If you’ve been considering a goat or several goats for your homestead, you need to ask yourself if you are truly prepared for this task. Like owning any animal, there are many things to think about before you take on this important responsibility. This is not a decision to be rushed into. Depending on the reason you have chosen to get one or more goats for your homestead, you may have it for many years and therefore you want it to be a pleasant experience for both you and your kids. If you aren’t aware a baby goat is called a kid and, in many ways, even when they become adult goats, they still have some childhood tendencies.
Once you’ve done your research on the variety of goats that you want for your homestead based on the reason, you’re getting a goat such as for milk, soap, meat or to raise additional animals to sell, you need to examine your property and be sure that you’re ready to welcome your new companion to your homestead. Keep in mind that like people goats have different temperaments, and you need to choose the one that is best for you. And, even then, depending on the particular goat, there can be differences in their temperament even if you’ve chosen what you think is a great breed for you. Depending on where you’re buying your goat, it can also be difficult at times to truly access a temperament since a goat that is at auction might act differently from when you get her home in a calmer environment, and it has time to get to know you.
1) Where Is Your Goat Going to Live
You cannot just allow your goat to roam free on your homestead. There are too many risks to doing this including predators, injuries, and not having adequate food, water, or shelter. Therefore, you need to prepare an enclosure for your goat. It should also have a shelter, if possible, that can keep it protected from the elements. The requirements for your shelter will be dependent on the weather where you live. Make sure that your enclosure is secure and that your goat isn’t going to be able to jump over or push through it. Goats are notorious escape artists. They are also good at chewing on things and pulling things into their pen. For example, don’t tie a gate with string on your goat enclosure because they may untie it and pull it in. If they eat the string, it can be dangerous to their health.
2) What Is Your Goat Going to Eat
You may need to build several enclosures over time in order to move your goat(s) from pasture to pasture to create a grazing rotation because likely one enclosure will not provide it/them with enough grass for a season. You may also have to make or buy bales of hay for your goat(s) to eat in seasons when grazing isn’t possible, such as the winter in some areas due to the snow. Your goats may also require some grain or supplements such as minerals and salt that come in either powder or block form. However, you must ensure that the supplements are acceptable for goats as there are some types of metals that can be found in feed or supplements that are toxic for goats. Someone at your feed store if you have one in the area can likely advise you on what you need or there are many resources for this on the internet as well.
3) Your Goat’s Water Source
You need to ensure that your goat has access to clean/fresh water each day. Is there a natural source of water for your goat or will you have to bring it to her each day? You may want to look at options for water bowls that can be set up to give your goat the water it/they need. If you are hand watering your goat, you also need to determine the best trough. For example, a pail is a bad idea as your goat(s) might get their head stuck in it, or not be able to reach the water at the bottom. You also want to be sure that your goat cannot contaminate their water source for example, by walking in it and stirring up mud etc. Some water sources also dry up in hot water or freeze in cold temperatures, therefore you need to be vigilant about changing conditions.
5) Will Your Goat Have Other Companions
Some homesteaders choose to have other animals in the same enclosure as their goats. Depending on the temperaments of all animals involved, this may or may not work well. Therefore, you should never just put the animals together. You need to be around to watch their initial interactions and be sure that they are not going to fight together. As a human friend to your goat, you also need to know the best way to approach her and to be able to read the signs regarding her attitude and whether it is safe to approach or not. This can also help keep you safe. You should also be aware that some goats have a tendency to head-butt. It will take some work to try and get them out of this habit. If your animals are fighting, you should not get in the middle of their fight but attempt to separate them in another way, perhaps by distracting them with food.
You also need to ensure that they receive the necessary veterinary care each year such as treatments for ticks and lice, vaccinations, and hoof trimming. Some goats’ needs will vary depending on the breed and your purpose for having them. With proper research and contemplation, you can make the introduction of a goat to your homestead a positive experience. You should also be aware that when a goat falls ill, there is a very short window to try and make her well again, and in some cases the discovery of her illness can already be too late for her. Here are a few products and resources that can help you on your homestead. However, you must do your due diligence to be sure that they fit the needs of your homestead.