Farm Blog

Observations, goings on, thoughts from one woman farmer...that's what you'll find here. Most of these posts were originally published in the Mohawk Valley Living Magazine. For more information, visit http://www.mohawkvalleyliving.com/.

So...You THINK You Want to Be a Goat Farmer? November 2014

Go ahead, admit it. You think goats are pretty darn cute. You’ve heard they make great pets. They could clean up all those overgrown bushes and keep your lawn beautifully manicured. You could save money and time from not mowing your lawn and fertilize your yard to boot! Plus, what’s cuter than a goat…really?

A goat on a hot tin roof...?

A goat on a hot tin roof...?

I couldn’t possibly count how many people have told me they wished they had a goat and how very lucky I am to be a goat farmer. (Oh, brother!) For all those would-be goat farmers out there, I’ve compiled this list of Goat Truths you must consider before even thinking about adopting your newest best friend.

1. You can never have just one.

Goats are social creatures. They need friends (sorry—you do not count). Everyone seems to know someone somewhere that had a mean, nasty buck (a male goat) tied up behind their barn. It was mean and nasty because it was tied up behind the barn by itself. If he had had a friend, he wouldn’t have been so mean and nasty.

2. Goats in groups get into a lot of trouble.

I know this seems to contradict the importance of #1, but you should know that goats will always follow their companions. Their desire to never be alone is so strong they will always stick together as a group. Where one goes, they all must go. And the ones with the worst ideas seem to be natural-born leaders. Think of goats as a group of Kindergarteners, all happily following the lead of the worst-behaved kid in class.

3. Baby goats grow up to be big goats.

Ok, so this seems like a no-brainer. But you should know before falling in love with the cutest, fuzziest little baby goat that someday it will be an adult. Its cute-as-a-button pink nose will snort and sometimes get runny. Its almost kissable dainty hooves will grow long and require regular trimming. An adult male will perfume himself to the point of stinking up the whole neighborhood. And little Ginger, who always loved getting chin scritches will someday whack you in the face with her horns while you are petting her. Why? Because she is a goat. And although I thought it was absolutely adorable when baby Flower would follow us from the barn, through the garage and right into the house as if she was one of the family, I didn’t think it was so great when she tried to fit her 100-lb frame into our back hall and stained our nice rug.

In my experience, it also seems that the animals that received the most love and attention in their formative months (baby goat-hood) are the least likely to respect their human farmers later in life. It is almost as if all the cuddling and admiration poured on them as babies causes them to misunderstand their position in life. They don’t think they’re animals, or at the very least, they think you are an animal too. This happened with one of our bucks. Raising him from a young buckling, I was determined to make sure he was loveable and easy to handle once he was older. I knew the plan backfired the day he reared up on his hind legs so the two of us could smash our heads together, the way bucks like to play or fight for their mates. Of course, my skull isn’t built for that sort of activity. And I couldn’t have him challenging my young children to a head-smash-off. He had to be taught that we were no longer best buddies or he had to go.

4. Goats don’t eat tin cans.

Cartoons often depict goats as eating everything from tin cans to the shirt off your back. Nothing could be further from the truth. Goats are extremely picky eaters—they just process their world a little differently than we do. Their lips are one of their most sensitive parts and they will investigate everything (and everyone) using those sensitive lips, which gives the casual observer the idea that they’ll eat anything. Goats prefer to eat browse, which are the tender shoots and leaves on trees and bushes. They’ll also eat grass, but it’s not their first choice. They’d much rather denude your rose bushes, your apple trees, and your Christmas tree…not manicure your lawn.

5. Goats get worms.

If you have cats or dogs, you already understand that animals easily pick up tape worms and the like from their environment. The same thing goes for goats, although it seems the list of potential parasitic protozoa is longer and scarier. I’ll just leave it at that.

6. You’ll need good fencing.

Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage, “If it can’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat.” This may be an old saying, but I’d say it’s pretty accurate. Unfortunately, goats are on the menu for just about every predator in North America so you will need a way to protect them. The moment you have goats, all the coyotes, foxes, and other meat-eaters in your neighborhood will start coming around like trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

7. Goats like to climb on EVERYTHING.

They’ll play king of the hill on your car—or worse, your friend’s or your mother-in-law’s. They’ll leap off of four-foot-tall round bales like they’re trying to fly. They’ll even climb onto your roof. While gathering eggs one morning, I heard odd sounds coming from above. I dashed outside only to find a goat on our barn roof, just inches away from our newly installed solar panels. Although we eventually got her down safely and no damage was done to the costly panels, we knew we had to act quickly to ensure it never happened again—and before she told all her friends about it.

In other words, learn to expect the unexpected. And learn to laugh quietly to yourself when others tell you how much they’d like to have goats, too. Or, maybe just get sheep instead!