Domestication: Goats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Ancient cultures and tribes began to keep them for easy access to milk, hair, meat, and skins.
Herding: Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding are still utilized today.
Goathide: Historically, goathide has been used for water and wine bottles in both traveling and transporting wine for sale. It has also been used to produce parchment, which was the most common material used for writing in Europe until the invention of the printing press.
Useful Dead Or Alive: A goat is said to be truly useful both when alive and dead, providing meat and milk while the skin provides hide. In fact, a charity is involved in providing goats to impoverished people in Africa. The main reason cited was that goats are easier to manage than cattle and have multiple uses.
They'll Eat Anything: Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. Many farmers use inexpensive (i.e. not purebred) goats for brush control, leading to the use of the term "brush goats." (Brush goats are not a variety of goat, but rather a function they perform.)
Weed Lovers: Because they prefer weeds (e.g. multiflora rose, thorns, small trees) to clover and grass, they are often used to keep fields clear for other animals. The digestive systems of a goat allow nearly any organic substance to be broken down and used as nutrients.
Feed Requirement: Goats will consume, on average, 4.5 pounds of dry matter per 100 lbs of body weight per day.
Honestly, They Are Clean: Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad leaved plant. It can fairly be said that goats will eat almost anything in the botanical world. Their plant diet is extremely varied and includes some species which are toxic or detrimental to cattle and sheep. This makes them valuable for controlling noxious weeds and clearing brush and undergrowth. They will seldom eat soiled food or water unless facing starvation.
No Garbage, Please: Goats do not actually consume garbage, tin cans, or clothing, although they will occasionally eat items made primarily of plant material, which can include wood. Their reputation for doing so is most likely due to their intensely inquisitive and intelligent nature: they will explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue. This is why they investigate clothes and sometimes washing powder boxes (e.g. Daz) by nibbling at them.
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall: In some climates goats, like humans, are able to breed at any time of the year. In northern climates and among the Swiss breeds, the breeding season commences as the day length shortens, and ends in early spring. Does of any breed come into heat every 21 days for from 2–48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags her tail often, stays near the buck if one is present, becomes more vocal, and may also show a decrease in appetite and milk production for the duration of the heat.
Goat Perform: Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into rut in the fall as with the doe's heat cycles. Rut is characterized by a decrease in appetite, obsessive interest in the does, fighting between bucks, display behavior, and, most notably, a strong, musky odor. This odor is singular to bucks in rut — the does do not have it unless the buck has rubbed his scent onto them or the doe is in actuality a hermaphrodite — and is instrumental in bringing the does into a strong heat.
In addition to live breeding, artificial insemination has gained popularity among goat breeders, as it allows for rapid improvement because of breeder access to a wide variety of bloodlines.
Great Expectations: Gestation length is approximately 150 days. Twins are the usual result, with single and triplet births also common. Less frequent are litters of quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing, known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully with few complications. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much needed nutrients, helps staunch her bleeding, and reduces the lure of the birth scent to predators. After kidding, the kids conceal themselves in small places and lie immobile for hours at a time while their dam feeds. Upon her return, she calls for them and they come out to nurse and play.
Freshening (coming into milk production) occurs at kidding. Milk production varies with the breed, age, quality, and diet of the doe; dairy goats generally produce between 660 to 1,800 L (1,500 and 4,000 lb) of milk per 305 day lactation. On average, a good quality dairy doe will give at least 6 lb (2.7 L) of milk per day while she is in milk, although a first time milker may produce less, or as much as 16 lb (7.3 L) or more of milk in exceptional cases. Meat, fiber, and pet breeds are not usually milked and simply produce enough for the kids until weaning.
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