Goats- the good, the bad and the ugly…..
So picture yourself, an aspiring homesteader… (or if you rather like to think of yourself as sane, picture me I’m the homestead nut).
Walking out of the farmhouse on a warm late July afternoon, herding a gaggle of kids out of the house to the car parked in the driveway, only to find a few goats have taken over the porch. Yes, goats…on the porch. Not to mention the pebble poop, they are sure to leave behind. On, yes….. the porch. However after pushing with the door enough, they give in and move their laziness out of the way.
Upon stepping outside you realize two other goats, are standing in the middle of your once beautiful lilac bush. Half climbing half standing up on the branches. So now the scraggly looking lilacs look bent over and resemble something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Perfect. Goodbye beautiful.
So you hurry down the porch steps, to get the kids in the car and buckled (that way one herd is under control). However the moment you open the big sliding door, to the family van, it becomes a battle royale. 3 kids trying to squeeze in at once is normal. Typical sibling behavior. But today, in the blazing heat, with arms full of kid #4 and husband nowhere near to help. This day, the goats will also decide they are climbing in the van.
So with a low, or at least, severely reduced level of patience, you put the baby in his seat and proceed to try to get goats to get out. In the scuffle the two lilac destroying goats decide the tufts at the top of the bush no longer look nearly as exciting as the van party.
With all the goat wrestling commotion, hair is now a mess, a flip-flop is broken, patience is completely shot and the trip to town seems totally not worth it.
That’s when you realize….. Someone is here.
Great, a complete stranger has pulled in the gravel drive. How long have they been here? Did they just see everything? I’m sure I looked like a complete lunatic!
He introduces himself as a neighbor. The neighbors will now think they live next to the nut house. Cool, (insert embarrassed face here). So now angry at goats, hair is a mess, flip-flop broken, known as the local country nut and embarrassed, quite an accomplishment for 5 minutes!
Well, truth be told y’all that was me. That wasn’t the first nor the last times goats got the better of me. That was just the first time I totally embarrassed myself in front of a stranger, letting goats get the better of me.
Let me go back to when we were urban homesteaders. We looked forward to the day we could have goats. Goats seemed like so much fun, happy playful, productive. We always wanted goats for milk, and we thought they would be great for weed control too.
Well if you recall about 6 months after moving to our country Homestead we added goats. We started with 2 males Pygmy goats for weed control (or at least to help) then we added a young milk goat pair for breeding. That proved succesful, because in February Ariel (our female goat) had her first baby Endy (of course named by the kids, think it has something to do with Minecraft). So more than a year into this what have we learned? Are goats all they are cracked up to be?
So is many ways yes there is a lot of good about goats. Let me highlight a few of my favorites
- Easy to keep- When compared with other 4 legged creatures, goats are easy to keep. They don’t always need a ton of space, some cities and towns are even letting people keep goats! Feeding is a breeze, they (like chickens) can eat a lot of kitchen scraps like potato peels, carrot peels etc. They are great with garden waste. My goats love the woody parts of asparagus, and if I let some grow to long, I don’t feel as though I have wasted any. When we trim up bushes lilacs, trim back blackberry bushes or grape vines they get the leftovers and they love it. They of course get other things like alfalfa and some grains.
- Milk- We always thought we wanted goats for milk. Yes we were mostly used to cows milk, but keeping and breeding a cow just seemed like a whole lot more of an undertaking than to use goats. So Switching to goats milk hasn’t been much of a change for us. And even though one goat is not enough for a large family like ours, it does supplement us quite well. The biggest change for us was that everyone thought it was far creamier than store-bought cows milk like we were used to. We don’t notice the ‘goaty’ flavor everyone talks about. But we have learned milking females can’t run with unfixed males and get the milk cold ASAP and all is well. We also have a breed that is supposed to be one of the better tasting milks. We have been told goats milk makes amazing ice cream and even butter. We haven’t tried either but it sounds amazing.
- Weed control- Goats do provide some weed control, but perhaps not as much as we had hoped. They prefer bushes, shrubs, trees and flowering things far more than weeds. Certain weeds yes, but not as a goat favorite snack. However if you live in a very woody area this is perfect for goats.
- Personalities- Goats are very playful, and generally have great personalities. Yes they can also be stubborn. But there is not to many things greater than watching a baby goat play. Goats as generally easy to get along with so if you have a mixed herd goats will work quite well in that environment.
Goats are not all rainbows and butterflies. They can seriously get you irritated too. Just about everyone I know (that has goats) has at least one that is referred to as a jerk. We have one such goat. Hercules a fixed male Pygmy goat. He has proven very strong-willed. And escape master, a ring leader, an instigator. Luckily he is a male, fixed and his only real purpose is weed control. So mostly he gets left to do his thing and that works out fine.
- Training- The trick behind goats is like most animals or even children routines and training. You set them up with a routine and train them through that, the bad and irritating stuff is certainly less than the other way. So new animals and situations may make them difficult for a while but they will work though it, most of the time. This is always not, certainly not true with our Hercules, he is just ‘special’. However in most cases it is true.
- Kids are a handful- Young goats, kids, are a handful. In fact they stay a handful just about the first year of life. I guess like humans they mellow out as they become adults. However they can be problematic for a while. They don’t settle into routines quiet as well, they are still pretty defiant for a while. Their excessive energy and personalities can easily get them into trouble. However like puppies, kittens or children they tend to mature and get easier over time.
Well I don’t know there is to much you can just but under this category, however goats surely can be frustrating. When they are young, wild and untrained they can make you see red, that’s for sure. Or when they escape and head straight to eat your prized berry bushes or beautiful lilacs. However most of these things are temporary and have simple answers.
So are they worth it?
Well As they saying goes ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. So if goats are worth it, it would be each to their own opinion. We have days it has felt totally worth it. However others days, as I am sure I felt that hot July day, goats seem not even close to worth it. I guess in the end, either we do think they are worth it or we are just a glutton for punishment.
However I can say if you are looking for a way to have fresh milk, and you only have a small area they are great. Or better yet you have a woody area that you want help keeping maintained they are perfect. You want to easily be able to grow a little herd, that does not need long gestational periods, goats are perfect. You have/ want a mixed herd, goats are great. So for us yes they are worth it. They work in our situation, not always perfectly, I admit. But heck, what does always go perfectly. A little over a year we have grown our small herd, and with any luck this time next year we will have even more kids (goat kids that is). And I am sure I will have more moments where the goats have got the better of me. And a neighbor, or even myself, will think “Am I crazy? Why am I doing this?” But hey that’s life, grab it by the reigns, or maybe just the goat collar ♡♡♡
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