Goats and sheep make wonderful companions, but they can also require a lot of time, care and money. If this will be your first goat or sheep, here are a few things you should consider before bringing one home to join your family.
Caring for your goat or sheep
Goats can live up to 18 years (sheep, up to 12 years). Goats are incredibly smart, playful and curious. Plus, they can make great lawn mowers, since they love to chomp on grass and weeds. But to have a happy and healthy life, goats need to be more than just weed-eaters. They require a lot of care and attention. Goats love to learn tricks, to go for walks and to be groomed regularly.
When cared for properly, they can make great pets and best friends. Here is everything your new goat will need:
Feed. Goats like to eat leaves, bark from trees, twigs, vines and shrubs (as well as their daily ration of timothy hay). They also enjoy occasional treats such as celery, carrots, mango leaves, grapes, bananas, apples, pears, zucchini and watermelon. Some plants can be toxic to goats and sheep, so before you bring your goat home, it’s important to do a little research on the plants and weeds in your yard or pasture and clear out any that may be toxic.
In addition to a variety of foods, goats need regular access to loose mineral supplements. Your local feed store should have plenty of choices. But please keep in mind that the goat minerals you will buy from the feed store contain copper, which is toxic to sheep and some other barnyard animals. If your goat will live with other barnyard animals, please keep the goat minerals in a “goat-only” area.
Shelter. Goats are amazing climbers, so they require secure, tall, predator-proof fencing. And be prepared to secure your fencing every so often. Goats and sheep are very active, and they love to explore, so they may find a seemingly impossible escape route, breaking your fence in the process. For that reason, the more pasture or acreage they have to roam, the better.
Supplying playground equipment is also a good idea to help keep your goat’s playful side satisfied. But please make sure your playground equipment is away from fencing so your goat doesn’t climb to the top and jump out. Goats also need a shelter where they can retreat at night or during inclement weather.
Medical care. Goats should receive annual tetanus vaccines and regular dewormers, which are available at feed stores or from your vet. Also, you’ll need to trim your goat’s hooves about four times per year. You can do this yourself (with patience) or your vet can help.
Enrichment. It’s important to provide your goats with an enriching environment so they can thrive. The good news? There are tons of easy, cheap ways to do this. One of the best ways to help to keep your goats happy is to provide them with places to climb. Here are a few ideas for simple, inexpensive climbing objects:
- Large tractor tires
- Picnic tables linked with wooden platforms
- Wooden half barrels with narrow walkways to play in
- Old boats, trucks, wagons or trailers to jump into or eat hay from
- Dog igloos or houses to climb on
- Tree stumps to jump on, especially a few at different heights, like stepping stones
- Jungle gyms, teeter-totters, ramps, playground equipment
- Rock walls to play on and climb
You may be able to find these items for free through Craigslist or your local classified ads.
Adopting a sheep or goat
We want you to have a successful experience with your goat and/or sheep, so we recommend that you do a little research, talk to your veterinarian, and talk to others who have a goat or sheep. Learn as much as you can before you make a final decision about whether these animals will fit into your lifestyle.
If you do decide to adopt a goat or sheep from Best Friends, the first step is to complete our goat and sheep adoption survey. Once we receive your survey, we will contact you and help you find your perfect match. A Best Friends staff member will then perform a home check to make sure your yard and home are set up just right for the goat’s or sheep’s happiness and safety.
We also encourage you to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to meet the goat or sheep you are thinking of adopting. That will give you a good chance to interact and make sure the animal is a good fit for you. A visit isn’t always required, but it can definitely be a good idea.