There are a few pertinent questions that anyone looking to raise goats or go into goat farming needs to ask themselves. One of the most important ones is how much space do goats need? While there are some adorably miniature goat breeds, such as the Pygmy goats and Nigerian dwarf goats, all goats need enough space and land to browse and play.
For your goats to thrive, they need pasture and as much open space as you can give them. Here we explain how much space goats need and what you can do to make their lives more comfortable. Remember, goats are social animals. It’s best to raise at least two goats or more. This means, at a minimum, you should have 500 square feet for them.
How Much Space Do Goats Need
How much space your goats need and how many goats per acre will depend on many factors. The most common factors include:
- The goat breed
- How many goats do you intend to have
- Whether the goats are going to be kept indoors or outdoors
As a goat keeper, you have your own personal reasons for raising goats. Whether you are keeping them for their goat meat, goat milk production, or as pet goats, the constant is that these animals need space to roam.
As a rule of thumb, an adult goat needs approximately:
- 10 – 20 square feet (indoor space)
- 200 – 250 square feet (outdoor space)
While this amount of space will be adequate for goat keeping, it isn’t exactly ideal. This is particularly true if you are dealing with commercial goat keeping for whatever reason.
The kind and amount of space you provide your goats will affect their ability to feed properly, provide shelter, and maintain good health. Ideally, goats need enough space to eat without aggressive competition and to stretch out comfortably to rest.
The space also needs to be well-ventilated to prevent contamination and the spread of disease. It must also be as dry as possible underfoot to prevent diseases such as hoof rot. Keeping goats dry will also help keep goats warm in the winter. If the space they have is too cramped, your goats might develop health complications, especially when goats are pregnant.
In an ideal world, backyard goats would spend their days foraging for food on pasture. Keeping 6 – 8 goats per productive acre will give goats enough space for a varied diet that they need to develop good health. It also helps keep them in shape and allows them to socialize extensively. At this range, each goat can have enough space.
However, some situations often limit this kind of freedom. For example, when goats, such as dairy goats, are kept in goat shelters or barns, or the animals need to be kept inside during winter, this kind of freedom of movement is curtailed.
During these periods, if the goats do not have enough space to cater to the current stocking density, fights and diseases will break out due to competition for goat feed and space.
How Much Space Do Goats Need in a Barn?
The general rule of thumb is that a single goat needs at least 20 square of space in a barn. This is particularly true if the goats will be spending a prolonged period within the shelter. However, if the goats have enough roaming space outside and only need the barn to sleep, you could get away with providing smaller spaces.
Of course, just how much space exactly is determined by several factors. One of the key factors is the breed of goat, and another is their body condition. For instance, pregnant goats tend to need more space as their pregnancies progress.
This is mostly because they tend to distance themselves from other goats the nearer they get to giving birth to baby goats.
If you want some inspiration and some DIY ideas, check out these goat barn ideas which take many factors into consideration.
How Much Space Do Goats Need in Pasture?
In their natural state, goats prefer free-range foraging. Goats have been known to forage far and wide as this not only allows them to have a variety in terms of food, from grass to grain, but it also allows them to exercise and keep their minds stimulated.
However, as a goat owner, the amount of land you might have to dedicate to pasture is limited regardless of how big. You must take special care, not to overstock pastures.
Ideally, you will need about an acre for every three goats. This translates to about a hectare for every nine goats. This will allow the land to sustainably produce about 70% of the forage that your goats need.
However, just because you need about an acre for every 3 goats doesn’t mean you should stock 3 goats in every acre. How many goats you can keep in that pasture will depend on how well the particular piece of land performs in terms of pasture production. This is often affected by factors such as:
- Soil fertility
- Prevailing climate
- Quality of pasture browsing opportunities
In many cases, you will find that you might need to buy additional hay to cater to the goats when the land can’t produce enough pasture. If you go this route, it’s important to remember that goats need about 4.4 to 7.7 lb. of dry matter every day.
When it comes to this, it’s important to have a conversation with your local cooperative extension officer to get a good idea of the typical stocking rate in your specific region.
Space Needed if You Are Raising Goats for Meat vs Brush Control
However, if you are interested in keeping goats as a way to primarily control woody areas and brush control instead of for meat, the number of goats required per acre is higher.
How Much Space Does Each Goat Need in the Hay Rack?
Whether you are dealing with meat goats such as Boer goats or a milking herd, the story is often the same—competition for feed is intensified when the feed is spread out in limited spaces such as hay racks. This is where you need to take the most care since your goats might spend a lot of time on these racks, depending on the season.
Technically speaking, how much space each goat needs at the hay rack ranges from 16 inches to about 16 feet. In many cases, you can get away with providing 3 to 6 feet of feeder space between each goat, provided the conditions are favorable.
The issue with providing such limited space is that goats have a social hierarchy, and, in many cases, lower-ranking goats might have difficulty feeding at the same time as higher-ranking goats.
If you have enough hay and you make it available throughout the day, then these lower-ranking goats will get a chance to feed once the higher-ranking ones leave the hay rack. If not, they might go hungry, eventually affecting their size and health and how long goats live.
Factors that Will Affect How Much Space Your Goats Need
As you can imagine, not every farmer has the space to keep all the farm animals they want. That’s one of the main reasons why most farmers pick and choose what livestock can keep. If you keep goats, some factors will determine just how much space you can and should give them. These include:
- Your ideal goals (How many goats do you want to keep?)
- The type of goats you want to keep (Are you looking to keep meat goats, pet goats, or a milking herd?)
- Which kind of property do you have (Are your neighbors nearby and/or problematic?)
- Prevailing weather (This will determine how much time the goats will need to spend in the goat pens.)
- Access to large tracts of pasture
- Quality of the field, farmland, pasture
It’s important to remember that the more space you provide for your goats to browse and graze, the more you protect them from parasites. Rotating pasture for goats ensures they don’t fall victim to the same parasites all year round.
That being said, this guide gives you a rough idea or estimate of how much space goats need. Consider the figures highlighted here as the minimum requirements for goats on your property. More acreage and space is always better.