Buying Goats: Should I Get Boys or Girls?
This is the question I get asked the most from new goat owners. Are girls, “does”, or castrated boys, “wethers”, better for pets. (Let’s just state right now with no hesitation that intact males, “bucks”, are NOT good pets and should not be considered. Intact males of most livestock species can be aggressive, and in the case of goats, STINKY. You would be setting yourself, and your beloved pet up for failure.)
You must get at least two goats! Before we go any further on boys vs girls, I want to make it very clear that we will not sell a single goat to a home that does not already have goats on the property. Goats can not be alone without other goats. Period. There are always exceptions to this rule where a goat befriends a dog or a donkey etc. but this is not ideal. Goats are herd animals and must be with other goats or they will be very depressed and can even die.
Wethers are the most typical pet goat. Males are castrated around 12 weeks of age and will not stink like their intact brothers. They can still display “buckish” behavior like snorting, humping or chasing at does during the does’ cycle. Much like a neutered dog might still mark etc., this is common and does not indicate that they are still intact.
Wethers are a great option and we do highly recommend them. They are very sweet and affectionate if raised correctly (see bottle babies), they are less expensive, typically about half the price of a doe, and they are otherwise useless in goat farming so adopting a wether is a compassionate option.
However, wethers do have very specific nutritional needs/restrictions. Ironically, they have the most complex nutritional needs. Their diet needs to be monitored very closely and kept at a 2:1 Calcium to Phosphorus ratio to avoid urinary calculi (think kidney stones). Too much calcium or too much phosphorus will result in stones. The stones are not only extremely painful but are quite often fatal. Too much of either mineral can result in stones. There are herbal and homeopathic treatments and preventatives you can use to prevent and treat stones. Does are also susceptible to calculi but their anatomy makes it easier to pass stones and it is very rare for a doe to have a full blockage. Read this article on how to feed your goats.
Do you want to milk your goats? If you want to keep the milking option open, you’ll want to get two does; they do make very good pets and do not have to be bred and milked. And no, they will not make milk until they have given birth so no need to worry about milking until you decide to breed.
If you are considering milking in the future, we recommend starting with two does. I typically suggest two because if you have two, you can alternate them in order to have milk all year long. They are pregnant for 5 months and really should only be bred once a year. So you could stagger breeding or “freshening” them so you always have milk. Side note, Nigerian Dwarfs are one of the polyestrous breeds that cycle all year round vs. breeds that only breed in the fall for spring kids.
What about one of each? There are some issues with this situation. If you’re getting one each to breed, they cannot be penned together and therefore, will need a buddy each. Goats do not do well in isolation from other goats, even in adjacent pens. They must have companionship. So you would need two does and two bucks or a buck and a wether. Side note about getting a wether vs buck to companion your buck. I always suggest two bucks so that you have genetic diversity. After the initial investment price, it costs the same to keep a buck as it does a wether. Therefore, it’s more cost effective long term to have two bucks and be able to have genetic options for breeding.
If you’re getting the boy as a wethered companion to your doe(s), the first and most likely issue is that your wether, while castrated, will still harass and annoy your doe when she cycles, which is every 21 days for Nigerian Dwarf goats. This is not a huge deal but a lot of people do not want any conflict in their herd so they find it more peaceful with two girls or two boys.
The second and less common but more serious issue is the health of the wether. Your doe, if you decide to breed and milk her, will have different nutritional requirements and limitations from the wether. She will need a rich diet while he cannot have rich foods. See above re: wethers’ specific nutritional needs.
What about initial costs? Often, the cost of does vs wethers determines which pet gender you will choose. The average price for a quality milking doe is $450-600. Superior herds with performance accolades and championship wins can range up to $3500 for proven adults and $1500 for their offspring. While wethers are $200-250 regardless of their mom’s ribbon collection.
For more information on what to feed your goats, does, bucks and wethers, check out this article.
If you have more questions about which gender to pick, please contact us.