Monday, December 13, 2010
Book review: Raising Goats for Dummies
In 19 chapters, she covers everything from buying goats to milking, using goats for meat, and spinning with mohair. There is even a chapter on misconceptions (goats don’t eat cans) and an appendix with goat milk recipes. Each chapter is meant to stand alone, so if you are expecting kids any day now, you can skip right to chapter 13. I would, however, recommend reading the whole book from beginning to end at some point.
One section I really liked was “Protecting Your Herd,” where she covers dangers that most people probably would not consider, such as lead paint on old barns. Her reasons to avoid tethering are more extensive than I have seen in other books or articles. In addition to strangulation, which is the usual objections most authors voice, Smith also says that tethered goats are sitting ducks for predators. They might also get the lead line wrapped up so that they cannot reach their water, and if they are stuck in hot sun, they could dehydrate and die. She also tells the story of someone who found their tethered goat hanging from a tree branch. I’m glad she covers the risk of domestic dogs attacking goats, because most new goat owners have no idea that this is a potential problem.
Smith includes more information on goat health than any other book I’ve seen on the subject, and it is includes up-to-date information on copper requirements, dewormer resistance, and FAMACHA. I was surprised she did not mention that loose minerals are better for goats than mineral blocks, because some goats may not be able to get enough minerals from a hard block.
I was a little confused about why she said, “Llamas and alpacas are good guardian animals,” but then goes on to only discuss llamas. I was curious to read about alpacas as guard animals, because it is my understanding that they are too small and too shy to be guardians. In fact, I know people who have llamas to guard their alpacas.
Although she covers fencing in a fairly extensive section, she does not mention the use of portable electric netting, which is becoming more popular with goat breeders, especially those on small acreage. She does talk about using temporary electric fencing with three strands of electric wire, mentioning that a friend of hers has used this successfully. Unfortunately, that type of fencing does not work with all goats, and you only need one goat to teach the rest of them that going through the electric fence is not such a big deal.
Overall, this book gives goat owners as much useful information as an author can squeeze into 300-plus pages. This book makes a positive contribution to the literature available on goats, and I’ll recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about raising goats.
This review will appear in the winter issue of Ruminations: Celebrating the Small Farm Goat.