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Goodness Gracious Great Goats Alive!
You’d be hard-pressed to find a homestead livestock animal as multifunctional as the glorious goat. And let me tell you, while I am definitely not a fan of goats on a personal level, I’m the first to admit that what they bring to a small farm or homestead is virtually unrivaled by any other livestock animal breed.
But what is it that makes goats so great?
Goats are Great in the Pasture
With almost any animal you’re going to have to check for dangerous weeds, but goats are a lot less picky when you ask them to forage for their food. Horses and sheep have surprisingly sensitive stomachs. Goats will happily clear out safe-to-eat weeds, scrub brush, and even prickly berry bushes. We’ve even watched our goats tackle sticker bushes, thorny weeds, and nettle without care. They are actually known to prefer these harsher varieties of plants to even lush, green grasses, meaning your pasture land is clear of weeds that can upset your horse’s stomach while leaving the grass it loves to eat.
Give a small herd of two or three goats a pasture to clear and it’ll be free of scrub and brush before you know it. Plus, they provide green manure that helps to improve soil quality. In fact, rotational pasturing is a great way to help replenish heavily farmed soil!
Goats Provide for the Family
The versatility that a few goats can bring to a homestead’s output is unbelievable. You can use them as dairy animals for goat milk, cheese, and even soaps. Fiber goats provide high-quality fiber for spinning and fiber art. Meat goats can be butchered and provide a hearty boost to your red meat supplies. Hybrid breeds can provide two or more of these qualities all in a single goat!
A Great Companion
Goats are hugely social animals. They want to be with other beings – whether human or animal. If you have animals that are struggling to make friends on your farm, get a goat. They’re not picky. They’ll be best friends with anyone because they love to be in a herd. And you don’t have to limit them to others of their kind! They’ll be friends with horses, pigs, sheep… our girls are even friends with our ducks and chickens! When the coop erupts in a flurry of feathers, it’s the goats that get there first to check on their fine feathered friends and make sure that nothing is seriously wrong.
The Hardest Workers
Right along with being the best friends in your barnyard, a well-trained goat can be a priceless work companion. They make excellent pack animals. Sturdier breeds can handle a good-sized pack and will follow you out to work far afield. Their steadiness on their feet means you don’t have to worry that they’ll slip and hurt themselves – they’ve got an uncanny sense of balance. Take care, however. Training goats can be a real challenge.
The key is to understand that your goats want to create a relationship of trust between you and them. They need to know that you will listen when they hesitate or resist an idea. They want to help. If they refuse to follow then, chances are, there is a danger that you aren’t aware of yet. Never force your barnyard friend to do something when you’re trying to train them. This breaks the trust you’ve built and you’ll likely have to begin their training all over again!
Lastly, farming goats for meat is a hugely profitable business. The animals themselves are worth more than both cattle and sheep. Plus, because they are so good at foraging for their own food, feed costs are significantly less than for other types of meat livestock. The Boer breed is the most popular and easily purchased breed out there for meat farming. They are generally well natured which makes them great for homesteads with children and are easy to work with making them ideal for 4H projects.