Seven Things to Consider Before Purchasing Goats

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Goats and sheep are increasing in popularity. I want to share seven things to consider before purchasing goats, which could also apply to raising sheep. They are listed below:

  1. Determine the stocking rate. The stocking rate is the number of goats or sheep and is dependent on the amount of pasture or area for the goats/sheep to graze. A general rule of thumb is six to eight goats per acre and four to six sheep per acre.
  2. Fencing. Fencing is critical for raising goats. There is an old saying, “If it won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat.” I can attest to that. Goats are one of the harder animals to keep contained. It takes about 700 volts of electricity to control short-hair breeds of cattle, pigs, and horses. It takes about 2,000 volts of electricity for long-haired breeds of cattle, sheep, and goats. There are several fence options. High tensile fencing, woven wire, cable wire, and barbed wire are a few options, each with advantages and disadvantages. Woven wire is a commonly used fence option as a permanent fence, with three strands of electric wire running on the inside to keep goats in.
  3. Shelter. Goats are pretty hardy animals and most of the time only require shelter during periods of severe weather and during the kidding (lambing) season. There are lots of different options that can be used for shelters; hutches, barns, old poultry houses, etc. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional.
  4. Feed. Feed is usually the largest expense. Goats are browsers and prefer to eat above their head, unlike sheep that like to graze close to the ground. Goats need lots of roughage in their diet as they are ruminant animals. Concentrate feed should be supplemented when forage or hay animals are eating does not provide the correct amount of nutrients for the goat. Producers may have to supplement feed during gestation and lactation to keep the doe in ideal body condition. Hay may also need to be fed during the winter when not much is growing.
  5. Minerals. Minerals should be kept dry and available at all times for goats to free choice all year round. Producers can also provide trace mineralized salt blocks year-round. If you have both goats and sheep on the farm, feed a sheep mineral, as copper in goat mineral can be toxi to sheep.
  6. Water. The forgotten nutrient. It is essential for goats to have fresh water at all times. Water is the cheapest feed ingredient.
  7. Parasite management. Meat goats (primarily Boer breed) are susceptible to Haemonchus Contortus worms, also called Barber Pole worms. Southeastern USA has warm, humid weather, the ideal conditions to help the Barber Pole worm complete its life cycle and thrive. If you are purchasing Boer goats, think about cross breeding to Kiko or St. Croix to breed some resistance into the herd.

For more information, please contact Taylor Chavis, Extension Livestock Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by, or visit our website.