Goats

Natural History

Domesticated goats (Capra hircus), like most agricultural animals, are raised for their byproducts. These include milk, meat, brush control, hair for weaving and to be pack animals. Milk goats are the most commonly raised and can produce up to a gallon of milk a day!  With the exception of the U.S., people all over the world use goat’s milk more than cow’s milk. Goat’s milk will vary depending on which type of goat it comes from. A prime example is the milk of Pygmy goats, which is sweeter than that of Nubian goats. A goat can produce milk for about 7 years and should be milked twice a day.

Goats are sociable and prefer to live in groups. They enjoy being with people and other animals, often being kept in the same paddocks as cows and sheep. One goat will always take charge in the group, and this is usually the oldest female. She is called the “queen” and the others defer to her. They are naturally curious and  need a routine or they will misbehave. Jumping, climbing and chewing are some of their favorite activities. They use their lips to test things they are curious about, and can even unlock a gate latch with their lips! Goats are not picky eaters but they are particular about their water, and will refuse to drink if the water has hay, hair or insects in it. Goats at the Farm eat a combination of oats, hay, and other grain blends.

The Maymont Farm has four different types of goats: Nigerian dwarf goats, Nubian goats, pygmy goats, and hybrid goats. Nigerian dwarf goats are a smaller breed of goat (75 pounds) and come in a variety of colors. One distinct trait of Nigerian dwarf goats are their ears that stand upright. Nubian goats are larger (135 to 175 pounds) and have the “lop” ears that hang downward. Pygmy goats are the smallest breed at the Farm and have ears that also stand up. Pygmy goats are known for being good milk producers.

Fun Facts

  • Contrary to legend, goats do not eat tin cans, but they are not picky eaters.
  • Feta cheese is made from goat milk.
  • Goat milk has the same amount of water and protein as cow’s milk but less lactose. This is why many people who cannot tolerate cow milk can drink goat milk.
  • Both male and female goats have the characteristic beard and horns, but it is often more pronounced in males.
  • Pygmy and Nubian goats originated in Africa and were introduced into the United States by English colonists.

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