Meet our goats. They don’t really have names, although the people we got them from called them “Pip” and “Squeak”. But they aren’t pip-squeaks any more. I tried to name them Merry and Pippin, but Tommy didn’t take to those names. So mostly we just call them “the goats”, or “the goat-leys”.
We are amateur goat herders. We did a lot of research before we bought our goats, but we are still learning as we go. I found that most of the information on the internet is focused on the care of milk goats. So we learned what we could from that, and now we are learning from our goats.
We picked the goats up in October of 2014, so as of the writing of this post, we’ve had them about 8 months. They are neutered males, aka: wethers, and yes, they still have their horns. They are Nubians and they weigh about 75 pounds each. I’m just guessing their weight, since we haven’t weighed them, but they are a little bigger than our 60 pound lab, so I’d say that’s probably a pretty close guess.
We got them from a local ranch just north of town, called James Ranch. It is a great place to visit if you are in Durango in the summer. They sell grass fed beef and cheese. In the summer they have a small food cart where they serve burgers and salads and Tommy and I enjoy stopping there for lunch on our way north to Silverton, Ouray, or beyond. One day last summer we stopped there to enjoy the food and beautiful surroundings and noticed they had two baby goats. The ranch kept goats over the summer so the families who stopped for lunch could pet them. We had noticed the goats on previous visits, but had never been in the “getting goats” mindset, until now. So I asked one of the ladies in the store where they had gotten their goats, hoping we could get a couple of our own. The shop clerk gave me the contact info for one of the ranch owners and told me to contact her directly.
Since they were so well socialized as babies, they are super friendly as adults. Usually, if you go out into the back yard, they will run right over to you and want to be right in the middle of whatever you are doing.
We did not make the decision to get goats lightly as we already have “too many” animals. But Tommy was tired of giving up several weekends during the nice weather to run the brush cutter.
Since we live in South Western Colorado at 8,000 feet in a rural area, wild fires are a major concern for us. After the major fires in Colorado in 2012 and 2013 there were a lot of insurance companies droping home owners who lived in rural areas. While our insurance company wasn’t among them, we still decided it would be prudent to do some mitigation on our property. We hired a company to come clear some undergrowth in our yard figuring that was the fastest way to get some ground cleared. We were right that it was fast, but it was also EXPENSIVE!!! Around $1200 for 1 days work. They did a great job, but only cleared out about 1/8 of our 3 acres. At that rate, we would have been looking at a small fortune to clear our whole lot.
Before we purchased our goats, we even looked into hiring a goat heard to come in and graze their goats on our lot for a few weeks to clear it out. But unfortunately, there was no such service in our area. So, we decided to keep our own small heard of two goats, and see how it would go.
So far, we are very happy to report that they are doing a good job eating the grass and brush. We can tell by comparing the foliage in the front yard, to that in the back. The grass in the front is about 3 feet tall currently, it seems to like all this rainy weather we’ve been having. While the grass in the back yard is much shorter thanks to the goats.
Here are a few facts we’ve learned about our goats in the last several months:
- Most people will tell you that goats eat EVERYTHING. This is just not true. Maybe if it was their only option, they would eat everything in a small area, but if they have a large area, they are pretty picky about what they eat.
- Some things our goats don’t like to eat:
- Dandelions – Tommy was pretty bummed about this one. They will nibble on the leaves from time to time, but they definitely prefer the grass & scrub oak
- Thistle – again, they will nibble on it, but it’s not their preference
- Ferns – We’re ok with this as we like the ferns in the yard
- Mullein – who can blame them for not liking this plant, talk about a choking hazard!
- Bind weed – which is really just wild morning glories
- Common Mallow – again, they will nibble on it, but they don’t eat enough to “control” it
- And then there is the plant that I have no idea what it is called, but it has purple flowers and produces tiny (about the size of a pea) burrs that get caught in the dogs fur.
- Things they love:
- Grass (all kinds from what I’ve seen)
- Scrub Oak, AKA Gamble Oak, they LOVE LOVE LOVE it. They will try to climb up the trunk, get on rocks and pull the branches down to eat this delicacy.
- Lilacs – Everything I’ve read says Lilacs are poisonous to goats. Maybe if they were let loose in a field of lilacs and that was all they were eating, it might make them sick. But our goats ate every leaf off the two, good size, lilac bushes in the back yard, and it didn’t seem to phase them in the slightest.
- Currant bushes – they almost killed these. They ate every leaf off the bushes then started stripping the bark. Tommy has since transplanted them to the front yard, and they seem to have survived.
- They really like broad leaf, bushy plants, even if they have thorns.
I will continue to update my list as we learn what our goats like and don’t like, and I’ll try to add some pictures of the plants since I don’t know the names of all of them.
I’m not sure if it’s all the rain we are getting this year, but I’m not sure two goats are going to be able to keep up with all of the vegetation in our yard. We may have to look into getting a couple more in a year or two.