Whether or not goats make good companion animals is a subjective question. Like any animal, there are many give-and-take factors to caring for goats. Goats are hilarious creatures and are deeply social, bonding closely with their herd mates and their caregivers. But they also require a great deal of time, space, attention, and expenses. Whether goats are compatible with your lifestyle depends on what you value in a companion animal, and how much time and resources you have to put towards their care.
Goats are a joy to spend time with! These charming animals tend to be bolder than sheep, friendly, like dogs, but slightly aloof, like cats. If properly socialized and gently trained, goats can walk on a leash and halter, and can even go for outings. Especially confident goats can join you for hikes and even backpacking trips! Like all animals, goats are individuals with unique personalities.
Being herd animals, it’s extremely important that goats have companions of the same species. Solo goats are more likely to become lethargic, depressed, and obese. Having at least one friend gives goats the opportunity to be social, play, exercise, and enjoy their lives. So if you’re going to bring these animals into your lives, you’ll need at least two.
While it might be tempting to simply throw goats onto your property, these prey animals need safety and security. Goats are vulnerable to predators, including coyotes, mountain lions, and more. Even loose dogs can seriously injure or kill a goat. This is why fencing, safety, and containment are extremely important. You’ll need to research fencing and find a fence that is both safe and effective.
Goats need a sturdy barn or shelter that can be locked up at night to prevent predator attacks. For those living in rural areas, a livestock guardian dog can serve as an additional safety measure.
Hoof Care and Medical Care
Farmed animals are often seen as low-maintenance pets, and many people deny them routine veterinary care. But just like any other companion animals, goats need individualized care to keep them healthy and thriving.
Goats are hooved animals, so they need to see a farrier regularly, just like horses do. Without regular hoof care, goats’ hooves can become long, cracked, overgrown, and uncomfortable. They can even develop abscesses and foot rot, leading to serious health issues. Depending on their environment, goats will need to see a farrier every 4-6 weeks. Learning to trim hooves yourself requires a great deal of time and education to avoid making problems worse. You’ll need to factor hoof care into your budget for caring for goats.
Goats can be hardy animals, but they still need to see a veterinarian periodically for routine health exams. They’ll also need to be treated with dewormer regularly, which is something you can do at home, but is another cost to consider.
It’s also important to note that simply grazing is not likely going to be enough sustenance for goats- especially during the dry season. You’ll have to provide supplemental feed for most of the year. When you add it all together, goats are not cheap to care for!
Goat Behavior & Enrichment
Goats are curious, merry, and playful animals by nature. These intelligent creatures are descendants of wild ruminants who could roam many miles and climb to great heights every single day. It’s no wonder that goats are easily bored in an unchanging environment! Luckily, there are steps you can take to make their lives more interesting.
Ideally, goats need a pasture to roam. If you live on a wide expanse of land, rotating pastures seasonally can offer goats an ever-changing environment as well as fresh grass to graze. Boulders and rocks are a fantastic source of enrichment, as these animals love to climb. You can also incorporate DIY playground items, recycled extra-large tires, picnic tables, platforms, and logs to maximize the amount of vertical space in your goats’ enclosure.
Changing enrichment items is the key to a happy life for most animals. Food puzzles and slow feeders meant for dogs can provide a challenge for goats at mealtime. Stationary brushes can give goats the opportunity to scratch themselves whenever they wish. Enrichment items for goats are endless!
Using patience and plenty of treats, you can also train your goats to walk on a leash attached to a collar or halter. Walks offer goats the opportunity to be mobile and explore places that would be unsafe for them to roam freely.
Socialization is a lifelong process, and you can continue to socialize your goats by sitting with them, reading to them, hand-feeding them, and brushing them if they are interested in physical contact.
If you’ve done your research on goat care and have decided that these animals are for you, it’s time to start figuring out how you’re going to bring goats into your life!
It might be tempting to save animals from an auction yard, but animals from auctions are often sick. By adopting goats from a reputable rescue group or animal sanctuary, you can ensure the goats are healthy and seek out specific temperaments. These groups will also help you be sure that your setup is ready for goats, and answer any questions you may have about caring for these animals. Plus, if the adoption doesn’t work out, reputable sanctuaries and rescue groups will always allow you to return animals to their care.
Male kids are discarded by dairy farms because they cannot produce milk, so there are countless opportunities to adopt rescued kids. Why not rescue your new goats and save lives?