How Much Space Does a Goat Herd Need?
Short on space, but looking to add some livestock? Goats can be an excellent solution for a space-limited homestead. However, it is easy for a goat herd to quickly outgrow their area, so it is important to be aware of the limits of your space before starting a goat herd.
Goats are hardy animals that in many climates can overwinter with a three sided shelter or a shelter with one open door. The most important element of a shelter is that it provide a windbreak, and cover from rain and snow. Approximately 15 square feet of indoor space is recommended for goats, but this can vary depending on how much outdoor space they have and the harshness of the weather in your area (which indicates how much time they’ll be spending indoors). For outdoor space, goats should have between 25-50 square feet per animal. This area is as much for exercise as for foraging.
When it comes to goats, there’s more than just the actual space requirements. Goats eat a varied diet, are playful and curious, and are herd animals with a strict hierarchy. These things need to be taken into account.
Even with a large outdoor area, goats need hay as a regular part of their diet. They also appreciate offered forage, such as leftover Christmas trees, scrub brush, etc. If you have the space, goats can rotationally graze through brush areas during the summer. Without that extra browsing, goats will quickly eat up everything they like in an outdoor space (even if it’s a large space). So hay has to be provided regularly which can quickly increase your goat-keeping costs.
As herd animals, even with a large space goats can be bullies to those lowest in the herd hierarchy. In any space, with only one feeding station, dominant goats will always get the best hay or grain and some goats will get little to nothing. It is important to offer either a feeding area large enough for all of your goats (such as a round hay feeder) or have multiple feeding stations. The same goats for loose minerals and salt blocks. Feeding areas that accommodate all of your goats are at least as important as the actual space available to them.
Another way to combat bullying in your herd is to provide plenty of entertainment. Curious, playful animals, goats will keep themselves entertained for hours jumping on and off spools, stumps, or old tires. This is a delight to watch, but is also important for them to work out their herd dynamics and to prevent boredom.
The other thing to consider: herd expansion. If your goal for your goats is dairy, you will be breeding your does every year. You will need a dedicated space for kidding, and possibly a space for a buck year-round. You’ll also need to think about how quickly a herd can grow with kids arriving yearly. Before breeding, make sure you have a plan for the kids. We sell kids annually, and make every effort to ensure that all kids are spoken for before they hit the ground in the spring.
To summarize: goats can be kept effectively and happily in small spaces. It is important that they have ample feeding space and entertainment to keep your herd happy, no matter the size of their accommodations.