More and more people associate the goat with romance. Quite a few people start working with goats and get disappointed noticing thet it is more difficult than they had expected. Goatkeeping is not for workers who look for a fix timetable with a sacrosanct finishing-time. Neither is goatkeeping for hippies who are here and there and fear commitment in activities. But who is looking for challenges and is ready to engage with the needs of headstrong animals, can really find the romance dreamt of in the work with goats. And it can be the ideal animal for self-sufficient people.
The goats must be kept away from the garden. Otherwise there won't be much left of the garden. The goats must be milked. And of course they need sufficient food. If it is many goats and they give a lot of milk, it is hardly avoidable to make cheese at least every other day.
The daily routine indispensable in livestock keeping can be of therapeutic value for people who need more structure in their lives.
Every 21 days the goat gets on heat (just like the cow but unlike it only during a period of feertility and not all year round).
Usually milk production is linked to the production of kids (like that of cow’s milk with that of calves). As especially the little males are not all kept till adulthood, milk production almost invariably also means meat production.
Although goats are also herd animals, they show more individuality than cows and sheep and seem more inteligent from a human point of view. They are often headstrong and obstinate. According to my experience handling goats helps to appreciate other humans too in their obstination. Who has experience with goats, will hardly share the widespread cliché that individuality is confined to humans.
For ethical reasons goat’s dairy products as compared with cow’s dairy products have the advantage that they do not usually come from industrial livestock farming. That, of course, means a lesser availability, no mass consumtion, rather a conscious enjoying.
Apart from milk goats provide us with meat and leather. And an important product of livestock keeping (that even vegans can hardly do without) is dung, which is used to fertilize vegetables, especially in organic gardening.
The biggest importance within the Balearics the goat has on Ibiza. Here and on Formentera there are the Pityuses goat and the Ibicencan sheep as native breeds. Although the sheep is known as a milk animal, it is of minor importance nowadays. So the goat is the major milk animal. Other breeds are also present, an importation is not forbidden as it is sometimes the case on islands. When coming to colours, the Pityuses goat is quite variable, it can be with or without horns whereas the Majorcan goat is brown with black markings and always with horns.
Goats have eating habits different from those of sheep and cattle, they also eat trees and shrubs. Even plants with thorns, spines or prickles are not safe from goats, they eat for example the stalk segments of the prickly pear cactus.
At a superficial view often arises the image that goats eat just anything indiscriminately. Whenever they have got the opportunity, they are choosey gourmets, not easily satisfied with tasteless grass. With concentrated starch their natural mechanisms fail: they eat bread or bruised grain with no inhibition until they die.
Among the plants the goats like, are the olive tree, the asparagus (A. acutifolius) and the juniper (but not the Phoenician one, which is poisonous also for goats).
Uncontrolled goat pasturing is–especially in dry areas– a problem for the vegetation. On Majorca there are naturalized goats in the mountain forest. The hunters tend them as game and care for elevated populations. The desertic island of Fuerteventura, due to its lesser carrying capacity, suffers even more from naturalized goats.
On the islet of es Vedrà there lives a goat population, which is not milked, it only produced Easter kids for the islet’s owner. The islet is a nature reserve and for humans only accessible with a special permit. Still the goats are allowed to dammage the sensitive vegetation because their keeping is a family tradition. There are researches about the impact of the goats on the islet’s vegetation but they are not open to the public. At least it is beyond doubt that some plants have been deplaced to special locations not accessible for goats, for example to rock cliffs.
On the other hand controlled goat pasturing can serve the landscape preservation also on these islands. On Ibiza there has been initiated a goat project to clear the forests from the underwood, especially to reduce the wildfires frequent in Ibicencan forests.
Dymanski, Ulrich (1986): Selbstversorgung durch Ziegenhaltung. Der Ratgeber für Aufzucht, Pflege, Nutzung. Stuttgart.
Janzing, Gereon (2000a): Ein Sommer auf der Alp. Als Rinderhirt und Geißenmelker in Graubünden. In: Kritische Ökologie 16 (2) 2000: 33-37.
Janzing, Gereon (2013b): Ziegenhaltung und Milchverarbeitung. In: Kritische Ökologie 80, Sommer 2013: 15-20.
Seymour, John (1976): The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency. London.
Me with the goats as they showed me on TV (IB3) (in Catalan, from minute 28 onwards)