Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don't Let Getting a Goat Get Your Goat

            When I read the article in the paper, all those videos I’ve seen recently on Facebook  began to make sense. Videos of imp-faced baby goats frolicking in a pen, tumbling over each other, playing clever goat versions of Leap Frog or King of the Mountain. Videos that made me want to run out and buy one of those comical little critters for myself. Videos like this one.
            Cuteness like that is hard to resist. But, thankfully, I did. For one of the few times in my life, reason prevailed as I realized a goat—even a small, cuddly one—is really a strip mining project on four legs. In no time at all, one of those endearing creatures would transform my yard into a setting for an apocalypse movie.
            Apparently, I’m not the only one to be lured by that clownish star of petting zoos everywhere. Goat mania is rampant. Articles about them are popping up in major publications, goat videos have gone viral, and goats are proving to be effective marketing tools in commercials (although I personally find those goats creepy). Goat Simulator, a new video game, has been a rainmaker for its creators at Coffee Stain Studios. (Btw, doesn’t that name say it all about video game companies?)
            I’m glad goats are finally getting some recognition because not only are they entertaining, they’re also quite useful. An article in the Wall Street Journal (1/15/15) reports that in Germany, goats have long been used as therapy animals and are increasingly being used in business courses to teach leadership skills. (To borrow Dave Barry’s line, I am not making this up.) In the movie Cold Mountain—based on Charles Frazier’s bestselling novel—there is a scene in which an old mountain woman claims that for survival purposes, a person can’t do better than owning a few goats. When alive, she says, a goat provides nourishment, clothing, companionship. When it dies, it provides meat, and its skin provides shelter and warmth. She says all this while gazing lovingly into a little goat’s trusting eyes. Then she kills it. (I don’t want to know what it says about my psyche that this scene stuck with me. But the goat’s death is quick and painless, and its blood is used for medicinal purposes, so maybe I’m not too messed up—nothing a little goat therapy couldn’t cure.)
            Yes, it seems that right now the multi-talented goat is all the rage. In the trend of barnyard- animals-as-pets, goat is the new chicken. The WSJ article claims “goats hit it big in 2013” and goes on to state, “Goats have become part of our culture.” Like I said, I’m happy for the goats, but, as with all fads concerning animals, I have concerns.
            With goat popularity on the rise, it is tempting join the ranks of goat owners. If you feel yourself yielding to that temptation, keep these absolute requisites in mind. First, make sure you can afford to feed your goat well and often. Otherwise, you’ll find it consuming everything from your car’s bumpers to the family dog. (Even though goats are not normally carnivores, in a feeding frenzy they sometimes forget that fact.) Second, get a goat only if you have the space for it—space as in a ranch roughly the size of Montana. If you live in a residential neighborhood with a postage-stamp yard or even on a ranchette, please resist the urge to get a playful kid for your kids. That charming little goat will grow up. When the postman won’t deliver your mail for fear of being butted into the next county or when you’re down to your last blade of grass and your shrubs are no more than spiked nubs protruding from the ground, that goat will look more satanic than cute. You’ll be carting him off to an animal shelter which most likely has already reached its quota of gamboling goats. Either that, or your children’s beloved pet might wind up as a meal you insist is beef stew.  


  1. While im guessing you were aiming for cute or funny with this post, and you might have achieved that, you've missed the FACTS about goats by a million miles. As a goat owner, let me help you understand where you went wrong.

    Contrary to popular MYTH goats do not eat everything they see. They are extremely choosey animals and pick what they eat very carefully. While they mouth numerous things like a toddler will do to find out what something is, they only eat the tips of branches, new leaves, and new shoots of grass. They have a very sensitive rumen which can not tolerate plant matter outside of a limitted range of protein availability. Meaning, NO they will not eat your lawn and trees and bushes bare. And they dont resort to feeding frenzies as if they are sharks or demented dogs.

    Goats can and are successfully raised on small plots of land thus making them the perfect urban homesteading animal. Goat density is 12 to the acre which means keeping 3 in the average backyard is perfectly fine.

    Nor are goats aggressive if hand raised. Even our males never butt anyone nor jump up on them having been trained from birth to interact with their human caretakers. More likely they will try to curl up in our laps like a 200 lb dog. Our alpine doe routinely joins us on the patio for evening chats, making herself at home on the settee. She is better mannered than most peoples children i meet nowadays.

    Its all great that you chose to jump on the bandwagon and write about this goat craze, but perhaps you should have given in to the temptation to own one, then you might have some actual FACTUAL humorous stories to share with us about them.

    Sorry, but nothing gets my goat quite as bad as people not fact checking what they are writing about.

    1. Erin, You are correct in that I was aiming for humor here. Not being a goat owner nor an expert on goats, I mainly went by what I've read, seen, or heard. I'm glad you took the time to set me as well as readers straight on some actual goat facts.

  2. We have toyed with the idea of getting goats over the years once we had moved to the rural area we not live in. They ARE absolutely adorable - if I had kids (as in real children), I might have given it a go. The final decision not to expand the household was based our need to go out of town on a regular basis and concerns about care for them in our absence. But it was still hard to say "no" when offered a couple of cuties by an appreciative client.

    Some of Erin's comments, while rather rough in the presentation delivery, were informative. For instance, I didn't know about 12 to the acre and always wondered if it was OK when I saw goats in neighborhood yards.

    And just so you know, I picked right up on the fact that you were penning a humorous piece!

    1. Thanks, Shel. I'm glad you picked up on the humor. My purpose was to entertain, not disparage goats. I really do think they're cute and helpful. In a short story, Edgar Allan Poe wrote, "...there are matters of which no jest can be made." Apparently, for some people, the subject of goats is among those matters.

  3. I really wanted goats several years ago. But I was prevented by the realization that I wasn't willing to dedicate the necessary time to caring for and milking them (Milk was the real motivation). It's all I can do to keep up with the chickens!

    1. As I was working on this, I recalled that at one time you were entertaining the notion of getting some goats. I'm kind of sorry you didn't give it a go, as it would've been interesting to see how that project turned out. I'm sure Brianna would have loved them. :-) That said, I realize you're VERY busy these days!


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