The Dog Doctors Youth Outreach Program
What's So Great About Goats?
When was the last time you saw a goat?
If this question is hard to answer it may be because, relatively speaking, there aren't that many goats in the United Sates.
The situation is quite different in many developing countries, since 95% of the world's goats live in countries that are classified as "developing".
Why? The most likely answer to this question is that goats are amazingly tough and versatile animals with more uses than a Swiss Army Knife.
Among their many functions, goats are used to clear brush (by eating it), pull carts, provide meat and milk, and produce fiber for clothing.
On top of all that, goats can survive and thrive just about anywhere!
Small wonder that they are cultivated and highly prized in places where conditions are more rugged than here.
The vicious rumor is untrue; goats do not eat tin cans!
They do however, love to eat paper. For the most part, they are very discriminating eaters. Favorite foods: tender new growth from trees such as sweet gum.
Goats and Dogs
A dog can be a goat's best friend or worst enemy...
Dog attacks pose one of the biggest health threats known to goats. As many a goat owner has found out to their dismay, the sound and smell of fearful goats can bring out the predator in even mild mannered and well groomed family pets like the ones shown above. All too frequently, entire herds of caged goats are decimated by packs of otherwise domesticated dogs. The goat below barely survived a dog attack!
On a positive note, dogs with special guardian instincts that have been raised with sheep or goats can become loyal protectors of the herd or flock. They have been known to chase away other dogs, coyotes, and a few two-legged predators.
The Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherds are two breeds of dogs that have been bred specifically as guardian dogs for livestock.
Milk and Meat
As the picture at right shows, goats can definitely produce milk! In fact, worldwide, more people drink goat's milk than cow's milk.
Goat's milk is sweet and highly digestible, and is often given to children and adults who are unable to digest cow's milk.
Goat's milk has been used to raise a variety of orphaned animals ranging from kittens and puppies to calves and foals.
Average milk production for a dairy goat is 6-8 pounds per day. A high-yielding doe can produce 16 pounds of milk per day!
Mechanized milking machines are available for goats, but many owners of small herds milk by hand twice a day.
Goat breeds range in size from very small (African Pygmy) to quite large (Saanen, Nubian, and Boer).
Goat breeds were developed according to the desired utility of the animal. There are 6 breeds of dairy goats recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association: Saanen, Toggenburg, Alpines, Nubian, Oberhasli and LaMancha. LaManchas don't have any external ear parts but can hear normally. Boer goats are large fleshy fast-growing goats from Africa that are primarily raised for meat.
This goat produces both milk and a fiber that is used to make cashmere sweaters. Actually, two types of fiber are produced from goats: cashmere and mohair.
The cashmere goat is not a true breed of goat. More correctly, a goat of any breed that produces the typical downy cashmere undercoat is called a cashmere-producing goat.
Angora goats are a true fiber-producing breed. They produce the mohair that is used to make fine garments.
Goats Are Fun! And They Make Great Pets!
Goats can be quite affectionate and often make great pets.
Goats are intelligent, inquisitive and very playful! One of their favorite games is King of the Mountain (or King of the Plank).
Goats are buttheads!
You can call a goat a butthead and be technically correct!
Goats with horns are sometimes referred to as buttheads. Goats can be born with horns or without horns (the hornless trait is also called the polled trait).
Since the hornless trait is linked to an undesirable intersex trait that will cause the goat to be infertile, most breeders raise genetically horned goats.
In dairy animals, the horns can be inconvenient and dangerous during milking. Also, most dairy goats are so gentle that they can be lead around by a neck collar like a dog so additional handles are not needed.
For these reasons, dairy goat breeders will often dehorn goat kids in the first few weeks of life while the horn buds are barely palpable on the head. The most common way to accomplish this task is to use an electric disbudding iron to cauterize the horn growth.
Most goats that are raised for meat are left horned, because the horns are useful as handles while restraining these goats for routine procedures like vaccination, deworming and foot trims. These goats are typically handled less frequently than a milk goat.
Regardless of breed, horns give a goat a fighting advantage, so it is best to have the whole herd either horned or hornless.
Fun Facts about Goats
A female goat (called a doe) usually has 2 kids a year. Most births occur in the spring after a 5 month gestation period. A male goat is called a buck, and a neutered male is called a whether. Baby goats are referred to as kids. Also, goats have only two teats (cows have 4).
Goats don't have any upper front teeth!
Last Updated April 10, 2007
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