Saturday, February 17, 2007


Continuing with the starting up in agro business series today I will cover goats. I was going to break down these articles into four posts, but I think it's better to run them all at once so as not to spread this out for too long a period.

Goats are an all around multi purpose live stock option. There are meat goats, fiber goats and dairy goats. If you are thinking of adding goats to diversify your agricultural standing there is a lot for you to learn before you commit to this way of life.

I’ve done a lot of research on the topic and decided against becoming a goat farmer for several reasons, most of which was the fencing requirements. Here are the goat basics for those who are thinking of starting their agricultural life with goats.

Having goats is like having a field of two-year old children. They go everywhere and climb on everything and they will eat just about anything. They are browsers and like to eat things from above rather than grass below. Trees and shrubs are above.

It is said that if your fence will hold water, you may have a chance of holding your goats in. Fencing should be of woven wire, not welded. Electric fencing may be used in conjunction with woven wire fences but not instead of it.

You will often hear goats referred to by the following: "Buck or Billy" - a male goat. "Doe or Nanny" - a female goat. "Kid" - a young goat. "Wether" - a castrated male goat.

Goats are much easier to care for than sheep. They are just healthier stock and hardier. They do live in herds so they like company. If you are going to get a goat be sure to have a companion for it, be it another goat, a horse, a cow or a lama. Its companion needs to be a grazer. Humans, cats and dogs don’t fit the bill.

Goats need shelter. They will look to duck inside as soon at the first raid drop hits the ground. Goats also need to have their feet trimmed monthly. This is something you will not want to hire out because of the expense.

Goats have horns which can be a big problem. Often show requirements dictate that the goats being shown be dehorned of disbudded. Disbudding happens when the goat is about two weeks or younger. A hot iron is held to each bulb on the goats head for 14 seconds. This heat disrupts the cells in the goats head that grows the horns. This procedure can be fatal to the goat, and if improperly done a freakish horn can still grow. Most goats will scream during this process, but when it’s over the goats behaves like nothing ever happened.

I’m not a big fan of disbudding, but for those who plan on showing goats, or those who will be in close contact with them like milking them or shearing them should consider disbudded goats for the safety of the humans dealing with them.

Unless you are going into breeding goats, you don’t need a buck. Frankly they stink because to attract mates they urinate in their own mouths and spit it all over them selves. Also you need to keep the bucks in their own yard with their own shelter. If you don’t, they will mate when you don’t want them to and they will make all the other goats smell like them. Bucks need extra strong fences with electric wire because they have been known to mate through a fence.

Goats are funny about their food. If they walk on it, they won’t eat it. You can give them the nicest alfalfa but anytime it hits the floor where they are standing they won’t touch it. They have different requirements than sheep. A little copper is good for a goat and it will kill a sheep. So if you have both, they both need their own feed that they can’t share.

For more information, visit this web site:

Goat manure can be used immediately in a garden. There is no need to compost it.

Dairy Goats

Today we will cover dairy goats. There are six types of dairy goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association. They are Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Togenburgs, and Saanens.

These goats have been bred to produce good quantities of milk. Just in the way there are dairy cows and beef cows, this is the same selective breeding that has happened with goats.

These goats are generally large animals. LaManchas are notable for having small ears. Nubians are multi colored, and most dairy people find the Nubian to be to playful and noisy. This is an important trait when you have to confine a goat for milking. Though all breeds above fit the bill for the jobs they do, one rises above them all. The Oberhasli is a gentle well mannered goat. They are full of good looks as well because they nearly look like a deer (see photo above).

For the best tasting dairy it is a good idea to control what goats eat. What they eat will translate into flavoring the milk. Many dairy goat keepers allow their goats only a small yard to forage and feed them well with purchased hay and grain.

Caution should be taken if consuming raw goat milk. I learned my lesson the hard way and got sick once for two months. You can make cheese, ice cream and butter from goat milk. Aged cheese is the better idea and that brought $16 per pound at Sunday Market last year.

There is a commitment when becoming a dairy goat farmer. When the goats are in milk you must milk them twice a day and keep good production records. They are easy to milk by hand or you can purchase milking machines. There are no ends of things you can buy.

Remember also that you need to use extreme caution when milking a goat with horns. They will eventually get you.

Meat Goats

Before the mid 1990s the term meat goat referred to just about any goat. The most popular for human consumption were Spanish, Myotonic, Nubian and Pygmy goats. But then a new goat appeared on our shores from South Africa with superb muscle structure. This goat is known as the Boer. In ten years this goat has revitalized the US meat goat industry. It is generally a healthy animal that builds weight quickly and naturally. It has a very good temperament.

It is said that with the growing Hispanic and Muslim population in the United States Supply can not keep up with demand for goat meat. People I know in the industry do not even have to advertise. People come to their door looking to buy goats.

Boers are at market size at around six months of age. The going rate is presently around .75 cents per pound, though $1.00 per pound standing is what most will charge to sell it right off the farm to an individual.

Pure breed Boers with excellent confirmation are worth more as breeding stock than as meat. The goats that are sold for meat are usually Boers crossed with another breed, or Boer wethers (a castrated male)

The Oregon Meat Goat Producers are a cooperative that organizes the sale of your goats with others who are selling goats in your region. Their web site is: and it is a good resource for any one getting into the business.

I know several people in the goat business and few are making a living at it. It takes years to get to the size of an operation one needs to actually produce income.

Fiber Goats

The final category of goats is fiber goats. These goats are primarily used for their fleece not for their pelt. The breeds of fiber goats are generally Angora, Cashmere and Fainting goats. There is also the Pygora, which is a cross between a pygmy and an Angora. These small goats are nice for the hobby farmer because of their size, but pygmy or anything crossed with a pygmy often had difficulty birthing and often needs to deliver by caesarian section.

Fiber goats are popular among those who spin their own wool or work in fiber art. Their fleece may be combed out as needed or sheared like a sheep every year.

The quality of their fiber can range the grading system in three different grades. Some are soft and some are coarser. Another challenge is guard hare that needs to be separated from the fleece. These are longer hairs that protrude through the fleece and change the texture of the final product, so it is best to remove them before carding.

You do not want to use the fiber from a buck. It is very difficult to get the smell out of it. If you are going to take all the time to wash, card, dye, spin and loom or knit this fiber, you will be disappointed that the smell is still present in your finished produce. Use your bucks strictly for mating.

The fiber from most goats and alpacas have no memory, which means that what ever you knit with it will probably flatten out and lose its intended form. Most often goat fiber is mixed with wool from sheep to solve the memory problem.

Fencing is a challenge for fiber goats. Their thick fleece insulates them from being shocked when going through an electric fence, which is a big problem in their containment.

Also, these goats may also be used as meat goats if you ever want to sell them.


Blogger Donna said...

I love goats as pets. Have milked a couple in my time. Cliff HATES them. They're always doing something to piss him off, like running through a gate as soon as he opens it to get the tractor through. So, I don't have goats any more. It got to the point it was either the goats or him. I chose him.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Auntie L said...

Guy - I think you have given me a change of heart about wanting to own dairy goats in the future. Thanks for that!! Sounds like they may be fun to visit, but not to take home. Meat Goats sound like they could be a booming business though. Anyone local have any?

7:22 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, I think that Cliff would agree with my assessment that they are indeed a field full of two-year olds.

Auntie L, yes I know a few in the Knappa area. They were very heplful when I was researching the topic last year. Check the link to the OMGP site. They are listed there.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been known to mate through a fence.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Auntie L said...

Was that before you got your special "breaking and entering" certificate "expunged" ?

8:37 AM  
Blogger Zoe said...

So if not goats, what do I get for "I don't want to have to mow 6 acres" kind of livestock?

12:02 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Zoe, Goats are browsers. They like brush, so if you have weeds and brush to control goats are good, but a grazer would horse, mule, donkey, cows, and in your horses. You could also strike a deal with a horse owner who is looking for pasture.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

Fabulous post, Guy.

I have wanted "pet" goats for years, but the fencing requirements have stopped me too. Well, that and K's threats to shoot them if they eat her flowers. And you KNOW that would happen.

6:02 PM  
Blogger scott said...

And are you aware, sir of the Tennessee Fainting Goat?

10:14 PM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

One major misconception is that goats can eat "anything".
Yes they can, but they very often die in the process.
Goats are rumenants, that is to say that they have a special stomach, the ruman, in which microbes do the majority of their digestion process of their food.
All it takes is for one snot nosed kid to toss your goat a candybar and you have a dead goat. The rumen is a very delicatly balanced microbial unit. It must be maintained with a steady and balanced diet.
Almost anyone that you ask will give you the same misinformed recording, "Goats will eat anything, even a tin can".
That may be true.
Then they die.
We raised our kids with french alpine dairy goats all around.
Goats, like all other livestock have many health issues that the farmer must educate themselves in.
They are no easier to raise than any other livestock that I am aware of.

10:28 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Syd, if you think your new puppies are hard to keep up with, goats will out do them. And like her cattle never do anything to make you mad...

Scott, yes, they are considered meat goats, and that is the kind that Syd has always wanted.

Gearhead is right. I did mention they will eat anything, and I meant they will strip the bark from trees, but they normally don't chew up the barn, though if they are bored or curious they may chew on things you don't want them to.

6:18 AM  
Blogger LeLo in NoPo said...

Growing up, I'd milk the neighbor's goats when they were on vacation. It was one of the stinkiest and somewhat dangerous jobs I did as a child. And I thought the females were stinky, I had NO idea what bucks do to make themselves smell ripe. Amazing!

Great post: I read this out loud to AdRi and we learned about goats together. :)

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had Boer Goats for nearly 5 years and I keep an electric fence around my entire field 3 strands and I have a gate that both our 4 wheeler and tractor as well as my 2 year little girl go through and I take care of my goats so well that they don't even try to go out and if they do they will stay next to the fence. The same goes for my 6 breeding bucks that are separate from the rest of the herd. I go in and out of the pens all day long. It is a mutual respect thing. Love them they love you

3:30 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

They must be loved and content and well fed enough not to be curious about the outside world. Most animals I've had usually test the fence often, and if it is ever off, even for a minute, look out.

8:21 AM  

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