Can you explain the housing needs of meat goats?
Answer: Housing needs for meat goats are very simple, and in moderate climates may consist of natural cover such as thick trees and brush or rock ledges. Goats do need protection from rain and from cold wind and snow. A sturdy shed, open to the south, with rear eave height of 4 to 6 feet and front eave height of 6 to 8 feet will help conserve body heat. (The shed will be more difficult to clean out if the roof is this low, however.) For night shelter, allow 5 square feet per goat. If the shed is near the farmhouse, predators may be deterred. One problem with a permanent shed is that constant traffic will keep the ground bare, leading to erosion. A movable shed (on skids) is one possible remedy.
In addition to a shed, it will be helpful to have a sturdy catch pen, at least 4 feet tall. This pen is essential when handling the goats for deworming, vaccinations, foot trimming, and sorting. Larger operations will benefit from additional facilities. Lynn Harwell, PhD, recommends a working chute, a squeeze chute (headgate), and an alley system.
A working chute should be about 10 feet long, 4 feet high, and 12 inches wide. Longer chutes tend to cause crowding and trampling at the forward end, and should be divided into sections with sliding gates. Also, a series of canvas flaps suspended about halfway down into the chute keeps the goats’ heads down and eliminates riding. The sides should be solid. Ideally, for horned goats the chute should be tapered, with the top nearly twice the width of the bottom. To avoid jamming, it helps to mount a vertical roller, about 30 inches in length, at one side of the entrance to the chute. The crowding pen should be half again as long as the working chute and up to 12 feet wide at the open end.
Be sure to check out the ATTRA publication Meat Goats: Sustainable Production. It offers information, case studies and resources specific to meat goat production and is offered as a companion publication to Goats: Sustainable Production Overview. The overview discusses general pasturing of goats, supplemental feeding, diseases and parasites, management, marketing, and resources.
While you’re at it, check out the Livestock and Pasture: Sheep and Goats section of the ATTRA website. You’ll find a host of useful resources including publications, podcasts, and videos that can help you on your knowledge journey.