Free goats

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Quint, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    I have been offered some goats at a very reasonable price - free. 7 of them to be exact plus whatever get born between now and summer. I can have one or all of them. I don't know thing one about goats other than they will eat pretty much anything. I have been told that there is a certain number of goats a person should own. Too few and they aren't happy and get lonely and too many and they can get out of hand. I have a few questions for you goat folks.

    Are there any rules for how large or small your goat herd should be or was I told an old wives tale or something

    What kind of fencing should I put up?

    What are the requirements as far as shelter go? Are they pretty hardy?

    I've got a few spots I wouldn't mind getting cleared off but once that is gone how much do goats eat? For that matter what is their preferred food? Can I just feed them like I would cattle?

    What kind of temperament do goats have? Are they easy to work with?

    A 2 or 3 of the herd are nanny goats. How much do they produce a day and do you have any advice for using goat milk? Is it really necessary to pasteurize their milk? My parents never pasteurized milk from their cows.

    I'm open to any advice and suggestions.
  2. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 24, 2003

    Not sure where you live but winter feed bills can be expensive in northern climes and the biggest difference between a cow and a goat is that a goat has a faster metabolism and cannot have moldy hay.

    They wont eat everything either. In fact they can be downright fussy. And you want to be fussy about what they eat if you will be consuming meat and milk.

    Are these animals free because they tested positive for disease? What's the deal?

  3. Helena

    Helena Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    north central Pennsylvania
    I would also check into why ?? they are free before you go to see them and fall in love with the goats...easy to do. If only a few are "nannies"..or does the rest must surely then be bucks. I wouldn't want to handle 3-4 large bucks that haven't grown up with you. We have a few bucks...but they know us. They can sometimes get pretty protective of their "ladies". I guess what upsets me..not with you personally but...that people think of goats as the usual cartoon character goats. They'll eat anything..wouldn't you if you were hungry ?? They need cared for just as any animal or person would that depends on you for the basic living. They will need good feed and hay to produce good milk for you to drink. Can they be hand milked or are they in such bad shape..the would be hard. Any sickness among the goats..?? Who knows..does the now owner have any ideas on recent illnesses ?? AND do they have horns or not. I would not recommend taking any goat that has horns. Of course there are aways exceptions to this rule. good fencing is a must !! They are like magicians !! least mine always are and the ones that insist on escaping no matter how great a goat they are...are shipped out from the homestead. Can't afford to have my gardens eater by them !! Shelter, good clean, water and grainis a must. They aren't animal lawn mowers to be let free to wander and live their life off the land without some help from you. If it sounds too good to be true...check it out carefully..please.
  4. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

    Jun 19, 2004
    Where are you? Can you find an experienced goat person to go with you and take a look at these animals, someone who knows what questions to ask? As a beginner with goats, the last thing you need is animals that have health problems, especially something that might contaminate the soil and infect any other goats you bring on the place in years to come. Sometimes "free" animals are the most expensive kind!

    Goats need EXCELLENT fencing. There are several kinds that will work -- chain link, the no-climb horse fencing, and 52" combi-cattle panels (small holes down if you are going to have kids). They can get by in all but the harshest climates with a well-bedded three-sided shed, with the open side away from prevailing winds. You really need to have at least two goats, as otherwise a lone goat will cry constantly. But I've never heard of any upper limit on numbers. Some commercial farms and ranches have hundreds or even thousands of goats.

    Do yourself a favor and arrange their manger so you can fill it without going inside the pen -- goats can be rather enthusiastic about feeding time, and without in the least meaning you any harm, could trample you. Also, cut a head-sized hole in the fence and put the water *outside* the pen. If it's inside, they'll poop and pee in it, then refuse to drink it. You'll have to scrub the water bucket out every single day. If it's outside the pen, it will still need to be cleaned, but probably only once a week. Goats will nibble on and taste a lot of things, but they are extremely picky eaters. If their food has been the least bit soiled, they won't eat it. So it's really important that none of them can get into the feeder, or even get their front feet into it. There are directions for several different types of feeders that will work in the various goat books -- you should be able to find at least one book at the library. I made a keyhole feeder for my girls; the buck and wether stick their heads through a hog panel to get at their food.

    Goats can jump higher than you can possibly imagine, especially a buck if there is a girl in heat. I just got a half Oberhasli and half Boer doe who was supposed to be registered Oberhasli, but the Boer buck jumped over the cattle panel fence to get at Opal's mother. So even those chunky, short-legged ones can jump pretty high!

    You asked how much milk the does will give. It depends. If they are ill, have had mastitis, are malnourished, or are just badly bred, they may not give any milk at all, or at least not enough to even feed their kids. If they are of excellent dairy breeding, healthy and well-fed, they might give two gallons a day or more with proper care. But they likely wouldn't be going for free if that was the case. I would guess more likely the first option. An average decent large-breed dairy doe, healthy and well-cared-for, will most likely give you anywhere from six to twelve pounds of milk a day, or three to six quarts.

    Even while they are eating your brush down, they are going to need fed. They should have hay available at all times, and if any are milking, pregnant, or growing rapidly, they also need some grain. If they were eating only what you gave them, on average a large doe needs five to seven pounds or so of hay per day (alfalfa if you can get it), and if she's milking she's going to need a pound of grain at each milking for the first couple of quarts of milk she gives, plus an extra pound of grain for every two pounds of milk she gives over that. Dry does still need a pound or two of grain per day if they are pregnant or growing. You have to watch their condition. Some does are easy keepers and will stay fat on grass hay and a pound of grain, and others, especially heavy milkers, can't possibly eat enough to maintain their weight while they are in milk.

    If that lot of 'free' goats includes doe kids and bucks, you may have some doe kids kidding when they are really too young, and it will stunt their growth.

    Let us know what you decide to do -- unless they are healthy, you will probably be much better off buying a couple of does from a reputable breeder.

  5. mary,tx

    mary,tx Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 4, 2002
    What breed of goats are these? Are they Dairy animals, or boer, spanish, angora...? I would definitely not bring home a bunch of bucks. Normally with a small herd like this, you would not keep more than one buck, and that one separate from the does. Bucks can be VERY difficult to manage--you'd probably not want any buck to be your first goat.

    I would also be interested to know what the issues with these particular goats are. Are they tame? Have they ever been CAE tested? Are their hooves overgrown so that you could maybe never get them back in shape? Are they horned?

    Good fencing is a must for goats. We use field fencing. They need to always have access to shelter. Especially when it is wet or there is otherwise not enough graze/browse, you will have to supply hay. You would want to find out from the current owner what other feed they are accustomed to.
  6. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

    May 4, 2002
    South Central Michigan
    I guess before I answered any questions I would be asking some. First off, why do you want the it just because they are free? If you have been wanting goats for a while, I would suggest you really do some research regarding goats. Temperments, production of milk and meat, fiber etc. are all variable based on breeds and previous handling.

    Your original statement about goats eating most anything is in error and starts you off at a disadvantage.

    I would suggest you get to know some goat herders in your area. Visit them and speak with them about their herd management etc. Just suddenly getting 7 or more free goats looks like a recipe for disaster to me. Free can be very not free if you have no management experience, improper fence etc. JMHO

    We have a whole goat forum on this board by the way. Sitting down and reading through a bunch of those threads would be a good start.
  7. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

    Dec 7, 2002
    Dysfunction Junction
    Have you ever driven by a prison and noticed those high fences with concertina wire spiraled along the top?

    Well, one of those fences MIGHT hold a goat in (providing there wasn't anything tasty to eat on the other side!). :haha:

    Seriously ... give this proposal some some thorough consideration before making up your mind. That's a lot of animals (and expense ... even if they ARE free ... hay and grain are expensive!) to take in all at once, especially if you aren't prepared (fencing is expensive ... replacing your shrubbery and fruit trees after the goats have escaped and eaten everything in sight in the course of an afternoon ... that's VERY expensive!). (Guess how I know these things!)

    Regarding the old wives' tale that goats will eat anything: I have a good friend, up in his 70s, whose parents had a nanny goat when he was growing up. One day, he and his brother were blowing up stumps on the farm. They turned their backs, and the nanny ate a stick of dynamite! Sadly, it killed her ... :(

    If there is an ornamental plant, tree or shrub that goats WON'T eat, I have yet to discover it. They seem to be particularly fond of raspberries, lilacs, fruit trees and this year they got out and debarked a young white pine in my yard. :(

    P.S. Bucks smell REALLY BAD during rutting season!
  8. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 13, 2004
    Middle of nowhere along the Rim, Arizona
    Be aware goats can carry diseases that can affect YOU -- tuberculosis, brucellosis, and CL are the big nasties, campylobacter in the milk can give you food poisoning if you drink it raw, etc.

    I'm getting a doe kid in the next few weeks, from a breeder who is at least knowledgeable about disease and culls anything that looks suspicious. I'm paying appropriately for her, too, $50 for a kid that's still on the bottle, but that's worth it to have a healthy goat.

    I've looked at does in milk from OTHER breeders that were cheaper than this mixed-breed (boer-x-alpine) kid and found signs of disease. One doe was from a herd where there was an aborted fetus in the pen (just slipped minutes before) AND the doe I was looking at had a nasty cough and abcesses under her jaw and flank, all signs of CL. Wasn't surprised by CL, it's endemic out here. I WAS surprised that the owner was completely clueless and had no idea what CL even was, and was drinking the doe's milk ... raw ... and giving it to his kids. He and his family have a combined total of several dozen goats, so it's not like they only have a few back yard nannies. Just simple lack of knowledge ... "grandpa did it this way, we will to ..." he had no plans to test for disease on the slipped kid, either.

    I'm not saying don't take the goats, but I am saying if you do, be prepared to spend the $$$ to test for disease and cull ALL of them if needed.

    The other thing to be aware of is that goats are HARD on fencing. Others have said the same thing. I will stress this, reiterate it, yell it at the top of my lungs. I've had goats butt holes in 1/2" plywood panels with 2X4s 16" apart. I've had goats bust through chain link kennel panels. I've had goats DESTROY chain link gates. Electric fencing is helpful, but I've had goats with horns learn to hook the wire with their horns (which apparently don't get shocked) and rip it loose. I've had big goats learn to chase little goats through electric crossfencing.

    They're also incredibly smart ... I have one named "Houdini" and people who know goats probably don't need me to explain how he got his name. But the short list of examples of his skills include chewing through horse leads, lifting latches, unsnapping bull snaps, those rock-climbing clips, "safety" horse snaps, untwisting tie wire used to secure a gate, and unbuckling a dog collar used to secure a gate. I won't use padlocks on my gates (and I wouldn't put it past him to learn the combination! :haha:), and the only way I've managed to keep him inside a gate is to put the latch/clip/lock/etc. where he can't REACH it.

    They can be accident prone, Houdini is missing a toe in the back (and is foundered subsequent to that) because he tried to CLIMB the fence and got hung up on it.

    OTOH ... "free" goats do exist. All my wethers (and a few bucks that I neutered after getting them) so far have been given to me -- and all are clean of disease -- because I use the wethers as pack animals, and the owners knew they were going to good homes, not my freezer. (Though there are times when I threaten Houdini with that fate.)

  9. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    OK here is the story about the goats.

    A friend of mine knows the folks that have them. They are going to be moving and are getting rid of their animals. I was interested in their chickens and cow but they are butchering them and taking them with them. He told me that they had 7 goats that I could have if I wanted them. I am told they are in good health and they used them for milk, meat and as pets. I would assume they are relatively tame. I have no idea what type of goats they are.

    My idea was to take them and fence in a couple of overgrown brushy areas I wanted cleared off and let them go to work. I would supplement that with whatever goats care to eat. I have access to plenty of hay from my land so feed shouldn't be that much of a problem if they eat hay. Like I said, I don't know thing one about goats. The ones I have been around were pretty ornery and wanted to eat everything from paper to my shirt. My plan was to let them clear whatever they could and then I would slaughter the males for meat and the does I might keep for milk if I decide I like goat milk. It would be an experiment and learning experience more than anything else. If I decided I want to raise goats then I would have some free stock to start with and if not I'd have a freezer full of goat meat.
  10. mary,tx

    mary,tx Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 4, 2002
    Goats love brush best. They will still need shelter.

    You will like the goat's milk best if the does are not running with the bucks.
    It's the bucks that stink, a very pervasive smell that can end up ruining the taste of your does' milk while they are running together. Also, before you try their milk, study up on the proper way to take care of it. People have told me they hate goats' milk, and liked it after trying mine. It's all in the way you do it.
  11. renabeth

    renabeth Well-Known Member

    Aug 7, 2002
    Take the goats-THEY'RE FREE! Just don't let them get out and cause damage to someone else's property because that could cost you. Other than that, I wouldn't worry about it. (I wish someone would give ME some goats.) HINT HINT