If there’s one animal everyone seems to associate with “cute,” it’s the humble goat.
They’ve starred in movies like The Little Mermaid and Shrek, and have been depicted on everything from T-shirts to greeting cards. If you’re looking for a new pet, goats might just be your thing.
Here are 11 facts about these curious little creatures that may convince you to add one or several to your household.
1. Goats Need Hay
“Hay” refers to the roughage goats eat to help them digest food. It also serves as bedding for them and provides insulation against extreme temperatures (in winter) and excessive heat (in summer).
You’ll find this type of bedding at most big-box stores and online retailers, but you don’t necessarily need to buy something fancy. Just pick up a bag of cut alfalfa hay, which is what many dairy farmers use to feed their animals. In fact, if you’re interested in keeping livestock, you should know how to identify different types of hay.
In general, goats require roughly 1 pound of hay per 100 pounds of body weight daily. However, you can adjust this ratio depending on whether they’re being fed grass or grain. Also, remember that goats need more hay during the colder months.
It takes around three weeks for hay to break down completely into the nutrients needed by goats’ digestive systems. So it won’t last very long. Fortunately, hay doesn’t need to be refrigerated, although you shouldn’t store it for longer than six months.
2. Goats Need Shelter from the Rain
While goats are typically kept outside, they do need protection from inclement weather. This means they need shelter from both cold and hot extremes.
Keep them indoors during extremely hot days, especially those over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. And if it starts raining heavily, bring them inside to protect themselves from lightning. After all, goats aren’t made of steel.
3. Goats Need Water
Just like humans, goats need clean drinking water. But unlike us, goats drink directly out of streams, ponds, and other sources without using any sort of filter system. That means you must ensure that whatever source you choose has enough room for the goats to access it comfortably.
Also, since goats naturally graze throughout the day, you’ll need additional water for washing dishes and cleaning the house. A bucket or two placed near the barn will suffice, provided it’s large enough to hold the amount of waste produced by multiple animals.
4. Goat Milk Is Delicious!
Goats are known mostly for providing our society with meat, cheese and fiber, but they also produce milk. Much like cow milk, goat milk contains less fat and cholesterol than human milk. Some people believe goat milk is better for you, while others claim it tastes better. Whichever side of the fence you stand on, we recommend trying it before buying a goat to see how well your family likes it.
5. Don’t Feed Goats Plants
This goes for both grazing areas and indoor housing. Plants grown specifically for consumption by goats are toxic. Any plant you put in your goat’s feeding trough or cage will likely end up getting eaten anyway.
So unless you really love goats and plan on raising them yourself, don’t bother growing anything for them. They’ll survive just fine eating the weeds and grasses they consume every day.
6. Goats Have Fleas So You’ll Probably Want Some Kind of Flea Treatment
Fleas are common parasites found on almost all domesticated animals. While you might think they only harm larger animals, smaller ones such as rabbits, cats and dogs are susceptible to them too. Fleas cause itching and irritation to their hosts, and can potentially spread diseases through contact with infected animals.
To prevent fleas from infesting your goat(s), try treating them with a topical insecticide. Follow product instructions carefully, and watch for signs of skin rash, breathing problems, nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting. If your animal shows any symptoms after applying the medication, seek medical attention immediately.
7. Goat Poop Isn’t That Bad
A lot of people freak out when they see someone walking behind their horse carriage carrying a giant pile of manure, but goats actually produce much less poop than horses. For example, a healthy adult goat produces around 0.25 pounds of feces per week, compared to a horse’s 4.5 pounds.
While it does smell nasty, goat poop is generally easier to dispose of than dog or cat poop. Plus, you can compost it. Simply bury it on the farm where goats are kept, and leave it there until it decomposes completely.
8. You can even eat it
People often get upset when they spot stray goats wandering around town, or roaming free in parks. But in reality, goats are herbivores who rely on vegetation for their diet. Sure, they occasionally nibble on shrubs and small trees, but their main meal is grass.
Because of this, they’re perfectly safe to roam freely in areas where they’re allowed. Although you’ll still have to deal with annoying goats, you don’t have to worry about putting up fences and hiring guards to patrol your property.
9. You should get a goat if you live in an area with lots of sheep
Sheep tend to wander around together in groups called “flocks.” These herds are led by shepherds who control the movements of individual members within each flock. And while goats are usually solitary creatures, they share similar characteristics with sheep. Both species are social and gentle, and they enjoy spending time outdoors.
These similarities mean goats can easily coexist with flocks of sheep. Since goats are herbivorous, they don’t compete with the sheep for food. Instead, they simply chow down on the grass that grows naturally in pastures. By doing this, they effectively remove weed growth that could choke out the grasses in the pasture.
This makes them great additions to farms and ranches where sheep farming is important.
10. Goats Make Good Pets Because They’re Funny and Cuddly
With their silly faces, friendly dispositions, and tendency to nuzzle up to people, goats offer a unique way to entertain friends and family. They’re also incredibly cute, making them popular among kids.
However, goats can become aggressive toward unfamiliar people, so it’s best to avoid letting anyone approach them uninvited. As mentioned earlier, though, they’re quite docile towards familiar people and strangers alike.
And let’s not forget their signature bleating sound. When a person approaches, goats instinctively start mooching off the ground in hopes of currying favor. It’s adorable, and definitely a conversation starter.
11. Make Sure You Keep Their Horns Trimmed
As with most wild animals, goats grow horns once they reach adulthood. Generally, horns serve no real purpose other than decoration. However, their appearance can sometimes lead people to assume that horns are useful tools. This can result in injuries ranging from minor scratches to life-threatening lacerations.
To reduce the risk of injury, trim away any excess hair along the edges of the horn. This reduces sharpness and minimizes the potential for accidental cuts. Once the horns are properly trimmed, the goats will feel safer and more comfortable, allowing you to interact with them more closely.