Goats are a perfect addition to many backyard farms and can be raised for fiber, meat, milk, land management and entertainment. Learning how to raise goats is fun, and like the rest of backyard farming, it is a journey that continues long after your first goat arrives on your property.
In this article you will find 10 steps for raising goats for beginners. Bringing any animal onto your backyard farm means you are taking on the responsibility of keeping goats happy and healthy and this article is here to help you get started!
It’s important that you learn as much as you can before bringing your goats home and collect resources to help when you have questions. You can see a list of our favorite homesteading books or continue reading below for more goat resources.
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Here at the on our backyard farm, we've been raising goats for over 10 years. We raise multi-purpose Pygora goats that we use for fiber, milk, and land management. They have also become favorites in our neighborhood. Below we'll share what we've learned over the year of raising goats.
1. Decide Why You Are Raising Goats
Are your raising goats for meat? Are you raising goats for milk? Do you want to breed goats?
Knowing why you are raising goats will help you make the best decisions about goat housing, food, and health. For the scope of this article, we will focus on small scale backyard goat herds. Goats can be added to a backyard farm and raised for meat, fiber, land management (such as eating poison ivy), milk, breeding, and simply kept as pets.
You will want to select the best goat breed for you based on why you are getting goats. For example, some goats are better for milk, while other goats are best for meat.
Here are a few considerations you will want to think about before you get started raising goats:
- If you are raising goats for meat, how will you maintain you herd size? (breeding or purchasing new animals)
- If you are raising milk goats, you will need to breed them – what will you do with the new goats that are born?
- Fiber goats typically need to be sheared – is there someone local who will do this or do you need to get shearing equipment?
- Pet goats can be fun – do you have enough space for them? Who will care for them when you are out of town?
- If you are breeding goats, how will you keep males and females separated when you don’t want them to breed?
- All goats need strong fencing and a shelter as well as vet care – do you have the resources to keep your goats healthy and happy?
- Do you have plants in your yard that are poisonous to goats? (see a list of poisonous plants)
2. Choose the Best Breed for your Backyard Farm
No matter what goat breed you choose, you need at least 2 goats to keep your animals happy. Goats are herd animals and do best in groups. In addition to choosing the best goat breed based on the benefits to your backyard farm, you will also want to consider a breed’s size, temperament, suitability to your climate, and gender as well as whether you want to keep goats with or without horns.
Many goats can also be multi-purpose breeds. We keep Pygora goats and even though they are primarily a fiber goat, we also milk and breed them.
You will also need to decide whether you want to keep goats with horns or have them dehorned. You should choose one option for all of your goats and goats should only be dehorned when they are very young. There are lots of opinions about whether to keep goats with horns or not so if you are looking into raising goats it’s worth deciding what is best for you.
Dairy Goats: Alpine, LaMancha, Nigerian Dwarf, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen, Sable, Oggenberg
Meat Goats: Boer, Genemaster, Kiko, Kinder, Myotonic, Pygmy, Savana, Spanish
Fiber Goats: Pygora, Angora, Cashmere
Small Goat Breeds: Pygora, Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf, Kinder, Mini Mancha, Mini Silkies
3. Build a Shelter that Keeps Your Goats out of the Elements
Goats are hardy animals but they need shelter to keep them out of the hot summer sun and cold rain, snow and wind. The climate where you live will dictate the type of shelter you need for your goats. At a minimum, your shelter should have a roof and something to protect them from the wind. This could be a barn, shed, or even a large dog house. We’ve used every goat housing option. When we just had 2 goats, we kept our goats in a shed.
When we moved to NH, we bought a property with a barn, but our goats spend most of their time in a large sturdy shed inside the pasture. We also have a large doghouse in the pasture, but they really only use it to climb on and knock over. When the weather is particularly bad, we do bring them into the enclosed barn or shut them in the shed in the pasture.
When raising goats, it’s important to note that goats need at least 15 square feet of bedding space to be comfortable. You can provide bedding materials such as straw, shredded paper, shavings, and leaves.
4. Create a Pasture with a Sturdy Fence
If there is one thing goats are good at, it’s escaping from their fence. The grass truly seems to be greener on the other side. We have goats that can easily jump 4 foot fencing and another goat that love to burrow under fencing. When you’re raising goats, it’s important that you find the best goat fencing option for your backyard farm to keep your goats, your garden, and your neighbors safe!
There are many option when it comes to fencing options. We use a wooden fence with galvanized woven wire fencing to keep our goats contained. We’ve also used 6 foot metal posts with fencing. You will want to make sure your fencing for goats is pulled tight. It is possible to use cattle panels, and even electric fencing (this has not worked well for our goats however as one will somehow break through and the fencing loses it’s charge and they all break out.
Fencing is not only important for keeping goats in, but also keeping predators out. Goats can be attacked by coyotes, wolves, dogs, bobcat, mountain lions and young goats can even be harmed by eagles.
My advice is to invest in good fencing now. We went with the cheaper option when first starting out and ended up replacing all the fencing again when it didn’t hold up. Another important thing to consider is why are your goats trying to break out? Do they not have enough food or space? is there an especially good treat outside the fence? Are they lonely and wanting to get in with another goat?
Learning what to feed your goats is relatively easy. Goats naturally forage on leaves, brambles, and other forage materials. They will eat grass, but prefer other forage materials. First off, your goats need high quality hay especially in the winter or if the pasture is too small. You can feed goats hay in a free choice method or at set times of the day. Building or buying a hay feeder that can keep your hay off the ground will reduce the amount of hay that is ruined.
In addition to hay, many people also feed there goats grain. This adds protein, vitamins, and minerals to your goats’ diet. Grain is especially important during bad weather and when goats are kidding. Don’t overfeed your goats as this can cause other problems.
Goats also need free choice minerals and we also provide our goats with free choice baking soda. Goats will take what they need. You can also give goats table scraps and most scraps are fine for them to eat – but like grain, don’t overdo it.
It’s important to provide your goats with fresh, clean water. If you can, secure your water bucket so it doesn’t get knocked over. If you are in a place where it gets below freezing, you may want a heated bucket to keep the water thawed. Raising goats in the winter can add extra challenges when feeding and watering your goats.
See our top recommendations for goat waterers.
Equipment for Feeding Your Goats
6. Bring Your Goat Home Safely
When you are ready to bring your goats home, it’s worth doing some research for the best places near you to get your goats. Finding a quality farm that breeds your goats means you can get a registered goat. This will make it easier if you need to sell your goats or goat’s kids in the future. You can also find unregistered goats for sale from many farms as well. Since goats can carry various diseases, finding a reputable farm is important. Goats can be brought home as young as 2 months old.
You will need to decide how to transport your goats. Most goats fit inside dog crates – just remember to line you car with a tarp since they will absolutely pee and poop in your car. When you bring your goat home, before introducing them to the other goats, you will want to quarantine your goat for 2 weeks to make sure they don’t introduce any diseases to the rest of your flock.
When it is time to introduce your new goat, try to do it slowly by introducing them to one friend at a time and them letting them in with the rest of your goats.
7. Keep Your Goats Healthy from Disease
When raising goats, it is very important that you monitor your herd for disease. Goats need care to keep them healthy. You can start by providing the best feed and minerals. Goats also need a management system for parasites (both internal and external). There are both medicated dewormers and natural dewormers you can purchase or create. If this doesn’t help, you can also send out a fecal test to determine any issues you may have. Rotational grazing is helpful in keeping worm loads low when you’re raising goats.
It’s important to establish a good working relationship with a local vet when raising goats. Your goats can be seen at the vets office or oftentimes the vet will come to your house for a visit.
You vet will help you determine which vaccines are right for your goat, but general the common recommendation is “CDT” or “CD&T” and rabies. There are several other optional vaccines depending on where you live and your goats. Getting a good book on goat care as a resource is helpful so when a problem arises you have the resources to address them.
8. Maintaining Your Healthy and Happy Goats
Once your goats are home, there are a few tasks you will need to keep in mind to keep your goats happy and healthy. You should check on your goats daily when you feed them for anything unusual. Always inspect fencing and housing routinely to avoid escaping goats. You will also want to set up a schedule for trimming a goats hooves. Like fingernails, goats hooves must be trimmed regularly to avoid foot problems.
It takes some time to learn to trim goats hooves, but you will eventually become quicker. There are great videos online showing you how to trim a goat’s hoof. The best advice is to take your time to avoid cutting too much.
9. How to Incorporate Goats into Your Backyard Farm
Goats are a tremendous addition to a backyard farm. The obvious benefits are milk, meat, fiber, but goats have other uses as well. Goats can be used to clear land. Since goat love forage material, they are great at clearing an area of brambles and low trees. If you are trying to take an area all the way down to the ground, follow your goats with chickens who will clear most of the rest of the weeds.
If you are trying to clear an area of brush, you can fence the whole area in, or put a goat on a stake for a short period of time. We’ve had varied success and you will need to monitor the goats since they can become tangled.
You can also use goat dropping as fertilizer or to add to the compost bin. Do not apply goat droppings directly to a garden until they’ve had a chance to decompose. You can also keep goats with other animals, although you will need to keep them away from chicken or other animal feed.
10. Enjoy your Goats
Goats are incredibly entertaining and over time you will get to know their individual personalities, their unique bleats and their silly antics. My kids love spending time with the goats and will attempt to train and walk them (with very little success).
Like other animals around your backyard farm, you will appreciate raising goats for not just the milk, meat and fiber, but the connection they give you to your homestead.
If you’re looking for more details on raising backyard farm animals, visit my Pinterest page.
Common Questions about Raising Goats
What do goats eat? Goats primarily eat hay, grass, and browse, but they also enjoy grains, fruits, and vegetables. A balanced diet is essential for their health.
How much space do goats need? Goats need at least 200 square feet of space per adult goat for grazing and exercise. Adequate shelter is also necessary for protection from harsh weather.
What vaccinations do goats require? Common vaccinations for goats include tetanus, Clostridium perfringens types C and D, and rabies. Consult with a veterinarian for a vaccination schedule.
How do I prevent parasites in goats? Regular deworming, maintaining clean living conditions, and rotational grazing can help prevent parasite infestations in goats.
What are common health issues in goats? Common health concerns in goats include respiratory infections, hoof problems, and external parasites. Regular health checks and proper nutrition can help prevent these issues.