Four Letters Re: Raising Goats for Self-Sufficiency

Perfect timing on this article by Freeholder, as my wife and I were literally talking that day about getting goats! That alone made me think that I need to hang out here for a while. I’ve gone through a lot of the posts on here, and I’m very thankful to have found your place!
I’m in Iraq right now, for the 3rd time, this time I’m working in the Embassy. I retire in five years, and the wife and I can’t wait to move to our rural home! I’m lucky, I’m married to a woman who is very self sufficiency minded as well, and has a special interest in homeopathic and all natural medicines and remedies.
Again, thanks for the work you put into this site, and I look forward to learning more and contributing in my own small way. Take care. Regards, – S.

In “Raising Goats for Self-Sufficiency,” Freeholder discussed feed requirements and mentioned that a pasture filled with brush and blackberries could considerably reduce hay costs. He also mentioned in passing that Kiko goats are a desirable meat breed. What didn’t get mentioned is that Kikos are unexcelled at thriving on a diet of brush and other rough forage. They developed this ability in the mountains of New Zealand, to which they repaired after escaping from the care of the early English settlers there. Fast forward 300 years, and some NZ farmers realized there must be some very hardy, self-reliant breeding stock out there, went out and captured some, bred them back to Swiss dairy goats to improve their milking ability, established a stable breed, and gave them the name Kiko, which means “meat” in Maori. And indeed, Kikos are primarily known as a meat breed, but their Swiss genes also make them decent milkers. All in all, they may be the very best goat for self-sufficient situations – if you’re in a place with lots of brush around. My kikos thrive on their brush diet, augmented only by a single flake of hay in the morning and twice-daily feedings of a quart of dry culled beans, shared among 12 goats. (And there are Kiko breeders who insist that a brush-only diet is the best way to maintain the hardiness of the breed.) Kikos have fewer hoof problems than other breeds and are very good at giving birth unattended. The does are excellent mothers. (Kikos who didn’t possess these traits didn’t pass on their genes in the NZ outback.)

You can learn a lot about Kikos from the International Kiko Goat Assn. Regards, Charley S.


Dear JWR,
I just completed reading “Raising Goats for Self-Sufficiency” by Freeholder and was laughing almost the whole way through! That is when I wasn’t surprised by some of his additional facts. I had been looking at meat goats for my retirement plan over several years prior to actually putting the plan into action and it is really taking a lot longer to get my herd to begin to grow than I would have thought, so his overall advice to not “wait until you need them is” visionary. That’s why I would love to assist in casting a vote for him in your contest.

My husband is a “long-time” survivalist and I have happily agreed with his position. Being prepared for what-ever ill fate we have thus far endured and could envision enduring if the SHTF I have found nothing faulty in his thoughts. Simple things like not having to buy coffee during the price spike of a few years ago has done nothing but strengthen our resolve to not be “the 48 hours away from starvation attitude” the rest of the world seems to embrace.

Originally from Long Island, New York we could see nothing but the neck at the end of a noose entrapment from our geographic location. The only way out was through water, air or millions of people. We figured we better be in a better spot before TSHTF! Seeking a more Libertarian location; friendly to gun owners, low taxes, small government, and not half-way around the world, we found New Hampshire. However, the “Live Free or Die” State is slowly becoming the “Roll Over and Comply” State. More and more migrants from the “Socially Conscious – Liberal” surrounding states are invading. Unfortunately, while they bring their love of lower taxes they can’t seem to comprehend that the lower taxes cannot co-exist with the social agendas that they bring with them to the State. We find we are at a 50/50 breaking point now and the State could go either way – depending on the next wave of migrants.

A subject that my husband has become increasingly interested in, is hearing first-hand experiences from others with Wood-gasification. He knows that this process was used successfully during World War II by the European citizens as a way of powering their equipment when gasoline and diesel weren’t available and believes to this day that it will be the only options for many of us if TEOTWAWKI occurs or should I say “when”? A valuable web site he has found is This report is about the only thing we have found from FEMA that made absolute sense and is well worth the read. Thanks for everything you do, – Wife of NH Jumbo


In response to Freeholder’s essay on goats. Very well written. My wife and I are also long-term goat people (for lack of a better title). We?ve kept goats for 30 years plus. For the past 15 years, we specialized in selling breeding stock, and . . . witnessed several bad outcomes with inexperienced people buying goats. We got to a point we?d refuse to sell to certain people in an effort to avoid future calamity. Finally, last year – we gave up selling to the general public all together. It is not worth the hassle to us – considering the new legal difficulties with animal registration requirements – and bad outcomes with inexperienced buyers. A few goat “tips.”
Breed matters. If you want goats – try to figure out exactly what you want them for – and work from there. Not all members of one select breed will demonstrate all the traits it is known for – but it?s a good start. Some breeds tend to be excellent milk producers, some breeds are meat producers, some do better on poor feed than others. Some have better natural instincts including birthing and caring for their young. This is very important – unless you want a bunch of dead goat kids – or – don?t mind hand feeding them yourself.
Goats tend to be very intelligent, creative, and adaptive. That usually makes them very hard to fence. This comes back to breed again. I assume – a goat too dumb to escape maybe not be desirable, so is there an alternative? Yes, there are very smart breeds that have physical hindrances that make them easier to keep. We keep Tennessee Fainting Goats – also known as Myotonic Goats, Wooden Leg Goats, Texas Meat Goats, etc.
In our experience, the Tennessee Fainting goats are the easiest keepers of any breed we?ve had, especially the smaller ones. They have a genetic trait that causes them to get muscle lock-up when startled – scared – excited – etc. Subsequently, they don?t tend to take the chances with escapes like many other goat breeds do. After years of keeping Boers, Alpines, Nubians, Spanish Meat, Pygmies, etc., the Tennessee Goats were a pleasure. They tend to have good instincts with birthing and raising their young. They are good for meat. They are poor for milking though, when compared to most other breeds. They can be kept for milk production, but production will be low.
A few things we?ve tried to warn first-time goat buyers about. All goats are social animals, they do not do well if raised alone. Always have at least a pair, unless you plan on keeping the goat with some other farm animal, e.g. a horse, donkey, etc. And, don?t assume any goat will get along with any other animal (goat, horse, etc.). Like many living things, each can have a distinct and unique personality.
Raising your own – means birthing, kid feeding -by you or the mother, and having a buck or two around. Buck goats can be absolutely miserable!. When they get feeling romantic, they emit a grease from various parts of their bodies that can be smelled a mile away on a damp day. It will get on your clothes and make you want to burn them. The bucks will also be somewhat possessive of “their” females during parts of the year when they are dating. With some goat breeds, this can be twice a year – and with some others – once.
The last kid sale we made – before ceasing sales to the public went as follows. A very nice, suburban sophisticated woman from central Maine contacted me. She wanted to buy six buck goats kids. That surprised us – since usually – buck kids are unwanted and get sold for meat at the local animal auction. After speaking to the woman, I learned that she had no goat experience, but . . . had read several books and had a plan. She lived in a suburban area with five acres of land. She wanted goats for keeping brush down on her land – instead of mowing it. Her plan was – to get five bucks – since they are cheaper to buy then does. In fact, at our farm we?d often give buck kids away for free is we thought someone would raise them – instead of them going to slaughter. This Maine woman figured – that since there?d be no female goats in her area to arouse these males – she?d not suffer any of the negative things that horny buck goats are known for. Well – six months later, she called me from Maine. I?m in New York. She was in a panic. Ends up, these “adaptive” young bucks – worked around the absence of females – by getting “aroused” with each other. She told me they all stunk so bad she couldn?t get near them, and they were “mounting” each other, all day, every day, and it had been going on for a week. Since she was in a suburban area, she had many shocked and complaining neighbors. She offered to pay me – to drive to Maine and take them all back. Call me a bad guy, but I did not do it. She was furious with me and my wife – even though we had warned her previously. She even threatened to sue us – for exactly what – I don?t know. Breach of Goat? Anyway, that was it – we quit selling. At that time, the state of New York was getting ready to pass legislation that was going to make selling goats and lambs across state lines very complicated – so the event with the woman from Maine was all it took to put us over the edge.
Goats are amazing and wonderful animals. I had one that rode with me in my pickup truck, along with my dog. They can do an amazing job a brush conversion and will eat scrub that horses and cattle will not. They can also destroy your garden and/or young fruit trees in record time – if they get loose. Just keep these things in mind.
If someone is interested in keeping animals with a retreat mentality, the breed is an important choice – for any animal. Many newer breeds have had the instincts bred out of them. Kind of like some people I know. Even some stock from older breeds has been severely dumbed down. This means that many chickens no longer know how to nest, sit, hatch eggs, brood and protect their young. Also means that certain types of four-legged stock do not do well on scrubby fields, do not birth well, some have bodies too big for their legs, etc.
it is best to do some research – perhaps starting with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
They do a great job with the preservation of historic breeds of animals in North America – and offer a lot of information – animal historic attributes, how and where to buy, etc. Keep in mind, that even if you select a breed known to have certain traits – the ones you buy might not have them. Best is find a breeder that culls their flock or herd and selects for animals showing the desired traits. – JD from New York