Goats and Insurance
Goats and Insurance
Are your goats insured?
If you have goats, have people visit your goats, or sell products made from goats, you may want to consider goat insurance. Standard homeowner policies typically do not cover livestock, outbuildings, and machinery used for livestock, nor will they cover livestock incidents or illness/injury resulting from goat products such as milk and soap.
There are many types of insurance for goat owners — health insurance, hobby farm insurance, farm insurance, and product liability insurance. While goats may be adorable and endearing, there is a Persian proverb that says, “If you have no trouble, buy a goat.” Goats have a reputation of finding trouble, if not outright causing it.
While not all insurance companies will cover goats, some do. Most, however, do not have a standard policy for livestock operations. They are tailored specifically to each operation, usually by an agent conducting a site visit to understand your needs fully. It is imperative to read the policy and exceptions thoroughly to be sure it is what you requested. Some companies will only cover animals that generate income, but others have “hobby farm” policies, so it is wise to shop around to find one that best fits your needs.
Before approaching an agent, identify the risks you face and be clear about the types of incidents you want to cover. Insurance has 16 categories of perils that the insured can select from, and they are very specific — ranging from fire to snow weight, to falling objects, even vandalism. Remember, each element of coverage must be written into the plan, or it is not covered.
A livestock policy can cover a variety of perils that could kill or injure goats, weather, accidental shooting, even attacks by dogs. Coverage ranges from major medical expenses to loss of use to mortality, depending upon the plan. Medical insurance that covers veterinary care may also be available through your veterinarian.
As you discuss your policy, consider any feed that is stored, equipment that you use to care for your goats (tractors, livestock trailers, four-wheelers, grooming equipment, automatic waters, scales) or produce your goat products (milking machines, coolers, freezers) and structures not covered under your homeowner’s insurance. Policies usually exclude fencing, but “equipment” may cover an electric gate or charger.
Fire insurance may or may not cover losses due to fire — read the policy very carefully for nuances. Most fire policies have exclusions due to rural road conditions and water access. Some may require the building to comply with wiring standards, have a fire inspection, and maintain fire extinguishers or a sprinkler system and smoke or fire alarms explicitly designed for barn use.
For a structure to be covered, it may also have to meet construction requirements. If it is temporary or movable, it is not covered unless specifically named and covered under the perils that would compromise it. We learned the hard way when our hoop shelters collapsed in a winter windstorm. Insurance covered other structures, but the hoop shelters were a total loss, and we did not have a budget to replace them.
Liability insurance covering damages from accidents or injury is usually standard. Review the limits and conditions for coverage. They may be inadequate if you are operating an agritourism business or “hands-on” mentoring. We had to get a specific policy to cover teaching blood draws, as blood is considered a biohazard. Some liability insurance will cover food-borne illness from farm products — but not all. If you are selling food or products made from your goats, consider product liability insurance in addition to general liability.
Product liability insurance can be very complex for milk, cheese, soap, lotions, or any other tangible item. Check to see that the policy explicitly covers each product that you offer. Some will cover milk, but not cheese, which is considered an “adulterated” farm product. However, no insurance will cover products that are not in compliance with industry standards for licensing and production.
Be aware of local, state, and federal laws and licensing requirements if you sell products. Your local extension office can be an excellent resource for food safety requirements. Soap and lotion get much trickier. Depending on your market — whether you are selling to friends and family, have an internet presence, sell retail, or at a farmers market — advertising and labeling can invite problems that your insurance may not cover. In the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has a strict definition of soap. If regulated as soap, you must label it as soap per the Consumer Products Safety Commission. If you make claims that it moisturizes or deodorizes, it becomes a cosmetic, under the jurisdiction of the FDA, with different regulations. Suppose the label claims that the soap offers any health benefit, such as antibacterial qualities, healing, or treating skin conditions. In that case, the soap categorizes as a drug, also regulated by the FDA. You can read the entire regulation at 21 CFR 701.20. The FDA has several pages dedicated to this topic — a must-read for soap makers: fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/frequently-asked-questions-soap.
Whether a goat owner is insured or not often comes down to cost. Some policies can be costly. If the quoted rate exceeds your budget, discuss alternatives with your agent. Insurance policies are negotiable. Higher deductibles — the amount you pay toward a claim before your insurance company pays — often lower cost. How much insurance you need comes down to how much risk you can afford. If you are operating as a business, you can report the cost of insurance as a business expense on your taxes. Ultimately, the cost should be weighed by how much it might cost not to have insurance, should there be an incident involving your goats.
Karen Kopf and her husband Dale own Kopf Canyon Ranch in Troy, Idaho. They enjoy “goating” together and helping others goat. They raise Kikos primarily but experiment with crosses for their new favorite goating experience: pack goats! You can learn more about them at Kopf Canyon Ranch on Facebook or kikogoats.org
Originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.