This Barnyard Multitool May Answer Many of Your Homestead Needs

I can remember some years ago seeing a truck filled with some men returning from a successful hunt with a large buck tied down to the rack on the roof. The pretty young lady that I had been courting commenced to go on a long and angry rant proclaiming among other things that these bloodthirsty “murderers” had just killed Bambi.

Now, I had grown up in the mostly rural (and rarely recognized) region of New York state where many people harvested deer and other game animals as a way to supplement their income by hunting. This saved them a small fortune in the price they would have been forced to pay had they purchased meat from the supermarket to provide food for their families; so seeing a dead deer tied down to the roof of a truck was hardly something I found strange or bothersome.

You can find a full spectrum of medications and health aids for your goats at your local feed store. Note that some of these supplies are for the author’s chickens.

The truth was, I had some pretty strong contrary thoughts on the topic myself, but I thought better of sharing them with her at that moment because I figured it would blow my chances of getting a second date. That was until she asked me if we could go get something to eat at McDonald’s and she ordered a double cheeseburger without even batting an eye.

Having grown up in “cow country,” I was well aware of the way in which cattle were killed and processed in the slaughterhouse before starting their journey to supermarkets and fast food joints in various forms, including burger patties. However, even my teenage hormones weren’t powerful enough to override my burning desire to point out her hypocrisy.

Goats need salt and other minerals to supplement their diet, but their mouths are too small to benefit from the standard mineral blocks available at feed stores. We crush the mineral rock first to provide it to the goats in a powdered form.

The way I went about this was to give her a highly descriptive education on how a cow met its demise so it could eventually be the cheeseburger she was about to devour. From the look of disgust and horror on her face, I am sure even Stephen King himself would have been impressed!

Needless to say, I ended up having an extra cheeseburger to take home for a midnight snack and I lost any possible chance of ever growing old with that particular young woman. It was probably for the best anyway.


There was a time in this country when most people were directly involved in securing and processing their own food. It was not until after the industrial revolution when people began to concentrate in urban areas and we discovered more efficient methods of growing, preserving and transporting food that people began to purchase food that was harvested and processed for them. This removed the personal connection between humans and food source and replaced it with a sterile institutional view of the way we acquire food.

Goats love to climb. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars re-creating a mountainous environment for them to play on. All it takes is repurposing a few things you have lying around on the farm or that you save from the scrap heap and just make sure there is nothing sharp that could harm them.

While I must say that I am frequently guilty of enjoying many of these conveniences myself, I also have a huge amount of respect for how much time, energy and hard work goes into growing fruits, vegetables and raising livestock for harvest. And, as a hunter, I know exactly how much skill, patience and inner strength it takes to deliberately take the life of another creature in order to provide food for table.

It is because of this that I recommend that you remain as close to nature and the land as you can. Whether it is because you want to be prepared for an emergency scenario where the supermarket shelves run empty, ensure the quality and safety of your food or to keep and pass along basic self-reliance skills, growing your own food, especially livestock, is a valuable and satisfying endeavor.

We like to supplement our goats’ food with fruit and vegetable scraps from our dinner table, which adds to their vitamin and mineral intake, and they really seem to enjoy them.

While livestock choices are often influenced by your geographical location, there are several animals that can thrive in almost any climate so long as you can provide them with food, water and shelter. When I decided to raise animals for food, I looked at a number of other factors that made my choice easier.


When I started homesteading, the animal that I chose to concentrate my efforts on was the goat. My reasoning for choosing goats over other animals considered several aspects including hardiness, self-reliance and the ability to provide me with multiple benefits.

It is imperative that you always have fresh, clean water available for your goats and other livestock.

There is an old saying in North Carolina that if you don’t like the weather then just wait 15 minutes and it will change! Taking that into consideration, I knew I needed a hardy animal that could thrive in a full spectrum of weather conditions.

The next thing I was looking for was an animal that could be somewhat self-reliant. Since I often travel for my work, I could not be enslaved by daily commitments to farm animals. Goats are for the most part “fire and forget” animals.

That is not to say they don’t require your supervision or overwatch, but when provided with a dry, covered location to sleep in and constant access to ample food and water, they require very little upkeep. Providing some scheduled maintenance such as trimming hooves or occasionally mending fences would not be a problem for me.

Goats come in a variety of types and sizes. In fact, there are more than 200 breeds of goats globally, and many have developed into specialist roles, including being used for dairy, fiber, meat and for brush control.
Contrary to popular belief, goats prefer to browse leaves, twigs and brush at head height or higher. Rarely will they graze grass off the ground.
The main reason goats are disbudded (have their horns removed), usually when they are very young, is to prevent them from getting their horns caught in brush or fencing where they can die of exhaustion, dehydration or predation.
When building your goat habitat, bear in mind that they prefer to have an elevated porch or shelf that they can access to lounge on during the day.

My objective was to choose an animal that was able to meet the same “Rule of 3” criteria that I apply to my outdoor and survival gear. What I mean by this is that I look for items that are designed for or can be repurposed to do a minimum of three distinguishably different tasks. In the case of goats, they can clear brush and dense vegetation; they can provide milk, which can be used for everything from consumption to making soap; they are an excellent source of meat; and goat pelts can be used to make clothing, equipment and shelter.


Goats, much like dogs, have broad subspecies and vary significantly from breed to breed. There are over 200 breeds of goats living around the world today. The average lifespan of a goat is between 10 and 12 years and they can live over 15 years. The female goat, known as a doe or nanny, can weigh between 20 and 220 pounds at adulthood and male goats, bucks or billys, can weigh between 27 and 275 pounds when mature.


Goats that are born without horns are called polled. This is a genetic trait carried by a dominant gene. Polled goats must have at least one polled parent to be born this way.


The goat is a hooved mammal belonging to the cattle family just like sheep and cows. From homesteading and supplementing your food supply to a pack animal that can haul your gear, a goat is one of the most versatile animals you will find. Their tendency to be gentle, friendly, curious and intelligent are among the positive traits of goats. It is no wonder that goats were one of the first wild animals to be tamed and herded by humans dating back over 9,000 years.

There is a common stereotype that a goat will eat almost anything but, in fact, that is simply not the case. The truth is that goats are quite picky eaters, particularly when it comes to food that looks and/or smells bad, and they have been known to choose starvation rather than consume food that does not appeal to them. As ruminants, meaning cud-chewing animals, goats prefer cracked corn, hay, grass and oats.

I provide about an acre for every three goats I have. My land is covered in hardwood trees, saplings and a wide variety of greenery and a natural fresh water source so these animals could do well even without my help. I choose to supplement their diet with alfalfa pellets, access to a crushed mineral block and additional fresh water that I add electrolytes to during the hotter months of the year.


Having both male and female goats will give you the opportunity to breed your own animals, but you will need to have separate fenced-off areas for the bucks and the does, or the bucks will torment and violate the does constantly. Another thing to consider is that bucks tend to put off a musky odor that is not pleasant. If you choose to get your bucks wethered (castrated), their smell will go away almost completely and they’ll be far less aggressive. It is perfectly safe to keep wethers and does together in the same pens and pastures.


Note that wethered goats have special dietary needs as they run the risk of urinary calculi. This is due to an excess of phosphorus in relation to the amount of calcium in their diet. With this disease, crystals or stones form in the urinary tract and prevent the goat from being able to urinate.

This condition is very painful and, if not treated immediately, the goat could soon die from a bladder or urinary tract infection. It is imperative that you do not force or encourage your goat to drink large amounts of water when suffering from urinary calculi, as this will only make the condition worse and it could easily cause a rupture and lead to death.


A goat that is born without horns is called polled. The reason some goats have horns, and some are born without them is due to genetics. Some breeders like to disbud or dehorn goats on purpose. The reason for this is that a goat’s horns can easily get locked up in thick brush or fencing, causing the animal to get stuck making it vulnerable to dehydration, starvation or predators looking for an easy meal.

Health and Maintenance

Goats, like all domesticated animals and livestock, require immunizations. They are also susceptible to several conditions that usually can be easily treated, such as hoof rot and pink eye. As for maintaining these animals, the biggest thing really is to simply keep their hooves trimmed. This is a simple procedure that can be performed using a tool specially designed for the practice. You can get goat hoof trimmers at your local feed store.

Feed stores are also an excellent resource for getting information about how to raise your goats as well as to be connected to other farmers in your area. In most cases, veterinarians that care for domestic pets do not treat goats so you will need to find a vet who specializes in livestock. The local feed store or the internet are good places to find a vet as well.

Goats may be more than what you are interested in but they are a good solution for me. If you are looking for an animal that is intelligent and friendly and can provide your family with numerous benefits, then you really should consider raising goats. With all the resources that can be generated from this animal, it would be hard to find another animal that will be able to give you so much for so little an investment.

Good For Your Health

Goat meat is 50% to 65% lower in fat than similarly prepared beef but has a similar protein content. The US Department of Agriculture also has reported that saturated fat in cooked goat meat is 40% less than that of chicken, even with the skin removed.


3 oz. Cooked (roasted) Calories Fat (grams) Saturated Fat (grams) Protein (milligrams) Iron (grams)
Goat 122 2.58 0.79 23 3.3
Beef 245 16 6.8 23 2.9
Pork 310 24 8.7 21 2.7
Lamb 235 16 7.3 22 1.4
Chicken 120 3.5 1.1 21 1.5

Source:  USDA Handbook #8, 1989, Nuritive value foods, Home and Garden Bulletin #72, USDA, Washington, DC, US Government. Printing Office 1981


These are the materials required to build your own goat autofeeder.
You can use manual tools in place of the rotary cutting tool and power drill shown here, but they make this project go much quicker.

The author used a black indelible marker to mark the cut lines for the three feed holes. Each hole should be approximately 8 inches wide and 2 inches high, and holes should be about 4 inches apart.
Regardless of the cutting tool you use, be sure to polish any shards or sharp edges on the cut parts.
The base of the bucket is shown centered in the tin pan. Note that the feed holes are lower than the sides of the pan to prevent the feed from running over the edge of the pan.
The skids are intended to support the weight of the pan with food in it, so be sure they are parallel and separated by about 6 inches.
Screw the components together starting from inside the bucket. If you like, you can add flat washers to the screws to ensure the screw heads don’t work their way through the plastic bucket over time.
Place the lid securely on top of the bucket to ensure the food inside stays dry and free of impurities.
Hang the autofeeder at chest height of your goats to give them a comfortable eating position.

How to build a universal autofeeder

What you will need:

  • (1) 5-gallon food-grade plastic bucket with lid and wire carry handle
  • (1) Stiff tin pan with 2- to 3-inch lip (Pan should be at least 3 inches larger in diameter than the base of the bucket)
  • (2 each) 1 x 2 x 12-inch wooden skids
  • (4) 1.25-inch sheet metal screws
  • Durable cordage (length determined by installation location)
  • Marker
  • Tool to cut the plastic bucket
  • Hand and eye protection


  1. With a marker, mark the cut lines for the three feed holes on the outside of the bucket. Each hole should be about 8 inches wide and 2 inches high, and holes should be about 4 inches apart. (These holes should be no taller than the sides of the tin pan.) The bottom of each hole should be flush with the inside surface of the base of the bucket.
  2. Using the cutting tool, carefully cut out the feed holes on the sides of the bucket, making sure you leave no sharp shards or edges exposed on the cuts.
  3. Put the wooden skids on a flat level surface, parallel to each other about 6 inches apart and with the 2-inch side facing down. Center the pan, right side up, on top of the skids.
  4. Center the bottom of the bucket in the pan.
  5. Starting from the inside of the bucket, screw the four sheet metal screws through the plastic bucket base and the pan, into the wooden skids, firmly securing the bucket and pan to the wooden skids. Ensure that the screws do not protrude through the bottom of the wooden slats.
  6. Fill the bucket with food pellets and place the bucket lid securely on top.
  7. Tie the cordage to the handle and hang the bucket in a dry area with the tin pan about goat chest height. Hang it away from walls and other obstructions that will prevent 360-degree access by the goats.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the October, 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.

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