Some things to think about for your current or future goats on your off grid homestead.
Goats can be a blessing or a curse so be careful and do your research before inviting them onto your farm.
Goats provide more than one blessing to a homestead. They can provide milk and dairy products, clear brush, provide fiber, and meat. They are fun to watch, social creatures and can be livestock companions for the other friends of the farm. Dairy goats are especially fun with pleasant personalities.
Caring for Goats:
Goats are simple mountain critters. They don't need complex housing. As long as its clean, dry, well-ventilated and draft-free they'll be happy.
NOTE: Keep in mind they like to climb and bounce around so make sure anything the goats can touch is strong enough for them to stand on.
Make sure with your goat house you consider:
In general, you don't want your goats next to your garden or that's the first place they'll go.
You want it close enough to the house to monitor the goats, but you shouldnt need to go out there many times per day to check on them as long as everything is set up right. Still, cold nights make for long walks if the goats are too far from home.
An open floor plan is better for housing, feeding, and living space so that goats don't get caught in corners. This also makes the cleaning process go by a lot faster.
Goats will test all fences, walls, roofs, barriers, trees, etc. They want to climb everything and will stop at nothing to see what life is like on the other side of the fence. Fences need to be tall and sturdy. woven wire and electric fencing are popular choices. With the electric fences, I recommend using solar panels to power them.
Goat fences are only as good as you build them so take the time to build them well. That said, once you've built a fence, throw a bucket of water against it. If the water gets out, so will the goat.
Fresh clean water is a MUST for goats. Especially in the dry and desert areas. Dairy goats drink even more water to produce milk and take care of young so don't skimp on their water rations. You don't have to go crazy with the water delivery system as long as its clean and full at all times. a 5 Gal bucket can be fine.
If your area gets cold enough to freeze, make sure your water stays wet so that they have something to drink all winter long as well. There are automatic systems as well if you're looking for even more hands off approach.
Goats don't eat grass and leaves like people think. Sheep and cows do. Goats graze. This means they prefer the woody tough plants and want a diverse range of plants, shrubs, trees, and anything they can get their mouths on to stay healthy. If you don't have the space to give adequate browse to all your goats, alfalfa, hay, and grains can supplement their diets.
Hay should be high quality grass based and no mold or moisture. During milking season the grains and alfalafa are especially important to provide vitamins, minerals, and protein. Grains include barley, corn, and oats.
A salt lick is important as well to make sure the goats are getting enough minerals and salts in their diets.
Some Quick Notes:
Breeds in a nutshell
Savannah goats like hot weather (meat goats)
Nubian Dwarves produce a lot of milk and easier to handle (small size)
For more information on Goat Breeds on homesteads check out this resource.
A good book for additional information on goats: Living with Goats: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Herd by Margaret Hathaway.
Written by: Page Ollice
Founder of Good Old Fashioned, Page has spent over 7 years researching off grid and sustainable living techniques to design one master project: A self reliant homestead in New Mexico that takes into account shelter, water, fuel, food, waste management, heat/cooling, and electricity. He is putting all his notes online open source for public use so that anyone can follow his plans to building their own autonomous, self-reliant homestead.
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