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Goats are great

May 20, 2019

EFFINGHAM, S.C. -- There’s no doubt about it: Goats are rising in popularity and in a meteoric trajectory.

Internet users, especially, are enamored with videos of baby goats, goats in pajamas, bleating goats, fainting goats and everything else goat. Some goat videos have had hundreds of thousands or even millions of views.

So what is it about goats that make them so endearing, and should you get one or two?

Well, goats are amusing, to be sure. They have individual personalities, and they love to interact with people. The kids are very playful and cute as a button. Goats are relatively easy to maintain, and besides their value as pets, they are used for milk, meat and brush control. I rely upon them for all of those purposes. On a homestead, goats make great livestock.

There are hundreds of different varieties of goats worldwide. Around the Pee Dee, you are most likely to find Boer goats for meat, pygmy goats for pets and Spanish goats for brush control. My small herd is not from a purebred lineage, but they clearly have some British Alpine and Boer characteristics.

Almost a decade ago, I bought two female kids from a neighbor and an unrelated male kid from another friend. If you are looking for goats to buy, you can find them for sale at livestock auctions, through local ads or word-of-mouth. But proceed with caution, because a couple of goats can quickly become a sizable herd. I currently keep 20.

Also keep in mind that the costs and efforts involved in housing, fencing, feeding and maintaining them can be significant. And goats can live for more than 15 years. If you are considering raising goats, here are some general tips and words of advice.

First, you will need a shelter and a fenced-in enclosure. I initially made a small barn for their housing, approximately 12 feet wide by 16 feet long, with a dirt floor covered with hay. I also ran electricity and a waterline to the barn. I used 4-foot-high welded wire fencing attached to T-posts driven into the ground to enclose about an acre of woods.

Over the years, I have expanded the fenced-in area and added on to the barn. I also enclosed several other areas and built more shelters in those pastures. I rotate the goats onto greener pastures, as they consume all of the plants in one area, and I keep the males separated from the females.

The males (or billies or bucks) can be aggressive toward people, female goats (or nannies) and baby goats (kids). They headbutt others, prevent them from feeding, keep them from entering the shelter and relentlessly try to mate with them. Males also urinate on themselves and the females, and their urine is very pungent.

Many people find males too aggressive, smelly and otherwise obnoxious to keep around, but I always have at least a few for breeding with the nannies. You will need electric fencing inside the males’ enclosures to keep them from escaping.

Next, you will need to provide goats with the proper diet. They can actually be picky eaters, and they certainly don’t eat tin cans. My goats eat hay, pelleted goat feed and the plants that grow in the pastures year-round. They also get garden scraps and the occasional brush from trimming jobs around the homestead.

Some plants are toxic to goats, so check online resources or books to see which plants to avoid. Goats will girdle trees by chewing the bark, so you will need to wrap the trunks of any trees in their enclosure with chicken wire to a height of about 6 feet.

Last, you will need to have a local veterinarian that can help with goat health problems. My goats have had injuries, complicated births, digestion problems and other medical emergencies. Without a compassionate and knowledgeable vet that was willing to make house calls, some of those emergencies surely would have resulted in unnecessary suffering and death.

In previous homesteading articles, I described many more details about raising goats, building mangers, breeding, assisting in the birth of kids, milking the nannies (and cheesemaking) and butchering surplus goats for meat. Do an online search for “SCNOW goats” and the first several hits that come up are links to those articles. If you want to see my videos of the same topics, search for “YouTube gregpryorhomestead goats.”

Raising goats is a big responsibility. Every day I get up at 6:30 a.m. to milk a nanny and to feed, water and check on the others. Every evening, my wife or I repeat those chores. But goats are a valuable addition to my homestead. If someone said I had to live without them, I’d say they’ve goat to be kidding!

Greg Pryor can be reached at gpryor@fmarion.edu.

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