Goats are very beautiful and useful creatures. It is no surprise that rural communities across the world favour a herd of goats for their ability to coarse woody materials such as twigs and leaves and turn them into milk or meat. I remember in a rural village of Cyprus the local goat herder would stag with flock day and night into the mountains, through the valleys and along the beaches. I typical scene here would be whole trees full of climbing goats nibbling on the fresh shoots of the tree.
It is a complete push to include goats here under livestock for a site which focuses on urban farming. Goats do have their uses but on the whole need large plots and landscapes to be happy. In recent years the new smaller breeds of pygmy goats have led to belief of accessibility to keep them in smaller gardens and farms. The truth is even these smaller breeds require space and other goats to be happy. Goats are naturally social animals living in groups so the implications for urban farmers are great if they do get the balance correct.
Goats in an urban setting can work especially if they are used as management tool. Goats have an amazing natural ability to clear areas of course scrubland and thickets of undesirable thorny plants such as blackberry actually eating them right down to the base. I have always wondered what a good garden clearance service they would make during garden clearance projects. The best way for urban farmers to keep goats is in a community scenario where they can be herded between parkland and vacant plots to give them maximum quality of life in an urban setting. Young people and community groups can benefit from the interaction with animals while goats can be used to manage local landscapes and produce dairy products.
In terms of time I would say Goats are a full time job with attention needed all hours of the day. When keeping goat’s attention should be drawn to all the possible diseases the animals can suffer with. Most of the time early diagnosis is paramount as disease can quickly spread throughout a flock. Goats require various injections and medicines throughout their life so be aware vet bills can be expensive. Before getting your goats you must be aware of the local laws of keeping them especially in urban settings. Something people can overlook when keeping goats is how strong they are. Uncastrated males can secrete a very unpleasant smell and display quite aggressive behaviours even to adults. As goats prefer to roam large areas strong fences are need to keep them in place as they are expert climbers and good jumpers. All of these things should be contemplated when introducing them urban farming.
Have said all of this there are plenty of urban farming examples especially in London where the keeping of goats is extremely successful. If you are a community farming project or an educational facility keeping goats can be a very productive and rewarding experience. As long as you have two fundamental things: a dry home or goat shed with plenty of bedding material, large enough spaces to roam, feed and fresh water your goats will be very happy on your urban farm.
Raising Goats Naturally is one of the best books out there for learning everything about raising goats. Whether you are raising them for meat, dairy or just keeping them as pets this book is a useful resource.