For the Love of Goats
If you live in the city and wonder if goats would make a good pet, then listen to this episode. I’m talking to Matt Roben who has two pet goats in the city of Chicago. We’re talking about
- choosing does (female goats) or wethers (castrated males)
- dealing with noise and being a good neighbor
- legalities of having goats in the city
- dealing with poop
- buying and storing hay
- challenges of finding a goat vet
- and more!
To see Matt’s goats, you can visit them on Instagram.
For more information about getting started with pet goats:
- The Best Pet Goat Breeds
- 8 Things You Need to Know Before Getting Pet Goats
- A Pet Goat: Debunking 9 Ill-Conceived Notions
- Tips on Buying Goats
Listen right here by clicking on the player above, or on your favorite platform:
Deborah Niemann 0:19
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another episode. Today I am joined by Matt Robin, who lives in the city of Chicago with his little mini farm of two goats and some chickens. And so the first thing I’m going to say is welcome and tell us about the animals that you have in your backyard.
Matt Robin 0:39
Hi, Deborah, thanks so much for having me on. Yeah, we started probably five years ago with chickens. And before that, the garden or the farm really started when we lived in a condo. I built a one by 10-foot planter box; that planter box got filled with tomatoes and cucumbers. And then we moved out of that condo into a house. And that house started to have a slightly bigger garden space. And that footprint grew a little more. And then a friend of mine actually had a dozen chickens. Unfortunately, he passed away. And another one of our friends was helping take care of his things. And one of those things was 12 chickens he had to deal with. And I said, Hey, I’m not ready for 12, but I think we could handle three. And so we got three chickens and found a coop on Craigslist that was I think $100; it was one of those kinds of IKEA kits, so to speak of chicken coops, the little cute ones that look like a ski chalet. And that worked great for probably the first season we realized we wanted something larger. And so we built a bigger chicken coop. I built a three by 12-foot chicken coop that butts up to my garage. And we really quickly realized leaving the chickens in the coop wasn’t even something we wanted to do. We’d rather fence in our garden and kind of let the chickens roam free. So that was two… and a half or so years ago, I started looking at goats, and of course, everyone sees the adorable baby goats on Pinterest and videos on the internet. And you know you, after doing some research, we realize they don’t stay the size of a puppy their entire lives. Let’s make sure people are aware of that they’re not all kitten-sized—
Deborah Niemann 2:15
Matt Robin 2:16
—Just like miniature pigs are not a thing either. They’re underfed pigs, but we… started doing some research, or I should say I started doing some research. And I actually found a local breeder in the Illinois market; I’ll say, local being Illinois, not Chicago, there aren’t a lot of miniature goats in Chicago. And I kind of decided I did want Nigerians. I liked the look of the body as opposed to the pygmy goats. I just, you know, they’re a little squatter, and I’m sure they’re wonderful, lovely pets and wonderful animals. But I liked the look of it. And for us, it was never about having a meat or a milk animal. Originally, I wanted to get a male and a female with the option if I ever wanted to, to do some… some further reproduction of goats, but I knew that I wanted to get a wether either way because I didn’t want to deal with Oh, man, all of a sudden, I’ve got many miniature goats that I have to deal with. So, I found a lady online, and after speaking with her for a couple of hours, she seemed to be really knowledgeable and really caring, and I said, Okay, this is probably somebody I could get something from. So, I jumped in the car and drove a little over an hour up to Antioch or the Walmart Menards parking lot, and a giant truck full of hay showed up, and out came her two daughters with the cutest little goats you’ve ever seen in their arms. Archie and Elijah are the names we gave to them. Their original names were Maverick and Iceman from Top Gun, which I thought was pretty fun, but we’ve renamed them, and I had a dog kennel that I put them into, and thankfully I had 15 minutes before menards closed. So I went in and bought the five by I think it’s five by six-foot dog kennel fencing and individual panels, and I was able to put together essentially — a temporary enclosure for them. And so the first night I brought them home, she gave me a bale of hay and she gave me some of the hay pellets… or the I guess compressed. What’s it actually called?
Deborah Niemann 4:11
Matt Robin 4:12
Hay pellets. Okay, so I’ve got that one, right. We don’t actually use them with our goats. We have some on hand, but so hay pellets and, and she said, Yeah, you know, water. And here’s what you got to do. She gave me the whole list of what needs to happen. I got them home, and I brought them into the house and had them actually sleep inside the dog kennel. They were small enough at the time that the two of them could fit into a tiny little medium dog kennel. And the next morning, my wife who is like, I can’t believe you actually went out, and she knew I was getting them, but she didn’t think it was gonna be that quick of a turnaround from “Hey, there’s a lady I’m talking to,” to I’m driving up to Antioch to buy these goats. So she wakes up at five o’clock in the morning, and like it’s Christmas morning, I go sneaking upstairs with her. And she goes into our kitchen and meets our little babies. And they were the cutest things ever. And we both sit on the floor, and we take them out of the kennel, and they’re sitting on our lap, and they’re making their adorable little baby goat glutes, and she fell in love instantly. So that was how we started with our goats.
Deborah Niemann 5:07
So, I was thinking that if people had heard me speak in 2013, in Milwaukee, about urban goats, they would have heard somebody who was really super excited about the idea. And just thought everybody in the world should have goats. You know, I’d had goats for nine years at that point and had just written the first edition of Raising Goats Naturally. However, over the years, I have seen, I’ve actually seen a lot of people with problems, and the majority of people who get goats in my experience, who live in the city, wind up not having them for very long because of some problems that they have with them. So I thought it would be interesting to talk to you as a pet owner. I actually wanted two shows here; I want to do one, you know, we’re talking about your pets today. But I also want to talk to somebody who has goats in the city for dairy. Because there are people like—really having a cow in a city is super unrealistic. Even if you don’t have any laws against it.
Matt Robin 6:10
I’m pretty sure Chicago would let you though. I mean, we’re great at that.
Deborah Niemann 6:13
Yeah, like there’s no law against having a cow in the city of Chicago. Which considering that the Great Chicago Fire was supposedly started by a cow—
Matt Robin 6:22
Lies, lies, all lies that cow was officially exonerated. It had nothing to do with it.
Deborah Niemann 6:24
Matt Robin 6:25
Deborah Niemann 6:26
So anyway, you could have a cow in the city of Chicago, but I wouldn’t recommend it—
Matt Robin 6:29
Debora Niemann 6:30
—Because they just way too much poop. They eat too much, like you’d go broke trying to —
Matt Robin 6:34
And as you were saying, though, dairy, one of the reasons we didn’t want to have a milking doe was because I— let me jump back. I did want a milking doe until I realized just how much work goes into having doe goats. It’s not simply milk a goat when you feel like it. Once it has been, you know, once the baby has been weaned, and you’re getting your milk. It is, and I’m, I’m telling this to you. But I’m telling you this, from what I learned, it is twice a day on a set schedule every 12 hours. It’s not what I feel like. It’s, hey, if you want to do 6 am and 6 pm or 9 am and 9 pm, that’s fine. But it’s going to be those hours every day until that goat goes dry. And that is not a schedule I was able to commit myself to or something I was interested in. So immediately decided, No, this is not something I want, which is, you know, a dairy goat. I want pet goats.
Deborah Niemann 7:26
Yeah, that’s a really good point. Because I do—I, through the years I have gotten people have asked me this question in so many different ways, you know, like, what do you have to do to get milk from a goat? And they don’t understand that? Well, first of all, the goat has to get pregnant and give birth before she even makes milk—
Matt Robin 7:44
Deborah Niemann 7:45
—And then, you know, like, if there’s not a baby nursing, you have to be milking that goat on a regular basis. So it is a serious commitment. And then there’s also the issue of like, you know, the goat giving birth too, somebody actually, I just got a message from somebody yesterday, who had a really rough kidding. And they’re so rough, like the doe cannot be right again. And she’s like, “I just don’t know if I should bring any goats ever again. Like, I just don’t know if I’m cut out for this.” And she’s like, you know, “how do you deal with this?” And I said, well, it really depends on why you want goats. If you just want some cute animals in your yard, you don’t need to breed them.
Matt Robin 8:24
Debora Niemann 8:25
Matt Robin 8:26
Deborah Niemann 8:29
Yeah. So you know, you only need to breed goats. If you want the milk and or meat, you know, on a regular basis.
Matt Robin 8:36
Well, let’s discuss the breeding aspect too because goats don’t live for a year or two, unless you eat them. They live for 15 years. So you are committing much like a dog to an animal that you are going to see through. I mean, I started with goats at the age of 40, which—not saying I’m old, but that means my goats will potentially be here until I’m 55.
Deborah Niemann 8:58
Matt Robin 8:59
It’s not just like, Oh, this is—this was fun for a year or two. And if that’s the reason you’re getting into it, Don’t! Because that’s not fair to the animal.
Deborah Niemann 9:06
Right? Yeah. So, one of the things—one of the problems that people have had with goats in the city is noise. So you’ve had them for two years now. Your neighbors are so happy. So can you tell us a little bit about why you think you’ve been successful?
Matt Robin 9:27
You know, honestly, I think there’s mostly it just comes down to luck. You know, like, everybody has a neighbor with the cutest dog next door, and then every other guy has the neighbor with the dog that never stops barking and all they do is listen to a dog bark, 24 hours a day. We’ve been very fortunate our goats will occasionally make noise, but it’s really when they see us, or they see a person and they, you know, they’re very intelligent animals. They know people equal food. My neighbor next door loves having the animals there. So he will actually feed some of his vegetable scraps and things like that to them. He’s always keeping an eye out for them, which I appreciate because I can’t always be home and deal with it. So he’ll say, “Hey, I noticed this was going on.” And usually, it’s no big deal. I’ve never had a—oh my gosh, this crazy thing happened other than an Airbnb guest we had one time, who grew up on a farm and lived on a farm his whole life. And he looked out the backyard and saw my goats in my garden, and he ran downstairs and manhandled the goats out of the garden. And when I came home, he said, “Yeah, your goats were in the garden and they ate all your peas and your beans and your corn. But I got them out.” Any other Airbnb guest would not have known what to do. So that is something we can get into as well as the whole. You know, what happens to your backyard in your garden when you do have animals like goats in your backyard, but the noise has honestly been luck. We had, I think, three or four months into having goats. I mentioned to a neighbor about five doors north of us something about the goats, and he said, “what?” I said—my goats that he’s like, “you guys have goats now?” Like he just knew we had chickens. He didn’t know we had goats. And I said, Oh, yeah, we’ve had goats since– let’s say they were born in January, that goat since March. He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I haven’t heard them at all.” So this is somebody who’s five doors away from me and in Chicago, lots are 25 — A typical city lot is 25 by 125, meaning 125, long, 25 wide. So every 25 feet is a new house. So he wasn’t even 100 feet away from me. And he didn’t hear any of my goats. So… yeah, luck, honestly, because we’ve all seen the videos of the screaming human-like, you know, sounds that goats can make. I think if they were doing that every day, my neighbors would have a very different reaction.
Deborah Niemann 11:31
Yeah. And I think that’s one of the problems where people have had to return goats. I think every one of them was a doe—
Matt Robin 11:39
Deborah Niemann 11:40
—And I think it’s because if a doe is not pregnant or nursing kids, she’s coming into heat every three weeks.
Matt Robin 11:47
Oh, man. [unintelligible]
Deborah Niemann 11: 50
Yeah, you know, and so like one lady, I visited her house. She lived in Warrenville. And she had a pretty big lot, but they had this little bitty pen for the goats, which, of course, so that’s pretty boring—
Matt Robin 12:06
Deborah Niemann 12:07
—You know, for the goats. And the only thing like they were so quiet when I was there, and I finally said, I’m like, Is it like, would you say it’s about every three weeks for like, 24 hours that she’s screaming? And she’s like, “Well, I’m not sure.” Like….
Matt Robin 12:26
Deborah Niemann 12:28
Yeah, I’m like, start checking your calendar, because it could be that she’s coming into heat, and she’s just calling for a boyfriend to find her. So that is definitely like, I never really—I never recommend that people get females for pets, anyway, for that reason, because truly, it can sound like a human being murdered. And—
Matt Robin 12:48
Deborah Niemann 12:49
In fact, I know somebody who had the police show up at their house because a neighbor thought that, like a woman, was being beaten or something because they were screaming.
Matt Robin 13:00
We had to give… the first time we gave injections to one of our goats; it screamed like it was a child being, like you said, beaten to death. And I saw a head pop up over the fence. And it was like, you know, like a prairie dog, like, blew up. And I said, it’s just the goats. We’re giving it an injection, I promise. It’s not going to be loud, like long, but it seriously sounded like a screaming child screaming bloody murder. That’s all I can describe it as. So that is not a normal sound that they make or not a regular sound not normal. It is normal when they’re being injected, it is not regular, though. Thankfully. If it was, I don’t think I’d want them. I’ve actually talked about getting a pig in the backyard too. And I think the biggest thing keeping me away from that is I’ve never heard anything other than they are loud. And it’s one thing if you have space, it’s another thing if you don’t, we don’t have space, we got a 25 by 30-foot backyard with two goats, six chickens, and a duck and a garden in it. That’s 12 by 14 feet. So while we have some amount of space, there’s not enough for a pig to scream. It’s happy little head off.
Deborah Niemann 13:59
No, definitely not. So, before you got the goats, did you go around and talk to your neighbors? Obviously, not the guy five doors down because he didn’t even know after you had them. But did you talk to any of them at all and say, Hey, we’re thinking of getting goats? What do you think?
Matt robin 14:12
You know, actually, I had not. And now that I think of it, that probably would have been a nice thing to do. But I had already had the chickens, and I saw the positive reaction my neighbors all have to the kind of the farm I have in my backyard. So I didn’t think it would be an issue. I mean, I’m also a reasonable human being. If I had two goats that screamed all day long. I wouldn’t have kept them either. I would have called the lady and said, you can keep my money. I have to give you these goat’s back. Or I would realistically say I’m gonna go somewhere and have that, you know, like, this might sound terrible, but it’s a meat animal. I will have this turned into some really delicious dinner. But I can’t have something screaming 24 hours a day in my backyard. And also knowing what your local ordinances and laws are. You have to check into that because there’s a lot of people in the suburbs of Chicago here; you think there’s all this great space in the suburbs? Well, guess what, a lot of the suburbs when they were created 58, 100 years ago said, I don’t want to be the dirty city like Chicago. So they banned owning animals of any amount other than dogs or cats. So you can’t even have two backyard chickens, let alone 6, 10, 15 and two goats. So while you might have an acre of space, you can’t have any of those animals. So know, before you even consider buying them, what your local laws are.
Deborah Niemann 15:23
Yeah, it’s funny, as most people think that if you live in a big city that you can’t have livestock, but it is something like 92, or 93 of the 100 largest cities in the US allow chickens. And I always say that it’s not the big cities that don’t allow them. It’s the smaller—smaller towns with poor self-esteem. Because what you always hear in these city council meetings when they’re talking about whether to allow any kind of livestock is that there are always, somebody’s always saying that this is going to lower our reputation. This is gonna make us look dumber, poorer, dirtier—
Matt Robin 16:00
Deborah Niemann 16:00
—You know, and we want to be high class, and high class means that you don’t have livestock.
Matt Robin 16:08
Raising their animals.
Deborah Niemann 16:10
Right, which I am sure these people did not see the $500 William Sonoma chicken coop, you know?
Matt Robin 16:16
Yeah. Or $5,000 Amish chicken barn built with electricity, ironically—
Deborah Niemann 16:21
Matt Robin 16:22
—But they can build it.
Deborah Niemann 16:24
Right. So you know, it can really surprise people what your rules are. And another thing too, I just want to say, Do not think you’re going to get around the rules. That is not going to end well. You know, very early in my goalkeeping career, I sold a couple goats to somebody who I didn’t—And I didn’t realize that even until like, we were exchanging money and goats that… because I think it was St. Louis or maybe a suburb of St. Louis. But like, right there, at the last second I learned that it wasn’t really legal to have goats in that city. And she’s like, oh, but I work… I work in a lawyer’s office. And I’ve read the rules. And I don’t think that they’ll stand up in court. And a few months later—
Matt Robin 17:17
how many weeks later did she return the goats?
Deborah Niemann 17:20
—No! a few weeks later, because I was actually reading their blog. They had a blog. A few weeks later, I read on their blog that they now had goat meat in their freezer… And I was devastated. Because it was a wether and a doe. And it’s like, okay, fine if you’re going to eat the wether. But that doe was out of my best milking line.
Matt Robin 17:41
Deborah Niemann 17:42
Like, yeah. And that was back; you know when also—when goats were still climbing in popularity, and like I had a year and a half waiting list. It’s like, if you would have called me like, and told me you had a problem I could have like—those goats could—there’s a lady that lives like an hour from you who’s on my waiting lists.
Matt Robin 18:00
Yeah. Could have sold them to somebody who could have happily legally owned them.
Deborah Niemann 18:04
Yeah, exactly. Because she lives on a farm out in the country.
Matt Robin 18:07
Deborah Niemann 18:09
So don’t think that like if you want to change the law, I think that is awesome. And I applaud people who do that. But you do it before you’ve got the goats in your yard, and you’re facing, you know, fines of like, $100 a day or something for every day, you don’t get rid of them.
Matt Robin 18:24
Be aware of this too — your city may also have a permit required, much like having a dog permit or a dog license, do do do absolutely look up what the laws are if they exist already. In our case, it’s not a law on the books; hopefully, it won’t become one. I think we have enough of a positive relationship with our neighbors that they could go around to 30 of my neighbors, and you might hear two of them say, I don’t like it, but you’re always gonna have two people who don’t like something I think the other 28 are gonna say, it’s so much fun. I wake up, I look out of my back window, and I see a farm that I have to do zero work for, and it doesn’t smell like a farm. So…
Deborah Niemann 19:01
Yeah. Oh, that is a great segue. It doesn’t smell like a farm. So I know that is another one of, like, every time they try to pass laws in Chicago, they’ve been doing it every two or three years for as long as I’ve been around. That’s one of the things that they talk about. And somebody always says, but we already have ordinances against odor and manure and compost and all that kind of stuff. So what do you do because goats poop! [unintelligible]
Matt Robin 19:30
Sure do, and they’re super efficient with how they eat, like every piece of hay that you put in the bag that they eat from goes into their belly, and none of it falls on the ground—requiring you to pick it up ever.
Deborah Niemann 19:46
Wow. Your—I want your goats. Your goats are awesome.
Matt Robin 19:50
Deborah Niemann 19:51
Oh, okay, good. That was sarcasm.
Missed the sarcasm.
Matt Robin 19:57
For those who are thinking about getting goats, understand you’re dealing with for every bale of hay you buy to feed them, probably a third of a bale of hay landing on the ground. Now that doesn’t seem like a lot when a nice compacted bale of hay shows up in your garage, or we’ll get into that to where hay comes from. But when it’s expanded, it turns into an enormous volume of space. A bale of hay that is loose on the ground is probably 250-gallon contractor bags full of space. So you have to think about what are you gonna do with bags of hay that the second it hits the ground, they don’t want to touch and all their poop, and on top of their poop, my chickens poop. So I have chicken and goat poop, duck poop, and then all of the hay that goes unused, some of it will kind of stay on the ground for short amounts of time for bedding. But you know, you don’t want to have a lot of it there, especially if you don’t have an enclosure that it stays dry under. So I have a three-tier compost system with chicken — not chicken wire — hardware cloth, to keep it enclosed. So that way, it isn’t inviting rats, but also we don’t put any meaty products or fats into our compost. So we take a lot of the hay that’s fallen on the ground, all the poop, and we do the kind of the three-tier thing. And I give it an enormous amount of… if one can say this on your podcast, a veritable shit ton of compost, but of compost, I give a lot of compost to my neighbors. And I’m a part of a few garden alliances, and some of it isn’t even composted yet; I have a lot of people who just want the kind of raw, so to speak, yet to be composted hay and poop that they can add to their own compost piles or compost tumblers. So it’s making connections with those groups. So well, garden alliances and community organizations that can handle it. So…
Deborah Niemann 21:47
And speaking of hay, you can’t just go to the grocery store or PetSmart or whatever and buy—
Matt Robin 21:55
You can, it’s probably $50 a bale but… you know, you’re not gonna want to do that. So yeah, we have a local bird store that we can buy hay from. If it’s an emergency and I need hay; they have it; they charge about $18 a bale. But that’s because they probably hold on the top shelf of their store fifteen bales of hay that might spend six months to a year there and in an actual emergency. It’s great to have that there, and I would happily pay $18 for a bale of hay if I’m out. That being said, the woman I bought my goats from was able to provide me, and I paid her for him. I was able to get hay for about $8 a bale delivered by her, and eight to 10 seems to be what I can find in the city. As far as if you buy in bulk, if you’re buying ten bales, you better hope that person has five other people to deliver to because it’s not worth their time; they’re driving anywhere from an hour or two to several hours with that hay. So I actually buy 50 bales at a time. Now for those who don’t know what 50 bales is, that’s essentially if you have a one-car garage that is the entire—like if you stack them up neatly, that is the size of your garage door in hay bales, three feet deep up to the top of the door all the way over to the sides and back down so where are you going to put 50 bales of hay? I was able to rent a space where I have a shipping container that I use as my hay storage. It’s also another passion of mine or a project of mine. I build tiny homes that are shipping containers, but one of them is my kind of tool shed and storage shed, and the back wall of it is filled with hay. So where are you going to keep anywhere from let’s say ten bales at a time to 50 bales in my case that I buy, you have to be able to do that, so maybe you have enough space for a small shed in your yard, but with a 20 by 30 yard—25 by 30-foot backyard that shed would take up you know a serious amount of real estate that I’m not willing to give away so where are you going to keep that?
Deborah Nieman 23:50
Matt Robin 23:51
Yeah, and then you know the other thing is finding somebody who sells hay, I mean obviously, with the internet now it gets pretty easy, but you need to find a reliable source to buy your hay from, you also need to know what good hay looks like and what does it smell like? I’ve had a couple of purchases where all the bales I had zero mold in any of my bales, and then I recently had one, and it’s only been about two out of 15 of the bales, but two of those bales I opened up, and I was like… but—
Deborah Niemann 24:19
Matt Robin 24:22
What! Hold on. What’s that? Like? Wait a minute; I’m not—I don’t have the best nose, but I’m pretty sure that smells musty or moldy. And then, thankfully, there’s this wonderful website called family homestead or the Thrifty Homesteader website, where one can go to and find articles about all sorts of things, including “Why musty and moldy hay is a terrible thing to feed your animals.” So you say, “hey, that might have cost me ten bucks, but it’s, or eight bucks, but I’m throwing that in the garbage or, you know, putting them in a compost pile because this is not something I want to feed to my goats with the problems that could happen there.”
Deborah Niemann 24:54
Yeah, it can be kind of tricky if you’re buying your hay from somebody who doesn’t really know goats because there’s this unfortunate belief that goats will eat anything. And yeah, they’ll eat your daylilies and your roses and like that kind of stuff. But that doesn’t mean that they can eat moldy hay without getting sick. In fact, if they eat moldy hay, there’s a very good chance they’ll get sick because they have a pretty sensitive rumen. So you got to be careful—So sometimes people will say, Oh, it’s good enough for goats. If somebody says, it’s good enough for goats. It’s not.
Matt Robin 25:28
Run, run far away.
Deborah Niemann 12:29
Yeah, that kind of means they don’t really know that goats have a sensitive rumen. And that can be pretty easily upset. So…
Matt Robin 12:37
Yeah, no. And I mean, to be honest, saving $8 per bale, I mean, even if half my hay was bad, $200 worth of hay, I’d rather throw it away than one visit to the vet is going to cost me that much.
Deborah Niemann 12:47
Matt Robin 12:48
You know, so what’s the point and especially because it is a pet, let’s clarify too, this isn’t a situation where you say, Oh, my goat is starting to get sick, and it looks like it’s not going to recover, I can still eat this as meat, it’s still going to be okay, for a meat purpose. You’re not doing that when it’s your pet; you’re spending all the money necessary to do it, which we didn’t even get into. But you need to make sure you have a veterinarian who has the farm animal experience. So don’t just assume your typical neighborhood veterinary practice is going to understand the aspects of taking care of goats. As I learned, they don’t handle anesthesia the same way other animals do because of their gut, and their rumen. So you have to have somebody who is aware that, Oh, I can’t just do the same thing I would do for an 80-pound dog that I’m going to do to a goat, you’ll kill it. So knowing what needs to be done and knowing how to do it, and learning how to do that on your own, we did a ton of research. Thankfully, like I said, the woman who sold me my goats turned me on to a couple of really good websites, to where I could learn that, and you don’t have to drive out to the suburbs to get to it. But like a Farm-n-Fleet or a Tractor Supply, places like that Rural King, where they have an equine and caprine, and you know, things for goats. Like, I have my own little first aid kit that I legitimately have stockpiled full of the things I need. So that in—I’d say 85 to 90% of the scenarios, I can do it myself, you know, buying a book on veterinary medicine and having a veterinarian who I can, you know, call as a resource when necessary. But, you know, building that network of, can I do it myself? If not, can I call somebody like Deborah? If not, do I have a veterinarian close enough by who I can take it too. And if you don’t have a veterinarian who’s anywhere more, you know, you got to go three hours to a vet, you got to decide whether that’s something you’re able to do or whether that’s fair to the animal.
Deborah Niemann 27:35
Yeah, I remember years, years, and years ago, when I was new, I was trying to convince a local dog and cat bet to see my goats. And she said, “believe me when I tell you that I would not be doing you any favors by seeing your goats because—”
Matt Robin 27:49
Yeah. Just because it has four legs, it doesn’t mean it’s the same. Yeah.
Deborah Niemann 27:53
Yeah. And at the time, I was really frustrated with her because I didn’t understand. But I have since heard so many terrible stories from people who did take their goat to their dog vet and had terrible experiences. Because, you know, like the vet, I mean, just on the one end, you know, like the vet charging them $150 for something that a farm vet would have charged 20 bucks for.
Matt Robin 28:19
Yeah. Wellness visit essentially.
Deborah Niemann 28:22
Yeah, like they charge like ten times as much. To not knowing that it’s totally normal for a goat to get a little swollen spot where they get an injection—and advising people to be cutting it open and draining it like, oh my god! No, no, don’t do that.
Matt Robin 28:40
It’s knowing those things and doing the research yourself. I mean, don’t assume this is something that somebody else is going to take care of for you. You are going to take care of it. You are going to trim their hooves; you are going to be the one who gives them injections on an annual basis unless you are fortunate enough to have or pay for a farm vet but also—I mean, take some pride in responsibility and ownership of it. It’s not hard to give those injections; you just got to do it. So…
Deborah Niemann 29:08
Is there anything you wish you would have known before you got your goats?
Matt Robin 29:13
No! I mean, I feel like I did enough. I’ve done enough research before I got my goats that I felt like I was going into it with both eyes open. The thing ours have horns… It’s totally a personal preference as to whether your goat has horns or not. Some people are vehemently against dehorning; others are 100% opposed to having horns on their goats. We haven’t had any issues with it. I mean, my friend who has goats in the city with no horns, they headbutt just as much as our goats’ headbutt; it’s not like you’re alleviating a behavior by not having horns. It’s more, I think, a safety issue for the animal itself. We haven’t had a problem with it whatsoever. If anybody’s gotten head-butted, they’ve just gotten pushed by the head of a goat, not you know, goats aren’t trying to use their horns to stab you like it’s a sword. So, that’s a thing, but being aware that if you think you’re going to disbud them, it’s got to be done when they’re super, super young, like within the first week, or it’s not going to be done. So don’t think you’re going to get a six-month-old goat and then magically remove its horns.
Debora Niemann 30:12
Matt Robin 30:13
I have read. Yeah, I mean, I’ve read things online—
Deborah Niemann 30:15
Matt Robin 30:15
—About how long we’ve done, it doesn’t sound good. Yeah. So, don’t think that’s gonna happen. Be aware of how much space it takes, we again, going back to the space we have in our yard, I, I built underneath my porch, which is four feet high is what I turned into the goat barn or the shed sort of a thing that you could call it. So it’s four feet high, eight feet long, and it has open space. I initially had it fenced in with hog fencing. So they had probably a 64 square foot area that they would mostly stay in. And by I mean, mostly, I will say for about three days before I said that I just let him go everywhere. They free run, roam around our backyard, so they have full access to the entire yard other than my fenced off… my fenced off garden because they will get anything they can They are absolute murder on fences. So don’t think you’re going to put up a little kiddie gate and think your goat isn’t gonna try and knock it over. They love brushing against things and, you know, like scratching their sides and their backs on things. And they’ll put all their weight into it. So you have to have good fencing; they will take your garden down to the ground if they get an opportunity to do it. We basically have to resod every year for the small amount of lawn we want to have because they don’t have open pasture to play on. So they’re hitting the same 12 by 12 foot square of grass every day. And I think the chickens probably do more damage than the goats, to be honest. But you know, everybody just destroys it. So you know, know that you’re going to be laying sod every year if that’s the thing. With our chicken coop we have a kind of an automatic chicken feeder where they step on the treadle. Well, I mean, goats are going to get into there, and they’re going to eat every bit of that. So we had to put up a fence so that the chickens can get into the coop, but the goats can’t do it. So having ways to separate that. They also occasionally like to just headbutt the animals, so you have to, you know, hope or you know, there’s no training goats like a dog, it’s you know, they don’t… the things they know is food is coming. And that’s it. So, seems to be the thing I figured out they are adorable and fun to play with. And we take them on walks. But it’s not a simple, you know, oh, I can teach it to not do this, it might decide to be a complete jerk to my chicken for three or five or ten days. So what do I do about that? Do I have to lock up the chickens? Or do I have to lock up the goats? It’s, you know, thankfully, not anything that seems to go on long term. But when food gets into the question, they will—they’ll do some… They’ll do some running, and they don’t care who’s underneath them at the time. So we’ve been lucky so far.
Deborah Niemann 32:46
Matt Robin 32:47
Debora Niemann 32:48
Well, thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been really interesting to hear about your experiences. I’m glad it’s been so positive for you. And… maybe we’ll chat again sometime.
Matt Robin 33:00
I would love that. Yeah, I mean, I so greatly appreciate having you as a resource to look at on the internet and find things from and adjust it. Do your research, you know, learn about it. They’re wonderful pets, and they can make a great addition to your yard. But just know what you’re getting into. Don’t go into it thinking it’s going to be just like a simple dog or a cat. So… Thank you, Deborah.
Deborah Niemann 33:20
Yeah, thank you. And that’s it for today. To get the show notes, visit fortheloveofgoats.com. Next week, I’m gonna be talking to Glenna Bowman from Vancouver, Washington, who has dairy goats in her backyard. Be sure to hit the subscribe button, so you don’t miss it. And you can also find us on Facebook at facebook.com/lovegoatspodcast. See you again next week. Bye.