|Bella and Daisy hanging out on the roof of their old goat shed|
A lot of websites and blogs tout how wonderful it is to own goats. They tell you the milk is wonderful, the goats are happy and the perfect little urban livestock. This isn’t one of those posts.
While I am usually promoting urban farming/homesteading in all it’s glory I’m actually going to tell you one thing you probably shouldn’t do, and that’s owning goats in the city. Of course they have their benefits, and I love owning goats, but they are definitely not for everyone. So if you’re on the fence about them, I’m going to tell you why you should get off the fence.
1. Their whole goal in life is to go where they aren’t supposed to be. Unless you have really good fences that they can’t jump over or go through you’re in trouble. They challenge all of our fences. Wood fences, chainlink fences, wood doors, etc. We switched our fencing from horse fencing to chainlink because it gives and returns to it’s original shape. The horse fencing they ruined quite quickly. Even though our goats are only 50-60lbs I’m always amazed at how hard they can ram and how much damage they can do to doors, walls, and fences.
They can jump pretty high and can balance on the thinnest of ledges. I once witnessed Daisy jump up and perch herself on the edge of sheet of plywood that was leaning against a fence.
It’s also important to note that they are like rodents. If their head fits so will the rest of their body, which can pose a significant problem if you keep them with chickens. Chicken food is bad for goats – very bad – and of course they love it and want to gorge themselves on it. We’ve had to get quite creative with the door to the chicken coop and also where we keep their feed.
2. They are as smart, if not smarter than, dogs. You may think this is a good thing. The problem is they aren’t nearly as willing to please you as your dog is. They can be ornery and stubborn, especially during their heat cycle, and you can only trick them once and then they are on to you. They can also be louder than dogs when they go into heat. Heat = screaming at the top of their lungs. You’ll end up having to do a lot of apologizing to your neighbors, and possibly even bribing.
3. Even though they are smart like dogs they aren’t nearly as easy to care for. They have special dietary requirements. I have to worry about whether their hay is selenium deficient. I have to make sure they are getting enough copper in their diet. Of course I also have to worry about them getting too much selenium and copper, which can be toxic. The girls provide better milk on quality alfalfa, but wethers (castrated males) can’t eat alfalfa without risking urinary calculi. They need to be regularly screened for CAE (Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis) and Johnes disease. And then you have to worry about parasites and worming. Trying to worm or drench (orally medicate) a goat is not fun. And just like your other pets, they also need yearly vaccinations.
|We kept a buck here for a few weeks. Would prefer not to do that again.|
4. Raising them for dairy means you have to breed them. Breeding them means kids and you’ll need to figure out what to do with the kids when they are born. There are only three options. You keep the kids, you sell the kids or you eat them. Of course, another problem with breeding is the buck. They are some of the most vile and disgusting animals to walk the planet. Long story short, they like to urinate in their mouth and all over their face and front legs. Let’s take a moment and imagine the smell they emit because of that. They can also be aggressive and noisy and they waste so much feed it’s downright ridiculous. If you’re in the city definitely don’t own them. This leaves you with having to find a farmer with a buck that is even willing to let you breed your does to him. Many breeders only run closed herds because of the risk of CAE and Johnes. So this can pose a problem in and of itself.
5. They are a complete time suck. They are social animals so you need at least two, but also you’ll need to spend a lot of time with them. Unlike dogs and cats they are not suitable to hang out in the house with you while you do other things. This means you’ll need to block out time to hang out with them every day. Then it comes to milking. When they have kids you can choose to keep the kids on them and then you only need to milk once a day, but eventually the kids will leave or mom will wean them and now you have to milk twice a day. I know some people that still just milk once a day, but our goats give up double the amount of milk if we milk them twice a day. So that means we have to be home every evening in time to milk them. It can be really inconvenient and put a hamper on events especially around the holidays.
6. They are not cheap. The upfront costs can be staggering to say the least. A good dairy goat will run you $300-400 dollars and you have to have two of them. Then you need an adequate shelter, feeders, waterers, mineral feeders, a milking stanchion, milking supplies (strip cup, teat dip, milk filters, milking pail, etc.), rodent-proof feed storage, and bedding. You also have to pay for stud service if you find a farmer that will let you breed your does. Vet costs are really expensive if you can even find a vet that will see goats. It takes a long time to make up the money you spent in dairy savings.
7. They are inconvenient. If you want to go on vacation you have to find someone to come over and care for them including milking if they are in milk. This is definitely not cheap and farm sitters in the city are not easy to find. Finding a vet that is within driving distance can be very difficult and it’s not like they usually have night or weekend hours. So if you need to take them in expect to either pay extra for off-hours care or take time off of work to take them. If you realize after work or on a Sunday that you are out of food you can’t just run to the store to get more. By then most feed stores are closed.
If you think you are up for having them definitely go for goats (as long as they are legal where you live, which I can’t stress enough). It’s important to know what you’re up against and of course this list is not inclusive and not all goats will do everything in the list. They aren’t awful and can really enrich your life, but it’s not all puppies and rainbows. They are a lot of work and require quite a bit of money.