It’s hard to resist a goat. They’re cute, playful, and easy to take care of. Even so, there are a few things you’ll need to attend to when raising goats in your backyard. Read on for some more in-depth information on feeding and housing your goats.
Goat housing isn’t fancy, but there are a few things you’ll need. First of all, you’ll need a covered shed with walls on at least three sides. The shed needs to be well ventilated but not drafty. Windows are a necessity as sunlight can help keep things dry and provide your goats with some vitamin D. Clean bedding of straw or wood shavings should be available and switched out regularly. Containers for water and feed should be easy for your goats to get to.
A choice you’ll have to make when setting up your shed is whether you want loose housing or stall barns. Loose housing allows your animals to move as they please around the shed, while stall barns gives each goat his or her own stall. Loose housing allows your goats to stay together overnight, keeping them warmer than they would be alone. The downside of this arrangement is that manure can pile up and release extra moisture into the air, which can make your goats sick.
Finally, keep the ages and genders of your goats in mind. You’ll want to keep your females that are producing milk (your milking herd) together. Kids (young goats) should be separate from the milking herd but can be inside the same structure. If you have any male goats they should be kept in a different shed altogether.
Goats are notorious for their ability to get out of just about any fenced in area. They’re curious and always hungry and the allure of the grass on the other side of the fence is often just too much for them to resist. For their safety (and your peace of mind) it’s crucial to have a well fenced area for them to roam about in. A good rule of thumb is 200 square feet of open area for goat, but there is some flexibility there.
Many sheds are set up with an open wall that leads into a fenced in area. There are several different types of fences you can use for this pen. Net fences, barbed wire, and electric fences are all options here. Depending on the amount of land that you have and the tenacity of your goats you may find that more expensive options like electric fences are necessary. However, even the most expensive fence can’t make up for human error, so make sure you’re closing your gates properly when you leave!
You’ve probably seen cartoons of goats that will eat just about anything, including trash. Those cartoons are a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Goats are not picky and they are almost always hungry. You can keep them fed through a mixture of browsing and grains.
The word “grazing” may pop to mind when thinking about how goats eat, but that’s a little bit off. Grazing refers to eating grass, which isn’t a goat’s first choice of food. Instead, goats “browse,” which means they like to eat things a little higher off the ground. For example, this can mean bushes or tall weeds. If you don’t have a good fence this can also mean your prized rose bush! Don’t buy a goat and expect her to be a lawn mower, but do provide her with some space to wander around and browse as she pleases.
Your goat’s nutritional needs won’t all be met by browsing, though. You’ll need to supplement her diet with grains and hay. A milking doe will need about three pounds of grain a day to produce a good supply of milk, while a non-milking doe or a younger goat only needs about a pound. These grains can include rolled oats, cracked corn, soybean meal, or a number of other things. Check in with your local feed store to see what’s easy to get in your area. You should also provide fresh, clean hay to snack on. For a special treat, mix in some alfalfa.
As is true with any animal, goats need water. Make sure there’s a steady supply of clean water available to your goats at all time.
There’s not a lot that you’ll need when raising goats. If they have a solid house, a good fence, and a steady supply of grains and browsing material they’ll stay happy and well cared for.
Pic by littlefishyjes.