Goats are great. They’re fun, they’re friendly, and they provide milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
They generally have warm, friendly personalities and can become quite fond of their human caretakers. But it isn’t all sunshine and smiles with goats.
As it turns out, goats are a huge pain in the butt, too. In a way, it seems like they are specially equipped to cause you no end of grief and suffering.
From property damage to seriously bad behavior, goats can make your life miserable, or at least make you work hard out of all proportion with their somewhat unassuming appearance.
To make sure you know what lies in store for you when you get goats, here is a list of 10 goat problems you can expect to encounter once you have them in their new home. Don’t say you weren’t warned, now let’s get going.
1. Escape Attempts
One of the first things you’ll learn about goats is that they are escape artists. You should consider putting bells on your goats, so you can identify their relative location. No matter how well you think you have fenced them in, they will find a way out. And once they’re out, they will wreak havoc on your property. More on that in a minute.
To say that goats will put any and all fencing you install, no matter how seemingly secure, to a severe test is the understatement of the century.
Out of all the animals you might possibly have on your farm or homestead, none will be as accomplished at jailbreaking as your dear goats.
There are several reasons for this. First, goats are very curious animals. They will want to explore every nook and cranny of their surroundings, including any potential escape routes.
They also want to get out and try and find some tasty new food. Second, goats are very agile. They can climb over or under just about anything.
Get ready to watch in amazement as your goats accomplish feats of gravity-defying, wall-bounding agility in their quest for freedom.
And third, goats are surprisingly strong. They can push down or break through weak fencing, of any kind, until they can squeeze through, between, or under, and then make a run for it.
Have fun spending a fortune to upgrade your “unbeatable” fencing. Beware any merchant that claims to have goat-proof fences or barriers: if it cannot hold a grown man in his physical prime it isn’t going to hold your goats for long.
To make matters worse, goats are very clever and resourceful creatures. So even if you manage to improvise a way to keep them penned up for a while, they will quickly figure out how to escape and be back on the lam in no time flat.
2. Damage to Cars
Goats, as you’ve just learned, are expert escape artists. Goats also, as you already know, love to climb. Like, really love to climb.
They are famous for climbing sheer, seemingly impassible surfaces with ease, and given a chance seem to like being up off the ground when they can.
These two facts about goat existence are, unfortunately, very bad news for your personally owned automobile.
You see, when a goat gets out, the first thing they will want to do is climb something. And what’s the tallest, most climbable thing around? That’s right: your car, unless it is safely locked up in the garage.
So while you’re off trying to catch them and put them back where they belong, they will be busy doing their level best to turn your paint job into a Jackson Pollock original and, if your windows or top are down, your upholstery into swiss cheese.
In short, if you have goats, it is very likely that at some point you will come home to find your car’s paintjob looking like it was put through a particularly nasty hail storm.
You see, those cute little hooves goats have are actually quite sharp and destructive to finely finished surfaces.
So unless you want your vehicle to become a goat’s personal playground, you’ll need to take some precautions.
The best way to protect your car (or trucks, or RVs, or any other large vehicles) from marauding goats is to keep them in a garage when they’re not in use, or at least parked close to the house where you can keep an eye on them.
If that’s not possible, then be sure to park them in an area where there are no trees or other things the goats can use as launching pads for their attack. Maybe you’ll get lucky.
3. Demolished Gardens and Landscapes
This, more than anything else, is probably the bane of the average goat owner’s existence. It is no secret that goats love to eat.
They will pretty much eat anything, including (and often especially) things that people have cultivated and planted for their own use.
This includes vegetables, fruits, flowers, bushes, and trees. If it’s green and growing, a goat will probably try to eat it.
This fact of life can be very frustrating for gardeners and landscapers who have worked hard, long and hard in the hot sun, to get their beloved plants and veggies just right… only to have them destroyed utterly in minutes by a bunch of hungry goats. Now, now; put the shotgun down.
You really cannot blame the poor things. The goats are just doing what they do. But the really sad fact is that you can never, ever truly break them of this instinctive behavior.
No amount of training, cajoling, or threatening will save your prized roses (thorns and all) or protect your crisp bell peppers.
You’ll have to resort to protecting your plants assuming you cannot keep the goats contained with 100% reliability (and you can’t).
The best way to protect your plants from being eaten by goats is to keep them fenced off or caged themselves.
This means constructing a solid barrier that the goats cannot push over or penetrate easily. At best, it will probably just buy you time to intervene, but that might make the difference. Probably not, but maybe.
This is a subtle problem, but one you will encounter soon enough. Let’s say you are meticulously planning your goat acquisition. You want ‘X’ number of goats, no more and no less.
You do your research and buy the healthiest, best-tempered animals you can find. You calculate how much space they will need, plus a little extra, and house them in a comfortable shelter, give them plenty of room to eat, roam, the whole bit. Diligence done, time to buy.
And buy you do. All seems well at first. But problems arise. Ah, no problem, they just need enrichment.
So you buy them some toys, obstacles, jungle gyms and other things to keep their minds active. That helps for a while. But then more is added. New feeding stations, extended shelter.
Pretty soon, you find yourself with a goat pen that is so crowded it would make a sardine feel claustrophobic.
Now it is a dilemma. What to do? Get rid of some of your precious goats or expand the enclosure? Expand of course.
But since you are expanding, do you know what sounds like a good idea? Get more goats! After all, you have more room now.
And so the cycle repeats itself, on and on, forever. Don’t delude yourself; it happens to everyone that gets these loveable little basket cases.
5. You Can’t Neglect Milking Females
If you want goat milk, you’ll need a female with young. But when you make the commitment to milk her, you cannot take a day off. Ever. Not even on Christmas.
Because if you do, you get backed up milk and an unhappy goat. She might even get mastitis or start losing her milk production.
It’s not a pleasant situation for anyone involved, and can severely stress the female goat. So, if you want to get goat milk, be prepared to put in the time every day, on a schedule, without fail.
This commitment, on top of all the other chores, is enough to make some people give up on the idea of breeding goats altogether.
So, unless you are prepared for this challenge, it might be best not to get a milking female in the first place. Just buy your milk from the store or a supplier like everyone else.
And, unlike cows and other animals, expert knowledge of goat care and of milking them in particular is somewhat harder to come by, at least in most parts of the U.S.
You probably won’t be able to just call up an assistant, uninitiated family member or professional attendant to take care of milking momma goat when you are on vacay, running errands or just taking a much-needed day off. So, again, be prepared for this eventuality and plan accordingly.
6. Parasite Troubles
Goats are generally hardy and healthy, but if they have one glaring weakness when it comes to their health it has to do with their susceptibility to parasites.
In fact, parasites are one of the most common reasons why goats need to see a veterinarian.
Left unchecked, parasites can ravage a goat, and even spread to the rest of the herd, starting a domino effect of poor health, and even deaths
There are two types of parasites that commonly trouble goats: internal and external.
Internal parasites are the more dangerous of the two since they can do serious damage to a goat’s organs and cause anemia. External parasites are less dangerous but can still cause irritation and skin problems.
The best way to protect your goats from parasites is to have them regularly dewormed and to treat them with an insecticide if necessary.
You should also keep a close eye on them for any signs of illness or distress. If you notice anything unusual, be sure to take immediate steps to assess and intervene.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many common goat parasites, worms in particular, are starting to grow resistant to typical medications and chemicals used to treat them.
So it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about the best way to protect your goats from these ever-evolving threats.
7. Rumen Imbalance
Another common affliction that will plague your goats, and you, is also one of the most nuanced and difficult to reliably treat: rumen problems.
The rumen is the first section of a goat’s four-chambered stomach and it acts as a fermentation vat where food is broken down by bacteria.
This process of fermentation is how goats extract nutrients from plants that they would otherwise be unable to digest.
However, the delicate balance of bacteria in the rumen, the ones responsible for enabling fermentation, can easily be upset leading to all sorts of problems.
If there is too much acid in the rumen, for example, it can cause scouring (diarrhea) and even death.
On the other hand, if there isn’t enough acid, fermentative activity will slow down and the goat will stop gaining weight and could eventually starve to death.
As you might imagine, maintaining the proper pH level in the rumen is crucial to a goat’s health.
There are a number of things that can cause the rumen bacteria to get out of balance. One is simply a change in diet, such as when a goat is introduced to a new type of food or hay, with grain being a chief offender in this category.
Another common cause is stress, which can be brought on by anything from bad weather to being moved to a new pasture.
The best way to avoid rumen problems is to take steps to minimize stress and sudden diet changes in your goats.
That means, for example, slowly transitioning them onto new foods over the course of a week or two, limiting access to foods that will disrupt the rumen, and making sure they have access to plenty of fresh water at all times.
If you do end up with a goat that is having rumen problems, the best course of action is to call a veterinarian as soon as possible as they can quickly turn fatal.
8. Bad Behavior
When goats are cheery and in a good mood, they seem to be the very stuff of comedy. Hopping around, trotting up to you for a treat and a chin scratch and generally just acting adorably.
But when they’re unhappy, they can act like the devil’s own minions. Just ask any farmer who’s had to deal with a goat or goats that’ve taken on a bad temper.
Goats might run from you, chew on inanimate objects, scuffle with each other, charge, headbutt (especially nasty if they aren’t debudded) and kick or bite.
They can also be very vocal, bleating and bawling when they’re upset. All this bad behavior is just their way of telling you something’s wrong and they’re not happy. Whether or not something is actually wrong remains to be determined.
There are a number of things that can cause goats to behave badly. One is simply boredom, which is why it’s so important to give them plenty of space to roam and play as well as plenty of toys and other enrichment items.
Another common cause is hunger, so make sure they always have access to fresh food and water.
Pain can also lead to bad behavior, so if you notice your goat acting strangely, it’s always worth checking for any injuries or health problems.
Of course, sometimes goats will just act out because they’re plumb ornery. Especially during the rut (mating season) or any serious social upsets in the herd.
In these cases, the best thing you can do is try to stay calm and provide as much stability as possible until things settle down again.
Goats may or may not key off of your own attitude akin to a dog (or bees!) but one thing is sure: if you lose your cool, they won’t be cool, and the bad behavior will continue.
9. Hair, Horn, and Hoof Care
Goats, like all livestock and companion animals, need a lot of TLC to stay happy and healthy. But it seems that, even when compared to much larger or more exotic animals, goats need an awful lot of it.
Again, out of all proportion with their size. This is in the form of what I like to call “H-3,” or hair, horn, and hoof care. Let’s take a look at each one of these in turn.
Goats are naturally very hairy (not furry) creatures, and that hair serves several important functions. It helps protect them from the elements and keeps them cool in summer and warm in winter.
That being said, there are times when a goat’s hair can become problematic. When it gets too long, it can start to mat and tangle, making it difficult for the goat to move around and even causing skin problems.
It can also collect burrs, thorns, and other debris, which can be painful and uncomfortable. And, of course, they need a bath to stay clean like every other creature.
So it’s important to give your goats a good brushing now and then along with an occasional bath.
Horns are another issue entirely. Goats are born with them, and there’s really no way to stop them from growing aside from disbudding, AKA dehorning, which is a controversial but fairly common practice.
Horns can be a problem because they can grow too long and become sharp, making it easy for a goat to hurt itself or another goat.
They can also hurt you or other family members. They can also easily catch on to things and cause the goat to get stuck.
It is even possible for a horn to grow so long that it curls around and impales the flesh of the goat’s own head!
So it’s an important and never-ending task to keep an eye on your goats’ horns and trim them down as necessary. And be advised: they grow faster than you might think!
Finally, we come to hooves. Goats need their hooves trimmed just like horses and cows do, and for much the same reason.
If left untrimmed, the hooves will grow too long and start to curl under, causing the goat pain and making it difficult for them to walk.
This can also lead to joint problems and other health issues. So it’s important to check your goats’ hooves regularly and trim them down as needed.
You can do this yourself with a good pair of hoof trimmers, or you can have a professional farrier do it. Either way, it’s an important task that must be constantly tended to.
10. Nasty, Mean Bucks
And last but certainly not least, we have our dear, sweet bucks. Also known as billy goats.
Long beard, big horns, and bad hygiene are the three components needed to make a proper buck goat, and you’ll be getting entirely acquainted with all of them if you decide to have a breeding herd.
If you’re not familiar with bucks and their ways, consider yourself warned: they are smelly, dirty and often downright nasty creatures.
But they have their own vital uses, so we’ll have to make the best of it.
When a buck is in rut (mating season), he will be even more smelly and disgusting than usual. This is because of their propensity to use their own special fragrance in order to attract a mate.
This unique eau-de-buck is a potently offensive combination of three components:
- his own glandular musk, emitted from his special buck sacs located at the base of his horns and near his testes
- the urine he deliberately sprays all over his face and legs when urinating
- his own accumulated filth, consisting of urine-soaked mud from himself and from does
This distinctly “bucky” fragrance is, to put it mildly, incredibly rank. And the odor can seemingly embed itself in your skin and clothes.
And, nonetheless, some friendly bucks will still blithely trot up to you for a scritch-scrotch on the chin when smelling this way. Particularly ones you raised from birth. Wash your hands…
As if that weren’t bad enough, bucks also have a habit of being rather, ah, aggressive during this time.
They will butt heads with each other (quite literally), chase and harass the does relentlessly and generally, just make nuisances of themselves.
They might even make a charge at you if they feel like you are in their territory or just cramping their style.
It sounds funny on paper, but bucks are well-built and powerful, and if they have their horns could put you in the ER in a blink.
This is all part of their reproductive strategy, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying or painful.
If you have bucks on your property, be prepared for them to be a handful and a nasty one at that.
99 Problems and Goats are Half of Them
All in all, goats can be a lot of work. They are adorable and sweet, but they also have their own set of unique needs that must be constantly attended to.
If you’re up for the challenge, though, goats can make wonderful additions to your farm and family, and provide plenty of laughs or headaches along the way.
So before you decide to get yourself some goats, make sure you know what you’re getting into!
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.