Ok, since what we do in the Agritourism business is partly about entertainment, and since we’re talking about using animals in our venues, there is nothing more entertaining than watching goats interact with people and with each other. If you’ve ever had goats or watched goats, they have a simple ignorance about them that kind of reminds me of the “class clown” that you went to high school with. They are pretty much all about playing and eating and not necessarily in that order. They don’t need a lot to make them content. They are “happy go-lucky” animals that provide hours and hours of interaction with your guests. I would say that they are probably the best animal to have if you only have room for one!
As I mentioned before, it is recommended that goats have 20 square feet apiece. Even though this is a recognized standard, I would encourage you to give them as much room to run as possible. Not too big however. Your animals are there for guests so they still need to be in view. Here are some things to consider when you’re building a goat habitat:
Do I want guests to touch or interact with the goats? If so you will need to build some squares into your fence that allow the goats to stick their heads out. If not, you will need to construct that double fence we talked about with a no man’s land in between. Fences will need to have gates to bring in food and water. These fences do not need to extend underground as goats do not dig. It is crucial, however, to make sure the fence weave openings are not too large so that goats cannot accidently get their head stuck in the fence.
Part of the novelty of goats is their ability to climb. If you are going to have goats in your venue, you need to provide a goat walk. I will include some pictures, but goat walks allow the goats to get up high and climb well above ground level. These walks usually include ramps, elevated walkways, platforms and shelters. It is your choice as to whether or not you will add rails or fencing along the walkways. Goats are very agile and your guests will worry about an open, elevated walkway. It may be worth the time and money to alleviate their nervousness and “protect the goats from a fall”. And though it is not likely your goats will fall, one fall is certainly too many! Take a look at a couple goat walks:
(Of course the height of your goat walk will somewhat dictate how much you add for safety.)
You will also need to consider what type of shelter you will provide. Again, if your animals remain in these areas overnight throughout the season, you will need to account for weather and for safety. I recommend at least one large structure with an adequate roof and doorway to house all the goats in your habitat. These structures should be kept dry and bedding should be changed regularly as it gets dirty. If you build your shelter on the ground, make sure you have plenty of hay or sawdust to cut down on the mud. This will keep you animals cleaner and healthier. It will also cut down on hoof problems that wet areas usually cause. Many goat habitats have multiple structures such as stacked spools or something similar, but these should not be the main shelter as they will not provide adequate protection in a severe storm.
Food and water are the most important consideration for your habitat. It is important that animals have clean water provided daily and that there are multiple watering areas. Ground supplies such as tubs or bowls will work, but they will also be harder to keep clean. Goats will walk through it and play in it and you’ll be changing their water constantly. A better option is a “self-waterer”. There are many purchase options for these, but they are easier to keep clean. Food should be provided in a variety of ways. On weekends, self serve pellet dispensers and conveyor feeders not only provide food for your goats, but they make you some extra money as well. Here is an example of a conveyor feeder on a goat walk:
These are a big hit for your guests and a big hit for the goats! They will become a supplement for your regular feeding of hay and other grains. What you can’t see in this picture is the crank that guests turn to move the belt up to the goat that waits anxiously for his food. Containers are attached to the belt and food rotates up and is dumped at the feet of the hungry goats!
These are some very basic planning options for a goat habitat. We would be happy to provide more specifics if you have questions. Remember, if you are just starting out, we also offer consultation services for starting an Agritourism business. We will come to your site and help you build a solid foundation for the years ahead. Check it out.