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Keeping goats has become more popular in the last decade and many people are considering getting goats whether for personal use or as a business. There are several things to consider before you get your goats such as breed, usage, and how many. One of the top questions most beginners have is how many goats can I start with?
When starting to keep goats it’s best to get 2-6 goats. You need a minimum of 2 goats since they are very social herd animals. The amount of land you have available as well as the intended usage of the goats will affect how many goats you can have.
There are many factors that go into deciding how many goats you should have when first starting out or even later as you become more experienced raising goats. I will discuss the main factors that go into choosing how many goats to have such as land size, usage, cost, and local bylaws.
What Will You Use The Goats For?
Before you worry about how many goats to start with, you must decide what you will be using the goats for. The number of goats you get at the beginning will be affected by what your goals are with your goats.
Milk goats are kept because goat milk is an alternative to cow’s milk. Goats milk is easier to digest for people with gastrointestinal problems, and they use goat’s milk instead of regular cow’s milk. You can use goat milk to replace any other milk in cooking and baking.
Some farmers make dairy products like cheese and yogurt from goat’s milk because they find that goat milk is richer in flavor and sweeter. The demand for dairy products using goat’s milk has risen immensely in the last few years. Goat’s milk has also become popular in soaps, shampoos, and other beauty products.
Raising goats for meat is also in high demand in America these days. Considering that goat meat can fetch up to $20 per pound, you get much less with other livestock meats such as beef, sheep, and pork. Because goat meat is more profitable than sheep or other livestock meat, many farmers buy multiple meat goats at a time.
If you decide to buy goats for their fiber, you will need to keep the size of the goats in mind. Goat fiber has been used to make clothes and materials for centuries. Cashmere and Mohair are among the most sought-after. The fiber business is still in demand today though not at the demand of previous generations.
If you decided to raise goats as pets or companions then you don’t need that many goats to begin with. It might also affect the breed of goat you buy.
How Many Goats To Start With Based on Use
Whether for personal enjoyment or because you want to start a business the number of goats you need will depend on why you want goats in the first place.
Amount Of Milk Goats You Need
A milk goat typically produces 2.5-3 quarts (approx 2.4-2.8 L) of milk per day. This is an average as there will be times of higher milk production and times of lower milk production. Goats need to be milked once every 12 hours, or they will be in pain and can develop mastitis.
If you are raising milk goats for your family or are selling goat milk 2 or 3 goats should be enough. Should you decide to start making other goat products such as cheese or yogurt you will need more goat’s milk. It takes about 5 quarts (4.7L) of milk to make 1 lb of cheese.
By deciding how much milk you want you can figure out how many goats you will need. If you want a consistent supply, you should have a mix of goats at different stages in their lactating cycle. Meaning some does will have given birth more recently than others.
Most does will produce milk for 10 months but some will for up to 2 years if milked daily. Then they will need to become pregnant again to restart the lactating process.
Amount Of Meat Goats You Need
When raising goats for meat you need to consider how much usable meat is on an adult goat. Roughly you will get 35% usable meat from a goat. For example, if you have a 60 lb goat you should expect 21-22.5 lbs of meat. This is based on the hanging weight being about 50% of the live weight and the meat weight being 70-75% of the hanging weight.
If you are raising goats for meat for your family, you can start with 3-6 goats. This will give you 60-120 lbs of meat if you slaughter all the goats. This won’t cover your family’s entire meat needs but will contribute to a large portion of it.
For a goat meat business, you will need quite a few more goats. The scale of your goat meat business will more likely be dependent on the amount of land you have available and the desired income from your business.
Remember, if you are only using the meat goats for your family, you won’t need many goats, to begin with. You can raise the does and bucks together if you don’t use them for milk, but you will need to keep them separated if you breed them and have a pregnant doe.
Amount Of Fiber Goats You Need
Keeping goats for their fiber produces a lot less yield per goat when compared to milk or meat. But goats that provide fiber can also be used for milk or meat.
The desired fibers from a goat are actually the undercoat and need to be combed from the goat. The overhair is very coarse while the undercoat is soft. This is what cashmere is made from.
One goat will produce 4-6oz (113-170 g) of fiber undercoat per year. A typical women’s sweater made from a worsted weight yarn (#4) needs about 1250 yards of yarn which equals about 580 grams. So you would need 4 or 5 goats to make one sweater.
Once you have removed the underlayer of hair from your goats you will still need to clean the hair, either card or comb the fibers, then it must be spun into yarn before it can be turned into clothing.
Amount Of Companion Goats You Need For Your Family
If you are buying goats as companion goats for your family, it would be best to buy two goats and ensure that if one is male it is neutered. That way, you won’t be breeding them.
Goats are intelligent and make great companions, but like most other companion animals, they don’t like to compete for affection but they will. So having more than two at a time as companions might make them fight for your attention.
Amount Of Goats You Need For Your Goat Breeding Business
If you start a goat breeding business, you will need at least 4 goats, 2 male, and two females. You need to remember to separate the pairs when it’s breeding season and keep a careful record as inbreeding will reduce the quality of your goats.
Most buyers will want to know the history of the goats they are buying. So it would make more sense to start with 2 breeding pairs instead of one to reduce the chances of inbreeding and the medical and financial issues that are sure to follow.
You might want to consider separating the pairs when it isn’t mating season until you have a bigger herd. The more diversity you have in DNA by breeding goats of the same type but different parentage, the stronger your herd will be.
Factors to Consider When Deciding How Many Goats to Start With
When you want to begin keeping goats, there are a few factors to remember that will influence the number of goats you start with. Here are some factors to consider before you start goat shopping.
What Type Of Goats Are Best For Your Needs?
As we discussed in the section above, the reason for keeping goats has a lot to do with how many you need to start with, as does the species. The reason for keeping goats will determine the breed of goat you need (different breeds are best for different applications).
The goat breed will also affect the space you need (as different breeds are different sizes) and the number of goats you start with.
Different Goat Breeds For Different Needs
Once you have decided on why you want to keep goats, you need to choose the right type of breed that is best suited for the given use.
- Milk Goats: The goat breeds best suited for milk are Anglo-Nubian, Alpine, La Mancha, Sable Saanen, Oberhasli, and Toggenburg.
- Meat Goats: The goat breeds best suited to use as meat goats are Kiko, Savanah, Boer, Genemaster, and Spanish.
- Fiber Goats: The goat breeds best suited for fiber(hair) are Cashmere, Angora, Pygora, and Nigora.
- Companion Goats: The goat breeds best suited to buy as companion or pet goats are Kinder, Nigerian Dwarf, or Pygmy.
How Big Is The Property Where You Will Raise The Goats
A major factor influencing the number of goats you can start with is the size of land you want to keep the goats on. It’s important to remember that if you have chosen dairy goats, it can influence the size of the land and the number of goats you start with.
It’s because you need to build a milking section attached to the shelter. So if you have only a set amount of square feet available, you will likely buy fewer goats. If you are looking at buying meat goats, you may be able to buy more goats as you won’t need a milking station.
If you are looking to buy goats for fiber, you might want to have a small section where you can comb or sheer the goats, depending on the weather in your region. If you choose companion goats, you won’t need much land.
Find out more about how much space you need to have goats in my article, How Much Land Do You Need To Have A Goat?
Will You Breed Your Goats?
The number of goats you initially buy will also be influenced by whether you want to breed your goats to get the herd you want, buy all the goats initially, and eventually breed them or not breed them at all if you are choosing goats as pets or companions.
Also, remember that if you decide you want to breed your goats, you will need extra space if you have milk goats. The male goats or bucks give off bad smell 6 months out of the year, so you need to keep them in a separate space as their odor will make the milk taste bad.
Will The Goats Be For You Or For Your Business?
When you decide on the number of goats you need to buy, you need to keep the scale of your needs in mind. If you are buying goats for you and your family, for milk, meat, fiber, or pets, the number of goats you start with will be less than if you want to start a business using goats for these reasons.
Costs Involved When You Are A Beginner
Keeping goats is not a cheap livestock species to raise. You might not initially spend a lot of money when buying goats, but the maintenance, shelter, feeding, and medical needs are also important to keep in mind when deciding how many goats to start with. Learn more about what kind of shelter you need for your goats in my article, What Kind Of Shelter Do Goats Need?
You also need to consider that the reason for raising goats will impact the cost. Dairy goats need to have a milking station, and you might need some help if you don’t have family around to help you milk the goats every 12 hours. The equipment needed for this is also more expensive than meat goats.
Different breeds of goats require different needs, which will also impact the cost and the number of goats you buy. The more goats you buy, the more maintenance costs go up.
Check Your Town’s Regulations
Before deciding on the number of goats you want to buy, you need to check the laws and bylaws in your town or county regarding the number of goats you can keep. In some counties, you are required to have shelters and feeding troughs or milking stations for a set number of goats, and it may influence the number of goats you initially buy.
In the end, no matter what the reason for keeping goats are, it’s a rewarding hobby or business. Remember never to keep only one goat as it will be very unhappy, and consider all the relevant factors when deciding on the number of goats you want to raise. The numbers are not all that different, but there are underlying factors (as mentioned above) you should look at.