Thanks to the wonderful Miranda for inviting me over today. She has been like a neighbor to me: someone to borrow from, share with, and learn alongside.
We’ve kept Nigerian dwarf goats in our urban(ish) backyard for the last year and a half. I’m beginning to feel like we have most of the basics down. Our first kids to be born on the farm are due in the next couple of weeks!
If you’ve ever considered urban goat-keeping here are my recommendations for you:
-Hands on Experience
Visit a farm with goats. And then visit again. Visit so often that they start putting you to work. Visit so often that they start giving you the less than glamorous work. Learn how to milk on someone else’s goat with someone experienced watching. Be around for shots, hoof trimming and (everyone’s favorite) castration. Ask questions! Take notes! Books are good and necessary for goats, but there are just some things you have to learn by doing.
-Breeds for Needs
Thoroughly research breeds before even thinking about buying a goat. You don’t want to bring home a kid and then realize 6 months later when she’s fully grown that she’s going to be too big for you or your property to handle. Along with size, figure out why you want goats. Are they going to be pets? Would you train them to haul small loads? Are you going to milk?
I don’t think you have to buy pure-bred, registered goats to be successful. Just remember to be cautious and critical when you decide to buy..they are way too easy to fall in love with!
Take a good look at where you will keep your goats. You must keep at least 2 and most people have a hard time limiting themselves. We have half an acre and will never have more than 2 adults at a time; anymore than that would be detrimental to our soil and unhealthy for the animals.
Consider your fencing. If you’ve been around goat people, you’ve probably heard an escape story that made you think someone was telling a tall tale. They were not. Goats are very smart (see: Entertainment) and very greedy. They will defy gravity to get at a scrap of hay. Build a fence, first. Then by a goat. Never, ever, ever the other way around.
-Entertainment and Exercise
A bored goat is trouble with a tail. But it isn’t their fault! They just want to play! Goats need friends (definitely at least 1 other goat, though other species make great companions too) and fun. A bored goat is also going to be a fat goat. And fat goats can run into numerous health problems.
We decided to exercise/entertain our goats in the same way we do our dogs. They go for walks on leashes around the neighborhood. They are able to graze our front yard this way, as well as get some ‘fresh air’ and exercise. Our goats also have rotating pastures to keep them busy and ‘toys’ like rocks and dog houses to climb up and knock each other off of.
Well maintained goats are a joy. Their adventurousness, curiosity, and often outlandish personalities make them such fun! Oh! and don’t forget the delicious milk.