Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are there any restrictions or licences required for keeping goats?
A. Yes. You will need to be registered with DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) as a goat keeper. You will be allocated a Holding Number and a Herd Number. You will need to keep medical and movement records required by law. For details contact your local DEFRA office.
Q. Will a goat be a good lawnmower?
A. In a word - no! For one thing they need a lot more attention and maintenance, i.e. they are not happy shut up for the winter and expected to work to full capacity on the first Spring day dry enough to get on the lawn!!!!
Whilst goats will eat grass, it is not their preferred forage. They much prefer something they can get their teeth into, e.g. thistles, brambles, docks, most types of hedge, trees and, of course, those prize roses!
Q. I have a large back garden. Could I keep a goat tethered so that it can't eat the plants?
A. It is possible to tether goats but it is not desirable. A tethered animal needs constant access to water and shelter. The first thing that is likely to happen is that your goat knocks over the water bucket. Next the rope or chain will get twisted and tangled, probably around the goats legs, or around itself until the goat is choking. The goat can no longer eat the grass because it is pinned to the tethering stake, assuming that the animal has not become so frustrated that it has yanked this out of the ground and is tucking into those prize roses or worse!!!!
Tethering requires CONSTANT supervision so you might as well put the goat on a lead and walk round the garden with it.
Q. Can I keep one goat as I only have a small paddock and shed?
A. Whilst it is possible to keep a goat on its own, this is not recommended. Goats are herd animals and naturally seek company. They are quite likely to make their escape and go in search of others, especially during the mating season, at which time they can also be very noisy. En route they are likely to explore the possibility of finding something nice to eat in your neighbour's garden!!!
Q. I have a field with a dry stone wall. Is that suitable for my goats?
A. Goat heaven! Something ideal for demonstrating their skill as mountaineers! Your dry stone wall will rapidly become a dry stone heap and the goats will display another facet of their nature - curiosity - by exploring beyond the now flattened boundary.
Q. What is the best way to keep goats in a field?
A. The answer to this question is not simple. Such a lot depends on your particular goats, how they were brought up and how they are used to being contained.
Generally speaking a height of around 1400mm (4'6") is needed to prevent animals from jumping out, although it has been known for this height to be cleared by a billy when there are nannies the other side and vice versa!!
Hedges will be eaten.
Wooden fences with horizontals are great for putting front feet on and craning the neck to reach .........., so it need to be very sturdy.
Stock fencing is also good for standing on and will get misshapen. It can be protected by putting a rail at about 450mm(1'6") high but ......see 'wooden fencing'.
Electric netting can work, though it is very easy for the goat to get tangled in if it goes the wrong way trying to get away from it. Two or three strands of electric wire at appropriate heights, e.g.150mm, 450mm and 900mm, or 200mm and 750mm, can work very well. A wooden fence can be protected by running a strand of electric wire round at about 450mm high.
Barbed wire is definitely not a good idea - a nanny with a full udder plus barbed wire equals trouble.
Q. I just want a goat as a pet not to breed from. Would a male be suitable?
A. Castrated males can make good pets but be aware they can grow quite big and strong, and goats can be stubborn! However, with the right approach they are easy to train and make very rewarding pets.
Q. How much land do I need to keep goats?
A. As much as possible. Goats are browsing animals so like to wander, eating a bit here and a bit there. The larger the area and the greater the variety of forage the better. Having said that, it is possible to keep your goats with a shed and yard for exercise. They need constant access to water, hay, shelter, fresh air and room to exercise. The less forage that is available the more fodder needs to be brought in for the goats.
Most English goats are kept because they make good use of rough forage so they may not settle to a stall-fed regime.
Q. Do I have to feed concentrates to my goats if they have plenty of browsing?
A. In theory, if your goats have access to plentiful and varied forage which can satisfy all their nutritional requirements, then you may not need to feed concentrates. It is unlikely that this is true in most cases. Growing kids, milking nannies and working males especially need adequate forage/fodder. How much of this is made up of concentrate feed depends on the quality and quantity of other forage (not including hay which essentially provides roughage). Permanently housed goats will require higher levels of concentrates.
English goats are good at converting rough forage so tend to require lower levels of concentrate feed than the larger breeds bred for high milk yields. This means they are more economical for the smallholder or as a 'house goat'.