Goats are a common livestock animal that have been domesticated for over 10,000 years.
Goats are used for many things, meat, hides, dairy, fiber, as pack animals or for light draft work, and more recently, as pets. There are over 200 different breeds of goats.
Kid – baby goat
Doe – female goat
Nanny – female goat, often used to refer to one that has had kids
Billy – intact male
Buck – intact male (interchangeable with billy)
Wether – castrated male goat
Polled – goats without horns, the horns are often removed by dis-budding
Non-polled – goats with horns
Dis-budding – removing the growing horn buds, usually done when the goat is a kid
photo of goats at auction, by author.
Like cattle, goats are ruminants, they have a four-chambered stomach that allows them to regurgitate some harder to digest foods and chew them again, called chewing their cud, before swallowing for further digestion.
Goats prefer to browse, eating leaves off trees more so than grazing grass off the ground.
Goats are often said to “eat everything”, but this is not really true, they do like to taste test things, but if they eat something other than food it is usually by mistake. They will chew on barns and garbage left in their pasture out of a curious nature.
Many goats have beards, the billy goats tend to have longer beards and will often intentionally urinate on their beard. This makes them quite smelly.
Some goats, such as pygmy goats, and many of the dairy goats, have tiny wattles on either side of their neck. These serve no purpose.
Goats are excellent climbers, they can climb rocks, fences, and even some leaning trees. As such they can often escape from some enclosures. Some breeds of goats are better at climbing than others. Goats are also often smart enough to learn how to open gates.
Goats are sexually mature at 4 or 5 months, their gestation period is roughly 5 months, or 150 days. It is better that they are not bred until they are at least 8 months of age. Goats often have twins, some breeds have multiple births of four or more. Since does only have 2 teats, when they have so many kids, or if being used for dairy, some kids are usually removed and bottle fed.
Billy goats can be quite aggressive to people, especially if they were treated as “pets” early on.
The lifespan for a goat can be 15 years or more, but is reduced if they are bred repeatedly.
Catgut, as used for stings on some musical instruments and for sutures, comes from the intestine of a goat.
Goat's milk is said to have more health benefits than cow's milk, and although it does have lactose, many people who have problems when they drink cow's milk can drink goat's milk with no problems.
Most good milking goats can produce 8 pounds, or 3.5 kg (about 1 gallon) of milk per day. They are usually milked twice a day.
In addition to the domestic goat, there are many wild species, often just called Spanish Goats.