Colorado State University launches online primer for backyard goat farmers

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City of Fort Collins residents are interested in local food production. Really local. As in, their backyards.

In response, the Fort Collins City Council on July 16 adopted revisions to an ordinance governing urban agriculture, tweaking language related to beekeeping and ownership of backyard ducks and chickens. For the first time, the ordinance also allows city dwellers to raise goats as pets or for milk or fiber production.

In an effort to promote best practices in health and husbandry, the Colorado State University Veterinary Extension team has published a nine-page booklet, titled “Healthy Living with Goats: An Overview of Health Issues for the Backyard Farmer.” It is available online for free reading and downloading at

The booklet, written by CSU veterinarians Ragan Adams and David Van Metre, is meant to help backyard farmers understand the risks and responsibilities of raising goats.

The CSU booklet and a publication called the “Goat Resource Handbook,” published by The Ohio State University Extension, are the primary references on which a test required for city of Fort Collins goat ownership is based.

“We are pleased to work closely with the Fort Collins city staff and with the Larimer Humane Society to promote sound husbandry and animal-welfare practices that ensure good health for backyard goats, their owners, and neighbors,” said Adams, coordinator of the CSU Veterinary Extension team.

“We hope to help people understand what they’re getting into before they decide to acquire backyard goats,” Adams said. “People interested in urban agriculture need reliable, science-based information to avoid animal and human health concerns, neighborhood nuisance problems and creation of an unwanted goat population.”

“Healthy Living with Goats” provides unbiased information and includes references to a number of other research-based publications. Among other important issues, the booklet notes:

• City of Fort Collins residents must receive permits from the Larimer Humane Society in order to raise goats;
• Permits are issued after residents have demonstrated knowledge of proper management, have proof of rabies vaccination, and have undergone site inspections, providing goat housing according to ordinance specifications;
• Only female or castrated male goats will be permitted in city limits;
• The goats must be kept in pairs, and they must be either Nigerian Dwarf or African Pygmy breeds.

The booklet also offers a critical reality check for city dwellers who want to own goats for milk production: Like any other mammal, female goats must give birth to produce milk. That means Fort Collins goat farmers must be prepared to find homes for babies or adult goats over the strict backyard population limit of two.

Moreover, females managed for milking will produce for several consecutive months. As the CSU primer notes, milking “takes a lot of time and daily, consistent effort.”

The pamphlet also provides information about veterinary concerns, including zoonotic diseases, or those that can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa.

“Our booklet gives Fort Collins residents an overview of health and management issues that will help them determine whether they are interested in the complexities of backyard goat farming,” Adams said. “I hope it paves the way for urban farming that is healthful and rewarding.”

City of Fort Collins Ordinance No. 097, 2013, is available online at