Raising Goats on a Backyard Farm

Transform your backyard into a farm perfect for raising goats using this tried and true guide and, in no time, enjoy fresh goat milk among other benefits.

  • Get-Your-Goat-Cover
    “Get Your Goat” is a complete handbook for keeping all breeds of goats in your backyard, whether you’re in a rural, urban, or suburban setting. The author’s invaluable experience keeping goats in a unique setting is at the heart of this incredibly useful, practical guide.
  • Backyard-Goats-Get-Your-Goat
    Happy goat farms make for happy goats.

  • Get-Your-Goat-Cover
  • Backyard-Goats-Get-Your-Goat

Is a backyard goat farm right for you? You do not need to live on huge acreage, but you do need time, passion and a sense of humor to make your backyard farm a paradise for raising goats. Brent Zimmerman’s Get Your Goat (Quarry Books, 2012) answers all your questions about keeping goats for milk, meat, fiber or companionship. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4, “Goat Needs.” 

Evaluating Your Space

Do you have the space to keep goats? To raise happy, healthy goats, you will need room in your backyard for a goat pen and a goat house, as well as storage space for the goats’ food and other goat-related supplies such as straw. And you must know what to do with all that soiled goat bedding that you will clean out at least two or three times a year.

Planning Your Backyard Farm

How much room you need will depend on how many goats you will house. Each goat should have ample floor space for sleeping, generous space at the feeding trough, and access to an outdoor enclosure. If you are breeding your goats, keep in mind that your herd could double or triple each spring. (For more details, see “Backyard Goat Housing” further along in this article.)

  • The placement of the goat enclosure within your backyard is also an important decision. In a farm setting, the placement of the enclosure is determined more by convenience than science; it may be simply a fenced pasture attached to the barn. In a smaller setting, you’ll have to think more carefully about where you are going to set up your goat area, giving consideration to your goats, your neighbors, and of course, yourself.
  • A goat’s pen should have areas of both sun and shade, which can be provided by an overhang attached to their housing or a large tree.
  • It should have protection from strong winds. The goats’ pen should be attached to the goats’ house, where they will also seek shelter from the elements.
  • The goats’ pen should be free of ornamental plantings and exotic grasses. Other plants such as ferns, rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel are poisonous to goats. If there are young trees in the enclosure, they should be well protected (that is, fenced); otherwise, the goats will make a quick meal out of them.

Plants may be poisonous or cause negative effects for several reasons, and the level of toxicity depends on several factors, including the stage of growth of the plant, which part of the plant the animal consumed, how much was ingested, and for some plants, at what stage of decay the plant was eaten.

The Danger of Toxic Plants

Cyanogenic plants such as milkweed, mountain laurel, pit stone fruits, and leaves interfere with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Death is usually very rapid. Photodynamic poisoning is usually more of a concern for animals with areas of unpigmented skin. Rape and St. John’s wort are photodynamic plants. When they are eaten in large amounts, sores develop on the skin when exposed to sunlight. Other plants, such as ferns, if consumed in large amounts may cause internal hemorrhaging.

Contact your local health department or agricultural extension agency for a list of poisonous plants in your area.

5/29/2012 11:49:49 AM

I think this article misleads readers as to the space required for healthy goats. Like any grazing animal, they need adequate pasture. I've known several people who jumped into keeping 4-6 goats in a 1000 sq ft pen and found out the hard way that they don't really do well on just hay and grain.

Kristin Whitaker
5/23/2012 3:06:34 PM

We love our backyard goats! i would emphasize a few things to newbies: goats are social, you NEED more than one or they will bawl loudly all the time! Make sure you know a good hay source before you start. Hay prices have shot up lately and it is essential you have a plan to buy and store it. Also, if you are getting goats for milk, lay out a breeding program before you start. The hardest part for us is matchmaking every fall to ensure we have babies in the spring. Those are just a few tips to consider before you start. Goat are awesome!!

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