Most newbie goat owners don’t have the idea of what really goat raising and even more so goat farming entails. They might see some goats at a visit to a farm, come across some goats at an agricultural fair, listen to someone who probably knows nuts about goats explain the income potential, or think they look cute too and soon they have bought a few. More often too they have never had any experience raising livestock.
Then soon like the proverbial rabbit those few goats become ten then twenty-five and in a matter of two to three years there is a huge herd.
Don’t kid yourself, having a lot of goats equals a lot of work. Not only does it mean the daily housing cleaning, which does not mean just sweeping the floors, but also means scrapping bits and ever so often water jet cleaning more so for elevated goat housing like here in East Malaysia. Then you have to do those maintenance odd jobs, regularly clear goat poop and perhaps make organic fertiliser. Next comes looking out into the goats health, reading up on goat raising and health, treating goats and the list goes on. We have not even begun to think about milking, making goat products like soap and supplying meat, corresponding with buyers and the chores never seem to end! Do you even have to bother mentioning those time wasters who come unannounced and expect you to be entertained to answer each and every question relating to goat farming and all you have in your mind are the chores that’s left to be finished? Of course this would be a whole new different scenario if you are a gentleman farmer who have staff to do all the work for you.
I have a recurring nightmare. It starts with me looking at my watch and its 6am, walking tiredly to the goat shed hearing them bleat a racket. As I enter into the sheds all the goats have their mouths gaping so wide demanding they be fed. Their bleating becomes louder and louder and ends with me run running screaming away from them. A friend shared his personal nightmare where he too walks into his goat shed but his goats have huge bloated udders and they are screaming to be milked.
Lots of goats also mean that there are lots of feeding and other costs like veterinary bills and maintenance. Many goat keepers often find the costs increase to way beyond to what we would normally spend for the family entertainment or hobbies. Sometimes goat farming might start out as a family endeavour but more often the responsibility eventually falls on one person. You will be spending more time out on the sheds and paddocks whilst other family members are having ‘better things to do’. This only will naturally bring on ill feelings within us.
Within a short time (the average goat owner stays in goats for three years) you will start to think that goat keeping does not seem like the great idea it initially was. It’s back breaking work, long hours, financial unrewarding and pretty hard on the family and wallet. It’s decision time. Get rid of the goats, decrease the workload, increase the financial returns or improve the divisions of labour?
Sometimes at this point some people decide (rather illogically) to go into a goat related business. They choose to sell goat milk, make cheese or goat soap, sell goat meat or other goat related money making endeavour. Soon not only are they pumping more money in and putting even longer hours into their goat’s but they are pumping even more money and hours into their goat related business.
To stay in goats for the long haul we must not only find ways to decrease the work and financial outlay but also keep the family as a whole committed to this hobby which has turned into a business. The first way is to keep the numbers to a minimum. Defy the ‘breed like rabbits’ syndrome.
Only keep as many goats as you can handle. The number will depend on you and your decision if you are going to be working by yourself, with family members or other help, and still have a life besides goats. This will help you in many ways. You will work less, you will spend less, you will argue with your family less and you will enjoy your goats more.
Don’t ever think that if you decide to increase your goat numbers you will make everything better. You will most probably gain some efficiency and per head reduction in average costs but at most times for most people more goats mean more work, more costs and more disharmony. Keep only as many goats as you can afford. Since at most times owning and keeping goats is a hobby, consider having goats the same way as you would consider yourself having an entertainment budget.
One mistake you should never make is to turn your goat hobby into a paying job just in order to justify a larger herd. In the first place many of us have never run a business nor have we worked for ourselves. Whatever the business, being successful will depend on our knowledge on business planning, accounting, marketing and a host of other skills which we do not naturally have. You yourself know that statistics too show that the majority of new businesses fail.
The next thing you must demand of is in the efficiency of your everyday goat chores. Analyze your feeding, cleaning, milking and other labour intensive chores. Minimize effort, maximize efficiency, be process oriented. Write and note down everything. Decide which are the most labour intensive. Then decide chore by chore how to decrease your effort. Perhaps some form of equipment help you and can you afford it? Implement those changes. If you have maximized the efficiency of your chores and still being overloaded then it’s high time you reduce numbers or get help.
Consider the total whole big picture which means more than just goats. When we look at what owning goats really entails it is pretty obvious why most people stay in goats for only three years or less and why those who stay any longer often end up working harder, spending more money and suffer from strained relationships, family or otherwise.
We can and should continue to enjoy our goats and still have a happy fulfilling real life too. But this can only happen if we keep goat numbers to within our means and capabilities, introduce and maximize efficiencies and allow family members become involved as and how they want to be. For most of us owning goats is a hobby and like a hobby should remain within the framework of our family, friends, giving pleasure and teaching us responsibilities. It is only with this way that we can make keeping goats as part of our life for a lot more longer than the average three year cycle.
How Many Will There Be In Three Years?