Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School
It is a thrill and an honor to be able to write and share my goat knowledge with the subscribers of the Omega Fields Newsletters! Having raised goats for 25 years, and suffered through all the trial and errors, my husband, Ken and I, have accumulated a vast knowledge of the nuances of raising several varieties of goats including dairy, meat, and fiber.
In 2004 I came up with an idea to answer all of the questions we were continually getting, not only from new goat owners, but also from seasoned breeders. Goat School® was born. We started on a cold November afternoon, lasted for about 3 hours, and included 12 people. It has now grown into a three day event and peaked at 112 attendees.
Over the past eight years the most often asked question has been: “What type of goat would you recommend for us”? There are so many things to take into consideration. This article will touch on the different types of goats, and, can help you decide in what direction you would like to take your goat raising experience.
First things first; what are the types of goats? There are three; meat, fiber, and of course the dairy breeds.
Goats in general, are friendly, inquisitive, nosy, loving, charming creatures that will return to you as much love as you give to them. A goat that is well socialized, well nourished, and well cared for, will be a friend for life. They love to help with chores, (try changing a light bulb on a ladder with 4 or 5 goats around and you’ll see what I mean!) and, if given a chance, they will happily clean out your garden or flower beds!
MEAT GOATS: All goats have goat meat but not all goats are meat goats. You can harvest meat from all of the different breeds of goats, but there are some breeds that have been raised specifically for meat. Meat breeds are bigger and more muscled. They tend to be very large, statuesque animals. Some breed names include Boer, Kiko, Spanish, Savanahs, Myotonic, and Arapawa.
Because of their size, Boer bucks have been crossed with other breeds to inject “hybrid vigor”. Hybrid vigor presents the possibility of obtaining a genetically superior offspring by combining the primal virtues of its parents. We used our Boer Buck “Rocky” to breed some of our Angora does. The offspring were growing at a rate of ¾ of a pound per day! It took no time at all for the kids of these matings to outgrow their moms. It was quite comical to see these very large 2 month old kids trying to get under their small statured dams to nurse.
Meat goats because of their mature size and rapid growth might give the impression that they require large amounts of feed, nothing could be further from the truth! We found that one pound of a balanced goat grain per full grown doe was sufficient! By providing your meat goat with a good healthy diet of browse, hay, clean water, minerals, vitamins, and a small amount of grain guarantees they will thrive, produce great offspring, develop healthy muscling, and become a good foundation stock for your growing herd!
FIBER GOATS: Fiber breeds require more hands on work than meat breeds. As we raised Angora goats for over 20 years, I will do a little “ruminating” on that subject. Angoras are the only goats who produce hair.
Because they grow about an inch of hair a month, Angoras need to be sheared twice a year. We always sheared in the spring right before kidding season, (this worked out great because it alleviated messy, ruined fleece because of kidding fluids) and again in the fall, just before breeding time. As male goats in rut tend to be a little smelly, shearing before breeding kept the fleeces clean and odor free.
Angoras need plenty of protein to grow all of that beautiful mohair fleece. A lack of protein in their diet causes lack-luster, thin, unattractive coats. As the mohair is the end product for these goats, you must feed them properly. Keep in mind that the extra protein also causes fast growing hoofs which may need to be trimmed more often than most other types of goats.
DAIRY GOATS: Milk producing goats are certainly the most work intensive of all breeds but continue to be my favorites. I love the twice a day interaction with them. They are friendly, happy go lucky animals that can start each and every day with a smile. Dairy goats need to be milked at least once a day, and more commonly twice a day, so be prepared for that commitment!
Over the years, we’ve had Oberhaslies, Nubians, Sables, Toggenburgs, Saanans, and Alpines. There are other great milk breeds out there besides the ones I mentioned. My recommendation before you purchase any type of milker is that you taste their milk. All of the milks are great, but some taste different than others. For instance a lot of folks dislike Oberhaslie milk and others simply love it!
Another caveat when you are purchasing milkers for hand milking; try milking the goat! Make sure your hands fit their teats. Some goats have big teats and others really small ones, so this is important. We always recommended that newbies buy their first two goats as milking adults. Get a feel for it with a “seasoned professional” doe, and go from there.
And of course I have to mention “pet goats”. These come in many sizes and shapes. Two neutered males (wethers) make great buddies and can be taught to pull carts or go packing with you! Nigerian Dwarf goats are the cutest, most comical little characters that can keep you well entertained.
Along with all the love, fun, and enjoyment you can receive from your goats, comes one problem that is not often discussed; what to do when you have a goat in your herd, of any breed, that is churlish, difficult to deal with, mean, nasty, or a general pain in the neck? These goats need to go where they will best be served, an appointment with the processor, or as we have come to call it “freezer camp”! I realize that folks can have considerable sums of money tied up in a goat and have a hard time justifying sending them to the processor, but, owning animals is a responsibility and part of that responsibility is to not pass your problems on to an unsuspecting individual. Please do not pass an unwieldy goat on to an unsuspecting new owner! I can’t say this strong enough, a difficult goat needs to go in the freezer. How will you feel if you sell one of these unpredictable animals to someone and the new owner gets hurt?
Why do some goats, especially bucks, develop these problems? Usually it is because the buck was kept by himself. Goats are herd animals and need the companionship of other goats to keep their healthy attitudes. A buck who has a buddy, either another buck (it doesn’t matter what breed) or a neutered male (wether) will keep the buck occupied, exercised, and most of all friendly.
When kept alone, a buck will be constantly seeking out a play mate. When you go into his pen, you automatically become his play mate! A game of head butt with a full grown buck will be memorable to say the least.
Want to know more about goats, come to Goat School®! Goat School® is a comprehensive learning experience! You will not only learn about goats, but you will also make invaluable new friends, meet like-minded folks, and build networking opportunities.
Visit our web site www.goatschool.com and see when and where the next Goat School is!
We have a great book available with lots of information about raising goats. The “Goat School® Manual” is a compilation of some of the information from our Goat School® classes. For more information click on the Goat School Shop tab at www.goatschool.com