We all love our goats, even when they are breaking through fences and eating our gardens. Despite being annoying sometimes, as a goat owner, you probably can’t imagine your life without your four legged goat friends.
Unfortunately, animals don’t live forever. Goats get old and die, just like all animals. But how old is an “old goat” anyway? Goat lifespans average about 8-12 years. However, there are many factors that can affect goat life expectancy. Breed, diet, and general live conditions can all affect how long your goats will live.
Keep reading to learn more about the life expectancy of your breed of goats and what you can do to help extend that. We’ll even share the age of the oldest goat that ever lives — I bet it’s older than you think!
How Long Will My Goats Live?
As we mentioned, goats, on average, live between 8-12 years. That being said, there are many factors that can affect how long your goat lives. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest goat died at a ripe old age of 22 years and 5 months (1).
Does that mean you can expect your goat to live another 22 years? Of course not.
To figure out how much longer you can be expecting your goats to be hanging around, you want to consider a number of factors — including environmental ones. But the first place you want to start is to consider how old the goat is already.
If you already know the age of your goats, you can skip ahead. But if you aren’t sure how old your goats really are, we’ll explain how you can tell.
Open Wide — I Need to Look at Your Teeth
The best way to judge the age of a goat is by looking at its teeth. When you open a goat’s mouth and look inside you may be surprised to find it only has incisors on the bottom. These are the teeth you will examine to judge the age.
Goats typically have all 8 baby incisors by the time they are one month old. They hang on to their baby teeth for roughly a year before their adult teeth start coming in. The first teeth coming in will be in the center. After that, you can expect another pair of teeth, one on either side, to come in each year until the goat has a total of eight incisors. Just like people you will see some subtle variation when the teeth come in (2).
“However, as a general rule, a goat with one pair of adult teeth is about one year old, two years old with two pairs of adult teeth, three years old with three pairs of adult teeth, and four years old when all four pairs of adult teeth have erupted.”
After the age of four, it gets more difficult to determine your goats’ age by their teeth. The wearing and aging of teeth are affected by diet and other environmental conditions. But over time goats’ teeth spread out and get longer. Sometimes the teeth even break or fall out. While these factors won’t tell you exactly how old your goat is, they can be good indicators of its health and long term life expectancy.
Once you know your goat’s age, you can then look at the life expectancy of its breed to get an idea of how much longer its expected life span is. So let’s examine some common breeds’ life expectancy.
Watch this video where a farmer shares his experience of determining the age of a goat’s teeth. It seems that the experimental goat even had his teeth cleaned!
Life Expectancy By Breed
The breed of your goat is one of the factors that affect its life expectancy. In the breeding process, animals are sometimes selected for hardiness and disease resistance. These traits help extend a goat’s lifespan.
To make it easier for you to figure out how long your goats will live, we’ve created this handy little chart to show you the life expectancy of the most common goat breeds.
|Breed||Average Life Expectancy|
|Nigerian Dwarf||15-20 years|
|Tennessee Fainting Goats (Myotinic)||12-15 years|
As you can see, most goat breeds will live to be at least 10 years old. So getting a goat is a big commitment, that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Of course, once your goats worm their way into your hearts you want them to live forever. So let’s look at some factors that can affect life expectancy and how to extend it.
Factors that Affect Life Expectancy
Besides breed, certain environmental conditions can have an impact on how long your goats live. As a rule, domesticated goats live longer than their wild cousins. That is in part because of selective breeding. However, the conditions where the goats live also play a big role and helping domesticated goats live longer.
Providing proper housing for your goats can help them live longer, especially if you live in a place with extreme weather. While goats can survive both cold weather and extreme heat, these kinds of weather put a strain on their health. There are many DIY goat shelter ideas that are cheap and easy to build.
Your shelter doesn’t need to be anything fancy to start — three walls and a roof will suffice.
Your shelter just needs to be enough that your goats can escape the heat or snow. However, Over time you may want to invest in a more secure home for your animals, especially if you plan on breeding your goats. It’s best that your mamas and babies have a safe space during kidding time.
Health animals live longer. Good food is a key factor for your goats to maintain good health. Your goats should always have access to good forage or the best quality hay. They also need free access to clean, fresh water. Goats also have fairly specific mineral needs. If your area is mineral deficient your animals may benefit from access to free choice minerals.
You might think breeding would only affect the lifespan of does, but surprisingly it has an impact on how long bucks will live as well. Animals, both male and female, that are bred more have a shorter life expectancy. Apparently, it takes a lot out of a buck to service the whole herd. Given that, it isn’t surprising that wethers (castrated males) have the longest life expectancy.
While female goats can potentially go into heat shortly after giving birth, this isn’t encouraged because it is hard on the doe. It’s best to only breed your does once a year to ensure they stay healthy and live longer.
While goats are a great addition to any farm, they are a big commitment. You can expect your average goat to live between 8 to 12 years. However, with proper attention and care your goats could live even longer. By making sure your goats have a nice home, plenty of healthy food to eat, and aren’t overbred you can help extend the life of your beloved goat friends.
- Oldest Goat Ever. Retrieved from: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-goat-ever
- Judging Goat Age by Teeth. Retrieved from: https://goats.extension.org/judging-goat-age-by-teeth
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.