Just because you live in the city or the suburbs, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few perks of farm living. You might harvest rain water, grow fruits and vegetables or even raise a few chickens out back.
Some homeowners are taking urban farming quite literally, and are introducing goats into their yards.
Can you keep goats and stay in your neighbors’ good graces? Are goats right for you? Let’s break down the backyard goat trend, and help you decide.
What’s the Appeal?
There are different reasons why people are drawn to raising goats, but according to Jennie P. Grant, author of the book, “City Goats: The Goat Justice League’s Guide to Goat Keeping,” there is a primary driver.
“Most urban farmers are in it for the milk,” she explains.
Indeed, dairy goats can offer nutritious milk that you can drink or use for baking, cooking or even making ice cream, according to the American Dairy Goat Association.
Backyard goats are also prized for their meat (there’s a base of consumers increasing demand for it, says The American Boer Goat Association) and their hair (the University of California Small Farm Program states that both mohair and cashmere come from goats).
And, according to Grant, there are increasing numbers of people raising the animals because they like to have them around.
“There are lots of people who want to keep goats as companion animals,” she says. “They simply want them as pets.”
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Are Goats Right for You?
If you think you need a goat in your life, make sure you understand what you’re getting into first. For instance, you can’t have just one goat. Goats are social animals, so you need at least two, according to Grant’s website, GoatJusticeLeague.org. “One goat will be lonely and stressed, and will act out in ways you can’t imagine,” she explains.
Goats also require daily care. If you’re keeping dairy goats, you’ll have to milk them daily — you cannot skip a day, cautions Grant. Also, because dairy goats only lactate after having a kid, you’ll likely have to breed them each year. Then there’s basic care like trimming hooves, getting goats dewormed and other hygiene tasks.
It’s also important to put your expectations in check. Goats aren’t going to replace your lawn mower, because they prefer brush, twigs and leaves to grass, says Grant. In the winter, you’ll also have to supplement their diet with hay and alfalfa — expect to shell out about $75 a month to feed a pair of goats, Grant says.
How to Get Started
Once you’re decided, there’s still a bit of work to do before you buy goats. Start by checking local zoning regulations to see if they are legal, and then ask officials about any other ordinances that might apply.
Even when goats are allowed, there are typically specific rules to follow. The City of San Diego, for instance, only allows miniature goats, requires that you keep no less but no more than two of them and restricts the sale of milk, cheese or other food products from your goats.
Next, decide on your purpose. Are you looking for milk? Meat? Or a companion? Your answer will help determine the breed. The Goat Justice League offers recommendations (think small and quiet) that are suited for urban environments.
And, finally, be sure to get the right setup in place. For example, San Diego requires a shed with access to an outdoor enclosure of at least 400 square feet, and a 5-foot-tall fence that prevents goats from climbing out — because that not only makes for happy goats, but for happy neighbors, too