By Heather Jackson, contributing writer
Don’t get me wrong, I love my dairy goats, but today I’m going to tell you five reasons NOT to get goats…
I usually consider goats to be gateway livestock. They are one of the first stops as we fall down the rabbit hole that is homesteading (Jill: that was definitely true for us!). Goats are less expensive than cows and their size makes them a little less intimidating to the novice homesteader. Because of that, I think many people get started with goats before they really think through the consequences.
There are many things to consider before getting goats, and I’ll be honest, some are a bit of a hassle. So, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the headaches before you dive in!
5 Reasons You Might Reconsider Getting Goats
1. Toenail Trimming
Goat hooves have to be trimmed on a regular basis. Some goats need it more often than others, but proper trimming is very important to goat health. Overgrown nails can make it very difficult for a goat to get around well, so they have to be taken seriously.
I’ll tell you, giving a goat a pedicure isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
For me, hoof trimming involves strapping the goat into the milking stand and plying it with feed to keep it happy. I then lift each foot in turn and scrape it clean with a foot pick and trim the nails with what amounts to a very sharp pair of pruning sheers. All the while, bending at an awkward angle and trying simultaneously not to cut myself with the clippers or get kicked in the face. It’s not that fun, y’all, but it has to get done.
2. Fencing (and escaping!)
If a fence can’t hold water, it can’t hold goats! This was a bit of wisdom that I scoffed at before acquiring my goats. “Surely goats aren’t as bad about escaping as all that,” I naively thought.
Actually, as I learned, goats rival Harry Houdini when it comes to great escapes. Luckily, we are surrounded by extremely patient neighbors who don’t mind having my “visitors” come clean out the drainage ditches in their pastures. We have replaced almost all of the fences on our farm since we moved here, and still the goats break out on a nearly daily basis.
Heck, we even put goat “toys” in the pasture to keep the little boogers occupied. The playground helped some but didn’t solve the problem.
And you don’t even want to hear about the times I’ve chased my goats down the road in my nightgown, wielding a karate staff! Was that too much information? Moving right along….
(Jill: fencing is the reason we had to downsize our goat herd… here’s our story)
Goats are very prone to getting intestinal worms. You really have to stay on top of their health by worming them regularly, either by herbal or chemical means. You also have to be careful not to overworm your goats because worms are becoming resistant to many chemical wormers that are currently on the market.
As a goat farmer, you must familiarize yourself with your wormer options, dosages, and with the types of worms that are prevalent in your area. In addition, you need to be able to diagnose worms.
I personally diagnose worms using the goat’s symptoms and the Famacha chart, which looks at the coloring of the inner eyelid and the gums. More precise goat farmers often do their own fecal analysis. I will admit that I have tried this, but for me, after purchasing a very nice microscope and many colorful and sparkly test tubes, I learned that all my untrained eye could see was magnified goat poop.
Goat milk is amazing, but to have goat milk, you have to breed your ladies, and that means you have to deal with bucks. A buck in rut can easily rival a skunk in terms of stink. They also have many disgusting (but often amusing) habits.
Bucks particularly like to urinate on their own faces and stick their heads in the urine streams of other goats. They also like to perform “acts” on themselves that are rather, um, difficult to explain to children or visiting relatives.
If all this is a bit much for you to deal with, you can have your girls artificially inseminated, but it will add a whole new set of logistics to your homesteading plan.
5. Destruction of all Landscaping
I’ll be honest here. Although I love to garden, my talents lie in the vegetable patch rather than the flower garden. When we moved to our homestead, I was excited to have a backyard full of established perennial bulbs that I probably would not kill through my neglect.
That was before the goats came…
Those little monsters have figured out every trick in the book to get at my flowers. Now I’m down to nothing but sad nubs instead of beautiful blooms.
I’m lucky though, because none of my flowers are toxic to goats. Many plants are, including popular shrubs such as azeleas and rhododendrons, which can kill goats in a swift and dramatic fashion.
And speaking of the vegetable patch, the goats tend to break in to that at least annually, which causes mass destruction, headaches and massive frustration.
I think that was enough bad news for one day. How about some good news?
Their faults aside, goats can be sweet, lovable, friendly, funny, and full of personality. Additionally, I look forward to my time spent milking each day, and I love goat milk and my homemade soft goat cheese.
To me, the rewards are worth the work, as long as you understand some of their quirks before you get started. 🙂
So have you ever kept goats? What was your biggest challenge to goat ownership?
Heather is into cooking, cow milking, gardening, goat chasing and egg gathering. She loves cast iron cookware and all things Mason jar. She despises laundry. She is also a novice martial arts practitioner and a homeschooling mom of three and host mom to a Danish exchange student. She and her family live on three beautiful acres in Remlap, Alabama.
You can find more of her farming mis-adventures and delicious recipes at her Green Eggs & Goats website.