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

Why *not* to get goats

Goat in wheelbarrow
"I must say, you've made selling my girlfriend on the benefits of having a small farm both easier, and more difficult. She is obsessed with having goats, and when she found out that they're about the only thing that eats Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu, she seized on that as her justification for having a couple, 'since you wanted a farm anyway.' You've been absolutely no help at all in that battle, what with all the pictures of your ridiculously cute and well-behaved goats. Couldn't you vilify them just a *little*? I dunno, maybe make a post saying how they broke out and committed arson or something?

"Otherwise, I swear, I'm going to come home from work one of these days and there's going to be a goat in my apartment..."

--- Dave

Blue-eyed goatWell, Dave, let me tell you about how Artemesia broke out this week and committed arson....

Okay, maybe she really just jumped up into the wheelbarrow while I was cleaning out the coop and ensured that her picture would be found in the next edition of the dictionary under "adorable."

More seriously, I have to admit that after four months with goats, I wouldn't recommend them for 90% of homesteaders. Artemesia is like a delightful hybrid between a loyal dog and a rainbow, but I'd feel terribly guilty if I didn't give our goats at least half an hour of attention per day.

And boy do they eat! We're currently giving our duo lots of hay and are letting them graze down several decades' worth of honeysuckle, but we'll be scrambling pretty hard this summer to get enough pasture areas established to ensure that Gardening with a goatour goats don't eat us out of house and home. And I'll also be putting more effort into gardening so we can grow enough fodder crops to make up for the honeysuckle, which won't be here next year if our goats' current appetites are any indication.

Then there's the expense. We actually haven't had any real escapes, but that's because we're paying top dollar by fencing with cattle panels (and because we chose half-miniature goats and keep them quite happy). That makes goats a very pricey endeavor (although the fencing should last for a lifetime and can be used with any other livestock we end up acquiring). Yes, you can fence with cheaper materials...but I suspect I'd love Artemesia much less if she ended up gnawing on my dwarf apple trees.

Goat with pitchfork

I lobbied hard for goats nearly from the beginning, and even though I pouted at the time when Mark said no, I can see now that we weren't ready for goats until the last year or two. A new homestead is a huge time- and money-sink, and we just wouldn't have had the ability to truly enjoy goats at that time. So, I have to admit that I'm probably on Dave's side on this issue and would recommend that he and his girlfriend not get goats quite yet.

On the other hand, if you don't want any goats in your apartment, you might want to pry the computer out of your girlfriend's hands right now. Because once Abigail's kids show up, the goat pictures are going to get even cuter.... You've been warned!

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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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While I do appreciate the heads-up about the effort it takes to establish a proper home with food for goats I felt a little surprised that you feel 90% of homesteaders aren't ready for the venture. That doesn't say much about your followers! I'm preparing for goats and I enjoy your posts and pictures but I don't need to be discouraged. Looking forward to birthing pictures. Cynthia

Comment by cynthia Thu Jan 29 18:07:47 2015

Cynthia --- Well, I have a very broad idea of who homesteaders are. To me, if you're interested in anything homesteading-related, you're a homesteader! So, folks who just have a couple of tomato plants on their balcony are mixed in there with people who have been farming for twenty years.

I guess I'm also partly reacting to a comment another reader made, saying that Mark and I made homesteading look so easy that she tried it...and failed miserably. I certainly don't want to make homesteading look easy because that's not true (although it's definitely fulfilling and fun). And I feel like goats are an intermediate-to-advanced project, definitely not one of the low-hanging fruits for most folks.

But like the rest of homesteading, they're fulfilling and fun, so if you want them, by all means, you should go for them!

Comment by anna Thu Jan 29 20:18:26 2015

But her response upon reading the article was "Those photos don't help your cause at all. I want goats. OH MY GOD, SHE'S GOING TO HAVE BABY GOATS??"

I'll try to keep her satisfied with my uncle's adorable dwarf goats, as he's only a couple hours from our (future) new home in Bristol, but I fear it's only going to buy me a couple years.

Maybe we can just put her to work on your place, entertaining Artemesia and Abigail?


Comment by Dave Marshall Thu Jan 29 20:59:01 2015
I agree with Anna that goats aren't for most people. First of all, I've seen a lot, lot of goats die around due to the lack of knowledge by their first time owners. They are difficult to contain, often escaping most routine fencing. Some frustrated owners ended up tying them out on a rope only to have a foot entrapped. If not released in time, I've seen those poor goats lose a foot, and thus their lives. I've seen goats get tangled in pasture trash, be forced to live in "pastures" that have very little of anything edible, be penned without access to water, die from lack of proper deworming. All the time their owners don't realize that there's anything wrong with their approach to keeping goats. Yes, goats are simple if you handle them right, but if not, then it often ends in failure.
Comment by Su Be Fri Jan 30 00:05:49 2015

Dave --- Sorry I failed miserably there. :-) But, hey, maybe that means that if Abigail has girls, you'd like the kids? They'll be weaned about the time you move to town....

Su Be --- Yeah, I think people underestimate how much goats need. Those old cartoons do the species a major disservice!

Comment by anna Fri Jan 30 09:36:37 2015

I complain about my goats in these comments all the time. But I do like them. They are exasperating (often) but cute and attention grabbing (usually). If you are like me and a hobby homesteader, goats are fine. If you are a market t gardener, I don't recommend goats. I will admit, I have only harvested 3 cabbages in 4 years due to goat escapes. I have almost forgotten what spinach tastes like. The only plus is they don't seem to like tomatoes (as much as everything else in the garden and orchard). If you invest in quality fencing (like Anna and Mark) you might escape goat predations... but I wouldn't count on it.

And as a final resort.... as a friend of mine said- if the goats eat all your garden... eat the goats.

Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Jan 30 11:19:56 2015
Totally agree Anna! I had in my head I had to have goats because I had to have my own milk so I started out with goats first thing on our farm, kept them for 3 years ,...They ate money! Lol! they seriously cost more than our pigs,,,tore up things,,again more so than even our pigs!..they are needy , had more health issues then I imagined and really sucked the time away...then i switch to dairy sheep.. which didn't tear things up but other than that was about the I tried lower input fainting goats which were better than the dairy goats but still sucked away my time with their mini dramas... gosh I love them but I was glad to see them leave today! I worked out a wonderful deal with a goat loving neighbor ... my duck eggs for her goat milk. So I get fresh milk but not the drama lol! Love farm barter!
Comment by angie Fri Jan 30 18:26:13 2015

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