Goats are one of the oldest domesticated animals, having been used for centuries for their milk, meat, hair and skin. It is believed that the native peoples living in mountains of Iran were the first to domesticate these animals. Families kept a herd of goats, sometimes enclosing them in pastures and sometimes allowing them to roam freely. Goatherds, usually teenage boys, were hired to tend them, make sure they didn’t get lost or injured and ward off natural predators.

All male goats (bucks) have two horns, but the size and shape of these horns depends on the breed. In some breeds, the females (does) also have horns, but they are shorter than those of the males. Since goats are ruminants, which means they eat the raw food and then regurgitate and chew again. Thus, their stomachs consist of four chambers: rumin, reticulum, omasum and abomasums. They only have peripheral depth perception because the pupils of their eyes are shaped like horizontal splits. The iris is very pale, which makes their eyes visible. Goat tails are short and point upwards.

In temperate climates, goats only breed in spring. In colder climates, they can breed all year long. The does of the species come in heat every 21 days and stays in heat for up to 48 hours. She lets the male know she is in heat by flagging her tail,, staying close to a buck and display a decrease in appetite and milk production. The gestation period lasts 150 days and while twins are the norm, single kids and triplets are also common. The does do not produce any milk during the gestation period, but starts producing milk again when the kids are born.

Goats will eat just about anything. They eat all kinds of plants and weeds, wood, but have an instinct for knowing when food and water are contaminated and will refuse to eat or drink. They rarely eat objects or clothing unless it has been made from plant material or wood.

Goats are prized for their milk, which can be made into cheese. The meat of the goat is very similar to lamb and the hair is prized for its use in the clothing industry, often going by the name mohair or cashmere. Each type of hair comes from a specific breed or goat, such as the Angora goat or the Cashmere goat. The hairs must also be very fine or they cannot be used.

Please be aware that you will need to obtain a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for the land where the livestock will be kept. Your goats will also need to be registered, irrespective of the number kept and whether they are kept as pets or for commercial purposes. More information is available here: www.defra.gov.uk