So you’ve decided to raise goats on your small farm. Great! It’s important to consider your ultimate goal for your goats. This will come out of your farm business plan - and in fact, you may be here because you’re doing some research for that very plan. Your goals inform your business plan and vice versa.
Raising goats for milk is very different from raising goats for meat, which is in turn different from raising goats to show and breed. Sure, they’re all goats, but they way you manage, house and feed them, will differ. And the breed you choose depends on your goals. Read a little bit about each focus for raising goats, then decide what fits your overall goals best.
Raising Goats for Milk
Dairy goats produce a prolific amount of milk: one doe can yield up to 90 quarts of milk per month! That’s 3 quarts per day. And since goats are herd animals, you won’t be keeping just one doe. When keeping goats for milk, you will need to decide what your production goals are.
If you’re making cheese with the milk, you will need a greater volume than if you are selling fresh raw goat milk only. And if you have other farm animals, you may be able to feed them the excess milk. You may also choose to make ice cream, butter, yogurt and soap from goat milk.
If raising dairy goats, you will want to choose a dairy goat breed - something optimized to produce milk, rather than a breed that’s geared toward putting on weight. You will need to consider how you will keep your does bred. Will you keep a buck, separated from the does except for when it’s rutting season? Or will you borrow or rent a buck to service your does? What will you do with the offspring that the doe produces?
Some goat breeds, like Nubians, produce a richer milk than others. Nubians are called “the Jerseys of the goat world” because their milk is so creamy. This may fit your needs particularly well, or it may not - think about it.
Raising Goats for Meat
When raising goats for meat, you don’t need to worry about breed as much, although there are some basic meat breeds that put on weight particularly well. Most meat goats are a hybrid, or cross, of several meat-producing breeds, such as Boer and Tennessee Meat Goat, two of the most popular breeds in the united States.
Don’t bother with registered goats if you’re raising them for meat. However, you will want to get a good buck, because he will be half the genetics of all the kids he produces.
Do bother to figure out your market, because sale of the goat meat once you’ve produced it can sometimes be the hardest part of raising meat goats.
There is also a strong demand for quality meat-breed show and breeding stock, so if your'e interested in this, read below about raising goats for breeding and show.
Raising Goats for Breeding and Show
If you are raising goats to enter in goat shows, you will want to buy registered goats only, as most shows require entrants to be registered. Registered goats must have identification, such as a tattoo or microchip. If your goats get loose or are stolen, this can be helpful in tracking them down.
For show goats, you will need to invest in bathing and grooming supplies - and train your show goats to tolerate frequent bathing, grooming, and hoof trimming. You will also want to train your goats to obey basic commands, walk on a lead, and in general will want to show animals with a calm disposition. Training that starts when goats are young is the most successful training.
Nutrition is important for all goats, but especially for show goats, as the quality of their coat and their overall health will be judged at the show. The healthier your goat, the better it will show.
If you want to sell breeding stock, you will want to research what bloodlines are most popular in the goat breeding world, and invest in those. Entering and winning shows is important for goat breeders because wins prove that your goats are high quality.
Raising Goats for Pack Animals
Pack goats have been used all over the world to haul loads. A mature goat can carry 40 to 60 pounds. Goats can also be taught to pull pony carts, either alone or in teams, and can be used for light draft work, like pulling a small harrow in the garden.