Domestic Goats: Man's Second Best Friend

Bob Olmstead talks about the benefits of domestic goats: the quality of their milk and cheese, the savings compared to raising cows, and more.

  • Domestic goat
    Human is a well-chosen word for all farm animals, the goat is by long odds the most nearly human. The goat family holds dances and plays games like Follow the Leader and King of the Mountain.

  • Domestic goat

Ah yes. That has to be the domestic goat. The goat was the first animal to be domesticated, besides the dog. And it still isn't really housebroken. This is a matter of the highest importance for he or she who would master a goat. Master a goat? Well I guess I have to use some word for it. Unlike other farm animals who meet danger (like you for instance) by running away, a goat's instinct is to face his enemy and dodge him. You can drive a cow, but as for the goat, to hell with it. The goat will come with you providing that you have something good for it. Something like leguminous hays and wheats and vegetables to eat.

Of all domestic dairy animals, the domestic goat has the widest range—from the Equator to within ten or fifteen degrees of the Poles. In severe climates the goat does need warm shelter but the Finns have settled that. The goat warms the family and the family warms the goat, in separate but equal stalls. One caution: The goat does need a chance to dry his hoofs every day or our caprine friend will develop hoof rot.

The goat has utility—he can survive and prosper in country that would starve a cow. With his leathery mouth and fantastic digestive system, there's mighty little a goat won't eat. True, some plants are poisonous to him (such as the False Hellebore, whatever that is) but it is only starvation which drives a goat to eat such.

There is an obvious hint for us admirers of the goat in all this. Almost any scrubby leftover land is good enough for this animal. And he's content in much smaller confines than the cow. Your backyard is plenty for a buck, a doe and a yearling. So long as you have the leguminous hay, the wheat, the alfalfa, and the vegetables. In theory it's quite all right to keep a goat in Seattle but beware of disturbing your middle class neighbors. Figure about 100 square feet per goat, about what you need for a human in an office.

Human is a well-chosen word for all farm animals, the goat is by long odds the most nearly human. The goat family holds dances and plays games like Follow the Leader and King of the Mountain. The bucks enjoy pretending to butt you, especially when you bend over. And sometimes it isn't pretense, as I found once when I was digging portholes. If a buck butts you, he immediately loses respect for you. So. With one hand you bend his head backwards to the backbone, with the other hand you twist his tail and you throw him on the ground. A lot of growers do this every two weeks to their bucks. Agricolan brutality. Yep.

Goats are famous leapers and can survive perfectly well in the wild. So build your fences at least five feet high. Electric fences must be three strand affairs.

May Lattanzio
1/7/2009 6:19:28 PM

Sorry - I disagree w/the part that goats can't be housebroken. I lived in the California desert, and the flies were so bad, my goat was milked in the kitchen. When that was done, she would always tiptoe through the house, checking the rooms and come back to the kitchen to be let out. Never had an accident. She, by the way, was a rescue. We used to take long walks - she was kept with our donkey. Donkey on a leadline, Flopsy following, and our German Shepherd off lead, taking up the rear. And sometimes a raven on my shoulder. (I was also doing raven rehab.) Wonderful memories. I am currently goatless, but would love to find an Alpine/Nubian cross or two. My Flopsy made wonderful mozzarella.

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