Whether raised for meat, milk, or pets, goats are popular livestock animals.
They are social herd animals, so a couple of goats are preferable to one.
They like to wander and graze and play and are healthier when they get to do so.
If you give your herd of goats free-range, you need between 1/4 to 1/2 acre per animal.
Indoors, they need at least 10-15′ square feet per animal.
Goats can wander miles away from where they are supposed to be, so it is not good to let them completely free-range. Fencing in the pasture, using stakes and tying them up, or using dogs to herd them are all ways to allow your animals a greater range of movement without losing track of them completely.
They also need to be kept indoors at night as they are extremely vulnerable to predators.
Read on for more considerations about free-ranging your goats.
Will My Goats Run Away?
Goats don’t run away so much as wander off searching for food or companionship.
If they need to stay within their pen, it must be built so they cannot even get their head through, or they will escape or get stuck.
Provide your animals with adequate space for exercise and play in their goat pen, give them plenty of healthy and tasty food, and make sure they have companionship and stay home.
Trees are wonderful for climbing and will keep your animal occupied.
Goat fans love using old tires, converting children’s playsets, and other creative ways to entertain their animals.
What Is Free-Ranging?
Free-ranging is when the animal is kept in natural conditions with complete freedom of movement, such as no stakes, ropes, fences, or confinement.
Allowing your animals’ free access to your entire property has many benefits.
An advantage of free-ranging is it lets them eat all kinds of plants and bugs, including your weeds and brush!
This saves you money on buying feed and gives you free weed and brush control.
Ensure your animal doesn’t have access to areas you don’t want eaten or objects you do not want them to climb on and damage, such as your car!
Aside from possibly eating your prized vegetable garden, your goat is more vulnerable to predators and getting off your property when you “free-range” them.
Your curious goat could get into trouble on your neighbor’s property or wander into the road and get killed or injured.
How Can I Safely Give My Goats More Freedom?
A common and effective way of allowing your animal outside of their normal pen is to tie them up or picket them and move them to a new spot throughout the day.
Ensure your animal is securely tied with a decent length of rope, about 20′ feet or so, to reach an adequate area for foraging grass and other plants.
Another way of providing more range is to use temporary fencing in your goat pasture.
Fence off the area you want your animal to forage in and move it after a few days when he’s cleared it out.
Fences need to be secure and cannot have gaps the animals could fit their heads through, or they might escape or get stuck and hurt themselves.
A traditional way of managing where goats go is to use herding dogs.
A trained dog will not only keep them close to home but will protect them from predators.
Your animals will be safer if you put them in a barn at night.
Related: What is a goats home called?
Poison and Predators
Most goats would consider all plants good goat forage, but goat owners know this is not true.
They need to be kept away from poisonous plants, such as
- Common milkweed
- Bracken fern
- St. John’s wort
- Wild cherry
Your free-ranging goats will also be vulnerable to hawks, bobcats, coyotes, dog packs, cougars, etc.
To protect them from predation, keep your animals locked up in a fenced-in area with shelter, even if you let them roam during the day.
Train your goats to come when you call, using grain training to make it easier to round them up for safety’s sake or move them to a different pasture.
Put a cup of grain in the grain bucket and shake it around, so the noise gets the goats’ attention, and they will come running for the treat.
Your goats should be used to your presence and voice and come when you call.
Can Goats Be on Pasture All Day?
Once you’ve let your animals out to pasture, they’ll find their favorite spots and nibble away morning to night.
The plants they eat while on pasture may not be enough to satisfy their nutritional needs, so they also need to be fed hay or alfalfa pellets supplemented with a grain blend for goats or grain pellets.
They require a lot of hay (about 3 pounds a day!), and it should be available to them throughout the day if they are not out to pasture, twice a day if they are.
Another kind of feed is a hay product made with molasses called Chaffhaye.
This type of feed ferments in the bag, adding the bacteria bacillus subtillis.
This bacteria aids in digestion.
Chaffhaye also has more nutrients than regular dried hay.
A complete diet will lead to a healthy goat.
Diet variety helps provide all the nutrition your goat needs.
What Are Goats Good For?
Aside from making interesting pets, goats produce meat, milk and cheese, fiber such as cashmere and mohair, and other products.
They are used for brush and weed control, packing for hiking and hunting, lively and genial companions for horses and humans, and taking part in livestock shows.
Goats are good for small farming, urban and otherwise.
Related: Why is goat meat expensive?