Lots of people dream of having a few goats or a “mini” pig*, a horse or a few chickens; but do they really know what they are getting into? No. They don’t. And that is why many of these animals end up at shelters and sanctuaries. Now I’m not saying that these people don’t have good intentions, I’m sure they do but they just don’t realize what it takes to care for a farm animal and the cost that it involves. I am going to tell you.
I have always had animals; rabbits, a dog and cats but am one of those that has always wanted a farm. I love animals…really love them. Thankfully my husband does too. Last year I heard about the Barnyard Sanctuary, my husband and I decided to adopt 2 bunnies from them. When we got there and walked up the driveway I fell in love; there were goats, donkeys, horses, cows, sheep, llamas, pigs and every other kind of farm animal. We started to volunteer shortly there after. I now volunteer almost every Saturday. Volunteering is not glamorous, it basically involves shoveling poop from several hundred farm animals and I love it! I have a soft spot in my heart for goats and donkeys, I can’t explain it but they just melt my heart. So last spring after the sanctuary saved 10 cull baby goat boys, I caved! Despite my husbands objections we adopted 2 baby goat boys. I have learned a great deal since we brought them home but I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you are thinking of getting a farm animal here are few questions you need to answer first:
Do you have adequate space for them? Is is safe?
Does your town allow you to have farm animals?
Can you afford to feed, shelter and pay for veterinarian care?
Are you willing to give the time it takes to care for them? (no more sleeping in, they get up with sun)
Can you deal with the poop? Where will you put it?
Once you determine that you are willing and able, the next thing you need to know that is you should never just have one animal, farm animals are herd animals, they must have at least one companion. An only goat is a lonely goat.
To give you an idea of what it will cost to get started:
Shed $1,200 + $150 for foundation supplies (luckily my husband could make make the foundation himself so we didn’t have to pay for someone else to do it)
Hay bales range from $4 to $7 each
Pine bedding $5 to $7 a bag
Keep in mind you will need a dry place to store the hay and bedding.
Once you get them home they will most likely be noisy as they are in a new, strange place. Hopefully you will have neighbors that won’t mind a little goat crying. After a few weeks of getting used to their new home they will quiet down. I also scheduled a vet appointment as my guys still needed 2 shots and I just wanted to them to have everything checked out as well as their ear tags removed…no need to have reminders that they were once a commodity. The vet comes to our house so it costs more than the average visit, my first vet bill was $264.00. Since then I have spent several more hundred dollars as Pepsi had a bladder infection and has crystals in his urine which means he is susceptible to kidney stones. This is a life long problem that I will have to keep an eye on.
Another thing to know if you are adopting baby goats boys that have been neutered, many of them are neutered early, too early, which means their bodies are not fully developed and they are more likely to have kidney stones which can be deadly. No grains for neutered goat boys.
You will also need to survey where your goats will living and check the plants and shrubs, despite popular belief goats can not eat anything. Goats are very picky eaters as a matter of fact. You can go on-line an download a list of plants that are good for them and not so good for them. They will search through the bale of hay to get the most perfect pieces and when they are done they will want a fresh bale to pick through that.
They say that goats are escape artists, they are very smart and can learn to open latches etc., make sure your enclosure is goat proof. Thankfully our goats really like us and where they live so that has not been a problem for us. Goats also like to play, make sure you have some type “jungle gym” for them to play on. You can get great ideas on Pinterest.
Hoof trimming is an important part of a goat health. You can learn to do it yourself or have the vet do it but, it is not difficult and can become costly if the vet does it. Pepsi’s hooves grow quickly so I need to do it about every 4 or 5 weeks. It is important to keep up with because it can be painful if they grow too long and it can cause infections because dirt can become trapped.
A few more things a future goat owner should know: goats do not like rain, they do not like to get wet. Goats are very curious and will get into anything and everything. Goats are smart, friendly, sweet and incredibly entertaining. So much so that we got two more!
In closing I just want to say that having goats has been one of the most incredibly rewarding experiences of my life and I love them dearly, poop and all. They are just the sweetest, silliest babies ever! My husband loves them too and we are now searching for a real farm so we can expand our herd to include donkeys!
This is my first hand experience, I am not expert but as someone who started with cats, dogs and rabbits I think I have good idea of what it takes. I would love to hear from other first time goat owners, feel free to share your experiences good or baaaaad.
*There is no such thing as a “mini pig” or “teacup pig”, all pigs grown up and out it’s just a matter of whether it is a pot belly pig or a hog. Either way they will go to be anywhere from 100lbs to 1,000lbs.
**Check out this blog post that has reasons not to own goats, The Prairie Homestead to read someone else’s reality.
***This blog post is referring to goats being kept as pets not for meat or dairy, although the care is pretty much the same, there are definite differences in the feeding and care that you should look into if that is your intent.