The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Dreamy goat plans

Mutt goatLong-time readers will know I've been dreaming about milk goats for years.  But Mark has been adamantly opposed, and we don't ever embark on projects when one partner is unwilling.

So, imagine my surprise when I teased Mark that Kayla and I were getting a goat together...and he said I could have one all for myself.  Turns out, my adamant opposition to Mark's purchase of a self-propelled, string mower is equivalent to his adamant opposition of my purchase of a milk goat.  "If you let me get a mower, then I'll let you get a goat," Mark said.  "I'll even help you milk it."  Much kissing and hugging ensued.

Goat with hornsAfter rereading my goat book, I decided that a mutt is probably our best option to learn on, and I found the three or four year old girl pictured here on craigslist.  She's semi-dwarf, a combination of Saanen and Nigerian with a bit of Nubian thrown in, and her mixed descent makes her quite affordable ($125).  She's been raised in a setting much like we want to throw her into, and is reputed to give birth easily, to be parasite resistant, and to have been giving a quart of milk a day while feeding her kids on brush alone.  Her owner is currently drying her up and breeding her to a Saanen/Nigerian buck, and is willing to hold onto her for a month while we get our act together (in the process ensuring that the doe is really pregnant).  Add in a wether (to keep her company, source not yet decided), and this might be an easy way to see whether we like goats during the winter, then to jump into milking next spring.

It's a bit daunting to make a commitment to branch out into larger livestock, so we haven't decided quite yet.  But I'd say we're 80% of the way there...and I let Mark order his mower.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hubby and I have had conversations similar to this one, and like you, I acquiesced to the mower, although my point was that a goat would do a lot of the mowing AND give milk... :)

It is probably not nice for me to point out that the mower had mechanical problems the third time we used it.

Someday we will have our little flocks of goats cavorting around the homestead making a racket and being cute, but until then we have an enormous, loud and scary bushhog to do the serious weed-eating.

Comment by Karen B Sun Sep 7 09:08:07 2014

I've been dealing with my goats now for 4 years now. I started with 2, and I now have 10, with 6 pregnant does. I'm expecting 11 kids come Dec. Beor/spanish. but I've mixed them so much they're just "Golden Tree Reavers" as I call them. I'm curious why you don't just get 2 does? It seems rather pointless to me to get one and a wether. Which is what you said, right?

Either way. I'm really wondering why this guy you're wanting to buy from is selling!?!? If this girl is as good as is said, it seems very odd. I have NO problem selling my little bucks every year. The market for goat is going through the roof. And breeding does are worth their weight in 100's. It's something to really look at, Id think.

I think it's very cool that you're looking into goats. They are very unique! They lOVE to escape! and eat your fruit trees. A friendly warning. :)

Comment by T Sun Sep 7 12:50:42 2014
FENCES !!! they love your garden and fruit trees, green beans black eye peas I could go on , ,they love brush you will not need a weed waker they eat it ! apart from that they are FUN I have hours of enjoyment watching them , they will follow you anywhere for sweet feed , Far better than any TV show .
Comment by diogenese Sun Sep 7 17:47:51 2014

I have to say- I don't recommend it. We've had ours for 8 years, and they are cute and friendly and all, but...

Be prepared to say goodbye to your high density apple orchard. Or put an extra layer of protection around it. The goats will make a mess of your careful pruning. A 6' chain link fence might hold them in.

Goats WILL escape, and they WILL eat your hardy kiwi, blackberries, strawberries, corn, watermelon, cabbages... the list goes on and on.

They don't eat all the brush. They will eat about three quarters of it. Of course, 3/4 is a lot more than none, so that is not so bad.

Comment by Eric in Japan Sun Sep 7 19:10:06 2014
if the goat is such a good deal you might want to check the herd for a virus called 'soremouth'. a friend got caught unprepared/unaware by this and introduced it to her herd with the new animals. :-(
Comment by Anonymous Mon Sep 8 00:54:11 2014

They will eat your trees and garden if you don’t have a good fence. This can be said with just about any livestock. Invest in some 4 foot field fence and “T” posts and you will be fine. 2 strands of electric fence work well too as long as you have power. If you do this I would recommend one of the solar powered fence chargers. The goat will somehow know if the fence is off. They also do not like to get wet so they need some kind of shelter.

I think the mixed breed goat is a good choice for health reasons. I have had “scrub” goats for years and have had very few health problems. I know others who have pure breed goats that can’t say the same. I could be wrong but for me “mutts” just seem to be hardier than pure breed animals.

Like someone else said I would recommend getting two does unless you are planning on butchering the wether once the doe kids. Goats are definitely very social animals and having two would be a minimum to keep them happy.

Goats are the best for clearing weeds and brush. Fence them in a small area and they will eat just about everything right down to the dirt. Then you either move the fence or just expand it to enclose more area. If done right you can almost throw the string trimmer away. Almost.

One last thought. Goats have no defense against wild/stray dogs and coyotes. Lock them up when you are away unless you have a good guard dog or donkey. Especially don’t tie them out if you are not there to keep an eye on them.

Go pick the girl up and enjoy your new addition to the homestead.

Comment by Ned Mon Sep 8 11:38:11 2014

I would say as long as you have good fences (such as with your star plate Coop - if you did a good job with the posts) the goats will be great eating everything below 6 feet high. That said they do not really eat much grass which was a bit hard for us since we put them in a grass filled pasture. But the benefit is that they ate all the woody weeds that had been coming back in the pasture so now it is basically all grass and some thistle. The pasture looks so much better now than it did before the goats.

Now I just need to get the other pasture fence fixed so they can kill all those weeds as well.

Comment by BW Mon Sep 8 12:11:48 2014

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