Fayetteville, Ark., home of NCAT’s Southeast Regional office, recently joined the list of US cities—which includes Seattle, Portland, San Diego, and Denver—that allow homeowners to raise pygmy or dwarf goats in their back yards. If you’ve been ruminating about adding goats to your family, read on for some important caprine-care considerations. And stay tuned for details about an upcoming Goats 101 workshop led by our livestock specialists Margo Hale and Linda Coffey!
Goats are intelligent, full of personality, and very entertaining. Their small size makes them easy to handle and child-friendly. When they’re given daily attention they will bond with their humans and become good pets. Goats can produce meat, milk, fiber, and fertilizer, and can be used to manage vegetation. Before you hop on the backyard goat bandwagon, though, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Check your city’s ordinances, as well as your homeowner’s association rules, regarding backyard animals.
This one seems obvious, but requirements for lot size, location of shelters, and number of animals allowed vary from city to city. For example, the Fayetteville, Ark., ordinance prohibits goats on lots smaller than 10,000 square feet. Because goats are herd animals and are not happy alone, you will need to have at least two. Depending on the city’s regulations and the amount of land you own, though, you may be able to have three or more goats. However, if your neighborhood has homeowner’s association rules that prohibit livestock, you might be out of luck.
If goats are legal in your neighborhood, great! But learn about basic care and handling before you purchase animals.
You need to determine whether or not you have the time, money, and desire to provide daily water, feed, milking (if you have dairy animals), and observation and health care.
- Goats are infamous for their ability to escape seemingly secure fencing. You must have good fencing to keep the goats in, and predators out.
- Yes, city goats are at risk from predators—most likely neighborhood dogs.
- You will need to provide shelter for your goats. You can find examples of shelter types in the publication An Illustrated Guide to Sheep and Goat Production.
- You must understand goats’ nutritional needs; be prepared to pay for and store hay and feed, especially if you live on a smaller-sized lot with limited forage available.
- Remember that your landscaping must be protected from the goats (and vice versa). Some types of shrubbery are toxic for goats, and goats will definitely be “toxic” to your fruit trees, shrubs, and flowers. Mature trees will not be harmed by the goats.
- Goats have specific health-management needs. Learn about hoof care and how to recognize and treat illness, especially problems caused by internal parasites.
- If you want your goats to produce milk, they will have to give birth. Your city probably will not allow you to keep an intact male goat, so you’ll need to find a farm where you can take your ladies for breeding. You’ll also need to decide what to do with the kids, if you are unable to keep them.
Owning goats can be a great pleasure. If you’re interested in having your own milk supply, making fresh cheese, supplying fertilizer for your garden, or giving your children a 4-H or FFA project, goats are a great way to go. Check out the resources listed below, and network with other goat-keepers in your area to share ideas and information.
This post is based on the ATTRA – Sustainable Agriculture publication Small-Scale Livestock Production and is not intended to be comprehensive. Visit the Livestock section of the ATTRA website at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/livestock for more on goat care. Find ATTRA videos about trimming hooves and determining the age of sheep and goats at https://attra.ncat.org/video.
Learn more about pygmy and dwarf goats with these resources:
The National Pygmy Goat Association
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association