Goats can be kept for various purposes. They can be kept for pets, dairy farming, meat, and even pack animals for hiking.
Generally, goats are independent animals, intelligent and curious livestock. They tend to be very social and gentle when interacting with their surroundings. They make an excellent addition to even a small farm. That, however, may lead you wondering if you can have just one goat.
You can have one goat, but it is not recommended. Like many herd animals, goats prefer to have a companion or two.
Most goats are companion livestock. Without a friend, goats tend to be very noisy as they call out for you to come outside and interact with them.
Male goats are called bucks, their females are termed as does while the baby goats are kids.
Can a Goat Be Happy Alone?
When goats are left alone or reared alone, they tend to be lonely and easily get bored. Usually, it is a bad idea to keep one goat if you can avoid it. Having at least two goats is definitely a good idea.
A goat that is lonely is more prone to becoming destructive. Goats are naturally mischievous even when they are not bored, so having no companion to run around with often means they’ll get into even more trouble.
The minimum number of goats recommended is two. Usually, this would be a buck and a doe, two does or a wether (a wether refers to a male goat that is neutered) and a doe.
A combination of a doe and a buck is advantageous especially when your goal is to start a little herd. When a goat has a companion, they eat, sleep, and cuddle together. A human cannot stand in as a companion, no matter how much love you may have.
Can a Goat Die of Loneliness?
Goats can not die of loneliness. They will live but they will not thrive. Much like a human who is isolated, some kind of companion to interact with is recommended, even if it is a different species.
While another goat is the best companion, many other hooved farm animals can fill the role as well. A livestock dog or barn cat is even better to have around as a goat companion than none at all.
How to Keep a Single Goat Happy
Goats have unique personalities and unique needs. They are a kind of livestock which are loving and friendly compared to others. Keeping a single goat is a little bit hard but if need be, then there are ways in which a farmer can keep a single goat happy.
A single goat can be kept happy by often involving it. A farmer can be involving his or her goat more by handling it more and often playing with it.
A farmer could train the goat, as they are more like cats when it comes to independence. They hear clearly and they are very intelligent animals.
When goats are trained at an early age, they grow to learn what they have been trained to do. As a farmer, you can involve your goat in certain recreational activities such as climbing and standing on top of things, going for walks while unleashed and introducing your goat to new things. This will make the goat be more occupied and happier as when left alone.
Due to their vulnerability, goats need protection from other domestic animals like dogs. This can be done by putting up dog-proof fences protecting the goat and making it feel safe.
You can also put up a fence in order to put the goat in. The fences should not be welded but woven. This also helps in keeping the dogs out.
Goats can be hard on any type of fence though. The will rub their bodies against it when itchy, and climb on it to see if they can escape.
For more protection, an electric fence could be put up on the inside of the fence. This will help keep the goat from rubbing and climbing on the fence. It also adds an additional layer of protection against predators. The safety of a goat makes it a happy goat.
Good nutrition is important for any goat but, when you are keeping just a single goat, you can take some steps to use food to help alleviate boredom.
In nature, goats would graze all day long. On a farm, we tend to reduce feeding down to once or twice a day. For a single goat, you want to try to duplicate a more longer feed schedule.
The more time a goat spends eating, the less time it has to be lonely or start looking for ways to get into trouble.
Enrichment products designed to keep horses eating longer can also work well for goats. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Slow Feed Hay Net (can be dangerous for horned goats)
- Pellet Dispenser Ball
- Hay Ball (can be dangerous for horned goats)
Haybags, like the first item above, are my favorite for any hay eating animal. It helps keep the hay off the ground so they don’t waste as much and you can set multiple bags out to keep them busy throughout the day.
The trick is to tie them as far away from each other as possible so the goat has to walk to each hay bag to eat.
Provide your goat with a very good shelter and bedding. Due to the bossy nature of a goat, provision of shelter and a comfortable place to sleep will make it a happy goat. The goat will require shelter from rainfall, wind and extreme sunshine.
Generally, goats usually do not like to be rained on and when provided with shelter, they take advantage of it! Bedding for a goat can be made from a leftover of hay, straw, shavings, or even just plain dirt or soft sand.
During the winter, bedding can help provide extra warmth as well. Bedding should be kept clean but for most goat pens it should last quite a long time, especially if there is only one goat.
Hooves and Horns
Goats need to have their hooves trimmed a few times a year. Overgrown hooves can lead to discomfort.
A single goat might need it’s hooves trimmed more often than a goat with one or more companions. The reason for this is that multiple goats will often play throughout the day. The more they play, the faster the hooves get worn down.
A goat’s hooves usually or need to be trimmed approximately every three to four months. If you are not familiar with how to do it yourself, your local feed store should be able to provide a recommendation to someone in the area who specializes in it.
The most important thing in making a goat happy is adding a companion to your lonely goat. Goats love companions. They are definitely not a solitary species.
Thankfully, there are a few options when it comes to choosing the perfect companion for your goat.
Companion Animal for Goats
A goat does not have to have another goat as a companion. Other animals such as sheep, cows, donkeys, pigs, and horses (large or small) can act as companions for a goat.
Keep in mind that a single goat is often best kept with a single animal of another species in order for them to become well bonded. If you turn two ponies out with a goat, for example, the ponies are more likely to pair up with each other and ignore the goat.
Still, some companionship would be better than none. Here are some things you’ll want to consider for each.
A second goat is the perfect companion to a lonely goat. A single goat always looks for ways to escape in order to go look for its herd.
A single goat is usually extremely noisy as well. Two goats are enough. If you don’t want more than two, just be sure not to mix an intact male with a female.
Cows are a good companion for goats. There is little or no competition for food as cows graze while the goats browse.
Cows and goats do not share similar parasites and therefore being a companion to the goats it helps to break the life cycle of the parasite.
Cows are much bigger than goats but, if you want one cow and one goat, they will appreciate each other’s company.
When sheep are kept as companion for the goats, a little more special treatment and care is required. These two have similar physiology as they are both from the Bovidae family.
For efficient companionship, the goats need to be debugged and the sheep polled. This will help to ensure both animals stay safe when playing (or fighting if it happens).
Horses and goats should be acclimated to one another to ensure that the horse does not injure the goat. Once again, having a disbudded goat is the safest route when pairing the two.
When stabling a horse with a goat, precautions must also be taken if the horse is eating grains. While goats and horses can share the same forage, grains fed to horses may have concentrations of minerals too high for goats.
When the goats eat feeds that are highly concentrated with copper, it may be toxic to them since they have different nutrient requirements.
Horse grains should be tightly locked in order to avoid the goats from overfeeding on them which could lead to bloat or other life-threatening issues.
Chicken and goats provide each other with companionship and can even provide each other with interspecies bonds. Keeping chickens as goat companions is beneficial in a few different ways.
The food waste from the goats is cut down by the chicken and the chickens are also are beneficial as they pick up the grains the goats have dropped while eating.
Additionally, the parasites and bugs that goats shed are yummy treats for chickens which is an added benefit to the farm (pest reduction).
Donkeys and goats can get along but, just like horses, care should be taken to introduce them slowly. In particular, the donkey should be kept on a lead line at first.
Donkey’s are prone to attack things that they perceive as threats. If a donkey is not familiar with goats, it could go after the goat thinking it is a threat.
A slow introduction is a must, including supervised time together until you are 100% sure the donkey has accepted the goat.