Anyone who has
started or managed a homestead knows the many hours spent trying to decide
what type of livestock that they want to invest their time, money and
energy into producing. This means that each species and breed type
must be considered for their usefulness and productivity as related to the
current homesteading plans. Versatility in a species is a very
important part of production, and one of the most versatile species chosen
each and every day for the farming homestead is the goat. The goat
can offer more for the dollar than nearly any other animal ever raised.
Goats come in many shapes, types and colors, while being easier and
cheaper to manage than cattle or other, larger types of livestock.
Goats are most often used for brush and shrub clean up, fiber, milk,
cheese, soap, meat, driving, packing, and even as personal companions.
They have been the livestock species of choice for thousands of years and
their popularity continues to grow.
require the clearing of brush and weeds. Often this is required to
be able to use the land for certain pre-planned purposes—or even just to
keep this undesirable type of growth maintained. The good news is
that the goat is the perfect animal for the job! Goats prefer weeds
and brush to even the most luscious of grasses. Given the choice
between grass and weeds, the goat will choose the weed every time.
Goats are so proficient at clearing undesirable vegetation that they are
often used as fire prevention in many areas that are otherwise too
difficult for people to clear. Goats nibble and remove the thick
undergrowth of combustible weeds and shrubs as well as low tree branches,
all of which are the most used fodder of wild fires. Goats can walk
and maneuver the steepest and roughest terrains imaginable, browsing even
poisonous vegetation as they go. These are the areas in which
fighting fires or landscaping are the most difficult, even with tractors,
trucks and power tools. Thus, goats are often called on to clear
these areas before they can become fire-hazards.
The main challenge of
using goats for weed and brush maintenance is the problem of keeping them
in the area that you want cleared and not finding them roaming wherever
they please. Goats do not do well without some type of barrier to
contain them. The least expensive and easiest type of fencing for
weed and brush control when using goats is a temporary electric fence.
Make sure the wires are spaced close enough that the goats can’t slip
between wires, under the bottom wire or over the top one. The
experience that our family has had with using goats for weed and brush
control has definitely been a positive one, however we have found it best
to take the goats back to an enclosure close to the house in the evenings.
This is due to the fact that predators are more prone to attack goats at
night and we have found that it is safer for the goats to take this
preventive measure, otherwise there is a risk of losing a few goats to
When choosing which breeds to use for brush and weed
control, any breed of goat will work; but beware that if you allow a dairy
goat to consume this type of diet it can flavor the taste and smell of the
milk from lactating does. This warning comes from personal
experience—a few years ago one of our dairy does ate an entire patch of
wild onions. Needless to say, no one wanted to drink her milk for a
few days afterwards. Also, keep in mind that hair goats have the
tendency to collect certain types of briers and vegetation in their coats
if the area is very overgrown. If this happens, you will need to
brush and clean the goat to preserve its quality. This can be a
tiresome and difficult job if you have to complete it very often.
The Angora, Cashmere, Pygora, and Nigora are
breeds of goats bred especially for their hair production. They are
often favorites of homesteaders that like to produce their own creations—frequently these fiber artists use the hair for spinning, spindling,
knitting, crocheting, weaving, tapestries, and other fiber arts. It
is also commonly used in constructing articles of clothing. The
Cashmere goat produces fine, soft wool that is considered one of the
finest textile fibers in the world. Cashmere goats are usually combed to collect their wool. Combing out a Cashmere
goat can take up to a week to collect all the precious fibers. The Cashmere goat grows its fiber
only once a year, yielding only about 4 ounces of material. The Angora goat is sheared to collect their fibers. The Angora hair is known as mohair, a long, curling, glossy fiber. Angora goats are typically shorn twice a year, yielding an average of about 10
pounds. Both the Pygora and Nigora are smaller breeds that are
crossed with Angoras; their fiber type is the essentially the same as that
of the Angora.
The dairy goat is one
of the most common types of goat associated with homesteading today.
Goat milk is naturally homogenized, which means the cream remains
suspended in the milk, instead of rising to the top, such as cow’s milk.
An average dairy goat doe provides 3-4 quarts of milk a day and will milk
for approximately 10 months; however, as lactation nears that tenth month
the production rates will gradually drop off. Goat’s milk is also
used for cheese making on many farms and homesteads. Cheese made
from goat milk is known for its rather tart flavor; a characteristic that
creates many people’s penchant for the taste. Butter is another
product that can be readily made from goat’s milk. It is important to note
that it requires a little more effort to make butter from goat’s milk than
it does from cow’s milk. Again this has to do with the fact that the
cream in goat milk remains suspended within the milk instead of rising to
the top. The use of goat’s milk
for drinking and making other dairy products is a great benefit for those
who are lactose intolerant, as goat’s milk does not contain lactose,
unlike cow milk. Therefore, there are many individuals that can
enjoy milk products when they would otherwise have to avoid dairy
Last but not least,
goat’s milk can also be used in making homemade soap. Goat’s milk is
great for soap making; its qualities are very appealing to people as it
has wonderful softening and moisturizing effects on skin. These
characteristics have made it a revered cosmetic ingredient for centuries,
and especially popular for use on delicate or damaged skin.
The great part about
these milk products is that all of them can be made on the homestead.
There are lots of recipes and directions for making these products
available for free on the Internet. All it takes is a little effort
and the willingness to experiment with milk. A couple of good dairy
goat does can provide a lot of healthy and cost saving benefits to a
working homesteader. The financial, nutritional, and all around
natural benefits make keeping some type of dairy goat a plus for most