Why are goats so special?

Goats are remarkable animals. They’re tough and versatile, and have more uses than you could ever imagine.

Many emerging farmers work hard not just to become commercial farmers, but to build a lasting legacy for their children.

To help you interest your children in farming, we thought that, from time to time, we’d provide some basic facts on farm animals that you could share with them. And perhaps even adults need reminding of just how complex and useful these creatures are.

In this issue, we take a closer look at goats.

History
Goats were one of the first animals domesticated by man. (A “domesticated” species is a species in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs.)

Historians say this process began more than 10 000 years ago in the northern part of what today is known as Iran. It’s easy to see why goats became popular.

They provided not just meat and milk, but hair too, which was used to make clothes and tents. Goat skins were also used for making “drinking bags” to hold water or wine. (Here’s a product that South African goat-keepers could consider for tourists!)

Goat meat and milk are still consumed today. The milk is a healthy alternative to cow milk, as it’s easier to digest. In fact, it’s often referred to as “universal milk” as it can be used to bottle-feed most mammals.

Goat skin is used to make gloves and other clothing items, while the soft mohair from the Angora goat is woven into exquisite blankets, scarves and other luxury items.

Chewing the cud
Goats are herbivores (plant eaters) and eat grass, leaves and other plant material. Like cows, they are ruminants – animals with a four-part stomach. Ruminants swallow their food and let it partially digest in their stomachs. They then regurgitate it into their mouths and chew it more thoroughly before swallowing it for a second time. This regurgitated food is called cud.
A male goat is also called a “buck” or “billy”, and a female a “doe” or “nanny”. Young goats are called “kids”.

Goats survive better in a flock, which is always headed by a mature female that leads the others while browsing.
Goats are intelligent and inquisitive. They’re known for escaping their pens, as they easily find the weak points.
They can live for between 15 and 18 years.