I see variations on this question come up time after time on forums and Facebook groups:
I’m new to goats and just want them for pets. I don’t have plans to breed, milk, show, or use them for meat. Should I get a male or female?
We can rule out one immediately: you do not want a buck (intact male). There are a lot of good reasons to keep a buck, but if you aren’t planning to breed your animals and want to have a friendly pet that you can handle without smelling like a musky barnyard, a buck is NOT what you are looking for!
That leaves us with a choice between a female (doe) and a neutered male (wether). When deciding between these, I think there are a few good criteria to way out:
Wethers I have met tend to be very friendly, with almost dog-like personalities. Does can vary much more widely in my experience: some are very friendly, and others are very aloof. I find that with my girls when they start coming into heat in the fall, they get extremely moody and the ones that typically enjoy being petted and fussed over want nothing to do with me.
✅ Winner: Wether (by a slight bit; really a toss-up)
All goats, regardless of sex, will need some health care management: checking and treating for parasites, providing a balanced diet and supplemental minerals, etc. So long as you don’t plan to breed your does, they really don’t need any additional special care.
With wethers, there is some concern about urinary calculi. Urinary calculi are solid particles in the urinary system that can become lodged in the urethra. This can also occur in does, but isn’t nearly as common due to their urethra being much shorter and straighter. To avoid urinary calculi in wethers, first make sure to ask the breeder at what age the animal was wethered (neutered). I would recommend against any wether that was neutered younger than 8 weeks, with 10 to 12 weeks of age being preferable. This allows time for their hormones to work and the urethra to grow to a larger diameter. Second, feeding a balanced diet to your wethers is very important. The most common cause of urinary calculi is due to feeding an improper ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Look for feeds and minerals that contain a 2.5:1 ratio. Onion Creek Ranch has a great article that goes more in-depth on this topic.
✅ Winner: Doe
In order for a dairy goat to be productive (produce milk), they have to be bred, typically on an annual basis.
Depending on where you live, what breed you’re purchasing, and from what bloodlines they originate, does can cost anywhere from a few hundred up to several thousand dollars. Even if you don’t intend to breed or milk them, you are still purchasing an animal with the potential to be bred or milked, which makes them more valuable in general.
When it comes to male offspring, most breeders only keep the best-of-the-best intact to be sold or retained as breeding stock. The rest are seen as “hay burners” because they eat just as much a the rest of the herd, but aren’t useful in a production setting (don’t give milk and can’t father offspring). Therefore, the upfront cost of a wether is typically much lower.
✅ Winner: Wether
Overall Best Pet
In my opinion, a wether makes the best pet, so long as having a pet-only goat is truly all you want. Does come a close second though, so weigh out the pros and cons, and decide for yourself!