In raising goats and sheep for ALMOST a year now (it seems WAY longer), we have learned a few things along the way. And I'm sure we will look back a few years from now and know that we have learned even more!
Of course, everything written in this post is all of our own learning experiences, and NOT those of a professional (a professional would NOT have made as many mistakes as we have!)! I find new and better things to do and try almost every week. So, don't necessarily take our advise on any of these things, but use this as a tool to make some right decisions for YOUR farm.Shade tree in the pasture and fencing
That being said, summer is a LOVELY time. It is also GREAT when you can pasture your animals! I know not everyone has the space to give their animals lush, green pastures, but if you do- DO IT! It is such a HUGE savings to the feed bill AND is VERY organic! Think about how God created these animals, He created them to live off the land. These animals are MADE to graze. That being said, I know all of our pastures may not have EVERY nutrient that may be beneficial to your goat, sheep, or other animals. So sometimes you have to make sure they get that!
Our lawn was never treated with chemicals to make it grow. Heavens! We would have been mowing every other day, if we did that! Hubby hasn't sprayed Round-up on it for 2 years now (I am still fighting this battle!). And we also have signs on the ends of our property along the road that says "Do Not Spray" that the state put up for us (we called the Indiana Department of Transportation- INDOT). So, our yard is just about as organic as you can get!Part of Goat/ Sheep Yard. With Water and play area!
When we bought our animals, all animals but our milking goat and a little male that we bought from the same lady, were pastured animals. We pasture them at all times. We don't yet have a shelter outside for them, so when it is really bad weather, we bring them into the barn. They know the way too! In the Winter, they stay in there at night to keep dry, and unless it is really nasty out, I let them out during the day. This may change if we get a little 3 sided shelter built for them.
In the summer, the goats and sheep are almost exclusively grass. We do give them treats (as bribes!) to follows us somewhere or about once ever week or so. Their "treats" consist of grain that we get from a local mill. They do not sell organic there, and I can't even find anyone with in a 3 hours drive that sells organic feed around here! From the mill, we get "sweet feed". Goats AND sheep can eat this and they LIKE IT A LOT. I also give then black oil sunflower seeds. I actually feed those to all of our animals. It helps out as a natural wormer. I also throw some cracked or whole corn in there.
Our milking female is a bit more fussy. She is 2 years old, and she has been raised in a barn all of her life. She had never seen the light of day, and had REALLY never seen grass before we brought her to our farm. She was given a mixture of grains and hay at her former home. So already being set in her ways, we have had to continue with this feeding regimen, so we didn't loose any milk production. From us she gets a "lactator" feed (alfalfa), black oil sunflower seeds, corn, beet pulp, and some sweet feed. After she is dried out, or as she is drying out, I want her to get used to pasture also. We bring her outside every few days, but she doesn't like it, and she has no interest in the grass at all. It is obviously more expensive to feed her!
We have another stall that is currently the home of Sophie, our milking goat. This stall is about an 8 x 12. She has plenty of space. At one point we actually had 2 grown female goats in that stall, and they had room. Sophie (before we got her) was being kept in a stall about 6x8 WITH another female goat. So the space you keep them in is all in how you see fit. I think they don't need a huge stall if you let them out everyday. But if they are mainly in their stall, or always in their stall, it needs to be much bigger. Personal opinion...
There is also another stall, it is about 6x12 and it as another "extra" stall that we will put one animal or another in, if they need to be inside.
In Sophie's stall, we have 3 different containers for her to eat from. One is for water (changed daily), one is for grain, and one is for hay. There are also 3 containers in the big stall, for the same purpose. In the Winter, these containers are outside in the pasture also. The water needs to be changed 2 times a day in the Winter, or if you are lucky enough, you will have a container that will keep your water from freezing! We have to feed them hay in the Winter, because there is no grass in Indiana, though they do try to scratch through the snow to reach it. We also give them grain everyday in the Winter, so they have all of the nutrients they need. We also (I almost forgot) have mineral available to the animals at all times, in the stalls or outside. You can get these by the block or in granular form, we use both.
Fencing needed for goats... well, it needs to be sturdy! And we also have ours hooked up to electric. That way they stay off the fences. Goats like to climb, and they are good jumpers! We have a fence that is MADE for goats and sheep. Sheep are strong, and both will get out of a wire fence, especially of it doesn't have electric on it!
Never get one goat or sheep. Get 2. If you don't, that one will go looking for a friend. They are escape artists! Plus they will be quieter for you!
Before purchasing ANY of these animals, ask questions. Don't know what questions to ask? Ask a friend who knows, and then ask the seller questions. Better yet, take your friend with you. Don't purchase an animal that you have only seen once. Make 2 or 3 trips. If there is anything that makes you feel uncomfortable about the purchase, don't do it! In purchasing my milking goat, I had never had one before. So, I had no clue what questions to ask, or that I needed to have the seller show me the amount that she milks (because people DO lie! Ask me how I know!), or that I needed to have the seller show me records or the mom and dad of the one I was purchasing (because people lie, and they may lie about the breed of your animals or that they are pure breeds! Ask me how I know!), etc, etc... Experience helps, but you hate to gain the knowledge from being lied to!
All in all, owning goats and/or sheep are rewarding! They are about the next step up from chickens. If you already know how to keep chickens alive, then you might also be able to keep goats or sheep alive! :) We have enjoyed both of these animals, and will continue to raise these animals for a long time.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask! Like I said, I am not professional, but would be glad to help you in any way that I can!