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How to Keep a Goat

Domestic goats are one of the most useful animals to have as they are easy to look after and feed. 

As a domestic farm animal, they can be used to produce a variety of products, such as:

  • Dairy (milk, butter, yoghurt).
  • Meat.
  • Leather.
  • Wool (fleece).
  • Soaps, body and hair care products.

Mohair and cashmere is one sector of the goat industry that has internationally established markets for the fibres. Prices for fleece may vary considerably from year to year, due to fashion trends and market economies. Mohair fibre is regarded as high quality and frequently used in luxury clothing. Fibre price is dependent on fibre diameter, length and occurrence of colour. Kid mohair generally receives a higher price compared to the coarser adult fibre. Shearing is carried out twice a year when length exceeds 10cm. 

Cashmere goats produce a coarse low value fleece, but have an under coat of fine high quality down - it is this down which is called cashmere. The price obtained is governed by colour and fibre diameter. Shearing is carried out once a year. 

In milk and other products, i.e. soap, cheese and milk, it is important to consider the market for the product you may like to sell. These make nice added value extras to any goat enterprise.

Truths and Myths about Goats

‘Goats smell’

In general, female and neutered male goats do not have a pungent smell. Entire males, particularly in the breeding season can smell offensive but only to humans. Female goats find the smell very attractive! If a goat smells and it is not breeding time then husbandry management issues may be to blame.

‘Goats are dirty’

Goats are fastidiously clean!  They keep themselves very clean and are not keen on getting wet. Again, if goats are visibly dirty then husbandry management issues may be the cause. Offer shelter to goats kept on pasture – they will appreciate it. 

‘Goats eat everything’

Goats are very inquisitive creatures and as they don’t have hands, they use their mouths to investigate novel objects.  If you see them rummaging around debris, other rubbish, clothing – they are more than likely investigating a novel object with their mouth rather than attempting to eat it! Goats are quite fussy eaters and prefer to graze on trees, shrubs and weeds.  

‘Goats are destructive’

Goats are naturally a herd animal; they prefer to live with other goats and are generally unhappy if forced to live in solitude.  A goat kept on its own may well become destructive by trying to escape – thus breaking through fences and gates. This is only to try and find other members of the herd and it is not just being damaging for the fun of it. 

Keeping a Billy Goat or Buck

A buck is an adult, male goat. Bucks are strong, powerful and sometimes aggressive animals. Particularly strong housing and fencing is required to keep the buck under control. Bucks can be vocal too so you may need to consider where on the property they are housed – not too close to the neighbours to avoid complaints! 

Bucks have behaviours and characteristics that owners need to be aware of. As they grow older, bucks generally become more aggressive to assert their dominance within the herd.

This aggression can be aimed at other goats and to their human handlers as well and is particularly apparent when does are in season. If you are keeping a couple of does and think that you may like to breed from them, then it is sometimes easier and, and just plain safer, to use the services of a local stud buck, where you take the does to be mated at the appropriate time, rather than keeping your own buck at home.  

Any decision whether to keep a buck as part of the herd should be carefully considered.  People have been hospitalised following 'attacks' by bucks.  If you have decided just to keep a couple of goats as pets then a buck may not be the easiest or most sensible type of animal to have.  Never leave children near a buck.  Even if your buck has been hand-raised and is deemed a family pet, a buck can and will display inherent behaviours, without warning – potentially causing painful injuries to humans. 

Natural mating behaviour in bucks 

As bucks mature and prepare to go into the breeding season they begin to habitually spray their urine on their front legs and faces. They develop a very strong smell which easily transfers to the other goats in the herd and can even taint the milk produced by the does; another reason why bucks should be kept separate from the rest of the herd.

Bucks have various behaviours they employ to encourage the does to want to mate with them.  They can sometimes also exhibit these behaviours towards other male goats and to their human handlers.  It is not unknown for bucks to develop ‘crushes’ on their human handlers and to attempt to mount their handlers when they aren't looking!

The buck may lower his head and flap his tongue towards the doe. Tongue flapping can sometimes be accompanied by pawing, where the buck paws at the side of the doe with a front leg.  These are signs that the buck is ‘in the mood’ to mate and appropriate care should be taken when moving him around or handling him.

The decision to keep a buck should not be taken lightly.  It is important that you have appropriate housing, fencing and handling skills to cope with a large, strong and potentially aggressive animal.

Learn more about Goats

Do you or are you interested in keeping goats? They can make a useful addition to a farm, or to those living a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Learn more about keeping goats with one of our courses; from goat husbandry to a self-sufficiency course.

If you are interested in studying with ACS and have any questions, then why not get in touch with us today? We can answer any questions you may have and help you in choosing a course. 

You can phone us on (UK) 01384 442752, or (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752.

You can also connect with our highly knowledgeable tutors who specialise in Animal Husbandry - submit you questions to them; they will be happy to help.

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