Baby Goats

Goats are great! I know this because I’ve had three in my life . . . so far. And I intend to keep many, many more in the future.

Ever since I discovered goats in vet school, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the notion of raising, breeding and milking a herd of gorgeous Nubians. They are adorably intelligent, and their personalities are absurdly alluring — and I know that this is completely at odds with the popular perception of goats.

Why Goats Get a Bad Rap

Here’s where I have to chalk up your possible aversion to the caprine as stemming from a number of popular misconceptions about goats. Due to their rectangular-shaped pupils — not to mention wily personalities — goats have been portrayed as devilish in both art and literature. Similarly, folklore teems with references to their “capricious” nature, with plenty of Satanic references at that!

With all of that working against them, it only makes sense that they’d also be dissed unduly for their pungent aroma and their willingness to eat anything in sight. On both counts, I have to rebut: Sure, intact boys smell — badly — of urine that reeks like an unkempt barnyard. But most girls and neutered boys (called “wethers”) have a pleasant, musky whiff to them that most serious animal lovers wouldn't find offensive.

So, too, does their penchant for the inedible ring untrue. In fact, it’s tough to get my picky goats to switch feed brands, much less start to munch on my clothing. But there is one big caveat here: Goats will often nibble on anything at all just to elicit a reaction, which is how petting zoo goats tend to get you to feed them more of those fattening pellets.

But enough of the bad rap rebuttal. Here are the real reasons why I love my goats:

Goats Are . . . Intelligent and Curious

Goats get high marks for their smarts. They’re every bit as intelligent as dogs and cats, and their interesting antics display a natural brilliance that you’d never think possible for a prey species. In fact, their adventurousness and creativity are so legendary that it gave rise to the term “capricious” to describe a lively, mercurial personality.

The only downside to their brainpower: the widely held belief among goat keepers that our beloved creatures carry locksmith genes. In my case, it took multiple attempts at fencing to come up with a reasonable containment solution. And the gate now has three latches on it lest they suddenly decide that the grass truly is greener on the other side.

Goats Are . . . Sociable and Affectionate

Mine have what most people consider “doglike" attitudes, evidenced by their solicitous “pet me!” behavior, and the “she’s home!” kind of excitement that most people only associate with more traditional pets. One of my goats actually loves to be leash walked!

Goats Are . . . Easy to Keep

As long as you have another of their kind around (in a pinch, a horse will also do), goats are really easy pets. Although they require a buddy, sturdy fencing, shelter from the elements and a species-specific diet high in quality roughage, most goats are amazingly self-sufficient creatures who don’t need too much in the way of grooming. Special attention to their hooves is all that’s usually required. And your vet can help you with that!

Just make sure that you live in an area where goats are allowed. Some municipalities have a low tolerance for any animal that some prefer to call “livestock.”

Goats Are . . . Hardy and Robust

Full-sized goats tend to live a nice, long time. Twelve to 15 years is pretty average, but smaller “pygmy”-sized goats can live significantly longer. And the good news is that, unless they’re being bred and milked or live in larger groups, it’s unusual for goats to get sick. A routine vet visit once or twice a year pretty much rounds out the requirements for pet goats.

Goats Are . . . Invaluable

Goats offer more fringe benefits than you might realize.

For example, did you know that goats are great for weeding? If you've got an area in your yard in need of some serious trimming, get out a lawn chair — and watch your goat go to town. Of course, you may have to tie him to a stake to make sure that he doesn’t stray into your ornamentals, because goats have a way of knowing exactly what you don’t want them to eat.

Moreover, goat’s milk is delicious. If you have an extra hour (or three) a day and really want to get into milking and cheese making, goats are the way to go.

I spent two years doing the whole small dairy thing, and despite the serious time commitment, I loved it. In the process, I also realized that I’d need more time and resources to do it right, but hey, life’s a journey.

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