Sheep Versus Goats for the Homestead



So which are better for your homestead—sheep or goats? It just depends.

Sheep Versus Goats for the Homestead

Sheep Versus Goats for the Homestead

One of the best parts of starting a new homestead is deciding what to raise. While no homestead would be complete without chickens and a garden, many offer enough room for some of the smaller livestock—namely, sheep and goats.

So which option is best for you? Let’s start by examining the ways in which sheep and goats differ.


Sheep primarily produce fiber and meat; some breeds also produce milk. As grazing animals, sheep can substitute for lawn mowers. Sheep can also pull very light sleds and carts, but be careful not to overload them.

Goats primarily produce milk and meat; some breeds also produce fiber. Furthermore, goats are excellent helpers in brush control projects. They can even pull light carts around the homestead.


As far as homestead livestock goes, few animals are as docile as sheep. They stick together, and they don’t spend the entire day plotting ways to escape. Even the rams, while still large and potentially dangerous, are reasonably easy to live with as long as they are raised with their own kind and not on a bottle.

Goats are more intelligent, friendly, and inquisitive than sheep. This can be a plus to those who enjoy keeping animals with personality, but it can also translate into a headache. Goats are among the most difficult animals to contain, as they enjoy jumping, climbing, and exploring. Some breeds are also downright noisy, which can be a problem if your neighbors live close by.

Dietary Needs

Sheep primarily consume grass, although they also eat a high percentage of forbs (soft-stemmed broadleaf plants). They graze uniformly, producing an effect similar to a lawnmower.

Goats primary prefer to eat shrubs and other brushy browse. They can handle a rougher pasture than sheep can, although they have been known to eventually eat themselves out of suitable forage. Goats have higher mineral requirements than sheep and are more likely to require supplementation.


Sheep are generally more helpless than goats and do not take care of themselves as well. However, when they do get a disease, they are often more likely to pull through. Sheep have a higher degree of cold tolerance due to their fleece, although this fleece does produce a smell that some find unpleasant. Of course, shearing is necessary to keep wool sheep from overheating in summer.

Goats have better survival instincts than sheep. For example, they know to take shelter in the rain. They can also thrive in warmer climates than sheep, not being encumbered by wool.


So which are better for your homestead—sheep or goats? It just depends.

One of the biggest considerations is which animal you are prepared to handle. Goats can be exceedingly frustrating for those who do not have the money or time to spend putting up goat-tight fencing.

Another major factor is the type of forage you have on your property. The different grazing preferences of each species allow you to customize your grazing. Clearing up rough, brushy land is best done with goats. Evenly mowing pastures, orchards, and even lawns is a better task for sheep.

If you intend to sell meat, milk, or other animal products, you will of course need to factor in your local markets. In some parts of the country, lamb will sell better, while in others there is a strong untapped market for goat. Likewise with goat milk and sheep cheese. You will need to have a clear idea of what will work in your geographical location before purchasing either animal.

But also take into account which animal will likely fit well into the family. The impish nature of goats is a pleasure to some, while others prefer the docility of sheep. To one family the noise of goats may outweigh the smell of sheep, and vice versa. These factors are all a matter of personal preference, but considering them will help make sure your livestock raising experience is positive.