Do Your Homework
Many places allow people to raise goats in their yards, but many do not, so familiarize yourself with local laws so you don’t unwittingly break them. Then, read about goats. Read as much as you can. Read about the different breeds of goats. Read about their history and evolution. Read about what they eat, where they live, and what diseases they can get.
Visit a farm, and ask lots of questions. One of the best ways to learn about goats is to talk to the people who raise them. Anecdotally, goat farmers are some of the friendliest, most helpful people out there. Find a farmer near you and call them up just to chat; there’s a good chance they’ll invite you over for coffee.
Why would you want goats? Goats can be raised for food, milk or fur. If you have a large amount of land, goats act as natural, low-cost lawn mowers.
Choose Your Goats
Some breeds are larger than others, and therefore require more space. Some are more naturally acclimated to certain climates. Part of deciding how to raise goats in your yard is deciding what type of goat you’re looking for. Do you want goats that beef up (such as Boer goats), produce milk (such as Nubian goats), or are just fun to have around (such as Pygmy goats)?
The best place to buy goats is from a local farmer who you trust. They’ll provide plenty of background information on the animals you’re bringing home, and if they give you any trouble you’ll know where to turn. While buying goats from an animal auction may cost a little less, the quality of the animals is likely to be less as well.
Learning how to raise goats in your backyard is as much about the yard as it is the goats. Provide a small shelter so the goats can escape from the elements. Build a small trough for water (make sure it’s a height that young goats can reach, but situated so that older goats can’t urinate in it). And most importantly, build a good fence that is strong enough and tall enough to keep the goats in and any predators out. (A word to the wise: goats are very good jumpers.)
Having a veterinarian who you trust—and who has experience with ruminants—is also very important. If possible, find a vet who is willing to make house calls. If a goat is sick, the stress of being loaded in a trailer and driven across town will not help. Plus, diseases can easily spread across your herd (or mini-herd, if you’re raising goats in your backyard). So a veterinarian who will willingly visit your property is a good find.
Food. Goats are natural browsers; they are happiest and healthiest eating weeds, shrubs, bark, and whatever other low-height plants they can find. This makes them well-suited to backyard space, and also means they are affordable to feed. While you could feed them grain (which adds weight gain), you will have healthier and more cost-effective goats if you raise them on a healthy and varied diet of plants and weeds. If you live in a colder climate, you could use grain
Minerals. Some owners also add mineral supplements if the soil (and therefore the plants) in their area is notably deficient in a specific mineral. Talk to owners nearby to see if they have needed to do this or not.
Fresh water. Water is, of course, vital to all animals. Raising goats in the backyard is no different. Keep a tub or trough that they can easily reach, and make sure the water is freshened regularly (if it sits still too long, things can start growing).
Happy feet. Or hooves, as the case may be. Living in the wild, goats’ hooves will naturally stay trimmed as they walk on rough and rocky surfaces. But raising goats in your backyard means you are responsible for keeping hooves to a healthy and safe length. Ask a goat farmer if you can come help trim hooves to learn the right technique and tools for your breed.
Quality time. This may sound silly, but it’s not. The best way to make sure your goats are healthy is to get to know them, so you recognize the instant something is wrong. (Some infections run their course in just 24 hours, so early detection can literally save a goat’s life.) Run your hand along the goat’s back and chest, pay attention to its eyes, and learn how it behaves in different situations. If something changes, don’t ignore it.
This post is part of the series: How To Raise Grassfed Goats
Raising goats, whether for leisure or profit, is no small endeavor. Before you even pick out your animals, there’s a lot of prep work to do. Here you’ll find a primer on how research, prepare for, raise, and profit from grassfed goats.