Goats In The City!

Sep 8, 2016

Meet Shani Graham and her partner Tim Darby. Together they live in on a 1/4 acre block in Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia. Their home (and local business) is called Ecoburbia and is an urban infill development where they’ve converted their house into four self contained living unit, tripling the population density without adding to the houses footprint.

They’ve set up their home as a demonstration sustainable house, with cutting edge energy systems, water collection and dispersal systems and innovative passive solar design.They’ve designed it to be an educational opportunity and community hub, with regular tours, workshops, films and other community events.

On top of this they’ve also got chickens, goats, compost and fruit trees, plus a large shared veggie patch. Yes goats – you read that right. As a wannabe city goat keeper myself, I had a million questions for Shani and thought it only right I share the answers with you – and the cute baby goat photos… Swooon! 22-more-goats-25

What type of goats do you have and why did you choose this breed?

We have two saneen goats,the mother is Little White and her daughter is Whimsy. We chose them as they’re are a great milking goat, have gentle natures and are generally pretty quiet (unless they are on heat).

How big is their permanent run?

​A​bout 50 square metres not including their stable area.
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What are some of the key functions they perform for you and your property?

The goats do a few things – ​most importantly ​provide us with milk – we drink this and make cheese. They also provide a composting system for branches cut around the neighbourhood. Importantly, they’re a gret source of entertainment (and sometimes shelter) for the chickens.

​interestingly the chickens like to eat the grain in their poo – so that’s another function, plus they eat food scraps from us and many of our neighbours and friends. Lastly they are an endless source of love, entertainment and fun ​for us, just like any other pet does.
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Do your neighbour’s like them?

The majority of our neighbours love them – especially when there are baby kids around!

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Does your local Council approve of them?

​I am proud to say we have the only legal goat stable in Fremantle! Interestingly enough (despite what everyone says) we met all the requirements (we are on a 1/4 acre block), except distance from our neighbours. But our council was very reasonable and suggested that if we could get support from all our affected neighbours they would grant approval – which they did.

We have had goats “illegally” before. We find when applying the “beg for forgiveness don’t ask for permission”rule works quite effectively. The most important thing to do is talk to your neighbours – and offer them goat’s cheese!

What do you feed them?

They get a grain mix twice a day – this consists of lucerne chaff, special goat pellets, barley and lupins. Plus oaten hay and occasionally lucerne. They also get whatever branches are being cut down and every second day we harvest some acacia from a local roadway. 18-goat-walk-7

How much milk do you get from them each day when you’re milking them?

When Little White was in full production we got between 4-5 litres a day. We have been milking her for nearly two years at the moment though so she’s down to about 2 litres a day.

What type of fencing do you have for your goats?

We are really lucky,  our goats are not really escape artists so our fences are not that high (around chest height) but pretty sturdy​. Whimsy can jump out if she is scared but she doesn’t seem to do it any other time – she is really scared of umbrellas for some reason and that is the last time she jumped out​.

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What would you say to someone thinking of getting goats in an urban environment?

I would recommend to have a “goat mentor” – ideally someone close by who has a small herd and is willing to support you. We have Keren Mustham from Serendipity Goats. She is an absolute legend – we call her ‘Goat Girl’.

​I can call her whenever I am worried about something and find she often knows more than the vets! If you can’t find a goat mentor, make sure you have a relationship with a good vet that knows about productive animals.​
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What’s one of your favourite things about keeping goats?

​One of my favourite daily things:  Sitting in the goat pen early in the morning, drinking a cup of tea and having a warm goat cuddle up against you​.
My all time favourite moment: The honour of helping Little White birth her babies. When she was in the last stages of labour she just wanted me there. She lay moaning with her head in my lap and we went through each contraction together. She had six kids (two were still born) – unheard of for a goat. I even had to help her by assisting one out. Since then she and I have had a very special bond​.
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Some extra things…

  • Goats are very clever and I have used clicker training to great effect. Little White can shake hands and Whimsy can find and touch a​ soccer​ ball on command.
  • Keeping goats is a big commitment, you can’t just spontaneously go on a weekend holiday here and there. You need to make sure someone can milk them/look after them properly. This is getting a bit tricky for us these days. So don’t just go get goats if you like to go away a lot.

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