If you have a small homestead, chances are you’ve considered keeping multiple species of livestock together in the same paddock. Two types of livestock that are frequently kept together on farms without a lot of acreage are mini cattle and goats.
So can mini cows live with goats? The answer is yes, mini cows can live with goats provided the fencing is strong enough to keep escape artist goats inside the pasture, and goats have access to their own shelter. Goats should not be kept in the same barn as cattle since they have different feed requirements and they are easily crushed in close quarters.
Integrating mini cattle and goats can be done, but there are some things you need to know before making the attempt. Keep reading to find out more about how goats and mini cattle can be kept together successfully.
Multi-Species Grazing and Forage Usage
One of the major reasons that mini cattle and goats can be pastured together is because they don’t use pasture in the same way. Cows are a grazing animal that eats vegetation that is at or close to ground level, while goats are browsers that go after leaves and buds on shrubs, trees, and tall weeds. Cows will eat the grass in a pasture, while goats will clear the ditches and fence lines.
Predator Control with Goats and Cattle
One disadvantage of keeping goats with mini cattle is that smaller livestock like goats and sheep are more attractive to pack predators like coyotes, wolves, and stray dogs. While these animals are still capable of bringing down mini cattle as well, they are more likely to harass and injure cattle than kill them outright. Either way, the introduction of smaller livestock means predator control is vital.
An effective way of controlling predators without eradication methods is to install a livestock guardian with your herd of goats and cattle. This can often take the form of a livestock guardian dog, such as Great Pyrenees or an Anatolian Shepherd. Another method of livestock guardianship available if you don’t want to take the time to train a shepherding dog is to adopt an alpaca or donkey.
While they need to be integrated into the herd young to avoid personality conflicts in the herd, a livestock guardian such as a donkey can be very effective in defending mixed herds of goats and mini cattle from predators such as coyotes.
Personality Conflicts Between Goats and Cattle
In theory goats and mini cattle can be mixed in a pasture easily enough, but one thing to keep in mind before just throwing two strange herds of animals together is that there might be some personality conflicts between the two groups.
Like humans, animals are individuals with singular personalities. One mini cow who gets along fine with a group of goats might act differently than another surly bull who might make it their life’s goal to trample the goats. It is best to integrate the two groups while the animals involved are young and still pliable enough to learn to tolerate one another.
For the most part these two species should get along just fine out on the range since they don’t compete for food and goats are generally more quick and agile than cattle, which allows them to easily get out of the cow’s way if a cow gets irritated with them. But grouping the animals together while young increases the chances that the two groups of animals aren’t threatened by each other.
Enrichment for Cohabitation Between Goats and Cattle
If you’re going to be providing enrichment for both cattle and goats, you should be aware that the two species require slightly different types of sensory input. Cows enjoy batting things around at ground level to entertain themselves, particularly large plastic water bottles or balls that they can bounce around in an impromptu game of soccer.
Goats, on the other hand, prefer to practice their mountain climbing skills—if you have goats in the pasture the best way to keep them occupied is to build a sort of “jungle gym” for them to clamber up on in the center of the field. This can be constructed of pallets, tractor tires, or any number of found materials around the homestead.
Enrichment is an important aspect of raising livestock, particularly goats. That’s because when goats are satisfied through play in their pasture, they are much less likely to attempt to escape the confines of the pasture out of boredom.
Benefits of Raising Goats and Mini Cattle Together
There are several advantages to deciding to raise goats and mini cattle together. Here are some of the benefits of the practice:
- More effective forage usage: Since goats and cattle use different parts of a pasture for their feed, this means you get more feed for both groups out of pasturing them on the same field.
- Pasture preparation: A herd of goats can be used to clean up an unused pasture and remove all unwanted brush and vegetation, preparing it to be used for mini cattle.
- Parasite control: Since goat parasites can’t survive in cows and cow parasites can’t survive in goats, feeding both types of animals off the same pasture reduces the gastrointestinal parasite load for both species at once.
- Clearing uneven terrain: If you live in a mountainous region and parts of the pasture are steeply sloped, you can’t count on your cattle to graze there. However, goats will be more than happy to climb rough terrain to remove brush and weeds in places where even getting farm machinery to cut down excess vegetation would be difficult.
- Diversify products: Keeping cattle and goats on the same property allows a homesteader to produce more products, such as goat meat and milk or goat milk related products such as soap. This can, in turn, increase income and allow the homesteader to invest any money earned back into the property.
Fencing Challenges When Keeping Goats with Mini Cattle
The biggest drawback to keeping goats together with mini cattle on a pasture is that goats are a lot less respectful of pasture fencing than cattle are. 4-5 strand electric fencing is a standard choice for keeping goats, which means an expensive investment if your pasture isn’t already set up for it.
While cattle are generally respectful of fencing due to their size and relative lack of intrepid spirit, to a goat a fence is just a good challenge. Unlike cattle, goats aren’t naturally respective of physical barriers and will try to go over any fence if it’s short enough unless you electrify it.
Check out this article at On Pasture to learn more about the unique challenges of keeping goats fenced in. Chances are if you’ve built a fence strong enough to keep your goats in, you won’t have anything to worry about from your mini cattle.
House Goats and Mini Cattle Separately
Goats and mini cattle can usually be pastured together safely, but housing is a different story. In a confined space such as a barn, it is easy for a mini cow or bull to accidentally trample and crush smaller goats against a wall. This is even more true when you add small, fragile goat kids into the mix. Goats should also be fed some supplements that cows don’t need access to.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though a mini cow has “mini” in the name, miniature cattle are still seven hundred to a thousand pounds, while even the largest goats only top out at around three hundred pounds. Most goats are much smaller, with the average goat running from fifty to a hundred pounds, the size of a large dog. This means they can be easily injured and killed by mini cattle.
To give the goats a place to sleep that is separate from the cattle, install a goat shelter with a chest-high board nailed across the entrance. This will allow the goats to shelter inside the barn but will keep the mini cattle out. Mini cattle should be housed in a separate barn.
Mini Cows Can Live with Goats
As long as the proper precautions are taken to prevent injury or fencing problems, it is easy to integrate mini cattle and goats onto the same homestead. It just requires a little foresight and knowledge about how the two species typically act in a pasture setting.