Being in the goat business, I get a lot of questions and opinions about what is and isn’t true regarding many common goat myths. Below are 10 of the most common I hear. If you are considering getting your own goats the truths behind these common myths may just help you out.
#1 They will eat anything
Goats are particular. If left to their own devices, they will select the choicest bits of greenery to dine on. Goat are very curious animals and will nibble or mouth items that they are investigating, so perhaps that’s how this myth began.
#2 Only the males have horns
Both males and females can have horns. A goat without horns must either be a polled goat or one that has been disbudded. Polled goats are born without horns. Disbudded goats have their horns removed shortly after birth. Polled goats can pass on the hornless gene to their offspring, disbudded goats will pass on the horned gene. Care must be taken if you are planning to breed polled goats as the same gene that makes them hornless can cause hermaphrodites. But that’s another post.
#3 Goats stink
Goats do not typically stink or even have much of an odor at all. Except for breeding age bucks. In their considerable efforts to impress the ladies, bucks (intact males) will urinate on their legs, chest and beards. This occurs most often during breeding season (rut) which is typically in the fall and early winter. But some breeds, like Fainting Goats will breed year-round if the weather is right. Sometimes the odor is only noticeable if you are up close, other times the odor is extremely strong and pungent. I have noticed that most of my Fainting Goat bucks have less odor than other breeds I have been around.
#4 Goats are dirty
Goats, when kept in good management conditions and good health, are quite clean.
#5 They are just like cows/sheep.
While they are ruminants like cows and sheep, goats have very different nutritional requirements and grazing habits. Did you know that goats need copper but that sheep can suffer from copper related toxicity from the same amounts? And while goats and sheep share many of the same small ruminant diseases they each have diseases specific to their genus
#6 Only the males have beards
Both males and females often have beards or goatees as we like to call them.
#7 Goats make great lawnmowers.
I hear this one a lot, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Goats make terrible lawnmowers. They make great hedge trimmers though. Goats are browsers, not grazers like sheep. So instead of eating the grass and keeping your lawn golf course ready, goats are going to eat every tree, shrub and ornamental bush in your yard. Only when the landscaping is stripped bare will they half-heartedly nibble on the grass.
#7 Goats are hardy.
Both True and False.
Goats are hardy, under the right conditions. Good management practices, plenty of forage and good stock all make the difference between an easy to keep herd and a goat producer’s nightmare. The less ideal these conditions are the less hardy your goats will become.
#8 Goats don’t need grain, they can live off pasture.
Both True and False.
While goats are very efficient at converting browse to energy, they are often underfed. There is a widespread assumption that a goat can thrive off the poorest quality pasture and with little or no feed. The truth is that you get out of your goats what you put into them. Goats do very well on pasture, provided it is good quality and can meet their daily energy needs. For most of us that means supplementing at least part of the year with additional feed.
#9 They won’t stay in a fence.
This depends on a couple of things. The quality of the fence and the type of goat. It is important to have good strong fences both to keep goats in and to keep predators out. We have had good luck with 48” high field fence. I have also used electric fencing but only as a cross fence. I think there are too many risks with electric fencing to use it as your primary boundary fence. Regarding the types of goats; I have found the Fainting Goats to be much easier to keep in than other breeds. They are by nature less agile and less likely to make Houdini-like escapes. Of course, they aren’t all that way so it’s always good to make sure you have sound fences.
#10 Goats are mean.
Most goats are inquisitive, docile and even affectionate. But, as with any animal, temperament can vary by breed, upbringing and gender. Bucks (intact males) can become pushy or aggressive especially during breeding season. The biggest mistake that I see people make is allowing their adorable 10lb baby goat to jump and climb all over them. It’s cute when they are 10lbs, but when they continue the behavior at 50 or 100 pounds it is a real problem.