I love cows. When we were first talking about a dairy animal, I was really hoping for our own little Jersey or Dexter cow. Conceding that goats would probably be the more practical dairy animal for beginners was tough. Fortunately, Pepper and Flora have proven that just because “they” say all goats act a certain way, it’s not necessarily true. I’ve been following several goat groups online, and have recently come to the conclusion that our goats don’t have any idea that they’re actually goats. At times, I’m inclined to think that everything “they” say is completely untrue.
Let’s start with perhaps the most common misconception:
1. Goats Will Eat Anything
Actually, Pepper is pretty finicky. She won’t eat any of the fruits or carrots that we offer as treats, though Flora will sample them. As for devouring shrubbery, there are actually quite a few common plants and shrubs that are extremely poisonous to goats. In general, most goats instinctively know to avoid these.
The “goats will eat anything” myth seems to come from the fact that, like your toddler, they will put almost anything in their mouth. It’s pretty much how they test things. Since they have hooves instead of hands, they use their mouths to check things out, but rarely chew them up.
2. Goats are escape artists
This is one of those times when I feel like no one told them they’re goats. Also in the online groups, I’ve seen multiple postings by poor goat owners trying to figure out how to keep their goats contained. Ours won’t even hop over the 3 foot high make-shift door in between the pens.
We were told that fences must be a minimum of 5 feet high and that woven wire will just be torn apart by them. Our fence is 4 feet high and woven wire. No problems thus far! Our goats have let themselves out when we’ve forgotten to latch the gate, but what animal wouldn’t? At least they don’t lead you on a mad dash through the neighborhood like a dog would. They just stand beside the fence and look at you as if to say “Hey look! I’m out!”
3. They’re loud
Pepper calls out a lot now that she’s trying to keep tabs on her kids, but before that she made little noise. Even now, her bleating is generally quiet. And Flora, even with kids of her own, is almost always silent. Again, I often see people discussing how their goats will call out all the time, that they are the “drama queens” of the barn yard, etc. Fortunately for our neighbors, Flora and Pepper aren’t particularly chatty.
4. They stink
Okay, this isn’t entirely a myth, because we’ve seen a buck in rut and he DID stink, but you don’t have to have a buck to have a home dairy. We don’t! Frisky bucks aside, they’re quite honestly less smelly and messy than the ducks. The goats’ droppings are dry and odorless, and they don’t have any scent other than a mildly animal smell like a dog or cat might have.
5. Goat milk tastes “goaty”
The short answer on this one is “no, but….” There is actually a real reason behind this untruth. I’ve had goat milk from the grocery store, and yes, it’s goaty. As goat milk ages, it can develop that distinctive tang, and heating (as occurs with pasteurization) can also create “off” flavors. Since a carton of goat milk at the store is likely to be both pasteurized and older, it’s typically going to have the flavor most people associate with it. HOWEVER, our goat milk has no ‘goaty’ flavor at all. In fact, all three of our kids said that they couldn’t tell the difference between our goat milk and the cow’s milk from the store. Steve and I have found it to be slightly richer and even a bit sweeter than store bought cow’s milk.
Of course, a lot of these behaviors (and lack thereof) could be due to the type of goats we have (we have La Manchas). I’m not certain of that, though. Others that we know of who have raised different breeds of goats have echoed these same findings. Goats really don’t deserve the reputation people have given them, I promise you!