Goats make great pets! And as more and more people look for ways to live sustainably and grow their own food, goats are a wonderful option for raising meat and milk, and you can harvest their fleece, as well. Whether you’re raising goats for food or as the smart, lovable pets they can be a great addition to the family. And many 4-Her's start out showing goats!
Sheep provide wool and delicious meat, milk, and cheese, and they eat weeds other livestock species won’t touch. Plus, sheep are relatively inexpensive and reproduce quickly. Lambs make great projects for children. They are suitable for children with most disabilities. Taking care of a sheep teaches children responsibility and respect for animals.
The single most difficult part of raising goats in any sort of managed environment is getting goat nutrition right.
Think of goats as 'first cousins' to deer. They are not "little cattle," and "sheep" should not be used in the same sentence with "goat." Sheep are grass eaters. Goats are foragers/browsers like deer. In their natural habitat, goats free range over many acres while consuming a wide variety of high-quality forage and browse. Having the fastest metabolism of any ruminant (except deer), goats must eat frequently, concentrating on the choicest weeds and leaves available to them.
The rumen is on the left side of the goat's body. The size of the rumen expands as the day passes. A large rumen is not an indication of a fat goat but rather is evidence of a good digestive factory. The rumen is a fermentation vat, producing foul breath and distinctive noises.
Roughage is essential to the goat's diet to maintain good health. Dry matter roughage (long fiber, also known as grass hay or dry forage/browse) is critical for proper rumen function. Goats digest their food using live bacteria.
Sheep are herbivores (animals that live on grass and other plant material), and ruminants (animals that have complex digestive tracts that include a rumen). Cattle and sheep are ruminant herbivores. The rumen contains a lot of bacteria, protozoa and a range of other microbes that have the task of digesting the cellulose in the plants that sheep eat. The sheep regurgitates, chews and then swallows the food several times in a process known as “ruminating” or “chewing the cud”.
There are many ways to feed lambs. One method is not better than another. Pasture-fed lambs will usually not grow as fast as lambs fed concentrate diets, although pasture rearing is often more economical. It is a more natural feed and environment for lambs.
Lambs born in the winter are often creep-fed and finished on high concentrate diets, whereas lambs born later in the season are often placed on pasture with their dams. Some feeding programs utilize both pasture and grain.