Thinking of getting a few goats? Now, you’re wondering what they need to eat and how much it will cost you to keep them for the year.
Since costs vary with age, growth and type of goat, we’ve got some figuring to do!
Keeping a full size goat on a maintenance ration will cost $100-147.60 per year in hay, with 6 months on pasture, up to $201.60-295.20 per goat if you are feeding them year round.
This is the big question: what will it cost to keep a goat? The answer will depend upon what you are feeding and how much the goat can gather for herself.
Haven’t purchased your goats yet? Check out my article Buying Your First Goats. You’ll see the things to look for to get the best goats for you (and some things to avoid!)
The next question: what’s the difference between keeping goats and raising goats?
Why separate those two things out when they look the same? On the surface, I’m with you, those terms, keeping and raising, do look to be the same thing.
For this article keeping and raising are separate and here’s why: the difference will seem small at first but here’s why I did it: money!
The budget for a maintenance animal and a growing animal, especially if that growing kid is a bottle baby, are completely different.
If you need to keep a lid on expenses, this difference is critical to your success with goats!
I am defining keeping as feeding and caring for an adult/maintenance goat. Raising goats in this article means growing goats, including bottle babies and does with kids.
Sheep Or Goats: Which One Is More Profitable? goes over the main points to consider of keeping each and helps you decide which is right for you and your farm.
Biggest costs of keeping goats is feed
This section will be about maintenance goats, so adult goats that are kept as pets or are not in a highly demanding part of the reproduction cycle, like off season bucks, early gestation does or pets.
Good news, this section is the easiest one to figure out! Basically, your goat needs to eat 3-4% of it’s body weight in good quality hay per day.
Goat Feeding And Nutrition goes over your feeding basics based on age and purpose of your herd.
If your goats are out foraging the same idea applies but the percent will be higher since the fresh forage is wet so it will weigh more than dry hay.
Note: all of my goat feeding figures are from this chart by ADM Animal Nutrition.
Even though they are a large company that sells livestock feed, (so they, of course, recommend that everything needs the grain that they sell) I use their chart because it it clearly written and easy to understand.
Example 1: goat maintenance hay needs
First up, we’ll go over the math for your normal goat that is just hanging out.
Not a high energy need goat, that’s the next section, just a normal bodied goat with average maintenance diet needs.
Here is an example for a goat getting all of it’s feed ration from a good quality hay (we’ll use 4 % of body weight for our math):
140 pound goat x .04=5.6 pounds of hay per goat per day
If your hay is $200 per ton that means it is $0.10 per pound. You get the cost per pound by dividing the cost of the ton of hay by 2,000 pounds per ton.
$200 divided by 2,000 pounds per ton=$0.10 per pound of hay
Now take the pounds of hay needed per day and multiply by the cost per pound of hay to get the hay cost to feed a goat per day.
5.6 pounds of hay per day x $0.10= $0.56 per goat per day
You’ll need to find these numbers for your area to make your budget accurate for you.
7 Best Things About Raising Goats shows you the areas where goats really shine.
Example 2: maintenance for Boer type goat
If your goat is a heavier built goat, more like a Boer type, she will probably need some grain to keep up her weight.
Additionally, since she is a heavier built goat to begin with the math to calculate her daily intake will be a bit different.
This type/build of goat is more likely to be in the 160 pound range.
160 pound goat x .04%=6.4 good quality hay needed per day
Using the same $200 per ton hay as the example above we get $0.64 per goat per day in hay costs. (6.4 x $0.10=$0.64)
However, since this is a larger bodied goat, it is likely that she will need a bit of grain to keep up her weight, even in a maintenance situation.
If she looks like she needs a bit more energy in her daily ration, start off with a half pound of grain per day and see if that does the trick.
Most of the grain in the farm stores around here sell for around $18 per 50 pound bag, so $36 per 100 pounds, which equals $0.36 per pound in grain costs.
.5 pounds of grain x $0.36 per pound =$0.18 of grain per day per goat
Add the daily grain and hay costs together and get $0.82 per Boer type goat per day for a maintenance ration.
Figure the feed cost per year per goat
|Weight of Goat||Feed for 180 days|
(180 days of foraging/pasture)
|Feed for 365 days|
|140 pound goat|
|160 pound goat|
|160 pound goat|
Now you need to figure out how many days per year you will be feeding hay, we’ll say 180 days (6 months) hay and 180 days of eating/foraging for herself in the pasture.
For the 140 pound goat: she needs $100.80 of hay for the 6 months of you feeding her, if you are feeding her all year she’ll cost you $201.60.
For the 160 pound Boer type goat: that’s $147.6 in hay and grain costs per goat per year with 6 months grazing and 6 months feeding.
If you are feeding your goats everyday, little to no pasture then you would need to double the amount to $295.20 per goat per year.
If your goats are in late gestation, are growing, or are milking you need to read the numbers from the next section.
These numbers will be misleading for you in that they are too low. Go to the next section The Biggest Costs in Raising Goats to get the specifics for the higher energy needs goats.
Goat still not gaining or keeping weight?
As mentioned above, this is the maintenance section.
Your biggest concern here is going to be making sure to check the goats daily, just a quick look, to see how they are getting along.
Are they spunky with slick hair coats? If so, they are fine, if not, you need to investigate and make some changes.
Places to start if you see something needs to change:
- Parasites, how is your parasite program working? Get some fecal counts done (or do them yourself) to see how your goats are handling parasites
- Is the pasture holding up or have the goats been in the same place too long?
- Not sure if the pasture has what they need? Stick a few flakes of nice hay out in a feeder and see if they eat it.
- Don’t forget the salt block and mineral feeder! If your goats don’t have both, make this change ASAP!
- Double check the water. Would you drink out of it? If not, fix it so that you would.
Biggest cost of raising goats is feed
For the purpose of this article, raising goats means goats that are not on a maintenance ration, this would include growing goats, lactating goats and does in late gestation.
These goats all are in need of a higher energy higher quality ration than what is needed by the maintenance group.
So what does that mean to you? It’s going to cost you more per day for this group than the group above, all because they are doing more.
No worries, this group is expanding your herd, but it does cost you a bit extra to get there!
I find myself in a bit of a quandry here: goats are ruminants and ruminants do not need grain.
However, goats do need a high level of nutrition, especially the goats in this group. So, my answer is feeding a bit of grain to my goats.
Grain isn’t my preferred choice but it is what my goats seem to need, so I provide it.
I would prefer to feed really high quality hay, but the significantly higher cost is one I can not currently justify, so grain is the answer for me.
If you have high quality hay, you might not need grain for your goats, at all. It depends upon your type of goats.
Really, this is about what your goats need, so keep monitoring them and adjust as needed.
Feed growing goats to their best results
|Growing Goat||Pounds of 16% feed needed||Amount of Hay|
|Dairy type kid||1 pound of feed per day||Unlimited|
|Boer/meat type kid||.75 pounds of feed per day||Unlimited|
Growing goats will need a 16% feed, 1 pound per goat for dairy type goats, .75 pounds for meat type goats per day.
The easiest way to make sure your growing goats get the nutrition they need is to give them all they can eat high quality hay and give them some grain every day.
To keep your goats growing you will need to keep them on a high energy, very palatable ration and plenty of fresh water!
If you have good pasture for them, remember they need more than grass, just keep watching them.
Sheep and cattle graze, goats forage. Think of goats as being more like deer in what they eat.
Are your goats feisty with slick hair coats and a you can’t catch me attitude? Then they are getting what they need.
If you see rough hair coats or anything less than a spunky attitude, they are not getting what they need and you are late giving it!
Breed/body type of your goats matters!
Here’s where breed matters: a more self sufficient breed like Spanish or Kiko goats will be fine without grain, something more like a Boer won’t, they just grow too fast for foraging only.
14 Breeds Of Goats is an article going over the common breeds in the U.S. I included both dairy and meat type, since both are popular and many folks are crossing between the two to get a milkier mom and meatier kids.
This isn’t a which breed is best issue! This is a realize that different breeds have different needs, especially the fast growing meat breeds.
You have to give the goat what it needs to grow well under your management.
If you feel you are putting too much work or feed into your goats, consider replacing your current herd with more thrifty genetics (that will take longer to grow, but need less from you).
Feed lactating goats to perform well
|Lactating Goats||Pounds of 16% Feed per day||Hay/Forage|
|Dairy goat||1 pound feed per 3 pounds of milk||Unlimited|
|Meat goat||1 pound per kid being nursed||Unlimited|
Lactation is very demanding on does and requires high energy feeding.
Normally, lactation is mentioned for dairy goats only, but that is leaving out the hard working doe raising twins! She is lactating as well!
Lactating dairy goats need: 14-16% protein feed, fed at the rate of 1 pound of feed per 3 pounds of milk.
To calculate grain needs from milk, know that 4 pound of milk is a half gallon.
So if your doe is producing a half gallon of milk per day, she needs 1.3 pounds of grain per day.
Lactating meat goats need: 1 pound of 16% feed per kid being nursed, so 1 pound of feed per day for a single and 2 pounds of feed per day for twins
Is your goat getting what she needs?
Same rules apply as always: look at the doe, does she have a slick hair coat and a fun loving attitude?
If yes, you are on the money with her care, if not, you are lagging behind and need to adjust her care and her ration before she falls too far behind, nutritionally.
Feeding does in late gestation
|Goat||16% Feed Needed||Hay/Forage Needed|
|Dairy||1-2 pounds per day||Unlimited|
|Boer type||1-2 pounds per day||Unlimited|
Don’t go overboard here, too much feed is a problem here as well as too little. In late gestation your doe needs a bit more energy to nourish the growing kids and keep herself in top form.
Remember, both does that are too fat and does that are too thin will have problems kidding, so we are aiming for good condition here, not fat and not thin.
If you are feeding grain, give a pound a day per head to start. Keep watch on the girls and see how this is working. Increase to 1.5 then to 2 pounds per day if needed.
Whether you need to increase the grain or not will depend upon the individual goats and the quality of hay or forage they are eating.
If you are not feeding grain give a high quality hay to be sure they does are getting the nutrition they need.
In late gestation, holding capacity in the doe for food is limited due to the size of the babies. Make sure you are giving her good quality feed so she can easily get her daily nutrients.
Bottle baby goats
|Feed Needed||Price per bag|
|Goat Milk Replacer|
Not all species, specifically goat!
one bag per kid
|Starter feed at 18%||$22|
feed free choice
Goat kid milk replacer
Bottle baby goats are going to cost you, that milk replacer is pricey! Plan to spend at least $25 per bottle baby on milk replacer and don’t forget to buy a nipple.
We use a pint size plastic pop bottle with a Pritchard teat, the red nipple with the yellow screw on ring for bottle babies. The nipples are around $3 each and the plastic bottle is free!
If you think you’ll have more than one bottle baby, get the bigger bag of kid milk replacer. The cost per ounce is significantly less in the larger bag.
At our local farm store, buying the bigger bag saves us about 1/3 of the cost per baby!
Solid feeds, both hay and starter grain
Now we move on to feed, both hay and bagged feed, for the bottle baby.
Since feeding milk replacer is expensive, you’ll want to get your kids moved on to solid food as soon as you can.
How do you do it? By keeping the starter ration, purchased pelleted feed, and nice hay in the pen so the kids can nibble at will.
When they start noticeably eating solid food and drinking water they can be weaned off the bottle.
While starter pellets are not going to be cheap either, they are less money per day for the kids than it is to keep feeding the bottle.
Buy goat specific starter feed and milk replacer!
A note on feed for really young kids: use a starter feed and milk replacer made for kids, adult goat feed or other milk replacers (like calf milk replacer) are not made with high enough fat and protein for your baby goat.
Don’t use multi species formulations (milk replacer or starter feed) either, goat only!
Feeding the kids right makes for healthy kids, cheaping out makes for weak kids that are poor doers.
This budget has cost of feeding goats only
All of the costs you’ll have in your goats are not included in this article.
Since I don’t know where you live or what resources you have available, so far I’ve only listed cash expenses like buying hay.
The parts we are going over now are all of the non cash expenses like housing and land.
Of course, you could buy land just for your goats! But I’m figuring most people will be using the land and building that they already have or have access to.
Why not list out the cost of the land and building? The way I look at it is you have to live somewhere, so you are always going to have some sort of living expenses.
If you can have goats included in your life by using the backyard, that you pay for with or without goats, then the yard for the goats is already included in your household budget.
Being able to put goats in your yard is a bonus!
The building is a bit of a different story, for a few reasons: first, you can use a shelter/building that you already have, so once again you are paying for it whether it holds excess/storage items or goats.
Second, the shelter needed for your goats can be quite minimal, meaning it’s not really a barn!
As long as it meets their needs, your goats will be just as happy in a homemade shelter as a newly constructed barn.
How you choose to handle this shelter issue is up to you and your resources.
I’m also leaving out the cost of any fencing you may need to put up.
You may be fortunate enough to have a nice goat proof fence up already or you may need to start from scratch! That’s a huge variable which will be an individual situation expense.
If you have land but no fence, you’ll need to figure this one out based on your situation and needs.
Budget Considerations for meat goats is a University of Tennessee PDF giving a more extensive budget. For more budget based articles, search “meat goat feed budget”.
A few points to consider:
- Make the fencing portable electric netting, so the same fencing can be moved to enclose different areas
- Have a turn out lot next to the barn, for exercise and fresh air
- Make pasture divisions off the turn out lot so the goats are not on the same grass every week (this cuts down on parasites)
- Non electric fencing options include woven wire, cattle panels and T-posts, and a various combinations of non electric with a hot wire (electric) to keep the goats off the fence
- Most stores that sell building materials will be selling an acceptable fence material and posts. Look in the garden fence section.
The best source I have found for goat information is TenneseeMeatGoats.com. Read the newsletter, Meat Goat Mania, it has an amazing amount of great articles and actionable information.