Goat ahead and call me crazy, everyone else does. Haha! See what I did there? goat? doe’s ? Yes, I have officially lost it and I am one straw away from a full bale, but I am diggin’ my life y’all (literally). Okay, no more puns but I can’t help to laugh. Sometimes I think I’m laughing at myself and sometimes I think I’m laughing with myself. I know when I share our story I make others laugh and that makes me laugh too, although I can never figure out if they are laughing at or with. Either way I am having fun.
Now if you live in the country or have a lot of farms close by you may be saying “big deal, she got a couple of goats. Want to impress me? Get a thousand.” It’s not the notion that we got goats that tickles those we know, it is our location. We live on the coast, on a small lot, in the middle of a tourist destination (by Myrtle Beach, SC). Goats, Chickens, Livestock, etc are not something you typically see around here. More like surfboards, flip-flops and golf clubs. Even gardening is somewhat obsolete because so many live in condos, timeshares, HOA restrictions, apartments and the like.
We started our journey towards a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle several years ago (you can read our story here). I had a 5-10 year plan. Ha! Sorry, I said no more puns. If you don’t get it, then you haven’t told God your plans lately. First on the list was personal health, we needed to start exercising and eating right. Next, remove all non-essential landscaping, replace with edible landscaping and install gardens everywhere we could afford the space. Conserve energy, gray water irrigation, compost, and on and on. We had already added chickens to our little homestead and my plans were running right on track. I have many other outside obligations (not to mention a toddler) and the addition of the chickens put me right at my limit of responsibilities I thought I could handle at one time. I was happy and content with the direction our life was going and enjoyed my quiet early morning conversations I would have with my husband discussing our future goals and dreams.
We were going to give it about a 1/2-1 year and discuss further what other concepts we could adopt to aid our food independence. Some of the ideas we tossed around were: bees (honey, pollinate our garden, wax for my products I make), fish (produce quickly, low maintenance,cheap, easy to process for food), rabbits (good meat, sustainable, affordable) , more vertical gardens. But goats were not on the list. I mean why would they be? We lived on just over 1/4 acre by the ocean, not on a farm.
Then a funny thing happened. My hubby normally never remembers his dreams (me on the other hand could write a book talking bout the crazy stuff this noggin comes up with in REM) and one morning he told me about a dream he had where we walked outside and goats came up to him brushing his leg. Then we drank our coffee and laughed, and laughed. Now we have goats.
There’s actually more to the story than that. A friend of mine owns Jeremiah Farm & Goat Dairy a couple of hours south of us, I was booking her to teach a cheese making class (yumm!) and she asked me if I knew of anyone who was interested in buying two Nigerian Dwarf Goats. The current owner had some life issues and needed to find a new home for them. I was searching for friends who I thought would be interested and never even considered myself. Then after my husband reminded me of his dream, a LOT of quick research, and many, many,many, questions my friend and the owner endured, we bought the goats.
What swayed our decision more than anything was the breed, Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They’re eight different dairy goat breeds in the United States. With the Nigerian Dwarf Goat being one of the smallest dairy goats.
Some of the characteristics of the NDG are:
- True NDG Does maximum height is 21′ (This was my number one reason for this breed, the small size)
- Weight usually doesn’t exceed 75 lbs
- Good for small yards
- Good with children and Seniors
- Good milkers for their size (2/3 c – 1/2 gallon per day)
- Can breed year round
- Milk has a high butterfat (6-10%) content
- Smooth, rich, sweet tasting milk that makes it one of the more desirable goat milks
- Can milk up to 10 yrs of age (Goat will live longer if you stop milking around 10 yrs)
- They are good for 4-H groups (which we were starting this year)
- NDG Sell for decent money if we wanted to breed and are in high demand (sale prices are around $75.00 for a wethers and I’ve seen them sell for up to $900.00 for a doe)
- Fresh Manure. Goat manure is great for gardens and compost
- Fresh Raw Milk, Cream, Cheese, Butter, and Soap (#1 reason to buy dairy goats=MILK)
- Great at clearing brush, they are browsers and love to nibble on brush
- Life experience for my children (ages 20, 13, and 2)
- Will help us become food independent
You can find out more about NDG’s from the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association here
Things we didn’t know, learned quickly, or still learning:
- You should NEVER have just one goat. They need a goat companion
- You should not keep dairy goats and bucks together (makes the milk taste bad)
- You should take a goat class BEFORE you buy goats. You can wing it like I did but I would recommend against it, unless you are a natural Goat Whisperer
- In order to stay in fresh supply of milk you should breed every two years (this means you will have to provide a separate area for mama and figure out how to sell them)
- Finding a Goat Vet in a tourist area by the beach is impossible!!!
- You want a goat that has been disbudded (horns removed at a young age)
- They climb on everything
- You have to trim their hooves often (books say 8-10 weeks but I am trimming every 4)
- Their poop looks like rabbits poop
- They poop everywhere. In mid walk, on your shoe, in their bedding, while eating, while milking, while sitting on your lap, you get the picture
- They are prone to lice and not fleas
- They are picky eaters and drinkers. If their food gets dirty or if their water gets a piece of straw in it, they won’t eat it or drink it
- They are very social and like a lot of attention
- Very affectionate and sweet
- Make bad habits quick
- Very stubborn (hence the saying Stubborn as an old goat)
- Like to play
- Shed like CRAZY
- Prone to parasites
- Have funky eyes
- Don’t smell
- Don’t like the rain or getting wet, just as bad as cats
- Like to rub on anything and everything for a good scratch
- If they can squeeze their head through something, they will
- No more vacations- bye-bye vacations. Finding someone to house sit and take care of my livestock while we’re away (where I live) is next to impossible
- They are creatures of habit
- They will overeat if given the chance
- They are very inquisitive
- There are: Does, Bucks, Kids, and Wethers. A baby goat is called a kid. The female goat is known as a nanny or a doe, the male is called a buck or a Billy. Wethers are castrated male goats. Wethers make great companions for Does.
- Are a wonderful addition to our family
We were blessed in the fact of the two goats we were buying, One was a doe in milk so we could start milking right away ,and the other was her adopted kid who was still nursing (at 4 months of age) so she helped keep mama in milk while I figured out how to milk her.
Supplies we bought and preparation:
- Shelter with ventilation. We had a lean-to off the back of our shop we used to store construction material that we were able to transform into The Coastal Manger with scrap material
- Fenced in area. Most of our yard was already fenced in but we did have to purchase a roll of Sand/Snow Fence from TSC to keep them from my garden (cost $60.00 for a 50 ft roll)
- Play area: stumps, steps, logs, pallets, chairs, tires, anything safe to climb or jump on. We have a trampoline they love and a couple of surfboards
- Milking stand ( learn how to build your own here)
- Feed: Goat pellets, Hay, Alfalfa Pellets for the milking doe (not for kids or wethers), free choice baking soda, free choice minerals and treats if desired
- Good Clippers for hooves
- Collars (dog collars work)
- For Milking: Milking stand, unscented baby wipes, heavy bucket for feed, milk pan or good bowl, something to hobble the legs, mason jars, plastic lids, fine mesh strainer, stainless steel funnel
- Feed Trough
- Couple of heavy-duty buckets for water
- Hay for bedding
- Diatomaceous Earth (to help control lice and for preventative care)
- Apple Cider vinegar (I add to water to support gut health)
I like to raise my family naturally and my animals are no exception. Here is a website for a natural de-wormer. Of course, there are times for traditional medicine , always seek advice from a licensed vet.
This website is a great all around resource for goat information Fias Co Farm
Do you own goats or other livestock in an urban, suburban, or unusual area? We would love to hear your story!