Dairy goats on pasture
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Top 5 Myths About Goats

We have learned so much about animal husbandry in the last 6 years of living in Tennessee. Having grown up in the city, I had limited exposure to livesock . When we got goats, I already had accepted some myths about goats as a working reality. What follows is the reality of what we found out once we started raising them. Here are the top 5 myths about goats and what we think about them.

Goats can and will eat anything.

I grew up in the generation that watched Saturday morning cartoons. There was always a horned billy goat eating a can! Until we actually got into goats, I believed this. 

In truth, goats are really very picky eaters! They have been known to turn their noses up at certain grasses and hay.  I have offered what I thought were treats, such as carrots or other vegetables, only to have a sniff and then they turn away.  

Goats out on pasture will typically stay away from plants that are noxious to them if they have plentiful access to the vegetation that is good for them.  The cases I have heard of where goats have become sick from eating poisonous plants were animals that had little vegetation in their area from which to choose. 

So where did this myth come from? This may have come from the fact that they will explore things with their mouths.  Have you ever gone into a petting zoo and had one nibble on your shirt?

In reality, you have to be very careful about what you feed goats. Their gender and age are important in determining what they can and should eat.  

For example, all goats need a steady supply of good, quality hay around the clock. This is imperative and essential. Understand, a goat is only as healthy as it’s rumen or digestive system. Hay helps them to stay well.  

However, in the case of grain, only young goats and does in milk need the extra calories in feed to help keep their weight up. If a goat eats too much grain, it can be toxic to them and even kill them.  

TRUTH:  Goats are picky eaters because it’s part of their instinct to know what they can and cannot eat to stay alive. 

Goats are good lawnmowers.

Along the lines of goats’ eating habits, if you were thinking of getting goats for the purpose of keeping your lawn trimmed, think again.  Another common misconception is that goats will nicely manicure your lawn. There are too many times to count that when I mention we keep goats, folks will respond with “Oh, that would be great to mow my lawn”. 

While goats do eat grass and will graze, their preference is actually browse.  This means they prefer bushes and trees to grass. They will always gravitate to those low-hanging maple or willow leaves over pasture.  

Additionally, even if they graze on pasture, they will never keep it cut low enough or consistent enough. Goat-eating patterns take them on a buffet trip of sorts.  They will eat a bit here, then a bit there.  This is another self-preservation eating habit. Even if they ingest something that they shouldn’t, they wouldn’t eat enough of it to actually adversely affect them. So, you are going to wind up with clumps of grass rather than a manicured yard.

TRUTH:  Goats are browsers. They prefer trees and bushes over grass. 

Dairy goats on pasture
Dairy goats (and LGD) on pasture.

Goat milk tastes disgusting or “goaty”

This one is a widely accepted myth and can even be perpetuated by goat owners!  This myth can be true… but it doesn’t have to be. 

We brought goats to our homestead as a source of milk and protein.  Goats are affordable to obtain and produce the right amount of milk for our home. 

However, we went to a local farmer to get a half gallon of raw goat milk to try before we made any decisions. You see, before we moved to Tennessee, we had bought goat milk in a local supermarket and tried that.  BIG MISTAKE. It was absolutely disgusting.  We wanted to try fresh goat milk.  It was delicious!

And so we began the journey with milk goats.  In the beginning, it was a hit-and-miss with our own milk.  Sometimes it would taste absolutely crazy delicious!  Other times it would taste like licking a goat. 

Over time, and with research, we found the solution. Raw goats’ milk tastes best under specific conditions. (For more in-depth information on this, you can read our blog on this.) But basically, by quickly chilling it, making sure all that touches the milk is clean, and by keeping your goat healthy, your milk will be rich, creamy, and goaty-free.  

The reason store-bought milk was gross was that store-processed goat milk needs to be pasteurized.  This heating process brings out the goat flavor. If you want delicious milk, raw milk tastes the best!

TRUTH:  Goat milk can taste goaty if their care, as well as milk collection and processing conditions, are not done properly. 

Goats are always trying to escape.

This is another one of those myths that can be perpetuated by goat owners.  However, there is an explanation for this as well!  

Having owned goats for a while now, there has only been one instance where our goats ever escaped.  It wasn’t even more than one!  We keep our buck and wether in their own pen area about 30 yards from our does.  

When breeding season came about, he got the notion to jump that 4 foot fence.  Yes, I do mean jump the fence.  We had to install a hot wire about 4 inches above the cattle panel all around to discourage that behavior.  It worked.  

The does, however, have ample space to roam in their “pasture”.  They are content with the amount of area they have to munch down.  They have a barn that they can go in and out of at any time.  They have never escaped or tried to escape.  That doesn’t mean that the time that the gate was left open they didn’t leave.  It just means that they are not ACTIVELY looking to get out.  

I also think this depends on the goat’s personality.  Our Lamanchas are pretty laid back and loveable.  It is possible to get that one goat that is the trouble maker.  In general, it shouldn’t be the case that they want to get out.  

TRUTH:  Goats, in general, don’t try to escape if they have everything they need.  If they do, it could also be a personality thing. 

Keeping goats
Month old baby Lamancha goats

Goats are easy to care for.

So, let’s define “easy to care for”. Taking care of goats means hoof trimming, copper deficiencies, zinc deficiencies, yearly CDT shots, proper diets, parasite control, staph infections… that’s just some of the things you need to know how to maintain or fix.  If you are good with that, then ok, they are ‘easy’. 

I really scratch my head with this statement. Honestly, I know folks that say they are… but I think that’s the folks that raise their goats in an arid area. Many of the goat breeds come from these type of areas.  

Living in the South, we live in a damp, humid climate.  Some goats have difficulty with parasite balance where parasites thrive in humidity.  You can breed for parasite tolerance, but you still have to watch them.  

My veterinarian (and others) commonly say “Goats and sheep are just looking for ways to die.”  Thankfully, as of this post, we have not had any die on us, but it doesn’t mean we haven’t had sick goats and/or our share of challenges. 

But for me, this is a lot of maintenance. So for this one, I’m going with “no”.  Now, chickens… THEY seem the easiest to care for! 

(Looking for fantastic goat care advice? Look no more. Just look here.)

TRUTH:  Goats have a lot of maintenance that needs to happen.  Generally, they are easy to care for, but only if you are willing to do the work and stay on top of it.

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