Do it, buy a goat
So, you’re considering taking the plunge and buying a goat – congratulations! Goats are the best. Now that I have my little herd, I can’t imagine life without them. Goats have been growing in popularity for the last several years as people worldwide focus on urban farming, self-sufficiency, and sustainability.
Goats come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Regardless of what goat-shaped hole you need to fill in your life, there’s a flavor for you.
Why are you buying a goat?
The first question you need to ask yourself about your goat purchase is: why? There are as many motivations for goat ownership as there are types of goats. Primarily people get goats for their milk, fiber, meat (yep, people across the world eat goats), or to keep as adorable and personable pets. However, they can be great pack animals for hiking or hunting, as companions for other herd animals, cart pullers (no joke, this is a thing), and even serve as sacrificial lambs for more valuable animals. I’m not making that last thing up; that’s why fainting goats faint.
So, first on your list is to figure out why you want a goat. Any of the above reasons are fine ones – even if you want a goat just to add some fun to your Instagram account – that’s valid too! I bought goats for several reasons, most of which surround milk. Growing up lactose intolerant, I drank goat’s milk as a child. I grew out of my lactose issues, but not my love for the taste of goat’s milk. Milk is also the base of cheese.
The Benjamin Franklin quote: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” would ring more true for me if you replaced the word “beer” with “cheese.”
What kind of lifestyle do you have?
Once you decide why you want a goat, the next step is to analyze what will fit practically in your life. This includes all the various aspects of goat ownership, how much time you have to allocate to your goat, what your budget looks like, how much room you have, etc.
Evaluate the goat housing situation – space, fence, and shelter. If you’re looking for milk but don’t have the room for full-sized dairy goats, look to the miniature breeds. I own, breed, and love Miniature Lamanchas, a smaller version of their dairy counterparts.
My favorite doe came from a woman who keeps goats in the back yard of her very normal-looking suburban home. Check your local zoning to see what’s allowed. Remember, you need at least two goats. I cannot stress this enough. Goats are herd animals, and if you get only one, it will scream. A lot. All night. Trust me on this.
Goats are notorious escape artists, and a fence is weirdly expensive. Having a pen or pasture that’s escape-proof will save you lots of time running around the neighborhood trying to find your escapee and potential heartache later.
Luckily, goats are simple in terms of their housing needs. My minis love their Dogloos (those igloo dog houses), and my bigger goats have a simple loafing shed. There are tons of DIY pallet goat house tutorials online if you have a weekend.
Next, ask yourself what kind of time and money you have to dedicate to your endeavor of being a goat shepherd.
Meat, pet, and other lifestyle goats take much less time than dairy goats (because you don’t have to milk every day) and can be as easy to keep as a dog. Dairy goats take more time, but again, cheese. Decide if you want a doe (female), a buck (an unaltered male), or a wether (a castrated male).
Goats can be relatively inexpensive keepers if you access to pasture, and the actual buying of a goat is hardly the only expense. There are endless blogs on how to save money on goat feed and how to do basic veterinary care. If you live in an area where it’s allowed, you can sell milk to offset some costs. Whenever my husband complains about our feed bills, I threaten to buy a horse instead.
How to start your search when buying a goat
Once you’ve figured out why you want goats and considered the more practical aspects of goat ownership, it’s time to start the search.
First, narrow down what you want in terms of your preferred breed. Consider size, purpose, and temperament. Find stories and articles from other people who have goats for the same reason you want them. See what breeds they have and why. Both you and your new goatie friends will be happier with your relationship if you start off the bat with the right breed to fit your needs.
When you find a breed you like, start by checking out the association dedicated to them. The American Dairy Goat Association covers many of the “old school” dairy breeds. In my case, both the Miniature Dairy Goat Association (MDGA) and The Miniature Goat Registry (TMGR) register Miniature Lamanchas. The American Boer Goat Association covers the meat Boer goats. The National Pygmy Goat Association is for the smaller meat goats, pygmies.
Some people choose to not worry about registrations when buying a goat, others pay close attention to it. I have found that selling kids is easier and will bring a better price with registered stock, but it all depends on what you’re looking for in your life.
Most breeds have Facebook groups of enthusiasts dedicated to them as well. See if there is a breeder in your area who will let you visit and meet their animals. It’s happened to me more than once that I go to “just look” and end up buying a goat.
The most expensive part of owning a goat is maintenance. It’s better to get exactly the animal you want and pay a little more for it on the front end than to wish you had later. One of my goat mentors said it best: “It costs to same to feed the right goat as it does to feed the wrong one.” Make sure to get yourself the right goat.
Where to look for goats
Buying a goat is a process. I’ve found goats for sale on Craigslist and farm websites. Also, your state or area probably has a goat Facebook group or even several. Facebook has a prohibition against animal sales, but goat people will say that a goat is “looking for new pastures” or is “up for discussion.” That language is the indicator a goat is for sale as a way to thwart the rules. Usually, through the search process, you will meet people – and if they don’t have what you’re interested in, they might know someone else who does.
When presented with a cute photo of a goat, it’s hard not to purchase every single one that becomes available. I promise it’s so much better, in the long run, to be smart and deliberate in the purchase process and get THE RIGHT goat, and not just A goat. Now, go get your goat.