Are You Sure You Want A Goat?

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around out there about goats, and before buying any it is important to correct a few of them.

  • Goats do not eat grass. They will not mow the lawn, or even keep the edges neat around the garden. If lawn maintenance is your goal, you need sheep. Congratulations! Sheep are much easier to fence in!
Doesn't that look like a lot of extra fence for such short animals? It's not. It's really, really not.

Doesn’t that look like a lot of extra fence for such short animals? It’s not. It’s really, really not.

Yes, she is biting on the bow saw blade. This is NOT the goat who cost us $420 in mouth repair.

Yes, she is biting on the bow saw blade. This is NOT the goat who cost us $420 in mouth repair.

  • Goats require veterinary care specific to their species, and it can be expensive. Before buying any goats, you MUST find a local vet who knows ruminants. This may mean finding a large animal vet, and they may not be very close to you. The Internet is full of goat health forums, and Facebook is too, but there is absolutely no substitute for a visit with an experienced vet.

A list of vets known to treat goats is here: but this list may not be completely up to date. A dog or cat often looks sick for a few days before it’s at death’s door, but a goat who goes down may have only hours to live. You need a vet who already knows you if this happens, and trust me, it’s almost always going to happen at night or on a weekend.

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  • Goats do not care about your good opinion of them. You know the sad and guilty look the dog is wearing when you come home and the garbage is everywhere? Goats don’t do that. They have a great time, and they do what they want (google “goats on cars”). Goats can be trained to be gentle with people, to stand calmly for milking and hoof trimming, and to walk on a lead. They cannot be trained out of their innate curiosity and playfulness. If this is going to lead to a battle of wills, you will be an unhappy person (with unhappy goats).
  • Goats will not “eat anything.” They do not eat tin cans. That myth grew from the fact that some goats like the adhesive on paper labels and will nibble at the can to get the label off. A junkyard dog or a stubborn child may get hungry enough to eat what’s in front of him… a goat will just die. Goats require good-quality hay, fresh water, baking soda and loose goat mineral, and sometimes grain-based feed– every day.

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  • Goats are addictive. We started with two goats. We now have eleven. They are much worse than potato chips, because they are so adorable.
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  • Goats must have another goat for company. They are herd animals and do not bond with any other kind of creature, including people, in the same way. There are lots of anecdotes out there about goats who befriend other kinds of animals, but that’s not what is best for them. Without a goat companion, a lone goat may become depressed, sick, destructive, or all three.
  • Going on vacation requires extra planning. Goats need food and water at least once a day, twice (or more!) daily during extreme temperatures. You will need to find someone who can not only complete the chores involved, but who will notice health changes early and who will be able to manage the minor destruction that goats tend to create.


Goats are rewarding, useful, intelligent goofballs, but they require more work than many other kinds of animals. I have never regretted ours for a single day– even that day I had to sit out in a 25-degree barn for four hours with a sick one. Or the day they all but one snuck out of the pen and headed for the road. Or even the day Juniper chewed off a chunk of my hair while I was building the milk stand. Goats are, on balance, super fun.