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why to not raise goats

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15061
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I met a fella the other day that was excited to raise goats.

I think heaps of folks are charmed by goats and might not know the downsides.  So I thought I should start a list of the downsides so these folks can be aware. 

And, yes, baby goats (I still have trouble calling them kids) are cute.  I think it is this cute factor that is the primary driving force for people to keep goats.

1)  Your fencing is gonna be more expensive and the goats are gonna test it.  A lot.  Chicken fencing can be expensive, but the chickens don't test it as much - so it ends up cheaper and easier. 

2)  Goats eat trees.  If you have little baby trees, goats will kill them.  They will also eat all the bark off of medium size trees and kill them. 

3)  If you give goats pasture, then in my area they eat the buckbrush - which makes the meat taste gamey and the milk taste gamey.

4)  Selenium shots.  Many areas have no selenium.  If you don't supplement, then your baby goats will die within a day or two.

Anybody have anything else to add?


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Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
3 years. thats the average time someone has goats and then gets frustrated and gets rid of them. often because of high mortality rates.

they climb on you. on your cars. on everything. lean down in your pasture you might just have 60lb adolescent goat on your back playing king of the mountain.

for certain sale markets they must be bottle raised to bring good prices. I hate bottle kids.

finding good reliable up to date information on veterinary, dietary and husbandry issues is difficult. (hence the high mortality rate most people experience that discourage them) most books are sorely out of date or have much advice that is flat out discredited by recent research that is less available to people. this makes for a steep learning curve when starting out. very very few vets know anything about goats and try to treat them like little cows. you must provide almost all of your own veterinary services and have a vet that will simply sell you what you ask for. this is why goat owners are fighting so viciously against tighter laws trying to restrict who can administer prescription meds and tightening the restraints on antimicrobials. almost all effective drugs and anthelmentics are used off label in goats at different per lb dosages then with other species and are administered through different routes to be effective. there are no official withdrawl times or master lists of effective dosages and treatments from official sources. 

in the event a goats does need veterinary services, the cost often is more then the animal is worth. thats sort of a bummer. but then, they are easier to put down and dispose of also.


there is a bit of a stigma surrounding goat meat still. most of your meat market is still ethnic which can present marketing difficulties. although the health benefits of goat milk is become more widely known.

they are more subject to predation in comparison to larger livestock. this can be the main drive for the need for excellent fencing. to keep predators out not neccesarily goats in. in some areas having an lgd or several is crucial. and an lgd can be a pain also.

they are selective about their food. which is why people think they have provided them enough area and then get frustrated when they eat the trees.

goats are much more susceptable to parasites then cattle or sheep. they are browsers. their systems have not developed to fend of parasites well because they don't naturally eat near the ground. when a goat eats your trees or gets out to find browse they are doing what they know is best for them. preventing their infection with parasites  whose lifecycles rely on pasture and grazing. most people don't provide enough area for them, and get fort knox fencing to keep them in, the goats are forced to graze much of the time and become infested with parasites that kill them quickly. parasites that infect goats have developed resistance much faster then in other species due to a combination of many issues mentioned above.

I have come to the conclusion they are not good candidates for rotational grazing situations imo. (which has totally changed my plans) they won't just mow a pasture down before you move them to the next like good little soldiers. for reasons already discussed.

they are the cats of the livestock world. independent, curious, smart, difficult to control. this makes them charming....and sometimes incredibly annoying and frustrating!

fencing, eating and debarking trees. those problems are greatly caused by people raising them in too small an area.  a single addition of one lower strand of barbed wire to our existing fence has stopped escapees for almost a week now. (knock on wood) they were getting out daily. but they have plenty to eat (choices) where they are at. they don't even bother with the hay available and prefer to still go out and browse even at this time of year. most books and sources say you can put 5 goats on an acre. what they don't say is that five goats on an acre means you will need fortified fencing and regular chemical deworming (with the one of the few approriate wormers that work anymore).

they aren't for everyone! 

selenium shots aren't neccesary. making sure they have enough selenium is. I provide selenium in their mineral which is specifically formulated for goats and has much higher levels of selenium and copper then standard cattle minerals.


[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
ronie dee


Joined: Mar 04, 2009
Posts: 586
Location: Cosby MO
    
    2
Whew... I had hoped that goats were easy... How in the world did people raise animals in the old days without all the things that we "HAVE" to do to/for them nowdays?


Sometimes the answer is not to cross an old bridge, nor to burn it, but to build a better bridge.
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
it's not true that they will eat trees, the real truth is that they may eat trees

rotational grazing for goats is a lot better than not, this helps to prevent the parasites you mentioned

goats are amazingly helpful for the use of clearing brush and weeds, fire fighters use them to thin woods to prevent forest fires

combining ruminants offers more food per acre for the farmer and helps avoid the task of weeding

goats only really like certain kinds of grass, at the right stage of growth, which is much higher than what cows and sheep prefer
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Paul, I have to agree with you on calling baby goats 'kids' -- I've solved that problem by refusing to call young humans 'kids!'  I call them children instead.

It's true that goats aren't the easiest animal to keep, which is why 1. I discourage people from getting them unless they are really committed (which usually means they really NEED a home milk supply and a cow won't work), and 2. I won't sell goats to people who have never had them before, or who only want them for pets. 

But I've been keeping goats for most of the last twenty-six years, missed them when I didn't have them, and wouldn't ever be without them again, in spite of all the difficulties.  Some of the difficulties really aren't that hard to fix, by the way.  I don't let my goats have a pasture, they are penned (with cattle panels) and I bring their feed to them, or take them out and walk them.  Since I only have three at the moment, that works for us. 

Selenium -- we live in a selenium-deficient area, and I haven't given a selenium shot in the nearly six years we've been here.  My goats get a mineral salt with selenium in it; I feed small amounts of BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds), which are high in Vitamin E, a selenium precursor; and when I did have one or two kids show mild signs of selenium deficiency the first year we were here, I gave them the contents of a vitamin E capsule twice a day for two or three days and they were just fine. 

I do like cows (was raised on a cow dairy farm), and if we had more land, I'd have a cow.  I'd love to have the cream for making butter, and cows are (usually) sweet, and easier to keep fenced than goats, tis true.  But, we only have one acre.  Goats and cows both have their place in the scheme of things, they fit different niches and different family needs.  One-acre-lots are, IMO, better suited for a couple of goats than for a cow.  In a pinch, I could raise most of the feed for my goats along with most of our own food on this lot.  It would be a lot more difficult to feed a cow, who would need close to three times as much feed as my two Oberhasli does and one little Nigerian Dwarf buck.

Kathleen
Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2579
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  65
Leah, I don't know anything about goats, though I've watched you post pictures and tell stories and relay research about multiple facets of what appears to my eyes to be excellent, well-researched and sustainable goat husbandry. You should write a book! (Maybe that would help pass by the remaining weeks of your pregnancy, too...)

I know Lacia here in the Seattle area is quite an expert, too, and Kathleen, 26 years of experience is amazing! Maybe some co-authoring is called for here. Just a thought.

Hands-on workshops in all shades of green - Cascadia & Seattle Eco Events Calendar | QuickBooks Consulting and Accounting Services - www.jocelyncampbell.com
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
thanks jocelyn but truly I am not nearly qualified! if you had a chance to speak to some real goat experts you would see. there are some women I have had the great pleasure of conversing with that have a truly amazing base of experience and knowledge. I feel that at this point I just have the basics down. really. 

I have pretty high expectations when it comes to what information I will take to heart. I want to see real research, records and evidence not anecdotes and one man one herd experiments. I feel I have perhaps managed the learning curve faster then some due to my obsessive nature about this sort of thing.

I have also had the displeasure of seeing many newer herds that have been managed based on advice from the feedstore, folklore, hearsay etc....and seen the consequences and frustration of the owners when their animals die or are sick constantly.

the only time I have had animals get sick is when I veered from the established well researched and feild trialed methods and meds for goats in an effort to not utilize preventative medications and use more natural methods. which I regret on an immense scale.  

along those lines. it is important to remember that goats evolved domestically in dry enviroments with relatively sparse vegetation in loften ikely low population levels. goats that have been bred extensively for specific traits and with close managment won't adapt well to our natural for us (from our perspective) but unnatural to them enviroment. wild herds that have established themselves in north america have done so in climates similiar to those of their long lost native domestic enviroments.  dry, sparse. these are often refferred to as spanish goats.   

Lacia Lynne Bailey


Joined: Jun 20, 2007
Posts: 73
Location: Seattle, WA
I got 2 emails that I was getting "paged" on this thread, lol.    So here's a quick reply.


I agree with everything Leah said on this.

One positive side of the "obsessive" coin can be "passionate" when it comes to learning.  There are quite a few of us on this forum that fit that description, ehhehhehehee     I have been spending inordinate amounts of time on goats, learning and experimenting, lol.

If you want predictability and ease, "most production for least work", goats are probably not for you.  Its not a question of good or bad,

just of fit and matching needs.  Like spouses, lol, one person's "perfect" would be another's nightmare.  Goats are creative and fun, not necessarily "easy" nor as easily fit into a predictable, rotational, system like chickens or sheep.    For some of us, our goats tell us why most of the jokes are about sheep however, ehehhheee, and we like what goats are in our worlds.

Goats will keep you always thinking and on your toes in many ways.  If you want fabulous cheese, want to stack fun "pet" functions with producing a yield of high value then the challenges of dairy goats can be well worth it for the right match of personality and site
opportunities.

I really can't speak to meat goats.  I just don't get it, its not a match for me.  There are a lot easier ways to get meat it seems unless you are in very specific goat favorable habitat.  And meat goats are an oxymoron to me in that my dairy goats heavily stack the "pet" function  with production, and the "work" of interacting and caring for them mulitple times per day rarely feels like "work" to me.  They are delightful, sentient, members of our farm.  Doing goats for meat I just don't get, some one who does will have to chime in on that.

I think we have to be careful trying to say rotational grazing *formulas* are a Permaculture thing.  Remember Permaculture priniciple about accepting  feedback in our systems and constantly adapting what we are doing.  There are lots of other farming and gardening paradigms and systems that we incorporate into our Permaculture world in specific conditions, but sometimes folks get far too attached to them imho. 

It seems to be human nature to want formulas and predictability.  Other systems offer that and we use pieces of other systems as they fit in our worlds, but I think we need to remember the intellectual challenge Permaculture principle tos include always be adapting as nature does.  No two seasons does nature repeat exactly the same in a given place.  One year one plant will thrive more than another etc. 

So let's not get attached to "rotational grazing" as a Permaculture cornerstone, its not right for all situations either.

Maybe more later, I'm swamped...
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
ronie wrote:
Whew... I had hoped that goats were easy... How in the world did people raise animals in the old days without all the things that we "HAVE" to do to/for them nowdays?


well. for one they didn't have the same production expectations we do now. the major kicker is that in 'the old days' goats traditionally raised in places like the following images describe best.... some people can't replicate these conditions easily. most times modern raisers can most easily replicate dry sparse conditions by raising goats in dry lot situations. which makes many people gasp and scream 'confinement operation' but is actually very healthy and more natural for the goats if large browsing areas aren't available and can almost eliminate parasites (if it is truly a "dry" lot)  there is not much you can do to replicate the cold temps that will kill off parasites if you don't happen to live in a cold climate.

much of north america is selenium deficient. so unless people want to move to another part of the world then selenium supplementation will probably be neccessary if you live in the US and want the other benefits of goats.. its not that goat raisers want to be 'unnatural' but a recognition that by simply owning them where we do we have already lost some of the 'natural' enviroment for them and as responsible owners we must compensate for that.







Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
I actually live in a good place for raising goats (other than the selenium deficiency, and at least our soils aren't as copper-deficient as most of Australia is).  If you picture an area about half-way between the first two of Leah's pictures, that would be a pretty accurate representation of this area.  Only about seventeen inches of precip. per year (average), elevation 4,200 feet, summers warm/hot and dry, winters mostly dry with some snow.  And I do dry-lot my goats, although I'm hoping to finish fencing this spring and let them do some browsing.  More for their entertainment than for feed. 

Kathleen
ronie dee


Joined: Mar 04, 2009
Posts: 586
Location: Cosby MO
    
    2
Thanks Leah, I guess that a landowner wud be wise to look at what grows naturally on the property and propagate those things. The natural occurring things (like plants) wud most likely grow better with less care. I sometimes forget how we have forced everything to grow outside its natural environments.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I live southern enough that we have long stretches of warm moist weather that is ideal for breeding coccidia and stomach parasites. this also can spell doom to hooves that aren't properly maintained.

I don't want to be a nay sayer of goats I do however think that full disclosure is important. there are also breeds that have been somewhat more adapted to other conditions. the kiko breed is supposed to be one. although I haven't yet seen one available for sale here that looks to compare to the carcass weight you can get from a boer. dairy goats are simply another story. if you get a "good one" they require input.  some people suggest that for many reasons this makes them "not good" and that is valid argument. I have milked my boers and quite frankly I think they have the best milk. but not nearly the quantity that a dairy goat has.
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
ducks and chickens eat and destroy most of the carriers of ruminant parasites is this not true?
also, is it true that as long as a goat isn't eating off the ground they will be far less likely to get sick?
finally, i remember several times seeing wild goats in kentucky in my youth, they seem to get along there fine and they get tons of rainfall compared to most parts of the country.

man goats hate the rain though, kinda always found their repulsion for water comical, is this repulsion having to do with their weakness to parasites

i have been considering growing duckweed as a supplement to my goats, is this a bad idea or are there ways of making it safe? i have heard garlic gets rid of most invertibrat pests in small tanks of water
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
unfotunatly no. ducks and chickens do not eat the parasites that infect ruminents. during the phase of their lifecyle that they are infective they are microscopic as are the eggs. they are not visible in the manure. chickens will however scratch through manure in search of fly larvae and in the process can dry them out fast enough that the parasites die or are weakened before they hatch or mature. this is just theory however. in a warm wet climate the spreading of that manure could just as easy break up the piles and allow for a larger distribution of the parasites imo. the parasites hatch, wiggle up a few inches on a nearby piece of grass and wait to be eaten, once they are inside they attach and feed on the blood of th animal weakening their immune system and leaving them open for other opportunistic infections. 

there are internal parasites other then blood sucking parasites (the barber pole worm is the killer in goats) but they are not usually the problem for goats. deer worm for example will kill your goats but they are a case of a parasite in a non traditional host animal, tapeworms infect goats also but they do little measurable harm to the point that producers only worm for tapeworms for the "looks" because it looks bad for buyers to watch a goat poop out a tapeworm. 

there are of course going to be exceptions. some goats will manage just fine with zero input. I am speaking from a standpoint of generalities here. I am convinced pygmy goats are indestructable and can live on air and if having any goat is what is desirable then one could most likely find goats that could be raised with zero input in any climate if you are willing to accept loss and are willing to be extremely flexible, or completly open about the the other traits that the goat possesses. those wild goats main attractive attribute is that they are hardy. not meaty or milky.  I have tried to milk a pygmy goat. it ain't happening again
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
i thought they got most of them from carriers like slugs and snails or is that just liver fluke?
and that this is why wet climates were a problem for sheep and goats, because it makes the snails much more numerous
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
liver fluke and meningeal worm are parasites that have different lifecycles then HC. some areas have trouble with liver fluke to the point that they worm regularly for them. they will also cause severe anemia and death. deer worm/meingeal worm creates an acute problem when it invades neurological system of goats. it is not the sort of thing that you will have a herd wide problem with. not that it isn't an issue but it isn't the sort of thing you will likely lose 1/2 your herd to, it can easily be confused with goat polio or listerioses.  neurp problems just as with people can be very hard to diagnose.  from my understanding the main treatment for meningeal worm is massive doses of ivermectin and steroids to try and reduce inflammation.  heomonchus contortus known commonly as the barber pole worm is the parasite (in the south) that most people have trouble with. after a  worm bloom on pastures that have had goats on it for a few years producers can have goats dropping like flies from them.
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Yes, goats can die very quickly of an overload of worms.  Thankfully I've never lost one to that, although I have lost two heavy producers (in twenty-six years) to hypo-calcemia -- that's another one that can take them down quickly.

Kathleen
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I guess the whole point of the thread was "why not to raise goats" but in reality all livestock options have their own specific needs, downfalls, frustration as well as benefits and it is important for everyone to learn about the options, research the needs of those animals they are interested in and make a decision from there. and no doubt that it is impossible to fully make a judgment for yourself until you have first hand experience and I don't think people should judge themselves too harshly about changing their minds or feel like failures with livestock or anything else for that matter if it turns into something they don't really want to deal with. sometimes the main value you get from something is just a life experience before moving on and that is fine.

when I first decided I wanted a dairy goat I told myself it was just for fun, that I wanted to do it just for the experience, that is was probably something that sounded interesting but that the reality of it would quickly smash my romantic views. I also held myself under no obligation to take it any further or continue with it if for whatever reason I didn't want to. and someday I may reach a point that I don't want dairy goats. and thats fine.  but I was very pleasantly surprised and still often think of pursuing it more professionally. I sometimes think of selling all my meat goats and just doing dairy. I am missing my milker, mad at myself for selling her dairy companions and putting all my eggs in one basket so to speak and I am very much looking forward to my two new lamanchas freshening in april. 

although goats have their own unique set of issues....so do cows, sheep, chickens etc........we could just as easy have a thread on why not to raise them.
Robert Ray
volunteer

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1321
Location: Cascades of Oregon
    
  12
Leah,
So you would'nt recomend a pygmy breed? Just thinking about it at this point, should I look at a full size breed rather than consider a pygmy?


"There is enough in the world for everyones needs, but not enough for everyones greed"
(Buckman)
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
lapinerobert wrote:
Leah,
So you would'nt recomend a pygmy breed? Just thinking about it at this point, should I look at a full size breed rather than consider a pygmy?


What do you want it for?  For meat, the pygmies are acceptable, as that's what they were bred for in Africa.  Nigerian Dwarfs are a miniature dairy breed, but I haven't seen one yet that I'd really want to milk regularly (teats are usually tiny, and udders too close to the ground for my milk pail to fit under them!).  I'll probably have a mini- or two out of my full-size does and Nigie buck this spring, and if so will keep one to see how she turns out, but really goats aren't all that big.  You might as well just get a full-sized one.  The does only weigh around 125 lbs. anyway....

Kathleen
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I agree with kathleen. I have two pygmys. they are just pets. my first goats. when getting into any livestock....goats included......really think about what you want them for and buy qulaity representatives of a breed known for the traits you want. pygmys are good for brush eating too since they really are (imo) very hardy. I swear I only trim my pygmy's feet once a year!  I always check them out when doing everyone else and they just don't neet it.  also, mine have never got a nasty spot on their hoof that needed any treatment (knock knock ). I once was told by someone that keeping a herd of pygmies in was like keeping a herd of cats in your pasture! smaller bodies fit through smaller holes.

if you want milk. no. don't buy a pygmy. and I am with kathleen on this also, I wouldn't buy a nigie unless they come from very serious breeders that actually breed for milk production and not cuteness. goats aren't big to begin with. if handled from birth properly full size goats are very easily managed except for maybe the bucks. 

if you want meat they would have their advantages. in fact I have often thought they would be ideal for a true self sustaining meat goat operation....except that everyone thinks they are too cute to eat. but realistically its nice that they aren't real big. they stay a nice butchering size and in some situations it would be nice to keep alot of your meat on the hoof rather then try to preserve for long term, (the extra meat) at butchering. a pygmy could keep a small family in adequate protein by butchering one every week or two I would think.

dairy goats have been bred to produce excess milk. meaning more than is needed to feed the kids they have. other breeds or lesser quality dairy goats won't neccessarily produce enough for their kids to be adequatly nourished and grow well and have extra for you. it is also often considered important when breeding dairy goats to breed for adequate teat size as well as a large orifice at the end of the teat so that they can be milked out quickly although you will find dairy goats that don't meet this expectation. Most of my full size boers don't have teats that are easily milked and you can only get a tiny stream of milk at a time. although the milk is very rich and wonderful, its just too much work to get it! its nice to have an udder with big 'handles' for milking. 
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
in my experience a nigerian dwarf is harder to handle than a full size goat, though easier to carry

though i am very tall

i find the dwarves are not that much smaller but they do have much shorter legs and therefore a lower center of gravity

mine is the most athletic goat i own, the most intelligent goat i own

when it is time for everybody to go to bed, she stands there staring at you after all the other goats are put away and often she tries extremely hard not to go to bed...

she is also the dominant female of my herd, despite her small size!

she kind of has a deep pocket in her bag, but she makes half as much milk as the others, but it's the most delicious food i believe i have ever tasted, soo freakin high in cream i love it...

so basically the little pain in the ass is actually worth it IMO


be careful with these though, they are so close to the ground that they are more prone to getting their bag caught on stuff... she once tore open her teat with a gash that nearly went halfway around the teat! she hated being milked when this happened, but she was hardy enough that nothing bad became of it! just bagbalm and hyrdogen peroxide after it scabbed up

yeah so... dwarfs = higher stress, more work, better milk haha
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 969
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
This Nigerian buck I have right now is the first Nigerian I've had, and I'm not sure I like him.  He's a brat, basically.  Much noisier than my girls, and I've had to sit on him several times because he'd challenged me.  I had to sit on my Oberhasli buck a few times, but it was about once a year -- he had a good memory!  He was much easier to handle than this little guy, even though he weighed close to two hundred pounds.  And he was much quieter, which is an asset around here.  I would much rather have kept him, but both my does are his daughters, and the young one is also his granddaughter.

However, I did have Kinders for a while (cross of Pygmy and Nubian), and they had that rich, sweet milk you are talking about, so I'm looking forward to what this little guy's daughters will produce. 

Leah mentioned that Boers are hard to milk.  I had a part-Boer doe that I milked for a while, then her half-Oberhasli daughter for a couple of years, and they had wonderful milk and plenty of it (the older doe, as a five-year-old, peaked at about fourteen pounds a day), but were harder to milk.  I'm not sure it was a teat orifice issue, although that might have been part of it, but it seemed like they had thicker skin so there wasn't as much capacity inside the teats and it took more work to squeeze the milk out.  Anyway, I really like the half-Oberhasli, half-Alpine doe I'm milking now -- she's really easy to milk and her milk is good.  Anxious to see how her daughter is -- she's due to kid in mid-March.

Kathleen
                                            


Joined: Oct 28, 2009
Posts: 10
Goats are cute and can be fun, but they[s] can be [/s] are a challenge to take care of. Before purchasing a goat, look at all the pros and cons.
For my family, I think there are more pros than there are cons. We have dairy goats and we get enough milk from one doe to feed our family, make homemade soap with it, and share with others.

                                    Belle


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Rob Alexander


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 50
Location: Hakuba, Japan
Didn't notice this thread going on or I would have posted sooner.

paul wheaton wrote:1)  Your fencing is gonna be more expensive and the goats are gonna test it.  A lot.  Chicken fencing can be expensive, but the chickens don't test it as much - so it ends up cheaper and easier. 

2)  Goats eat trees.  If you have little baby trees, goats will kill them.  They will also eat all the bark off of medium size trees and kill them. 

3)  If you give goats pasture, then in my area they eat the buckbrush - which makes the meat taste gamey and the milk taste gamey.

4)  Selenium shots.  Many areas have no selenium.  If you don't supplement, then your baby goats will die within a day or two.


Ok. I'm a Goat farmer/cheesemaker and it's far from easy, but that being said, I love it, and I love my goats very much so here's some up to date, on the ground information.
1) Wellll, yes. Goats need more fencing than chickens, but so do cows, pigs etc. I use 4 strands of portable electric fencing to about waist high and have no problems.
Goats have  a reputation for escaping, but they only "misbehave" if they can't get enough food or are stressed/frightened. Basically "misbehaviour" is a direct indication of incorrect management and will be rectified by correcting the "source" problem. Fix what "you" are doing wrong, and the goats will behave just fine.

2)Goats do eat baby trees. Don't let them in the same area.
Goats eating tree bark is an indication of copper deficiency in the diet. Supplement with Copper Sulphate and it will stop immediately. (See below)

3)Goats want to eat a varied diet. I can't comment on buckbrush, but we take our goats to browse/graze in mixed forest and unmanaged pasture everyday and the milk is delicious. Strong flavoured feed, herbs etc. will impart a flavour, be aware of it and manage for it.

4)Selenium deficiency in soils can be properly managed by providing seaweed meal or a mineral lick with selenium in it.

Poor tasting milk or meat is often linked to nutritional imbalances.
Remineralizing grazing areas is the best choice, and can turn pasture around in one season, but we graze on publicly owned land, so we can't alter it.
The next best option is to supplement with free choice minerals that the animals can access when they want to. We have Seaweed meal(for selenium,iodine) Loose salt, and a Mineral lick out, and the goats will choose the one that they need.
We also provide Sulphur powder, Powdered Dolomitic limestone, and Copper sulphate. (Animals with adequate copper levels don't get problems with parasitic organisms. They still have them, just in lower numbers that they can handle. Goats, unlike sheep rarely get copper overdoses, but adequate calcium and magnesium, hence the dolomite, are essential)
I know it sounds terribly chemical, but you have to remember that these are essential nutrients, and the animals will only take what is necessary for good health. (Humans have lost the ability to do this, but almost all livestock can do it.)

We don't use any wormers or antibiotics but we do use love, and the goats are healthy and adorable.

It's true that most vets know very little about goats, so you really have to become and expert yourself so you can inform your vet yourself when you need them.

Goats are browsers rather than grazers so they do better on forage ie. brush/forest than pasture. They prefer not to eat short grass to avoid parasites on the lowest few inches. They have shorter digestive tracts so they can't completely digest mature grasses, so they prefer broad leaved plants and can get more minerals from them.

Leah Sattler wrote:
3 years. thats the average time someone has goats and then gets frustrated and gets rid of them. often because of high mortality rates.

Probably true. It's a lot of work.

I think that Paul might have been a smidge hasty in dismissing them out of hand, but I think that the environment will really decide whether you should/could/can keep goats.

Books. "Natural Goat Care" by Pat Coleby (She's my hero) is absolutely the first place you should go.  Acres USA publish it. ooh look, there's even a link at the bottom of the page..


"The greatest learning takes place in dialogue between people - learning is a social process and not just an intellectual event"
Alison Thomas
volunteer

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
    
    8
pawnjp thank you so much for posting your upbeat post.  I've been thinking about getting a couple of goats for a while and decided that this spring would be the time.  Then this post came along - not to run it down cos it's important to be realistic and not wear rose-tinted glasses all the time - and I felt all worried about it. I talked to my husband about it and he said what Leah said (I've only just caught up with the thread) that you don't really know if something is right for you until you do it.  So we're going ahead.  But your post picked me up that extra bit.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
heninfrance - its sounds like you have the right attitude about it. you can try them. they don't have to be permanent residents. if they don't work for you then thats OK. For a variety of reasons they didnt' work for paul and they don't work for other people. others find their particular needs easy to meet or worth the effort and the goats themselves enjoyable and useful.

don't get me wrong, I get plenty frustrated with my goats sometimes! almost always it is because I am unable to (at the time) approach the problem with the ideal solution. or like in my case now I am struggling to update my new property to accomodate them, being unwilling to sell and try to buy difficult to find healthy stock later when I have everything in order. in other words, its my shortcomings not the goats that cause my problems! 
Rob Alexander


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 50
Location: Hakuba, Japan
Bon Chance Heninfrance.

Oh, and be prepared to pay much more than you are prepared to pay for goats from a guaranteed healthy herd.

The stories I've heard from a friend who bought goats because they were cheap were enough to bring tears to my eyes.

and staying in the theme of the thread, if you haven't cried for a while, you will when a goat dies because you didn't know what you were doing.
Buy the book. it's essential.

and from personal experience, I'd say love is the key ingredient.
Alison Thomas
volunteer

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
    
    8
Thanks pawnjp.  I've just ordered the book from Amazon.com and it should hopefully be here in France at the end of the month - just enough time to read up and get their housing right - I don't want to be crying if I can help it.  Our animals are like pets to us and I do worry about them a lot - yep, love, that's the word.  Love is one of the reasons why I'm going slow on getting them.  If I want a milker I have to think seriously what to do with her kids - we haven't crossed that boundary yet about taking your stock to the table.  Maybe another reason why not to have goats if you love your animals as pets and don't want to say an untimely goodbye.
                              


Joined: May 03, 2009
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
Important, animals that will be food, should nor be named or be named appropriately (ya know, breakfast, lunch, dinner, BBQ, etc.)


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Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
Goats need lots of minerals. Goats can handle most parasites if they have enough minerals. I have experience with barber pole worm and never lost a goat to it, with rotational grazing, minerals with added copper and sometimes herbal wormers but not so often (I let my goats eat a lot of "poisonous" plants). Some land has less minerals, especially low land areas and humid areas and these pose a threat to goats because they both have less minerals and host the worst parasites in my opinion to goats which are liver flukes and deer brain worms or meningeal worms. Meningeal worms have a four month incubation and cause goats to quickly succumb to paralysis and death. The only way to prevent it that I have yet read is with exceedingly high doses of worm medication. I recall reading this several years ago, but believed it rare. It is not rare in places in the east where deer frequent and it is an extremely unfortunate illness. I raised a herd up of goats organically for five years but this disease crippled my operation in the last year faster than I could figure out what was going on. I wish someone had told me about meningeal worms. At least my entire herd wasn't infected and at least I have plenty perfectly eddible goat meat. I had never experienced this condition before this winter. Once a goat shows symptoms it's almost too late to save them. They do not scour, they do not show pale eyelids, they do not need to even show up on a fecal sample to kill a goat. They are not unhealthy until the worms consume nerve tissue.
Celia Revel


Joined: Feb 28, 2013
Posts: 55
    
    1
This is what I wish someone had told me before I got goats.

Minerals are the key to healthy goats, otherwise, you are in for a heartache load of trouble. A goat's natural diet is from brush that have deep roots and can reach all those yummy minerals from the soil. We feed them hay, which is lacking in this crucial substance. Copper, calcium, and magnesium especially. Pat Coeby's Natural Goat Care talks about dolomite over and over and over again. I wish I had have taken his advice more seriously, and then I would have avoided pneumonia in all my goats this summer. Just like humans, if goats are mineral deficient (easy to do), they WILL get parasites. If they have parasites, they WILL get sick.

If you want milk, you just can't get one goat. They will die of loneliness ( or if they're Nubians, they will call loudly to you day and night), so you have to figure in other goats and then the babies of the dairy goat to be milked. Hay gets expensive when your herd starts to swell which it will because babies are hard to get rid of. I know, I'm one of those crazy goat ladies. I still have a baby that suckles, and she's an adult. That's another story.

Yes, goats are very problematic, and I have thought about not having them, but they are so much fun too, and it makes you special because you are the one the neighbors go to when they need goat milk for the kitten that can't nurse or someone wants raw goat milk for a recipe in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, raw milk which is almost impossible to find. You build a network of other goat ladies who help you with your herd issues, and it's kinda nice.

However, it is one of the most frustrating of all permie experiences. No one shows you how to milk, unless you are lucky, no one shows you how to give shots, where to get copper, where to get dolomite, where to get a milk bucket, what's a strainer? why is my milk strong tasting? oh, you have to ice it down immediately, duh. There are so many detailed little things, unless you have lots of time and patience to learn all this it's a rough row to hoe.
Sarah Loy


Joined: Jan 28, 2014
Posts: 13
    
    1
If any NH or nearby folks are looking for training about raising goats, the Cooperative extention service in NH is about to offer a 5 class series. The instructor has been raising backyard goats for 35 years. You can take any or all of the classes as you like. I think they are $15 each and about 3 hours long. All the info is on the website for unh cooperative extension. Hopes that helps someone. While I was checking it out I found out they are offering some other permiculture stuff too. That one had a different link so you might have to call to get the details. In March there is an all day workshop for 25 dollars that includes breakfast and lunch. Maybe I'll meet some permies folks there.
April Swift


Joined: Feb 16, 2014
Posts: 19
Location: Texas
About goats and fences....my dad used to say that if you build a fence and want to find out if it is goat proof, take a bucket of water and throw it at the fence. If any water gets on the other side, it isn't goat proof.

But though we don't have goats now, we had goat fencing when we did and we were forever having to help them get their heads out of the fence after they stuck their heads through the fence to eat on the other side and then couldn't get back out.

If we get goats in the future, I might really want to try electric goat fencing.
dan collins


Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Posts: 40
Location: Nova Scotia
Seriously?? Goats are great! We look at our goats as priceless, they provide us milk(everyday), butter, cheeze, manure, sour cream, mow the lawn($gas and time), and othen give a huge smile when you say their name. I love my goats. We have two does, Mindy and Saturna, and breed them during their first and last heats to maximize milk production (10-11months).


From my experince is if you can't keep the goats within your fence... "you should maybe learn to build a fence".


Experiment, invent, build, grow, share....lead by example people!!!
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3857
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  54
I had 14 of them. They're nice enough, but deep down, many goats are very sneaky, two faced ass holes.


QUOTES FROM MEMBERS --- In my veterinary opinion, pets should be fed the diet they are biologically designed to eat. Su Ba...The "redistribution" aspect is an "Urban Myth" as far as I know. I have only heard it uttered by those who do not have a food forest, and are unlikely to create one. John Polk ...Even as we sit here, wondering what to do, soil fungi are degrading the chemicals that were applied. John Elliott ... O.K., I originally came to Permies to talk about Rocket Mass Heaters RMHs, and now I have less and less time in my life, and more and more Good People to Help ! Al Lumley...I think with the right use of permie principles, most of Wyoming could be turned into a paradise. Miles Flansburg... Then you must do the pig's work. Sepp Holzer
Adam Klaus
pollinator

Joined: Apr 16, 2013
Posts: 851
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
    
  49
Dale Hodgins wrote:deep down, many goats are very sneaky, two faced ass holes.


Like the Cake lyric,

Sheep go to heaven,
Goats go to Hell.

No my favorite animal for more than a few reasons. But if they work for you, and you are in the right ecology and climate, goats can work.

Otherwise, Go Cows!


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dan collins


Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Posts: 40
Location: Nova Scotia
I agree they can be...lol. Thats why 2 is great, I have no interest in 14. We sell the kids at 1 month, they stay indoors and are bottle feed prior.
Susan Doyon


Joined: Mar 28, 2014
Posts: 25
Location: Massachusetts
I miss my goats after reading this thread !
Doug Mac


Joined: Jan 07, 2013
Posts: 78
Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]

About fences:
a)I agree with Dan Collins. "From my experince is if you can't keep the goats within your fence... "you should maybe learn to build a fence"."

b)If your pasture is bare the goats WILL BE HUNGRY. Don't blame them for your mismanagement when they get out to eat.

About parasites:
That is why I raise Kikos
 
 
subject: why to not raise goats
 
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