Goats have hollow horns, beards and four stomachs and are called ruminant mammals. A ruminant is any hooved animal that eats its food and digests it in two steps. First by eating the raw materials, such as hay or grass or other natural growing organic matter and then regurgitating semi-digested food known as “cud”, and then eating the cud. Ruminant animals include goats, sheep, cattle, deer, camels, llamas etc. Goats belong to the genus Capra and the species Hircus. Goats are bovines, and they are closely related to cows, sheep and antelopes. They are raised for milk and meat in the United States.
There are 210 breeds of goats and there are approximately 450 million goats around the world. It is said that Columbus brought goats to America in 1493. There are paintings and drawings of goats that date back 12,000 years and have been found on the walls of caves around the world. Goats are economically valuable in many parts of the world, for a variety of purposes such as their skins and pelts that are used for making rugs, robes and leather. In history, goats were the first animals to be used for milk by humans. Globally, more people drink milk from goats than any other animal.
Goats were regularly imported into America in the early 1900’s and the most recent USDA Agricultural Census indicates that in 2012, there are 2,621,514 goats in the United States. Most goats can be found in Asia and the Mid-East. China alone has the most goats with over 170 Million.
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Before you get goats, you want to decide what breed of goat you want on your farm. With so many different breeds, you have to know what you want from your goat. Learn a little about sizes and weights in breeds before you get goats. You want to know as much as you can before you bring them home because their average life span is 12-14 years and that is a long commitment. Of course, goats are sold and traded often from farms, but it's always good to know the lifespan of an animal.
Goats are susceptible to parasites and other infectious diseases so they must be managed well. They should be wormed and vaccinated often. Goats do not like to get wet and prefer to seek shelter when it is raining. They require housing that is dry and warm, hard surfaces are best in their housing to keep from injuries to their legs. Goats are one the cleanest animals and although they have a reputation for eating anything, are very selective feeders. Goats do not like eating food that has been soiled, contaminated or from the ground, so they need clean feeding dishes, and they do not like to drink dirty water, so they must be offered fresh water every day. Goats are quite agile and some goats can jump over 5 feet. Fencing should be at least 5 feet high because of their jumping abilities. They are very curious animals and enjoy a lot of play time with others in their herd. Goats are social animals and need to be with other goats, they get lonely and can show signs of depression if kept alone. Goats are naturally nervous and should be handled calmly and approached gently, so as, not to scare them.
McKenzie-Jakes,Angela. Facts About Goats.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2014 Polled Livestock: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polled_livestock