Why goats make the greatest gift

Updated Nov 25, 2019
Hooray for giving goats!

Trying to decide which charitable gift is best? This article will help you. Giving goats is a powerful way to change the lives of families in poverty.

Goats nourish children. Goats provide income for families. They help grow gardens filled with produce. Goats can help empower women economically. And safeguard families against the worst effects of a food shortage.

Goats are culturally accepted in many countries around the world, on nearly every continent. They’re raised in a wide variety of production systems, from large, prosperous farms, to the small pens of subsistence families.

True, goats have their limitations: one gift can’t possibly do everything! If your priority is clean water for children, other gifts make more sense than goats. If you’re passionate about medical care for children, we have gifts for that, too.

But overall, goats are versatile, life-changing gifts to change the lives of children and families. Here are six reasons why!
  1. Goats nourish hungry children.
  2. Goats are an excellent source of income.
  3. Goats can help families survive drought and food shortages.
  4. Goats are more efficient in many ways than cattle or buffalo.
  5. Goats can empower women economically.
  6. Goats can give families a real sense of cooperation.
Give a goat with confidence that lives will be changed!

In Zambia, a boy proudly holds a baby goat, born into his family’s herd. The boy is smiling.
“I know a lot about goats because I take care of them,” says nine-year-old Nathan. With goats as a family business, Nathan and his siblings are no longer hungry, says their mother. Photo: Laura Reinhardt

1) Goats nourish hungry children.
Millions of children around the world don’t receive the nutrients needed to grow up strong and healthy. Goats offer ready sources of both milk and meat.

Give goats for milk
Goats’ milk contains higher amounts of calcium and magnesium than cow’s milk. Older children require 2.5 – 3.5 servings of milk or alternatives each day for strong teeth and bones. Just one dairy goat can give up to 1,000 litres of milk per year.

Goats’ milk is rich with protein and essential fats. Children need fat for brain development, and to maximize their growth potential. Fat is used in the body as fuel and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.

For children with few sources of nutrients – or those living in remote locations – a goat can be a nutritional lifeline.

A child’s hand squeezes a goat’s teat and milk squirts into the child’s blue cup. The cup is marked in paint with the child’s initials.
“Before we had goats, the children had no milk and sometimes went to bed hungry,” says a father in Zambia. “Now they are healthy and go to school.” Photo: Laura Reinhardt​

Give goats for meat
Goats’ meat has higher levels of iron, when compared to beef, pork, lamb or chicken. It’s packed with protein, something growing children need every day to be active and learn well in school.

Protein plays an essential role in many bodily functions, including the recovery and repair of tissues in muscles, skin, organs, blood, hair and nails.

For children in a remote region, a goat can make the difference between having enough critical nutrients – or struggling to survive without them.

A small girl in Sudan wearing a pink headscarf stands on a parched landscape, holding a bowl of fresh, white goats’ milk. She is smiling.
In Sudan, Amasi’s life has changed since her family acquired two goats. The goats have multiplied to 13. There’s plenty of nourishing milk to drink and extra to sell for income. Photo: Lucy Muranga

2) Goats are an excellent source of income.
A goat is a great source of income – particularly when a family receives more than one. Goats can be bred to produce two to three kids each year. Eventually, they multiply into a whole herd.

With extra milk, cheese, meat and livestock, families can earn an income at market. They can pay for things like home repairs, farming tools and school fees. Goats can make the difference between children pursuing their dreams through school – or dropping out to work.

When you give a goat, World Vision includes help with animal husbandry training, too. We teach families the best ways to feed, care for and breed their animals, for strong, healthy herds.

There’s another business benefit to goats: World Vision sources them in developing countries. This brings business to local breeders, helping more families thrive.

A small boy in India crouches beside a black goat, smiling while he strokes the goat’s head. The goat looks toward us, wearing a pink rope collar and a bell.In India, goats are a common, friendly sight in the community of six-year-old Vishal. Through milk, meat and fertilizer, goats improve the lives of children around the world. Photo: Namitha Lizbeth

3) Goats can help families survive drought and food shortages.
Goats can offer a safety net for families in emergencies. When drought grips a country, families struggle to grow food. Their cattle often die.

But goats can be much more resilient than cows. In many cases, goats are the most durable investment a family possesses. Goats’ milk and meat can keep children alive when the crops fail. They can help families get back on their feet, once the drought is over.

Goats are tough, resilient and portable. They’re not worth as much as cattle per head, but often fare much better when the land is parched and vegetation, sparse.

That’s why, in some drought-stricken countries, farmers are abandoning crops and turning to goats instead. Goats provide nutrients in hungry times and can be a more stable source of income.

In East Africa’s drought in 2011, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by climate disaster. They needed resources to return to when the drought was over. Goats can help families get back on their feet again.

An eight-year-old boy in Zambia gently cares for his family’s goats in their small, wooden pen.Goats are friendly enough for children to help care for. And because they’re so small, a compact pen is just fine for them. Lighton, eight, plays a proud and important role in raising the family’s goats. Photo: Laura Reinhardt

4) Goats are more efficient in many ways than cattle or buffalo.
Cows are known as ‘the Cadillac of the livestock world’. Yet the smaller goat has numerous advantages for families in developing countries. According to the World Bank:
  • Goats’ small size means they mature earlier than cattle and eat less as they grow.
  • Goats reach market size and condition more quickly than cattle.
  • Goats’ gestation time is shorter, meaning they breed more frequently. This means improving a herd’s health through careful husbandry can happen more quickly.
  • Goats’ eight to nine-month gestation patterns can more easily fit rainfall patterns.
  • Goats don’t normally require special feed, and can be maintained on tea leaves, shrubs and bushes.
  • Goats are more selective feeders, meaning they pick the better-quality (more nutritious) portions of plants.
  • Goats are more agile, meaning they can access a broader variety of terrains than cattle. Goats can climb up a mountain to find plants to eat.
  • Goats appear to be less vulnerable to certain diseases.

In some parts of Southern Africa, goats are even used to prevent tree growth from encroaching on valuable grazing land.

Three women in a village in India pet goats.
“Our lives have changed now, thanks to the two goats given to us by World Vision,” says Rasikaben (middle) in India. She and her female relatives now share 20 goats, have sold some for income, and are nourishing the family’s children with milk and cheese. Photo: Neola D’Souza​

5) Goats can empower women economically.
There is huge potential to boost women’s empowerment through the raising, breeding and marketing of goats.

Some organizations have developed programs to promote women’s empowerment through goats. In one program, women in India are taught to immunize and de-worm goats, providing valuable expertise.

One study involving women in Ethiopia found women were highly successful at rearing goats. The women in turn empowered other women, by teaching them to do the same.

Even those without much land – widows, for instance – can raise goats on their property, improving their income and their children’s nutritional status. Traditionally, many widows have lacked the power to do this on their own.

6) Goats can give families a real sense of cooperation.
Raising goats can be one of the things that helps children see themselves as successful, contributing members of a healthy family.

Goats are small and friendly, meaning children in developing countries can help nurture them. A small child could be accidentally trampled by a cow – but not by a goat. Through goats, children can contribute to their families’ success.

Imagine the pride a girl or boy feels:
  • when they help raise baby goats to adulthood
  • when giving a baby goat helps a neighbour in need
  • when the family enjoys their goats’ milk at mealtime
  • when manure from their goat helps crops thrive
  • when a goat they’ve helped raise, sold at market, pays school fees or funds home repairs!
A girl with a headscarf smiles broadly toward the camera, as she holds a big bunch of grass for her goats to munch. Her father, sitting close-by with the toddler-aged sister, also smiles.In Afghanistan, ten-year-old Nazbibi ran to fetch grass, to demonstrate how she helps feed the family’s goats. Photo: Narges Ghafary

A bonus reason for giving goats
The wild and wonderful popularity of ‘goat yoga’ is on the increase in North America. One class in Oregon has a 1,200-person waiting list!

Why so popular? Because goats are cute and playful. Goats love to climb anything, including the backs of yoga participants. And they’re just fine with cuddling during the cool-down period.

If they’re this cooperative, this affectionate, this nice to have around – imagine what they’ll add to a family overseas!