How to raise goats in your backyard: raising goats for meat and milk

So you’ve decided to take matters into your own hands and become as self sufficient as you can be. You’re ready for any kind of disaster the world can throw at you and you’ve prepped for the worst. And now…you’re even starting to grow your own food! Growing a garden is a necessity, of course, but what about a good protein source? Don’t forget that’s necessary for your long-term survival.

Think goat! The benefits of goat rearing are profound, which is why they are perennially the most popular animals to farm worldwide. Like all major enterprises, goat farming should not be entered into lightly. Goats are amazing creatures who need top- quality care and time, but they are a great food source for those willing to invest in their long-term sustainability.

Benefits of goats over larger animals

Goats are easier to raise than other livestock, and what they offer is exceptional compared to other animals. They grow to maturity more quickly, are lighter to handle in size and girth, and their meat is healthier. Milk, cheese, and cream can also be produced from their milk, which is an added bonus in raising them.

“Goats have grown in popularity, showing up in commercials, movies, and many have made them pets,” says Derek Beane, owner and operator of D and J Goat Farms, “they are easier to handle versus larger livestock like cattle and swine.” They mate more quickly than larger animals, and because they are smaller in size and strength, they are easier to slaughter when fully grown. “They have shorter gestation time than cattle, which would yield more offspring more quickly than a cow and would be important in a survival-ready environment,” maintains Beane. “It would be easier to butcher, process, and package the meat versus a cow or swine which is the difference between working with a 40- to 80-pound animal at weaning and a 300-pound cow.” Not only are cows and pigs harder to maintain due to their size and needs, many studies show them to be unhealthy for long-term human consumption.

Since you may be investing in goat raising as a future food source and may be dependent on their yields for your survival, that is something to consider. “Goat meat is the most popular consumed meat worldwide, and with our nation’s growing ethnic population, goats have increased in demand. It is a very healthy meat, lean and low in cholesterol and pretty tasty,” says Beane.

Temperament

Be it fiction, film or fodder, goats have gotten a bad rap as being gruff and immovable. Sometimes the personality is dependent on the breed, but usually the sex of the beast determines their individuality. As a primary food source, learning the differences between male and female temperament will be an important factor in successful goat rearing to ensure your preparedness food plan prospers. “Goats can be ill-mannered at feeding time keeping the pecking order in line. They have different temperaments depending on the individual. By far, they have a loving, easy, almost affectionate attitude with the exception of the bucks or males,” states Beane.

Land, shelter, climate

The size of your property and where you plan to raise goats will determine how many you raise and mate. In addition, different breeds of goat prosper in different climates, and what you plan to use your goat for, be it food or fiber, will also factor into the survival equation. “Folks normally overcrowd their herd, increasing parasite issues, which are the biggest problem with goats,” says Beane. For example, he has 50 acres of land and raises approximately 175 head. He recommends a lot of land due to issues with overcrowding and disease.

This way, the pastures can be rotated to allow the grazing fields to be treated. According to the University of Illinois, “Poor ground may support two to four goats per acre, while better pasture may be able to support six to eight goats per acre.” Beane also warns would-be farmers that they multiply quickly, so it is advisable to start small. “A small, rustic environment herd can be fairly easy to raise.” A small herd of goats would range from five to ten and would be manageable, he maintains, as long as “the browsing and grazing were of good quality to maintain proper health.” North Carolina State University’s Department of Agriculture and Life Science recommends a “combination of treatment and management,” which includes both veterinary intervention with antibiotics and diet as well as pasture management.

Pasture management might include moving your goats from a parasite-infected pasture to an uninfected area and keeping your herd off that patch for an entire grazing season. In addition, vaccinating your goats like any other animal helps to curb the spread of disease. Keeping goats healthy also includes sheltering them from the elements and making sure their bedding is dry. Beane suggests shavings over straw, due to the kids’ attraction to “nibbling” on things, and straying away from inexpensive building materials that they will just chew and break apart.  “A fully enclosed shelter is preferred to keep out blowing snow and rain,” says Beane.

Climate is another factor that enters into raising goats. “Goats are raised over all climates, but drier climates are probably better. The Southeastern part of the United States is harder to raise goats in due to the parasite problem being harder to control.” These are important things to consider with the rise in extreme temperatures and disasters. Beane recommends that the breed should fit the climate and the need as well. “Angora goats are woolen bred and fair better in cooler areas while some breeds are more durable, such as the Spanish Kiko.” On his farm, in the Southeast, Beane raises Boer goats, which are the most popular meat-bred goat type.

Ready to go Goats

Raising any kind of animal is a big commitment and can be expensive with veterinary costs, feeding, breeding, and housing. If your plan is to prepare for the future and raise a viable and fruitful food source, goat rearing might be right for you. In these troubled times, investigating options for the future is important. Going goat might be the thing you’ve been looking for!