Goats 101 – Kids Who Want Kids: How to Get Started
Did we get your attention with that title?! Before you worry, let’s clarify…today’s blog is all about how to get your kids (the two-legged ones) into raising their own kids—goat kids, that is! Raising goats is a wonderful experience that teaches children responsibility and the value of hard work, as well as being a great family activity that will create lasting memories and learning experiences that will surely stick with your children—and you—for a lifetime.
When you’re considering any animal as a pet, it’s important to determine what their purpose will be. For me, it was becoming part of my county’s 4-H program and raising my goats as projects. I highly recommend 4-H to anyone looking to get their children involved in a program that places high value on hard work, ethics and responsibility. Being involved with a 4-H program allows kids to raise their animals amongst a community of like-minded people who will guide and help them through the process, however long that may be. No matter what animal you may choose to raise with your kids, 4-H is a great way to get started.
One of the most commonly asked questions I get about my experience with goats is, “How did you end up with goats? When my family moved from a small neighborhood to a house on six acres on a dirt road, my parents promised my sister and me that we could get some sort of farm animal. Our (obvious) first choice as young girls was a couple of horses—the answer to that was a resounding NO. So, we began visiting local agricultural fairs and talking with different livestock owners about why they chose the animals they were raising. As we wandered through the different barns, we always seemed to end up spending the most time with the goats. Maybe it was the friendly people we met, or the funny antics of the goats in their pens, but we ultimately decided that a couple of goats was the right start for us. I highly recommend this approach to any family who may be considering livestock or other pets for their kids. Talking to people who own these animals is the best way to learn about what it takes and if it’s right for you.
I may be a little biased, but goats really are a great choice for families who would like their children to have pets other than a dog or cat. They are on the smaller side, which makes them easier to handle (for the most part—but most goats are stubborn!) and they are typically less expensive to keep than other livestock. The most important consideration when owning goats is being able to provide them with adequate shelter from the elements, and even more importantly, durable and safe fencing.
Another thing to consider, once you decide that goats are the right option for your family, is what kind of goats you want to raise. Do you want to have milk to drink or to experiment with cheese making, or do you want goats to raise for meat? Or maybe you just want some gentle companions who will make you smile and clear some brush from your yard on occasion? These are all common uses for goats and what you decide will determine how you go about raising them and providing for them. Dairy and meat goats generally require more maintenance than say, a couple pet goats you keep for pleasure. But across the boards, the most basic care for any goat is being sure they have fresh water and good-quality hay; safe, clean shelter and strong fencing; and that their feet are kept trimmed regularly. These are very basic, but very important to any goat’s good health, and will ensure that they are protected from other problems down the road. Goat care is mostly common sense, which is another reason why introducing your kids to “kids” of their own is a great option.
I strongly believe that allowing children, once they are old enough, to raise animals of their own is a great way to teach responsibility and hard work. I think I’ve turned out better than I would have, had I not had the experience of raising goats of my own, simply because of the lessons I learned over the years. If you do your research and approach owning any sort of animals with the right attitude, it really can be a great experience and blessing to everyone involved.
Do you and your kids raise any livestock or other animals as pets? What do you think is the most important lesson they’re learning? We’d love to hear about your experiences!