Goat and lamb
Katahdin lamb and Boer kid

Katahdin lambs
Katahdin lambs

 Goat herd
Meat goat herd



    Sheep and goat production

  • Reproduction
    The estrus cycle of the ewe averages 17 days; 21 days for the doe. Goats are much easier to artificially inseminate (breed) than sheep. Sheep have a complicated cervix which makes passage of an insemination rod very difficult. Sheep show few visible signs of estrus (heat) as compared to goats. Male goats have an offensive odor during the mating season; rams do not.

    Though it varies by breed, goats tend to be less seasonal and more prolific than sheep.

  • Nutrition
    Sheep and goats have similar nutrient requirements, though goats have slighter higher maintenance requirements, as they are usually a smaller animal (by weight). Sheep tend to grow much faster than goats, no matter what the diet is. They convert feed more efficiently. Grain-feeding is less likely to be profitable in goat production.

    With the exception of hair sheep, sheep and goats fatten very differently. Goats deposit fat around their internal organs before depositing external fat. Sheep deposit external fat before depositing internal fat. Finn sheep and some of the hair breeds deposit fat around their organs similar to goats.

    Sheep have a narrow tolerance for excess copper in their diet, though toxic levels depend upon the availability of other minerals (Molybednum and Sulfur) in the diet. It is recommended that sheep be fed grain and mineral mixes that have been specifically formulated for sheep, as products formulated for other livestock or generic livestock feeds will likely have added copper.

    It can also be risky to graze sheep on pastures that have been fertilized with poultry or hog manure. It is not advisable to use copper as a deworming agent. Goats have require more copper in their diet than sheep and are not as sensitive to copper toxicity. When co-mingled, sheep products should be fed.

  • Diseases
    Sheep and goats are generally susceptible to the same diseases, including scrapie, which is transmitted via infected placenta to genetically-susceptible animals. Sheep and goats are infected by the same internal parasites (worms), though coccidia are species-specific.

    Goats tend to be more susceptible to worms than sheep, due to their origins and natural browsing behavior. Goats metabolize anthelmintics quicker and require higher doses of the drugs. The clostridial vaccines also seem to be less effective in goats. Fewer drugs are FDA-approved for use in goats.

    OPP (ovine progressive pneumonia) and CAE (caprine arthritic encephalitis), are similar diseases, caused by a slow virus like HIV, that affect sheep and goats, respectively. The primary mode of transmission is through the colostrum. Cross infection is possible.

  • There is no disease similar to "floppy kid syndrome" in lambs.

  • Social dominance
    Due to their more aggressive behavior, goats will usually dominate sheep, especially if the goats have horns. However, when young bucks and rams are maintained together, rams will dominate because the ram will preemptively strike the buck in the abdomen while the buck is still in the act of rearing up.