One year ago I purchased a small goatherd to add to the farm. The does were French alpine (a milk breed) and the billy was a Boer.
I bought them knowing there would some differences between sheep and goats, but assuming (even if I didn’t admit it) that they would be basically the same as sheep.
One year later I am going to share from my perspective
If you are trying to decide between sheep or goats for your farm or homestead am going to share my opinion on a situation in which goats are a hands-down a better for your farm or homestead and a situation in which sheep are a hands down better choice for your farm or homestead.
4 ways that goats have been a more pleasurable animal for me than sheep than sheep, and 4 ways that goats have been a less pleasurable animal for me than sheep and what role they will play on my farm from here on out.
If you are trying to make the decision for your homestead, this video should be chock full of info. Please note there will be exceptions and caveats based on breed, etc so I would like to ask goat owners to leave a comment below with their breed and how their experience has differed or been similar to mine over the past year.
This video is brought to you by shepherdess.com, where I provide beginner sheep owners with the resources they need to get off the ground, including sheep supplies kits and free ebooks and articles. The unique thing about sheep and goats is that there are so many similarities in the healthcare arena that the supplies and resources I offer for sheep crossover into the goat arena.
I’m also going to be launching a book in August that I want you to be watching for: the Basics of Raising Sheep on Pasture: a photo-educational guide to raising and grazing sheep on 30 acres or less.
First up, when we think of bringing an animal back to the farm it is really important to define your goals for that animal. This is going to help you to avoid burnout when the challenges associated with that animal present themselves.
When people talk to me about raising animals on a homestead they are raising them for one of twos reasons: self-sufficiency and food production or Land management
If I am speaking to the self-sufficiency, food production homesteader, I would advise sheep.
Here is why:
At my home, I would a tremendous amount of difficulty convincing my family to make goat milk a regular part of their diet. Lamb, however, slips into the menu and replaces beef in most of the recipes we use it in. Lamb is very easy to integrate into already established eating habits. Until we are starving in some apocalyptic situation I will have to find a secondary use for my goats milk: feeding it to pigs or chickens, or making soap.
Another primary difference between goat and lamb is in the eating experience (should you raise meat goats). Lamb has the capacity to marble and create a similar eating experience to beef, whereas excess fat stores in goats does not become marbling in the meat. Instead it centralize around the vital organs and abdominal wall, and not in the meat. This makes goat a very lean eating experience. This isn’t bad, just different and something that would prove a bigger adjustment for my family at least.
If I am speaking to the homesteader who is managing a very brushy or poor quality forage resource: Goats win.
Goats are extremely aggressive browsers. As I watched this goat herd eat, I at one point watched them work together to tip over a small evergreen tree and then proceed to peel the bark off with their teeth and eat it… all while there were acres and acres of pasture grass at their disposal.
Sheep are 50/50 in their grazing-browsing habits. They are a hybrid between a goat and a cow in that they will eat weeds and brush, but if there is open pasture in front of them, they will opt for it first, then eat away at the brush.
If you have extremely brushy land and very little grass, goats are going to make amazing use of that. The interesting thing I have heard about goats is that within about 5 years they will eat themselves out of a habitat because the brush that they go at so hard is really not used to such heavy grazing impact and will eventually die out of a pasture, making room for grass.
Ok here are 4 ways goats have been a more pleasurable experience for me than sheep over the past year:
Prolificacy: The twinning rate on my goat herd was better than my sheep flock. My goats were supplemented with feed and my sheep were grass only. So please note that could have had something to do with it.
Personality: Goat kids have a way better personality that lambs. The two are equal in cuteness… but goat kids will literally hug you… it’s weird. And it is literally one of the most fun experiences to take your coffee out to the goat pen in the morning and watch them use anything as a gymnasium. Lambs re adorable, but goat personality wins. (Sorry sheep)
Commodity value: Consistently here in the DFW area, goats are pulling stronger prices at sale barns and public auction houses.
Browsing ability: I mentioned this before, but if your land base has more weeds than pasture, goats have an advantage.
4 ways that goats have been a less pleasurable experience for me than sheep over the past year:
Containment: This is the biggest challenge. I had really gotten a good system in place with my sheep. I operate on 2-strands of polytope and a 12 Joule AC charger. This keeps my sheep in at a rate of 90% (which is good enough for me). The goats pretend the fence doesn’t exist. They are super agile and can either jump or muster the bravery to slip through. As I’ve watched them get hit with the electric shock of the poly tape, their instinct seems to be to continue bounding forward, rather than to retract, so whether they are hit with a shock or not, they leave the paddock. I’ve discussed the issue with other goat owners and the concession is that electric netting is the best portable fence option for goats, so invest in a set of that and. You are good to go.
Copper: Goats need more copper than sheep. This isn’t a huge deal, but something to be noted. Twice this year I have administered a copper bolus in the back of the throat for each goat and that was all they needed.
Climbing: It may be the breed, but my alpines climb-climb-climb in ways that my stalky Dorpers never could. They climb out of my handling system and I have to chase them around the corral and manually provide their drenches and treatments. In fact last year they collaborated with the sheep. They climbed to the top of the hay pile, and kicked several bales to the bottom, where the sheep feasted heartily on what was supposed to be winter reserves.
Hooves: I was treating more goat hooves than sheep hooves this year. Now it was an abnormally wet year so I am not certain this is a fair estimate, but I’ll include it anyway and let you agree or disagree in the comments section with the point that goats are more sensitive to hoof issues than sheep.
I noted they were about the same as sheep with respect to parasites… However I did not loose any goat kids to parasites this year and I did lose a few lambs, so they did gain the win there. However I was raising a lot more lambs than goats this year, so it’s not really an even match.
So what am I going to do?? Will goats stay on my farm. Yes, they will. I have been told by my little sisters, who adore the goats, that I must keep them. They will not be a for-profit enterprise.
I am going to keep 2 does for personal enjoyment. One of the does I am keeping is a great milker and allows anything to nurse off of her. I believe she will come in handy for orphan lambs.
I hope this video helped you and please give it a thumbs up if it did. I look forward to seeing you in the next one.