Down the road from my home lives a precious, small herd of goats. When our grandchildren come to see us, we usually take them to visit the goats and feed them crackers or carrots.
Every day when I ride by, they bring a smile to my face. Sometimes, when one gets a horn stuck in the fence, we have to stop and perform a rescue. They are fascinating creatures.
Goat farming is rapidly increasing worldwide, especially in the U.S. where it is the fastest growing segment of agriculture. The price for goat products is rising to meet the demand of the increasing population of Hispanics, Indians, and Muslims who each view goats as part of their cultural traditions.
In fact, American ranchers are having a difficult time filling the need. Farmers in some parts of the country have used government money to replace their tobacco growing with goat production.
Texas has the most goat farms, and North Carolina is among the top ten producers. Across the world, China and India lead in goat farming and goat meat is the most consumed meat per capita worldwide.
Growers also cite the benefits of eating and showing goats in comparison to other animals. Many people believe goats have more personality than sheep. They require less land on which to live than cows do.
Their main enemies are coyotes and foot-and-mouth disease. Goat meat has more protein than beef and is lower in fat than chicken.
Humans first tamed and herded goats 9,000 years ago. They can be taught their name and will then come when called.
A mother goat, called a doe, can recognize her kid’s scent and call from birth, and she usually has two babies a year. Male goats are called bucks. Domestic goats are called a billy and a nanny.
Contrary to popular belief, goats are very picky eaters and will refuse anything that they do not consider suitable. Because they are foragers, not grazers, they are useful in land clearing, and in some areas, herds are rented out for that purpose.
Goats have four stomachs. Food first goes to the rumen from which it is regurgitated for “cud chewing” and then it moves to the reticulum, the omasum and finally to the abomasums. A mature goat can hold four or five gallons of chewed plant material, which then ferments causing loud burps to come from the animal.
There are six recognized dairy breeds in the U.S. which are the Alpine, LaMancha, Oberhasli, Nubian, Saanen, and Toggenburg. Oberhasli gives the milk that tastes most like cow’s milk, but they each have a distinctive flavor.
Fainting goats only appear to faint. When they are frightened and panic, a condition of their central nervous system temporarily paralyzes their legs, and they fall over.
Most goats are curious and take objects into their mouths to investigate them, but do not eat them. Legends of Ethiopia give the goat credit for discovering the coffee bean by chewing it and finding it eatable.
Judi Stuart is the Visitor Services Manager at Port Discover.