So, you’d like to have some goats? Goat Care for the Beginner is here!

August 9, 2022
goats

5 Important Tips to Become the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) at Raising Goats

goat careSo you want to be the G.O.A.T. at raising goats? Well, there are certain essentials that all goat owners must follow to be successful. First let’s review the basics about cloven-hoofed friends that are found on most farms or sometimes in family backyards.

Goats are one of the most important farm animals found throughout the world. Who Knew?  They thrive in all weather conditions, from the harshest mountainous regions to the most arid or tropical environments. According to the American Goat Federation (AGF), there are approximately 450 million goats worldwide. They were one of the first animals brought to North America by the European explorers.

Friend and Resource

Goats are an excellent resource for milk, cheese, soaps, lotions, meat, leather and wool production as well as weed and vegetation control. They’ve provided farmers and families with food, clothing and a source of revenue for thousands of years.  Goats also make great pets due to their friendly, curious and quirky demeanor. But as pets, goats will need a friend or two. They are herd animals and enjoy socializing with their goat pals or human companions. Goats have even earned a reputation for being great exercise partners as an influx of “goat yoga” classes have cropped up on many small farms across the country!

Types of Goats
pygmy goat

Newborn pygmy goats like to play and rest.

Goats are classified into three categories: domestic, wild or mountain. They are either mini or standard in size. 

In the United States, domestic goats raised for their dairy products are most prevalent. These breeds include: Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen or Toggenburg goats. Domestic goats are also raised for meat products, such as Boer, Kiko or Spanish goats or for their fiber and wool such as Angora or Cashmere goats. 

Pygmy goats are the most common backyard pets. Another breed, called the Australian Miniature goat, was bred exclusively to keep as pets. “Fainting goats” originated in Tennessee and make great pets. Some domestic goats are used by ranchers and farmers for property maintenance as they enjoy munching away on unwanted weeds, brush and leaves. 

Caring for Your Goats

Raising goats to expand your goat herd for dairy, meat or fiber or for family fun and companionship requires a serious and realistic commitment. Like other farm animals, goats have daily care and dietary needs to keep them healthy, safe and productive. Average life spans for goats seem to run about 12 years…so that’s a good time commitment.  Then there’s the space/habitat that they need.  Opinions vary quite wildly on this subject but the average (minimum!) appears to be about 50 square feet for a female and 75 for a male.  Of course, if you want your :goat area to look pristine at all times, a much bigger space is needed. Additionally, a smaller space will mean more food supplementation for your hoofed buddy!

Some basic principles apply for raising goats, regardless of the purpose. 

Here are five absolute necessities to follow when establishing or growing your goat family:

1. Fence Me In! Invest in Durable Fencing

goat fence

Fencing is a priority for goats.

Goats are crafty and persistent. They are frequently described as “Houdini” or “escape artists” for good reasons. While they may be irresistibly lovable and cute, they are inquisitive and love to explore. They jump and climb sticking their head through the fence openings and gaps and scratching their bodies against the posts or racking their horns.

Fences should stand at least four to five feet high or they will jump. They chew wood, so invest in strong, durable fencing such as woven or square wire fencing, chain link, or electric fencing similar to electric dog fences. Another option is a combination of wood and wire fencing. Fencing is a priority, so consider all options. Goats also have few defensive capabilities, therefore, are easy prey for predators in both rural and urban areas. And don’t forget about the fence’s gate. Goats are known to open gates left unlatched or unsecured.

2. Provide Shelter from the Storm. Build a Home for Your Goats

While goats thrive in all weather conditions, they still need a safe, comfortable place to “escape” out of the rain, snow, blazing heat or frigid temperatures.  Moreover, for milking and birthing, they need somewhere that’s dry and free of draft. If you’re raising goats for milk or for meat production, these dairy and breeding goats need designated space in the barn for milking or for birthing.  On the other side of the coin, Pet goats can find comfort and shelter in a large doghouse or shed. Your goats will welcome layers of bedding from straw to keep them warm during the cold months.  In the warmth of summer, however, bare, clean flooring is preferable since it’s helpful in the prevention of a buildup of flies and other pests.

3. Goats are Snobbish so Keep Food and Water Fresh and Clean

raising goats

Provide your goats with fresh water daily.

There’s a common misconception that goats will eat anything and everything. Not true. Goats are considered browsers, not grazers. Cows and horses graze. Goats browse on leaves, weeds, bark, shrubs but not necessarily grass. They pick and choose what they enjoy eating. When they aren’t browsing, goats eat hay.  It’s important that hay is not wet or moldy; this can make them quite sick. Hanging goat hay feeders are widely available and should be strongly considered. They save on hay bills & wastage plus keep the hay cleaner since it’s off the ground. Water needs to be clean, fresh, and changed daily. Elevated in containers or troughs to avoid contamination. Water cannot be stagnant. Goat feed and daily watering routines are an absolute necessity to raise healthy productive or pet goats. Do your homework and gain knowledge before wasting time or money or having a bunch of sick goats.

4. A Healthy Goat is a Happy Goat

Goats are playful and fun but they also need lots of tender loving care to keep away common illnesses and diseases. According to Penn State’s Extension in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the three most common goat health problems include: 

Internal and external Parasites such as worms, ticks, lice and mites which is generally contracted from pastures. 

Foot rot which occurs when infected goats are introduced to the herd and can cause lameness or decreased milk production or reproductive capabilities. 

Scrapie, a degenerative neurological condition that can be fatal. It’s generally contracted through contact from breeding goats and their kid goats and signs and symptoms include behavioral changes.

Goat owners need to become familiar with these problems and be proactive in prevention.

Of course, for any nick, cut, wound, rash or scrape on your goat, reach for your bottle of Banixx antimicrobial spray and to read about Michelle’s experience in using Banixx on her goat, take a quick peek at this very short story. Orphan link or something that I cant remember…    https://www.banixx.com/pets/

5. Establish a Relationship with a Reliable Veterinarian and a Hoof Trimmer

care for goats

It’s imperative to have a knowledgeable local veterinarian.

As with all farm and domestic animals, it is imperative to have a knowledgeable local veterinarian to prevent common and serious problems with your goat herd.  Find time to network with fellow farmers and neighbors that have raised goats for some recommendations or contact the American Veterinary Medical Association or universities with excellent agricultural programs such as the annual list published in U.S. News and World Report.  The veterinarian that you select will likely also be able to put you in touch with a hoof trimmer who is “goat-approved” !!.

If you enjoyed this article learn more about taking care of other small pets by reading other blogs;  such as rabbit care. Or if you have ever wondered about something more frivolous such as how long can my dog go without peeing or, more seriously, what if my dog eats a bee. 

 

References

https://americangoatfederation.org/breeds-of-goats-2/

https://www.goatinformation.com/goat-fencing/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/do-goats-really-love-to-jump-180972850/

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities/united-states/agricultural-sciences

https://lifeoffarmers.com/water-for-goats/