When someone finds something that works and is enjoyable, they tend to evangelize their methods or discovery with the world. Such is this post where in I tell everyone precisely why they simply must have their own dairy goats.
I'll start with our journey which began in the fall of '07 with 2 Nigerian Dwarf does. We planned to tether them to trees in the would-be pasture during the day, enclose them in step-in electric fencing at night or when we weren't home and let them clear their own living space. That didn't work as well as planned... ok, it didn't work at all. They got repeatedly tangled around trees and brush and didn't eat the palmetto scrub that filled our land. We ended up keeping them in the front yard for a year while we cleared (with heavy equipment) the back half of our property and fenced it. Then came fencing... we planned to do barb/electric fencing in a high tensile fashion because that was cheapest. But we didn't rent a stretcher and didn't know a lick about getting proper insulators for the posts. And posts at proper 8' intervals would have broke the bank so we actually marked and saved trees and danced our pasture fencing around to use them as posts instead. Husbandman gave me the fence for Christmas of '08... and the first goat we put inside immediately turned and walked out, straight through our barbwire/electric fence. And no, we didn't electrify the barb wire, but we had plain wire in between that was supposed to be electrified. With that disaster behind us, we then saved up and bought enough 3' woven wire fencing to go around the perimeter. That kept them in. We started milking Christmas of '07, traded up to full-sized goats in the spring of '10 and have learned a LOT along the way. On to discussing all that learning:
Fencing- While I don't advise anyone to go quite as redneck as we poor, living-on-love honeymooning parents did, there are some things I do advise to anyone keeping goats. They aren't as hard to contain as people make them out to be. If you do a fence right, they'll stay in. Our suggestion is to use sturdy trees and fence posts every 8 feet. Use cement on corners at least. 4-5' welded wire with 2"x4" openings (or no climb fence) is best. Using a stretcher is good too, but not imperative. Also add 1 or 2 strands of barbed wire inside right at goat body height. This prevents them from using posts as scratchers and pushing your posts over. 3' fencing with 1 or 2 strands of barb wire over it work fine too.
Breeds- There's more variation between the goats and their personalities than between the breeds. If you want meat, boer is the breed of choice. Pygmies would be the smaller version. Milking goats are basically everything else. Nigerian dwarfs we found to not give enough milk. We had heard nubians were the hardest to contain. Our nubian has only once ever gotten out and that was when a storm took down a portion of fencing and everyone got out before we knew what was going on. The buck has been the hardest to contain... but again, that's been with using unstretched chainlink we found on the side of the road and bendable aluminum posts. Do a real fence... ya know, like spend at least SOME money on it, and they'll respect it. We kept our nigerian buck even when we upsized because he's sweet tempered and if he does get ornery (which all bucks do some), he's small enough for me to take down. We're in it for the milk, not the babies (who we sell anyway) so them being mutts really doesn't matter. Besides, mini-nubians and mini-manchas are gaining in popularity now anyway. If you want a dairy goat, its best to get a goat from someone who milks them. Goat kids drink about a quart a day, but if a full-sized goat only gave that in a day, they'd be considered a rather poor milker. But keep in mind that the cast-off's from someone who's really serious about milkers may be a great find for a decent price. Helen came from a lady who had a huge spread. She gave lots of milk but once turned out on that big spread where she had to forage for herself, she dropped. Her conformation is terrible (sshhhhh, don't tell her I said that!) and being on her feet that long... well, she'd rather starve. Our set-up suits her fine. She can lay down and stick her head in the hay basket and then give her gallon a day. And another thing when looking for stock, we've learned "bottle babies" are the way to go. If they're bottle fed at birth, they will always be easy to handle for milking.