Top 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Own Goats

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.

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Discussion

  1. Great post, and I especially like that you specific about the downsides.  I agree, many blogs and websites can make owning urban livestock sound cheap, easy, and idealic. I do like goats, but it never crossed my mind to keep them here in L.B. for many of the same reasons you mentioned.  I’ll just stick to chickens; they have been pretty good urban livestock for us.  

    There is actually a group locally trying to get the L.B. city council to update the small livestock ordinance to permit goats, bees, and chickens on the smaller lots.  Right now, mainly only residents on the East side of town have lots big enough to legally keep chickens, and there are only a couple dozen or so lots in the whole town big enough to comply with the goat and bee ordinance.  

    Leanne

  2. Martinjohnstone1 says:

    I agree with Leanne, in appreciating your realism.I live in a remote area and kept goats a few years ago. They are very different from sheep. They are a lot of work if you let them breed, always finding ways to escape. The first place they go is to neighbours gardens, they are very nosey and curius.
    I could possibly recommend them if keeping one or two as pets, because they are very affectionate, but you would need to spend a lot of time with them and have a very secure enclosure – a high fence normally is not enough, it really needs a top.
     If you are really sure, go for it, but otherwise, don’t bother.
    Martin, Outer Hebrides

  3. Azri'el Collier says:

    While I agree that goats do not make for good urban backyard livestock, I do have to disagree with some of the methods on their care.

    Having raised organically goats for many years, I never used an vaccinations, ever. I have dealt with the worms issue with treatment of tobacco, which they readily eat out of my hand. I also clean up their poo out of their pen. Never leave their poo laying around as they do clean their hooves and also will eat anything that drops onto their poo. No poo, no re-infestation. Also clean up any uneaten food along with the poo. I like to make sure that their pen area is clean all the time.
    As to their climbing, place large items for them to climb on, but make the items able to move so they do not have a solid place to “launch” from. But make it big enough that two or more can stand on it and enjoy them playing king of the hill on it.
    Interact with them daily. They get bored with only each other and love human contact once you’ve been a regular and bringing treats and when feeding them the treats, pet them. Scratch them between their shoulder blades and along their spine. And talk to them. Let them know that you want their company. They are less likely to get bored and seek entertainment elsewhere. They will want to follow you like puppies.
    Avoid much processed human foods. While they can be a nice treat, it is not a good idea to regularly have it i their diet. Bring them weeds you pill out of the garden or out of an open lot. They love clover, especially red clover. Most any kind of grasses and also tree leaves like maple or elm.
    Well, that is all I can think of to add to this article. Oh, and one more thing. Like humans and or any other animal, they need space, room to move around. If you really work at it, and only have one or two goats, take them out on a leash for walks. Talk to your neighbors about stuff that is unwanted that keeps growing in their yards and see if it suits the palate of the goat. (Goats really do NOT eat everything in sight, especially if well fed.)

    • Shannon T says:

      We live in the city and got two Nigerian dwarf does. The only reason we could have them was that my kids were in 4-H, and our county had a clause that allowed it for educational purposes.

      First I have to say they were ADORABLE! I love their personalities. They pretty much owned me………the blog post is RIGHT ON. The only thing I can add is that they are very demanding……we had them located too close to our house. Honestly, I couldn’t turn on a light inside, or talk too loud. If they heard my voice they would DEMAND that I come out by making really loud noises. I would have to run out and quiet them down (when that was possible) at all hours so that I didn’t piss off my neighbors with the noise. I would literally tip-toe around so that they wouldn’t hear me. CRAZY! When they went into their first heat, and were SCREAMING ALL NIGHT, I knew they had to go. Goats are NOT FOR THE CITY. One day we will have property, and more goats, because they were so fun, and curious, and entertaining. But for anyone that lives within any distance of a neighbor, don’t get them!

      • We call those screamers, which you can actually be bred out of them. Not all goats are that noisy. Also, running out there when they yell positively reinforces that behavior making it worse and making them more demanding. I have one that’s a screamer. She is going to be rehomed soon. The rest of them are pretty quiet. I’ve also found that having a wether with them helps immensely with heat issues. He goes through the motions with them which seems to be enough to satisfy them.

  4. LOL, I agree with every single thing you wrote and I still have 6 of them :)

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