Saturday, September 25, 2010

Learning To Keep Goats

When you go to the fair or visit a friend, it's all too easy to fall in love with goats and jump right in and get one with little preparation. But if you do, I can almost guarantee your time with them will be short! If you really think you want to keep goats (or any animal for that matter), you'll be doing yourself and the goat a favor by researching and preparing before you bring them home!

{Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar}

I highly recommend finding a mentor who will be your on-going "go to" person when you have questions or need help. A good "goat friend" will let you work alongside him or her to help you become familiar with the animal and it's needs, find out how to care for it, and all the little idiosyncrasies of the breed. I've been blessed to have such a friend in Lori, my own goat mentor, who has graciously spent hours teaching me and my girls how to trim hooves, milk, feed, house, and shelter these four-legged escape artists!

Whether or not you can find a mentor, a few good books on the subject are an essential for your home library. While the internet is a great source for quick information, you'll need something to have on hand at all times (including during electrical outages), to curl up in bed and read, or to drag out to the barn with you. Just be sure to keep it away from curious nibblers!

Two resources I recommend are Storey's Guide To Raising Dairy Goats by Jerry Belanger and Living With Goats by Margaret Hathaway. Both have easily kept my attention, but the first is a bit more technical while the second reads more like a journal with great tips along the way. Margaret has been transparent enough to tell you about some of the mistakes she's made along the way and how she's learned from them. This kind of information is priceless! Jerry, has included a lot of statistics and facts, but not so much that I was bored. 

Reading two different books gives you options. There isn't just one set way to do things and getting counsel from more than once source is important because everyone will have something unique about their own adventure with goats that must be addressed. Geography, climate, breeds, resources, needs, goals... all these issues will determine how you raise your own animals. 

It would be nice to just whip out a step-by-step "how to" guide with a simple check list, but it just isn't that easy. You can learn if you're willing to take the time. And even though you can't learn everything before you bring home your new milk source, you'll at least have a basic working knowledge and hopefully a mentor to get you through any rough patches. Just remember, you're re-pioneering an ability that is quickly becoming a lost skill. This is a real homestead revival!


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