The art of homesteading means using tools and other resources at your disposal effectively. When it comes it controlling weeds there is no better tool than goats, but before you introduce them to your plot, you should better understand the journey you’re signing up for. What is it like to have goats on the homestead, what does it take to care for them, and why even bother?
To answer simply, they are easy to care for, inexpensive to raise, provide a variety of benefits for the homestead, and offer unmatched weed control.
Goats are easy to find in most communities. You will want to research the type of goat you want based on your goals for getting them in the first place. Often you can even find free goats from fellow homesteaders who are ready to re-home them. There is not a lot of prep work required in bringing home goats other than making sure you have an effective fencing option. They might appreciate a basic goat shelter, but it’s not necessary in mild climates.
1. Provide Food
Goats can be raised to provide food for your family. Whether you choose to butcher them for meat or simply use goat milk to make cheese or butter, it’s an animal that can supplement your meal plan. Of course, if milk production is your goal, make sure you select dairy goats since, like cows, not all goats are intended for this purpose.
2. Provide Other Products
Depending on the type of goat you choose, you can use make fibers much in the same way that sheep wool is used. For example, pygora and angora goats both produce mohair that can be spun into yarn. Goat soap is another product you can make as a result of your goat ownership. Many find it soothing for irritated skin, especially if they have sensitivities to other forms of soap.
3. Weed Control
Goats are the quintessential weed wacker. They will plow through anything from conveniently located grass to ten-foot-high blackberry bushes that have buried the shed.
4. Work Load
Larger varieties of goats have been used for generations to help work the land. From pulling a plow to moving a cart, goats can be trained for a variety of homesteading tasks. They can also be loaded like a mule to move things from one place to another.
Goats also make great companions. They tend to bleat when animals or humans come near so they work as a security system. Plus, they are playful and entertaining animals that enjoy attention and affection from humans as well as other farm animals. More than a few goats have ended up as inside pets for this reason.
6. Low Cost
In addition to low upfront costs, goats are self-sufficient if given adequate weeds to munch on so you don't have to worry about purchasing or growing grain or hay except perhaps during extreme weather.
1. Bye, Bye Garden
Of course, goat ownership isn’t all edibles and free labor. Goats like to roam, which means they will mow down anything in their path. Fences, preferably adaptable fencing that can be moved from one location to another, is vital for containing goats. When using them for weed control you will want to keep them in one area at a time and then relocate them to the next problem spot that needs cleared. The problem comes when they break out of the fencing and mow down your garden or favorite patch of lawn when you’re gone for an afternoon.
2. Not Enough Food
One of the best benefits of goats on the homestead is that they are one of the few animals that you do not have to grow or buy food for. However, if you run out of space for them to roam and graze freely, you will find yourself doing exactly that. If this happens, it might be a good time to loan out or sell your stock until the next time you need to put goats to work on the farm.
All living creatures can be a target for wild predators, and goats are no exception. Not only do you want to protect your animals, but you also want to avoid providing an easy target so offer a predator-proof area for goats during the night when they are most vulnerable to being hunted.
Most homesteaders will agree that the benefits of having goats far outweigh any potential challenges. They are a useful and effective tool as well as considerate companions. You might even want to have different kinds of goats to meet different goals around your homestead.