Memphis Backyard Farmer

Review: Living With Goats
September 10, 2011, 2:47 am
Filed under: Livestock

I’ve been bee keeping for about 15 years. I started keeping rabbits last fall (though I’m just now getting ready to breed them). I’ve been trying to decide what my next livestock choice would be – chicken or goats – and so recently picked up “Living With Goats, Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Herd” when my local Borders Books closed down.

The author, Margaret Hathaway, lives on a homestead farm in Maine and raises goats and poultry, tends a large garden, makes cheese and teaches homesteading skills. I was drawn to the book just by opening it and gazing and the absolutely beautiful pictures taken by Karl Schatz. There were several goat books on the shelf beside “Living With Goats” but honestly, I need brilliant color. Pencil sketch drawings just don’t cut it anymore (hear that Storey?)

Margaret and Karl write from their own experience and research. There are plenty of personal anecdotes, struggles and images from their own farm. There was everything you would expect from a book like this: goat breeds, biology, a very complete discussion of breeding, the basics of feeding and butchering.┬áIn addition, the appendices includes “A Year In Goats”, a list of tasks that should be undertaken roughly within the month given, along with “Equipment and Essentials By Chapter”. Something I found particularly helpful was a glossary of breeding terms in chapter 5. It allowed the discussion to be detailed without dumbing it down. I want to be educated. I want to call things by their proper names.

Two closing observations. It’s easy for me to recommend this book because it gave me a great introduction to goat care. However…when you know relatively little about a subject, it’s hard to say how complete a book like this is, or how good the content is. That said, my final comment is really a brief story; My family regularly helps out on a homestead where an older lady raises goats and chickens. Actually, her husband raised the goats (until a testy male attacked him and he suffered a stroke!). Not long after finishing the book, she asked if I could come help her put one of her goats in a stall because the goat had cut her leg on a fence wire. The nanny was skittish because of the injury and because she was being handled by a stranger. But I had a bit of confidence knowing how to corral her and care for her until the vet could arrive. Soon after getting this nanny in the barn, I was inspecting a young kid (who thinks it’s a dog), and found that he was having hoof problems because of an overgrowth of keratin (see chapter 7). What we thought was just an irregular gait was actually a sore hoof. Another patient for the vet later that day.

If you’re a newcomer to goats and want to get your feet wet, this is a great place to start.