Marcy is a school counselor at an alternative school in Illinois. Other than education and her family, her passion has always been writing.
Goats originated in Asia Minor and became one of the first domestic animals as far back as 9,000 years ago. Their popularity as pets probably derives from their gentle and social nature. Un-castrated billy goats can get aggressive; however, castrated males and females are usually effortless to tame because they seek companionship and form close bonds.
An un-castrated male goat is a buck or a billy, and a castrated male is a wether, while the females are called does or nannies. The nannies are capable of having one or two baby goats, called kids, every spring. Amazingly, the kids can walk just minutes after birth.
Goats are herbivores, which means they only eat vegetation such as mosses, grasses, and plants. Goats on your farm will also need high protein grains such as hay and a mineral salt block containing copper to supplement their diet. Foliage, grains, and copper will keep your domestic goats satisfied and healthy.
Even though goats eat grass and are in the bovidae family like cows, they are browsers rather than grazers. Browsers prefer foliage higher up like leaves from trees, bushes, and other brush.
Adding Goats to Your Farm
Some goats are considered livestock and raised as a meat source. And some goats are raised as pets. My daughter and her husband consider their goats pets, and I refer to them as the outdoor dogs. They truly are as tame, loyal, smart, and affectionate as dogs.
- Goats are herd animals, so if you plan to add them to your farm, be sure to get at least two.
- The smaller breeds are more popular, but larger goats are still easy to handle and can become wonderful pets.
- Be aware; however, goats are a long-term commitment because they live 15 - 20 years.
- Additionally, small goats need about 140 square feet of open grazing and browsing area per goat. For larger goats, double that area. This area should have both sunshine and shade.
- Since goats are jumpers, make sure your fence is at least four feet tall, maybe higher for larger goats.
- Goats also like to climb, so adding a wooden structure of some sort or large boulders will provide a stimulating activity for your goats.
Goats also need shelter from the elements, so you will need a barn or shed. If this building has windows, make sure they are taller than the animals, or the goats will try to break through them. If the windows are lower and accessible, it would be a good idea to add protective bars or a sturdy screen. In the barn, they need hay for bedding and an area for water and food.
10 Amazing Things You Probably Don't Know About Goats
- Goats can be taught their name and will come when you call them.
- Despite what is usually reported, goats are picky eaters. They do not like to eat off of the ground and will sometimes refuse to eat hay or grain that has been out too long or walked on by other animals.
- Goats have rectangular pupils, not round.
- Goats have four stomachs like cows, and it takes up to 15 hours for food to be completely digested.
- A goat's stomach can hold up to five gallons of plant material. As it breaks down, it produces an enormous amount of gas. Goats express this gas by burping, and they burp quite frequently and loudly.
- Goats don't have teeth on their upper jaw.
- Goat's milk is the most popular type of milk worldwide because it is naturally homogenized, making it easier to digest. Even most lactose-intolerant people can digest goat's milk. Additionally, goat's milk is higher in calcium and vitamin A.
- Goats have regional accents just like humans.
- Cashmere comes from the downy undercoat of some goats.
- Goats get depressed if they are not around at least one other goat.
First-Time Goat Owners
When my daughter Abby and her husband Heath decided to get a couple of goats, they went to the sale barn and bought a buck and a doe. They already had a large, fenced pasture with ample foliage for browsing and a barn for shelter. The Billy goat was never my daughter's favorite, but he was not so bad when he was young. When he started maturing, he became more aggressive and was not as social as the Nanny. Very soon after the Nanny got pregnant, Billy was out of the picture and back at the sale barn.
Abby and Heath's goats are larger goats. When they were about half-grown, Heath built a large wooden bridge for them to run and play on. This bridge is in the small outdoor pen right by the barn, so they prance and play on it before and after getting fed their grain. They have a lot of personality, and they like to show off by jumping and bucking on their bridge.
Chip and Duke have very different personalities. Chip has always been a lot more social and gets jealous if Duke is getting attention. Duke is a lot more laid back and doesn't mind being in Chip's shadow. Chip is quite the character. He loves face to face contact with people and will put his front legs up on the fence to get eye-level if he is not getting your attention. He also loves little children. All of my daughter's friends bring their kids out to see the goats and play with them.
Why Your Next Pet Should Be a Goat
- Goats are low maintenance outdoor pets.
- Goats are affectionate and tame.
- Children love goats, and goats love children.
- Goats are inexpensive to raise. If you have enough foliage in your outdoor space, they can live on that. Supplementing with grain, hay, and a mineral salt lick is always a good idea, however.
- Goats get along with other farm animals.
- Goats have tons of personality and are fun to watch.
Tips for Raising Goats
- Goats are herd animals, so you need to have at least two.
- Goats have a long lifespan, some living close to twenty years.
- Un-castrated Billy goats can be aggressive and have a strong odor that radiates quite a distance. Neighboring farms will know you have a billy goat.
- Young goats at a sale barn might be labeled as pygmy or dwarf but are not, so be careful. You might be paying a premium price for a regular goat.
- Some common plants are toxic to goats, such as azaleas and ferns. If you have plants in your yard and your goats get out and eat them, the goats could get very sick or even die.
- The SprucePets.com
Recommended for You
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Marcy Bialeschki
Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 24, 2020:
Thank you, Dora. My daughter is quite partial to her goats. And by association, I am becoming quite attached as well.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 24, 2020:
I love this article. It takes me back to my childhood days when my grandmother owned goats. I had my share of goat milk and and goat meat. Thanks for the interesting facts.
Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 23, 2020:
Goats are the best! You crack me up! Thanks for the comment.
Jim Henderson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi on May 22, 2020:
Saw your hub and couldn't resist a comment! Goats are incredible. I love the pictures where they're climbing trees! I had a goat once I trained to write my Hubs for me but had to fire him --his name was Buck-- because he was a better writer than I.
Coincidentally, my wife frequently tells me I too have a strong odor that radiates quite a distance. Neighbors complain often about this.
Interesting abut the rectangular pupils, though. Didn't know that.
Informative and interesting!
Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 22, 2020:
I would love to have some, too, but I guess I can just go to my daughter's to get some laughs when I need to. Thanks for commenting.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 21, 2020:
My father had goats in his family when he was a child and told me some interesting stories about them. Thank you for sharing the useful and enjoyable information about the animals. I would love to have some goats as pets.
Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 21, 2020:
My daughter's goats are a hoot!!! Thanks, Liz.
Liz Westwood from UK on May 21, 2020:
You make a good case in this interesting hub for goats as pets.