How Long Do Goats Live?

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Deciding to have goats is a long term commitment similar to bringing a dog into your family and your life. You may be confused by the number of different estimates you see for a goat’s life span, and that’s because it depends!

How long do female goats live?

Believe it or not, does, or female goats, actually live longer than bucks, which are intact males. Many people assume that since does are having babies every year or two that they probably don’t live as long as bucks, but that is not the case. Most of my does live to be about 12 to 14 years old.

I have had people ask if does will live longer if they are not bred, and although it may seem like the answer would be yes, I have not seen this.

On the flip side, I’ve seen a lot of pet does have a shorter lifespan, which could be due to an ongoing challenge with obesity. When a doe has no stress on her body at all, it can be challenging to keep her from gaining too much weight. Just as being overweight can cause health problems in humans, it can cause health problems in goats.

Pet does also tend to be more “loved” than does that are in a working herd, meaning that they are more likely to be given treats that are not necessarily good for them.

Sherri and her doeling Sophie
Sherri was the fifth doe I ever bought, and she lived to be 16 years old. In this photo, she is 10 years old with her doeling Sophie that was born that year.

How long can does be used for breeding?

This is a somewhat personal question because it depends on your goals. I personally don’t breed a doe after she is 10 years old because I’ve found that it’s very hard for them to regain their body condition after that.

In fact, if a doe has too much trouble regaining her body condition after she is 8 or 9, I won’t breed her again, although this doesn’t happen often. Usually it happens with does that give birth to four kids or more, and it happened once with a doe that started to lose her teeth when she was only 6 or 7, which is quite young for a goat to start losing teeth.

I’ve also found that after about age 7 or 8, their milk production starts to decrease, so it is harder for them to produce enough milk to feed their kids. This is one reason we always weigh all of our kids daily for the first two weeks. We want to be sure they are gaining sufficient weight to thrive, not simply survive.

When someone is focused on breeding goats as a source of income, I have heard of some does having kids until they are 12 or 13.

How long can does produce milk?

Producing milk is much less stressful on a doe’s body than growing babies and giving birth. Meat and fiber goats usually only produce enough milk to feed their babies for a few months. However, dairy does with excellent genetics can produce milk for two or three years in their prime. As they get older, their daily production will go down as already mentioned, but we have continued to milk some of our does for two years after their last kidding at age 10.

milking a goat

How long do bucks live?

Male goats that are intact, called bucks, have the shortest lifespan because breeding season is very hard on them. Every fall, bucks go into rut, which means they have a one track mind. They are only thinking of breeding. This means they may not eat as much as they should, and if other bucks are around, they will probably fight, which certainly takes a toll. Most bucks only live about 8 to 10 years.

How long can bucks be used for breeding?

Bucks usually have no problem breeding two or three does per day up until they are about 6 or 7 years old. Then their fertility will start to go down.

First you will see that they can’t get as many does pregnant in a single day, even though they appear to be successfully breeding them. And then they won’t get any does pregnant at all.

This was really heartbreaking for me the first time it happened. My favorite buck of all time was 8 years old when he became sterile. I kept breeding him to does for three months in the fall, even though all of the does kept coming back into heat three weeks later. I finally accepted the fact that he was no longer virile.

By the following spring, his scrotum was about one-fourth its former size, and he no longer had that stinky buck smell.

male goat [buck] named Pegasus
Pegasus (at age 5) lived to be 10 years old, but was sterile after he was 8.

How long do wethers live?

Wethers are castrated males, and they have the longest lifespan of all because they have zero stress on their bodies in most cases. Wethers can easily live into their mid-teens and beyond.

People have contacted me asking for advice on how to care for their 18 or 20 year old wether that has lost his teeth or is having other challenges, so there are some very old pet wethers out there. You can check out my article on caring for senior goats for more on that topic.

What else determines how long goats live?

The single most important thing that will determine how long your goat lives is its diet. Contrary to the popular myth that goats can eat anything, they actually have a very sensitive digestive system that can be easily upset, causing bloat, enterotoxemia, or goat polio, any of which can kill a goat within hours if left untreated.

On top of that, they are desert animals, so when we put them on pasture, it means their diet is lower in minerals than it should be.

It’s very important that goats have the best diet possible so that they will live a long, healthy life. And they also need an excellent quality goat-specific mineral — not a “sheep and goat” mineral and not a block or tub or bucket — they need a loose, goat mineral.

To make matters worse, they will have more problems with parasites in a pasture (rather than the desert) because they are eating off the ground, which is where the worm larvae from their poop winds up. Parasites are the number one cause of death in goats.

To avoid parasite problems, rotational grazing is the silver bullet. The goat need to be continually moved away from their toilet so that they are not continuously ingesting larvae from the worm eggs that they pooped out last week. In addition to rotational grazing, here are some other strategies for preventing parasite problems in goats.

If you are thinking of getting goats, this podcast episode covers some of the things you need to think about. (Transcript included if you prefer to read.)

Click here to visit our Amazon store, which includes a list of things goats need.

a female goat

13 thoughts on “How Long Do Goats Live?”

    • I don’t raise meat goats, so I’m not sure what buyers expect. However, I wouldn’t wean baby goats until they are at least 2 months old, assuming they are gaining weight well. If they are a triplet and underweight, they need to be kept until they reach the same weight as a twin that is two months old.

  1. Earless was born

    Earless was born Feb. 2007 retired 3 yrs ago 1st time she ever had problems kidding figured it was a sign

      • I have a girl here now that is 14 and successfully had a single buckling. Also, a 13-year-old had twins, both Saanen, in very good shape. Breeding was not intended, but they had different ideas, lol.

  2. My first goat ever was a wether I adopted from a horse boarding facility when he was no longer needed as a companion for one of the broodmares. His name was Elmer. He lived with my horses on 20 acres of pasture and figured he ruled the herd. (He wouldn’t let them in the barn if he didn’t feel like it) I finally had to have him put down and I know he was well into his twenties although I don’t have an exact age. The vet said he was the oldest goat she’d ever seen! It’s amazing how well he did considering I knew nothing at all about goats. Now that I know a lot more, I run into the standard problems, like worms, hoof rot, etc that Elmer never suffered from. The irony…. 🙂

    • It actually makes sense that Elmer didn’t have any parasite problems. Just one goat on 20 acres with horses would mean that if he didn’t come with a heavy load of parasites and if he had good parasite resilience (which he obviously did), then he wasn’t dumping a lot of worm eggs onto the pasture to be hatched into infective larvae. And when it comes to hooves, most goats don’t have a problem with hoof rot at all, but some are more susceptible, so sounds like you got unlucky with hooves this time. And the more goats you have, the more you need to know about parasite management.

  3. Argh. Parasites have been hard on my goats this winter. They’ve been penned, and it’s a soggy, wet, manure blanket there. The ground never froze until Christmas. I can’t wait to rent a skid steer, open the pen and run in and scrape everything! My older doe really had a hard time with the hovering around 32-33 degree snow. She doesn’t seem to be able to generate enough internal heat. Everyone got an intense worm protocol but she was cold. I injected B Complex, gave NutriDrench, Red Cell and copper bolus. All goats are getting Red Cell on their pellets at night, especially in the single digits. (I test my hay and they get free choice minerals from Premier. Your nutrition course was a huge help.) Borrowed a goat coat for my old (8) girl, but it wouldn’t fit over her horns!!! Although she seems chipper now, ordered two new coats (one for her and a back up size) that close in front in anticipation of weeks of “wintery mix” coming… rain, slush and the dreaded 33 degrees for another couple of weeks. FAMACHA is much better. Will get a vet out to pull blood eventually. Live in a rural area where we have lost most of our vets and there are almost zero caprine vets. It’s a challenge. This winter has been rough on everyone. Sigh. She’s my dowager goat and I love her independent, screw you, queenly bearing.

    • Unless ALL of your goats are anemic, please do NOT give them all Red Cell. Iron is a copper antagonist, and a couple of years ago, I worked with someone whose goats wound up copper deficient because she just thought she should be giving them Red Cell regularly, even though they were not anemic. Giving them extra iron is not going to keep them warm, which sounds like your reasoning since you mentioned doing it on cold nights.

      Eight is not old for a goat. My goats don’t start showing signs of age until at least 12. Unless she has lost a lot of her teeth and is having trouble eating, she should be in great shape. If she has lost a lot of her teeth, there are some ideas for getting enough nutrients in this article —

      I’m not sure why you are planning to do blood tests on the goats. If you are in my nutrition course, please post questions there so we can more effectively handle your challenges.

      Also, please save your money on the skidsteer. That will do nothing to help your parasite problems. Worm larvae are consumed by goats from grass. Your goats should NOT be eating dirt or mud. If they are, that indicates a mineral deficiency.

      You have also really scared me by saying that everyone just received an intense worm protocol. I really hope that does not mean that you gave everyone a dewormer because that leads to dewormer resistance. Deworming the whole herd at once is a very old idea that been shown by current research to make your problems much worse in the long run. I cover all of the latest research on parasites in my parasite course, which also includes FAMACHA training because I am a certified FAMACHA instructor (and have to get re-certified every two years so you know you’re getting the latest information.)

    • Researchers say they are desert animals biologically. We are talking way back in the beginning, not just recent history. Goats originated in the Middle East. So whether they lived in Africa or Europe in recent centuries, they all came from the Middle East.


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