try to escape to eat the newly planted tree. Trees and shrubs are like candy to goats. They just can't seem to get enough of them. They particularly fond of eating fruit trees and love the apples and pears that come off of them too.

Basic Introduction to Goats

LaMancha Goats

Harry, Holly and Snowflake by the barn.
Harry, Holly and Snowflake by the barn. | Source
3 goats
3 goats | Source
Harry
Harry | Source

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