10 Amazing Benefits of Owning a Goat
Why do People Raise Goats?
For most goat people, the benefits of owning a goat far outweigh the hard work and high learning curve. Yes, they can be destructive little escape artists, but they can also give you these 10 life-enhancing benefits.
1. Control Your Milk Supply
One of the greatest benefits of owning a goat is access to fresh healthy goat milk. With far fewer goats in the US than cows, goat milk can be more expensive and often harder to find. Goat milk is easier to digest than cow milk and people with mild to moderate lactose intolerance handle goat milk with no problems. Some people believe drinking raw milk confers health benefits including reducing allergies. Raw milk from any source is illegal in many places though.
Ultra-pasteurized goat milk is the only option in most communities and it will not curdle into cheese. I once drove more than 150 miles, checking at every grocery store and health food store I could find looking for goat milk to make into cheese. I found local yak meat, but the only goat milk I found was all by the same company and all ultra-pasteurized. One or two of the best goats for milk could keep you happily in fresh healthy milk and cheese for years.
2. Fresh Healthy Meat
Goat meat has the same amount of protein as beef, with about half the calories. It is lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in iron than beef, pork, lamb, and chicken.
I tried goat meat for the first time about a year ago. Nervously, I took a tiny nibble. To my surprise I loved the flavorful tender meat.
According to the American Goat Federation, goat meat is one of the most consumed meats in the world, but in the United States, it is eaten mostly by Hispanic, Muslim, Caribbean, and Chinese consumers. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in an area with a high concentration of those ethnicities, you have to order online or grow your own. One of the benefits of owning a goat for meat purposes is knowing the animal was clean, disease free and well treated.
3. Luxurious Fiber to Play With
Goats produce cashmere and mohair, some of the softest and most luxurious materials in the world. Subsidy reduction, drought, and trade issues have reduced the production of both angora goats, used for mohair, and cashmere goats. Imagine the sumptuous feel of some of the softest fibers in the world forming into yarn in your hands. Imagine weaving or knitting it into blankets or sweaters or scarves. If this sounds like heaven, consider getting your own goat.
4. Nature’s Weed Eater
Another benefit of owning a goat is their love of eating plants we consider weeds. Goats are browsers rather than grazers. This means they eat mainly leafy plants and shrubs rather than grasses. Although goats will eat most common weeds, they particularly like blackberry brambles, kosia, leafy spurge, poison hemlock, scotch broom, spotted knapweed, yellow star thistle, wild rose and wild turnip.
Goats are used in this capacity for fire prevention, managing invasive weeds on public land, and browsing weedy areas around homes and schools. Intensive targeted grazing can create effective fire breaks. Also, in areas where brush and brambles choke the streams, goats clear out the mass of vegetation without damaging the riparian ecosystem.
5. Help With Hiking and Hunting
When properly trained, goats make excellent pack animals. The benefits of owning a goat trained to pack include being able to hike and hunt in remote areas too steep for horses. Although any goat can be trained to carry your lunch on a light hike, you need bigger pack goat breeds to pack an elk out of the high mountains.
Goats are a lower cost option for people wanting to try out packing with an animal. The cost per animal to feed, house, and care for goats is less than 20 percent of that per horse or mule. They require less space, so you can start with a couple of goats even if you don’t have extensive pastureland. You can fit several goats in the back of a pickup truck so transportation doesn’t require a horse trailer.
6. Extra Income
Enterprising goat owners can use any of the previous benefits to make money. There is a viable market for goat milk and other products, such as cheese, soap, and yarn. Be sure to research your local laws before trying to sell food products as they vary greatly from state to state.
According to the USDA, “The increasing demand for goat meat in the U.S. cannot be met by the amount of goat meat exported from Australia and New Zealand and domestic production of goat meat has increased to meet the domestic demand.” In October of 2018 the market price for goat was $1.30 a pound.
The goats themselves can be useful in garnering income. Enterprising goat owners charge to have goats eat weeds. Large breeds can be trained to carry packs and rented out to hikers. Pygmies and kids can be used for goat yoga on the farm. Goats can garner attention to other businesses as well, such as goats grazing on a restaurant roof and goat caddies on a golf course.
7. Gateway to Farming
Goats have been called the gateway animal to farming. Like chickens and bees, goats are small enough you can raise a couple of them in your backyard. With a growing desire for self sufficiency and sustainable living, many people dream of one day having a small farm. The realities of farming are often a jarring contrast to that pleasant dream. Farming and ranching requires a lot of hard work. Before buying enough land to start a full size production farm or ranch, consider raising a few animals in a smaller space to find out if that lifestyle truly fits your personality.
8. Education and Growth Opportunities for Human Kids
Goats distract kids and grandkids from cellphones and games but they can be used in more formal educational programs. 4-H and FFA, offer children fantastic learning, development, and social opportunities. Despite being a shy, socially awkward child, I made great friends through 4-H, some of which are still part of my life despite living hundreds of miles away. Through these programs, kids learn responsibility, teamwork, leadership, and a sense of self worth. Because of goats’ smaller size, they are ideal for beginners or children whose families don’t have the time, money, or space needed for larger animals like cows and horses.
9. Continuing Social Opportunities
Social opportunities with goats don’t end when you grow up. Heather Vernon began her journey when her daughter wanted to do a pygmy goat project for 4-H. They had so much fun at the shows, Heather decided she wanted her own.
“I really enjoy showing my pygmies as an adult showman,” she says. “I travel to various states to compete with my goats and have even had a few qualify for Nationals. I know several goat exhibitors in their 70s and 80s who are healthy and active. Travelling all over to shows keeps them young and busy. I want that for myself.” Today Heather serves as a 4-H Pygmy/Dairy Goat Leader, Southern NM State Fair Pygmy/Dairy Goat Superintendent, National Pygmy Goat Association Public Relations Board Member, and Vice President of the New Mexico Pygmy Goat Club.
Are goats good pets? Absolutely. With their inquisitive, fun-loving personalities, goats make great companions for both humans and other animals. Goats can calm high-strung racehorses and blind cows. They can be registered as pet therapy animals. Like dogs, they romp and play, wag their tails when happy and love being petted. Pet goats aren’t new though. Two American presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison had pet goats in the white house. Dwarf and pygmy breeds that make good pets are also insanely cute and there is nothing social media loves more than cute goats. A quick search of Instagram brought up at least a dozen goat themed accounts with more than 10,000 followers. Five of those had over 50,000.
Many of these benefits work better when combined. People who pack with goats also get the benefit of a close bond with their goats. Some people who use goats for weeds, also sell them as meat or use their milk. If you’re looking for a multi-beneficial animal to raise on your homestead, perhaps you should give goats a try!