Many people are becoming more self sufficient. That may mean securing their own source of water, growing their own food or raising animals.
Raising goats can be part of the process when becoming self sufficient. Goats can also be kept for profit. Goats are versatile animals that can be used for meat, milk, fibers, and even kept as pets.
The following provides basic information regarding how to care for goats.
Preparing For the Goats
Goats need several acres of land to roam and feed on in order to be healthy and productive. These are not the kind of animals that will do well in small or confined areas.
Goats need adequate shelter from the elements. A barn is fine but not always necessary. In milder climates a three sided structure that is kept dry is usually adequate.
There also needs to be a sturdy fence to keep the goats inside and predators out. Strong fencing is just as important as shelter. Goats are intelligent animals and will try to find a way to get out.
Predators include wolves and wild dogs. Even tame dogs that are allowed to roam free in the area can be a potential threat. Goats will eat smaller trees. They will eat the bark off of larger trees to the extent that the trees will probably die.
Any trees in the area where the goats will graze must be fenced off so the goats can’t get to them. In general, goats will eat and climb on things most other animals would ignore. Keep this in mind when designating an area for the goats.
Choosing the Best Goats
Different goats are used for a variety of purposes. Some goats are used primarily as dairy goats. Some types of goats that are used for dairy purposes include the Alpine goats and the Nubians.
The Nubian goats have the classic floppy ears. Nubians are a good choice if you also want to make cheese or eventually use the goat for meat. Nubians, however, have loud, high pitched cries that can be annoying.
Goats that are bred for meat are usually larger animals. These include Boar goats, which can easily weigh over 300 pounds. Spanish goats with long hair and large horns are also used for meat.
Some goats are kept for angora and even cashmere. The goats used for these purposes are actually called Angora and Cashmere goats.
Before purchasing any goats there are several questions that need to be asked. Are the goats being bought registered anywhere?
Registered goats aren’t always better, but they usually have a tattoo or microchip for identification purposes. There will also be official papers to ensure the buyer that the goats are the type the seller claims they are.
Before buying goats a prospective owner should also ask about vaccinations the goats have received. Some of the basic vaccinations goats need include those for rabies, pneumonia, and tetanus.
A buyer may also want to know whether the goats are polled or disbudded. Polled means the goats are naturally hornless while disbudded means the horns were taken out.
Even if a buyer wants to start small, it’s still recommended to purchase at least three to five goats. Goats are social animals and do better in herds.
Feeding the Goats
Goats eat hay, grass, grain, and a variety of supplemental feed. Exactly what a goat eats depends on the stage of life and specifically what they will be used for.
If dairy goats are being raised the quality of the grass and supplements being used are extremely important. If an owner skimps on the quality of food, the quality of milk will suffer.
Goats usually prefer to eat forage that is less than 6 inches tall. It is recommended that they not be allowed to graze any lower than 2 inches from the ground.
Grazing too close to the ground will make them susceptible to parasites and intestinal problems.
Goats need a variety of minerals and natural occurring elements to remain healthy. Selenium, potassium, iron, salt, and sulfur are a few that are necessary for goats.
Some of these occur naturally in the soil and grassy parts of the environment. These minerals can be added to feed or mineral salts to make sure the goats get the proper nutrition.
Some of the equipment that will be needed for the feeding process include, water buckets, a hay manger, general food bowls, and food storage containers. There should be a separate container or box for a salt and mineral mix.
They will need clean, fresh water on a daily basis. Goats can drink water from a creek or other natural water sources as long as the water isn’t stagnant.
A constantly flowing creek or small river will keep most germs and parasites from breeding. It is best to have the water tested before allowing the goats to use the creek as a regular source of water.
Breeding is something many people are interested in when learning how to care for goats. Most female goats reach puberty between four and eight months.
The goat then has a cycle of approximately 21 days. During this 21 day cycle there are approximately one to three days when conception can occur.
The gestation period is about five months. Female goats that are pregnant may drink over three gallons of water a day. Keeping a constant supply of water is important when goats are pregnant.
The nutritional needs of goats increase dramatically during the last two months of the pregnancy. Twins are the most common number of kids a goat will carry. But it is not rare to have a single or triplets.
During breeding season bucks will usually urinate on themselves as a way to attract the females. It is recommended to bring individual females to the bucks for breeding instead of placing the buck with a large group of females.
Keeping the Goats Healthy
Before purchasing goats make sure to have a qualified veterinarian lined up. Not all vets have experience working with farm animals. Find a qualified vet who has knowledge about how to care for goats.
Make sure the vet will come to the farm or wherever the goats are being raised.
Adequate ventilation is necessary for healthy goats. That is why a three sided structure if often recommended as opposed to a barn. If goats are kept in an area that is airtight it can lead to respiratory problems.
There are several general signs that a goat is not healthy. Runny nose, runny eyes, and crusty eyes are signs that a goat may be ill. Not eating, drinking, or isolating itself from the rest of the herd are indications that the goat is sick.
A hot udder or grinding teeth are also signs of a sick goat.
To check if a goat is dehydrated pinch the skin in front of the shoulder in the neck area. If the skin snaps back quickly the goat is probably not dehydrated. If the skin stays folded for a while after pinching, dehydration is probably a problem.
To prevent bloating and other intestinal issues, don’t allow goats to graze if the pasture is wet from rain or even dew. Goats can also suffer from ticks, mites, and lice.
New goats brought into the herd should be initially quarantined until it can be determined that they are free from these external parasites. Goats are sometimes susceptible to stress. This can adversely affect their health.
Traveling, changes in their feeding schedule, and even dogs barking excessively can bring about stress related illnesses.
Finally, goats’ hooves grow rapidly and need to be trimmed on a regular basis. Some owners do this quarterly. Goats are smart, independent, and curious. These same qualities that can make them adorable can also make them infuriating.
Being well prepared and educated is the key to successfully raising and caring for goats.
Do you feed your goat while you milk her? Since a milking goat requires quite a bit of feed to produce milk, we always used feed our milkers extra when it was time to milk and our goats LOVED to come out and be milked. I grew up with goats and thought this article covered the basics pretty well, though I think that must have been a typo where they stated “goats usually prefer to eat forage that is less than 6 inches tall”. They must have meant over 6 inches tall because goats, like deer, are browsers and love to eat things like roses, small shrubs, pine trees, and watch out for those expensive Japanese Maples! Some goats are well behaved and stay in their fence (thought it should always be a tall, sturdy fence) and other goats see fences as a challenge, and spend all of their free time thinking about how to get out of that fence. Goats are friendly, curious and trainable when young, to a point. Like, dogs, food is important to them, so they can be willing learners, if there is a treat involved, yet they are ALWAYS independent thinkers, so if they think differently than you, they will do things their way. And lastly, if you have a successful nursery business. think carefully before you put goats anywhere near your nursery! If they turn out to be a bunch of real ‘Houdini”s that can escape any fence, they can cause more devastation than deer, and while you are tearing your hair out over the mess, they come trotting up to you happy as can be in the morning, expecting to be given their morning meal! But they can also be wonderful companions, and the milk and cheese is the best! Good luck!
Whew! I’m going to get chickens instead.
Jonathan Whiting says
Whoever wrote this article really has very little knowledge and experience with goats. BTW, it’s not “boar” goats, it is spelled BOER goat. And they don’t get up to 300 lbs, they can get a little over 200 on some of the bigger bucks. Goats are not a big problem to keep, you just have to make conditions at your farm to make them happy. Your best bet to learning how to raise goats is to find a person who raises them and learn from that person, most goat breeders are very friendly people who are more than willing to help you learn everything about keeping the goats they sell to you happy and healthy. I have been raising goats for some time now, and am willing to share info and help out however I can. Feel free to look me up on Facebook if anyone wants info.
We appreciate you being candid and sharing your knowledge and experience. I for one know little about goats and we tried to put together an article that would help those who know a lot less than we do. I certainly hope we hit some important points.
Jamie Reinking says
Great article. Some people seem to know it all….I know nothing and thought the information was insightful and just enough info to get the general idea of what raising goats can and would be like. thanks
Hugh Cole (Ariz) says
We had a couple acres with an Orchard, Chickens, Ducks,a Dog and a 10 year old Daughter who’s girlfriends folks raised Nubian Goats. We built a 20X20 pen,a shed with hay rack, laid water pipe,etc. We then purchased apregnant Nanny. After 3 mo. she had her Kid! Our Kid brought home 4-h instructions of how to build a milk stand. We built it! We all loved the milk. Then our kid brought home instructions on how to make cheese! We did that too! Wonderful!! We were feeding them Praire grass hay until I made the mistake of bringing in a bale of Alfalfa. Those goats would not eat grass hay again . Stood around blathering until they won! A wonderful family experience.. And I testify to the fun and loving creatures goats are if you keep them socialized.. They even almost pay for their keep if you are willing to milk and make Cheese. Also their manure is great for the garden. We would never even think of eating them!
With goats, size matters! We have Pygmy/boer mixes, a Nigerian and a couple Pygmy/boer/Nubians. They are all small enough to stay in their 4′ fence, though they could escape if they wanted to. They have an LGD with them too, and when goats bond with a dog they seem less likely to stray from that protection. Also, jumping fencing/escaping is a learned behavior for most, so it’s important to buy good goats from good goats!
Overall a nicely done article. May I point out however that with the decreasing number of large animal vets and the unstable conditions of our world in general that you are much better off learning basic animal medicine, acquiring a basic veterinary manual, and/or taking a veterinary course? I have raised llamas for nearly 20 years and at one time there were no vets moor them. Then there were tons. Now, there are none again. We have survived by learning and doing ourselves and haven’t needed a vet in over eight years, even when one of our males developed a facial abscess so bad that it opened four inches of skin on his cheek right below his eye.
I have two goats and they are a pain. They hate the kittens someone so thoughtfully left in my driveway. I have learned to enjoy the cats but the goats are a different matter. Even though I have tried to supply them with their needs they are destructive and she is hard to milk when there is any distractions. Luckily, they aren’t mine. I enjoy having goat cheese and love the compost but I’m not sure I want to start a venture like this yet. Do you know if you get them small are they trainable? They are both good at escaping and they have tore up my 500 dollar fencing.