Following are a few myths about goats:
1. Goats will eat anything - including tin cans.
Of course goats don’t really eat tin cans. (If they did, everyone would want one, right?) In fact, goats are finicky eaters. The tin can myth probably originated when a goat was seen eating the paper off a tin can. But then, goats are browsers and what is paper made of? Goats are hardy, and survive where other animals are unable to live. For this reason, they are often neglected. A hungry goat - or any other animal, for that matter, will eat a lot of strange things.
(It’s interesting to note that magnets have been placed in the stomach of cows, not goats, to catch metal objects they consume.)
2. Goats are dirty and smelly.
The female (called a doe - or nanny, which is slang) has no more odor than any other animal. It is the male (called a buck - or Billy, which is slang) who has the musk glands (and a few nasty habits) that have given goats a bad reputation. Given a choice, a female goat will not walk in mud or lay in feces - which is more than you can say for a cow.
3. Goats are stupid.
In fact, goats are as intelligent as a dog and even make good pets if handled properly. Never teach a young goat to jump on you or encourage it to butt you. This may be cute when they are babies, but they will quickly become strong. An easy way to break them of this habit is to use a squirt gun full of water. Goats hate to get wet. Another method is to bring your knee up when they jump on you. It is painful when their chest slams into your knee (for you and the goat.) They will learn to associate that behavior with pain, not punishment. Never kick a goat in the head to make them stop. Think of the bighorn sheep banging heads so loud it can be heard for miles. While goat horns are not the same as sheep, goats bang heads in the same manner – just for fun. Goats can be disbudded early in life so that they will not grow horns. A goat with horns could easily put an eye out accidentally.
4. Goat milk tastes bad.
If you’ve ever tasted fresh cow milk in the spring when the onions come up, you know that diet has much to do with the flavor of milk. “Garbage in, garbage out.” Alfalfa pellets, quality hay and a grain mixture of oats & corn will go a long way towards improving the flavor of the milk. Condition of the animal contributes to the taste as well. One common cause for bad tasting milk is internal parasites (worms). Another is running the doe with the buck during milking season. Keep the buck as far away from the doe as possible. (Rent one once a year if possible.) Goats are browsers, and when left to their own devices, will eat brush and acorns - just like deer. Ever taste deer milk? Make a decision early whether you want a milk goat or a brush hog.
5. Any goat will make a good milk goat.
As with cattle, some goats are more suited for milk production and some are more suited for meat or other purposes. Breeding, feeding and selection play a large role. Again, as with milk cows, sometimes a goat continuously produces poor quality milk in spite of everything done to improve the taste. If you keep breeding her, chances are, you’re simply building a herd of inferior goats. It is best to sell her or butcher her - which leads to number 6.
6. Goat meat is only good in barbecue.
The same could be said of deer meat – venison. In fact, because it is so lean, it does make excellent barbecue. To avoid the wild taste of lean deer or goat, leach the blood out of the meat by soaking it for a few hours in water that is mostly ice before packing it.
One common thing you hear about goats is true. It takes a good fence to keep them in. Goats are climbers. Give them a structure in the middle of their area to climb and jump onto. Never put any kind of structure near a fence. If a goat can get all four tiny hooves on a surface, they will hop onto it. They can climb a rail fence this way.
When selecting a milk goat, refrain from purchasing the “friendly” one. Chances are, you’ll have a difficult time keeping it inside the fence.
Goats are herd animals - never isolate a goat. It will be lonely and unhappy. I have heard that donkeys or horses make good companions as well.