Chapter 60 Sheep and Goat Husbandry
Although some may find it odd to include a section on sheep and goats in a book devoted to companion animals, more and more people are keeping a small number of these animals as pets. Because they look on them as pets, owners expect the greatest level of care for these animals.
Both sheep and goats can be grouped into one of three major types. Some animals are bred specifically for meat, some for fiber (mohair, cashmere, wool), and some to produce milk. There are more people in the world who drink goat milk than drink cow milk.
Sheep and goats have some similarities nutritionally. Both are ruminants; that is, they graze, or browse in the case of goats, then lie down to chew their cud. The food is regurgitated from the rumen, and the animal rechews it until the particle size is small enough for digestion. Both goats and sheep will respond quite well to no more than high-quality pasture and a mineral mix. Whereas sheep prefer to graze on grasses and succulent broad-leafed plants, goats have a more varied diet, browsing on twigs, shrubs, brushy weeds, and some grass. When in times of increased production, such as growth, breeding, or lactating, a grain supplement can be given to the animals to meet energy requirements. One must take care, however, not to give too much grain to male sheep and goats, because this can predispose them to development of urinary calculi. Also, sheep are susceptible to copper toxicity and need a lower level of this mineral in their diets. And no, goats cannot survive by eating tin cans and paper—they need high-quality feed just as the rest of domestic animals do.
Although most sheep and goats live quite well out on the range, situations exist when it would be advantageous to confine them. Most of these animals are quite hardy, and as long as they have some shelter from wind and rain, their housing needs are modest. Greater attention needs to be paid to the type of fencing that is used. Goats are extremely clever at escaping from confinement, thus fences need to be safe and strong. Goats can climb or wriggle through many fences. Electric fence works well for containment, but if the power goes out, goats will walk through the fence. Some goats like to stick their heads through the squares in wire fence; then they get their horns caught and cannot escape. There have been instances of goats being severely injured by marauding dogs when they have had their head caught through a fence.
One major concern for sheep and goat producers is predator protection. Coyotes and free-running domestic dogs can wreak havoc on a group of sheep or goats. Electric fences work well to keep the stock in and also deter predators. Another option is to use guard animals. Several breeds of dogs are specifically designed to be livestock guardians. In recent years, donkeys and even llamas are gaining popularity as livestock guardians.