For the Love of Goats
I have recently heard that a lot of people are panic buying livestock right now. If you are one of those who are thinking of getting goats, this is the episode for you. I’m busting myths and telling you about things you need to think about before buying your first goats. And yes, that’s goats with an s at the end. Goats are herd animals, which means they need at least one other goat friend. You can’t have just one, and I explain why.
This is also a good episode for breeders to share with potential buyers!
I talk about the need for goats to give birth before making milk, as well as the need for them to give birth again to continue making milk.
I explain why you can’t just tie a goat out in the yard and why you need good fencing and housing to keep your goats safe and healthy. And if you were thinking about keeping a goat in your house, I’ll share some stories from my youngest daughter’s teen years when she thought she needed to have at least one baby goat in the house every spring.
If you live in an urban area, you’ll definitely need to hear about the unique challenges faced by people who keep goats in a city.
For more information check out the following episodes that I talk about during the show:
You can also learn more by reading my Beginner’s Guide to Goats.
Today’s episode was sponsored by Standlee Premium Western Forage.
Want to chat with other goat lovers? Visit For the Love of Goats on Facebook!
Listen right here by clicking on the player above, or on your favorite platform:
Deborah Niemann-Boehle 0:20 – 0:32
Hello, everyone, and welcome back. Today’s episode is brought to you by Standlee Premium Western Forage, my favorite alfalfa pellets and timothy pellets, which I’ve been feeding to my goats for more than ten years.
0:33 – 2:13
I have recently heard that a lot of people are panic buying livestock right now. So I thought it would be a really good time to talk about why you may or may not want to get goats, and also bust a few myths, things that people think about goats that are not necessarily true, that you really need to know before you decide that you want to get goats. Now one of the things that I hear very commonly, and in fact, I just got an email about this couple of days ago, somebody said they want a pet goat; I do not sell a pet goat. Goats are herd animals. That means that they need to be in a herd. They need to have at least one other friend—two is better to feel secure and happy. I mean, could you imagine if you were stuck all alone home all day long all by yourself, and you never got to see another human being? Wouldn’t you be miserable? Actually, a lot of people are experiencing that right now. You know, being home alone and not able to go anywhere. And at least we are able to, you know, communicate on social media and through zoom and things like that. But if you buy a goat and stick it out there in the pasture all by itself, it has no other goats to communicate with, and putting it in there with a horse or a cow, or sheep or chickens or whatever. That is not the same. That’s like saying, “Oh, well, you have a dog, so you should be fine. You don’t need another human for companionship.” And in fact, sometimes I’ve even gotten phone calls from people who had a goat die like they had two or three and one died, and the other one gets so depressed that it stops eating, and so they get worried about it.
2:14 – 4:24
Way too often, I get a panicked email or phone call from somebody who was sold a pet goat by somebody who just wanted to make money and did or didn’t know that, like they shouldn’t sell a single goat. And now they have this goat that is the world’s greatest escape artist. It is escaping from the pasture and getting into the horse’s pasture where the horse is trying to kick it and may injure it or kill it. It’s dancing on their car, or it keeps getting on their porch. And you know, they can’t keep it off their porch. And, of course, it’s pooping and peeing on the porch while it’s there. These are all real stories that I have heard from people who have called me in a panic, or the goat just completely disappears because it is looking for a friend. And so, you know the goats missing for days until the person gets a call from animal control and says, “Oh, do you have a goat that’s missing?” So you really cannot have just one goat. It does not take any more time, or effort, or really money to have two or three goats than it does to have one. You have to give them clean water twice a day, regardless of how many you have. So if you’ve only got one goat, you’re going to be dumping out that bucket and refilling it twice a day. Three or four goats won’t even empty out a bucket, and you have to refill it. I was told when I was new to goats that they wouldn’t drink out of a dirty bucket. And I thought it was silly, but I have tested it. And it’s true. They won’t. You look at it, and it’s half full in the evening. And you think, oh, I don’t need to empty that and refill it. It’s half full; you come back in the morning; it’s still half full. So this is one of things we learned too when we were milking goats. As I used to tell my daughters, they can’t make milk out of air. They have to be drinking water, milk is 85% water, so they got to be drinking water before they can make milk. And just drinking water is very important for animals’ health. If you have a male goat and they don’t drink enough water, then they are more at risk for having urinary stones because they’re not peeing enough. So it’s very important that you have several goats.
4:25 – 5:18
Another thing that is really important to know, because a lot of people right now are feeling very insecure in terms of where the food is coming from. So some people are wanting to get goats for milk. And it’s very important that, you know, that goats have to get pregnant before they make milk. They have to get pregnant and give birth before they will make milk. And this is true of cows. It’s true of sheep; it’s true of humans, every mammal. That’s just the way it works. Now once in a while, you will have an anomaly where a goat may start making milk even though she’s not pregnant. But that is a huge anomaly; it is very unusual. We have never had it happen here in 18 years. But in most 99.9% of the time, your goat is going to have to get pregnant and have a baby before she will make milk.
5:19 – 6:43
Now that brings up the question, what are you going to do with these babies? Are you going to keep all of them because they won’t make milk forever? Commercially, they… they breed cows and goats to have babies every single year because that produces the most milk. But one of the things that we are working on here is to see how many of our goats can go two or three years without breeding again because we don’t want to have that many babies. And some of them can do quite well with that, you don’t get as much in the second year of lactation, and some of them can’t make it that long. And you don’t get as much in the third year as you did in the second year. But it does work with some of them. However, you know, if you wind up buying a goat that doesn’t have the genetics to milk for two or three years, and you have to breed them again annually. Do you know what you’re gonna do with those babies? There is not a huge market for pets anymore. Because the market is pretty—I don’t want to call it saturated. But it is not what it was ten years ago. Ten years ago, I had a waiting list like a year and a half long. People had to wait a year and a half to get a goat from me. That is not the case anymore. So, don’t think that you’re just like, oh, I’m just gonna raise goats and sell them and make lots of money, because that is not the case.
6:44 – 9:48
In episode 10, I talked about electric fencing. And in episode 9, I talked about housing and other equipment. So if you seriously want to get goats, you really need to listen to those two episodes. To get an idea of what you need to do in terms of housing and fencing. You cannot let your goat live in the house with you. This may work until the baby is like a month old or something. But at that point, they will be bouncing all over your house, dancing on your DVD player, chewing on your electrical cords, eating your mail. Yes, eating your mail. They are browsers. And so they like to eat bushes and small trees, which is wood. And paper is made out of wood. So they love to eat paper. My daughter used to have a baby goat in the house almost every year. And she said, “oh wouldn’t it be funny if I told the—told my teacher one day that the goat ate my homework [Laugh].” And it would—could be true because goats do eat paper. So, and that’s not good for them. We don’t want them eating paper. We certainly don’t want them chewing on electrical cords. And it’s not good for your DVD player if a goat dances on top of it. Do I have to tell you how I know that? A baby goat killed our DVD player many years ago. So they cannot stay in a house for very long. You can teach them to pee in a certain place, like the way you can place—train a dog to go to the bathroom in a certain place, but you cannot teach them to poop anywhere or anytime. If they have to poop, they just let it fly wherever. So they need to be outside. And you can’t just stick them out in the yard and expect them to be fine. You cannot just tie goats out in a yard. One of the reasons goats need to be in a safely fenced pasture is for their protection as well as to keep them from running away. So you don’t want them running into the road. But you also don’t want dogs or coyotes to kill them. Many, many goats are killed every single year by the neighbor’s dog who the neighbor thought was just the sweetest thing in the world and would never hurt a fly. Or even the owners’ dog. I have heard really tragic stories of people thinking that their dog was just the sweetest thing in the world and would never hurt a goat. And it wound up killing a goat. In fact, somebody once told me about coming home one day and finding their dog eating a dead baby goat. So they need to be in a fenced yard. And they need to have a house where they can get in out of the rain and the wind and the snow and all that kind of stuff. It doesn’t need to be, you know, heated and insulated and all that kind of stuff. They just really need to stay dry and out of the wind. So listen to episodes 9 and 10 for more information about that.
9:49 – 11:02
Another thing that’s really important to know is that goats are not a lawnmower. Some people think that, oh, I’m gonna get a goat, so I don’t have to mow my lawn. Well, as I mentioned a little bit a while ago — a few minutes or two ago, goats are browsers. And that does not mean they like to go to the mall and shop. A browser is an animal that likes to eat bushes and small trees as opposed to grass. Animals that eat grass are grazers. And that would be sheep and cows are grazers, goats will eat grass if that’s all you have available, but they’re gonna prefer bushes and small trees. So this is why you don’t want them just hanging out in your beautifully landscaped backyard. Because they will eat your bushes and your daylilies and your rose bushes and things like that, any plant that is edible, they will eat. They usually stay away from poisonous plants, but there’s no guarantee. So if you’ve got something poisonous back there, like oleander, that could kill them. So you want to make sure that you’ve got them in a safe place where they have appropriate food to eat.
11:03 – 12:59
Speaking of what’s appropriate for goats to eat, I would like to mention our sponsor today, which is Standlee Premium Western Forage. I started using their hay pellets well over ten years ago, when I had goats on the milk stand that could finish all of their grain before I could finish milking them. And it—that is a disaster. Goats are—they get bored easily, and they don’t like the idea of just standing there doing nothing while you milk them. So they like to be able to eat while you’re milking them. But if they eat too much grain, they will get diarrhea, best case scenario. Worst case scenario, they could wind up with bloat or enterotoxemia, goat polio, thiamine deficiency, something that could actually kill them. So you don’t want to let them just eat all the grain in the world until you finish milking them. And that’s where alfalfa pellets come in. And so, well over ten years ago, I had this LaMancha that gave so much milk; there was no way I could finish milking her before she finished eating her grain. So that was when we started using Standlee premium alfalfa pellets. And then we started using them with the other goats too. And now we use them whenever we can’t get enough good alfalfa in the winter, or we also use their timothy hay pellets for our bucks. Because bucks should not have alfalfa. Alfalfa is just for does because it’s got lots of calcium for them to make milk. But the bucks, if we can’t get enough good grass hay for them in the winter, we can get the Standlee hay pellets for them. In episode two, I talk a lot more. And also, I’m joined by ruminant nutritionist Laura Marie Kramer, and we talk about forage and how you need to balance hay with hay pellets and grain and the importance of baking soda and all that really good stuff. So be sure to check out episode two for more information on feeding your goats.
13:00 – 14:57
Now, if you are still excited about the idea of adding a few goats to your life, you may be wondering where you can buy them because you can’t just go to the mall and pick up two or three goats. One of the best places to look is online. If you just search for the breed of goat you want and the state that you live in. For example, if you live in Massachusetts and you wanted Saanens, you could search for Massachusetts Saanens, or if you wanted Kikos, or Boers, and you know, Arizona, you would just type in Kikos, Arizona, or Boers, Arizona. And you would get some websites of goat breeders. Goat breeders have had websites since I got started in 2002. So, they’re technologically, they’re out there. Which is great because a really serious breeder is going to have pedigrees and milk records. If you’re talking about meat goats they’ll talk about, you know, the kind of weight gain and finishing weights that you can expect. And so if you just want a couple of pets, you can get wethers from these people because not every buck is going to stay a buck, you really only need one buck for, you know, 10,20,30,40 does to breed them. And so that means most bucks are going to become “wethers,” and that’s the term for castrated male goat. And they will either be sold as meat or as pets or possibly brush eaters if you’ve heard about goat landscaping services. That would be something that goats do as a job is, you know, they take them out into parks and airports and large business campuses and let them clear areas that are harder to reach with modern equipment because they can go up and down hillsides and go into places that it’s hard to get landscaping equipment.
14:58 – 18:17
So, if you just want two or three pets, I would suggest getting wethers, because they make excellent pets. They are not hormonal, like bucks or does, because they don’t have all those hormones flowing through their veins. And they are also less expensive. Wethers could be anywhere from $75 to $150, depending on what part of the country you are in. Now, if you want to have milk, you’re going to need to buy breeding animals, if you—and of course, you can get really, really cheap pair. But a really good quality milking doe with a decent pedigree is gonna be at least three or $400. Do not, under any circumstances, pull out Craigslist or go to an auction barn or something like that. And think, Oh, I’m going to get a couple of milk goats for $50. Those are the places that people sell their problems. And nobody is going to sell a goat for $50 if it’s worth several hundred dollars. Now I’m not saying you need to go out and spend $1,000 on a goat. Typically it’s just goats with show pedigrees or the goats that have shown that are champions. They and their kids will sell for you know, may sell for 800 or $1,000. But there is not necessarily gonna be a better milker than a goat that comes from somebody’s backyard herd where they are milking their goats every single day. And they charge a few hundred dollars for a goat. So you don’t need to spend a fortune. But when it comes to getting cheap, cheap goats, the adage you get what you pay for is really true. So I have had people contact me with very sad, tragic stories about picking up goats at an auction or a sale barn or Craigslist that have some diseases that are fatal. And unfortunately, one of those diseases is called ‘JOHNE’S.” And it’s spelled with a J. It looks like John “JOHNE’S”; it’s pronounced like yonis. If you have goats on your property that have that disease, it is carried in the feces, so they poop out on your pasture. They have found that to survive on pasture for up to five years. So not only it’s gonna kill the goats who you just bought, but you can’t have any more ruminants, which means no sheep, no goats, no cows on that pasture for up to five years. So you really want to make sure you’re buying healthy animals. And you can. This is one of the things if you’re buying from somebody that’s charging several $100 for their goats; they have probably tested their herd. So, and they can tell you that you know their animals are negative for those—for various diseases like Johne’s, CL, and CAE. In most states. There are no more cases of brucellosis or tuberculosis. In fact, probably somewhere between 47 and 49 states are certified brucellosis-free and tuberculosis free so you don’t have to worry about those. But Johne’s, CL, and CAE are three diseases that you would like to avoid on your farm.
18:18 – 21:32
Now, what about urban goats? I used to be a huge fan of urban goats. I thought everybody should have goats everywhere. And then I—through the years, have sold a number of goats to people who live in the city of Chicago who have very small yards. And I have seen some problems with that. One of the first things I saw was a problem with obesity because the goats just do not get enough exercise. When goats are out in a pasture, they spend almost their whole day walking around. They are walking and eating at the same time; they take a step, take a bite of grass, take a step, take a bite of grass, they get on their hind legs and balance on their hind legs. While they are trying to pluck leaves off of trees. They—the only time they stop moving then is once they fill up their rumen. They go lay down and then bring up their cud and chew everything for the second time, and then they swallow it, and it goes into their second stomach. And then they get up, and they go, and they start this whole thing over again. So they spend a lot of time walking. Now when somebody has a tiny little pen for them, they don’t walk as much. Now you may think, oh! but I’m going to take my goat for a walk. Okay. Taking them for a walk for like half an hour is nothing compared to them being out in the pasture for like eight to 12 hours a day and spending, you know, at least half of that time walking. The other problem with taking goats for a walk in a city is that there is a good chance there will be cigarette butts on the sidewalk, especially if you’re in a big city, and it’s very busy with lots of people. I learned this the hard way when someone had bought goats for me; they were in the city. And they were walking them. And they were eating cigarette butts, which I did not know until the goats came back here and gave birth to the tiniest babies that I had seen in 15 years. They were extremely small. Two of them were born dead. One of them never actually gained weight and died when it was about three days old. And after a lot of back and forth with the person who had them, I discovered that they had been eating cigarette butts on a regular basis, on their walks. Cigarette butts are full of nicotine. So basically, it was like these goats were chain smokers. So, it’s not impossible to have goats in an urban environment. But it’s really not the best for the goats. And it is pretty challenging. I know one person who has done it successfully for a number of years. And she does take the goats for walks every single day. And does a lot of stuff, it’s pretty—it kind of sounds like her goats are her job, she does a lot with her goats, to keep them busy. And to keep them healthy.
21:33 – 22:34
The other thing about having goats in the city is that you aren’t really gonna have anything in your yard for them to eat after the first week or two because they’re going to eat all the grass, and it’s going to be gone. And you’re probably going to have them fenced into a fairly small area, so they can eat all your bushes. Because they would eat all your bushes if they had a chance. And so you’re gonna have to buy 100% of their feed. So you’re going to buy, you know, hay and hay pellets. And if they’re milking, you’ll have to buy grain. So it will be more expensive to keep goats if you have them in an urban area. So, I really hope that I have not scared you off if you are interested in having goats. It’s really not hard. I say this all the time. If it were that hard, I would not have had goats for all these years. But you do have to know how to take care of them. You can’t just bring them home and throw them out in the pasture and think that they’re going to eat tin cans because they don’t. And that everything is gonna be, you know, just fine. They can’t take care of themselves.
22:35 – 23:43
So, that’s the whole idea behind this podcast anyway is to educate people about goats so that the people and the goats will all be healthy and happy and living a harmonious life together because I really do love goats, and I love to help people raise their goats. Thanks again to our sponsors, Standlee Premium Western Forage, for today’s episode. And also, if you haven’t subscribed yet, please be sure to do so; that way, you won’t miss any future episodes. And it would be awesome if you could give us a quick review on iTunes so that it makes it easier for other people to find us. You can also visit me on Facebook at facebook.com/lovegoatspodcast. And that’s it for today. I hope you’ll join me next week when I’ll be talking about my new book that’s coming out later this month, called Goats Giving Birth. See you then!
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