Guest Author - Jacqueline Rosenbalm
Goats are a worthwhile investment for any serious homestead. They come in all sizes from miniature to standard size. They require little space as compared to larger homestead animals like cows but give the same benefits as far as meat and milk production.
Although goats provide milk and meat in smaller quantities generally it is just enough to feed a small family. Often times the larger animals produce so much that it can overwhelm the homesteader which cannot use all it produces.
Most homesteaders purchase a breed of milk goat for their homestead touting the benefits of milk production. However, most milk breeds are big boned and have little meat on their frame. I prefer the meat breeds for the homestead because they are dual purpose. They are finer boned and product more meat per pound for every feed dollar and also give adequate amounts of milk.
Having a small goat herd can bring extra income for the homestead. Not only in the products they can provide made from the goatís milk like cheese and soaps or lotions but also as a pasture maintenance crew and brush clearing for neighboring homesteaders.
Goats have many benefits including kid production rates. They are capable of having quads, triplets and twins. They can be bred three times in a two year period. Since one doe can produce from 6 to 12 kids in two years it makes them a valuable source of meat.
Things you need to know about goats before purchasing one:
1) You get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap brush goat thatís about all it will be good for, clearing brush. If you are seriously going to use goats you need a breed that will give you the most benefit for you feed dollar. So figure out what your goal is and match the breed with your homestead goals.
2) Goats need more than grass or grass hay to survive. During the winter or when fresh browse is not available high protein hay like Timothy or Alfalfa hay is best. I feed Alfalfa hay free choice to assure the animals get the required amount of roughage and protein they need to stay healthy.
3) Most goats prefer browsing on shrubs, briers and saplings which makes them a great help to clear a new homestead. They browse from the ground to about 5 feet high.
4) High roughage, 16% goat ration should be provided in cold weather or when does are pregnant.
5) Bucks and wethers should be fed lots of roughage and little grain with caution especially corn; phosphorous and calcium must remain balanced or they can suffer from urinary calculi (crystallized urine in the kidney and bladder or kidney stones).
6) Loose mineral salts should be available at all times as well as clean fresh water. Know what minerals are deficient in your area and make sure it is included in your mineral mix. A mineral deficiency can affect how the kids grow, bone structure and weight gains.
7) Goats are susceptible to parasites but with a high protein diet (at least 16%) they can best deal with and overcome any complications.
8) Goats must be wormed periodically but it is best determined on an individual basis with a fecal egg count so as to not make the parasites resistant to the de-wormer.
9) A goatís gestation time varies from 145 days for miniatures to 150 days for standard breeds; plan on being on hand during delivery. Sometimes with multiple births or with first time moms goats will need help either with the delivery or clearing mucous from the nostrils of the newborn. There is just not always enough time between kids to do it effectively by their self.
10) Occasionally when a doe has triplets or quads it may become necessary to supplement the kidís milk supply. Note that once you feed a kid anything other than the motherís own milk she will reject the kid, so be prepared to become the kids mom until itís big enough to fend for itself.
11) Goats need good fence to keep them in and a close relationship with your animals can save you time when you are trying to get them back home.
Goats have been one of the most rewarding animals I have ever raised on my homestead. I raise African Boer Goats because I find them to be the most docile, friendly and easy to get along with; they are excellent mothers and very protective of their young. Along with the milk and meat they provide us with laughter and hours of enjoyment watching the kids grow and play.