Before you dash out and buy a goat just because they are so cute - please take a little time and look over the following information, it was written to help you make the right choice and be prepared for some of the basic issues you may face just getting started.
I have included a few links and quotes and in rather lengthy way I present to you my thoughts to be considered before you buy.
Find a Veterinarian that knows about goats. DO NOT ASSUME that your vet that you take your dog or cat to knows anything about goats or sheep; be sure you ask questions before problems arise.
Goats are fun and very smart animals. Some people think they are in the sheep family and short of the split hoof they are far from the same. Goats (Caprine) have four stomachs like a bovine. Sheep (Ovis) only have two. Goats can figure out puzzles and can be trained to do amazing tricks. They are crafty and resourceful and are designed for optimum efficiency when it comes to feed. Having a small herd of goats and sheep together can help control weeds, grasses and unwanted vines in areas that can be considered a fire hazard or inaccessible to the land owner. Goats are more independent then sheep. Gathering as a herd but not flocking as closely as sheep do. Goats are just different and they are absolutely enjoyable and are as different as cats are to dogs.
Here at Absent Jack Acres – we raise Pygmy Goats. Our goal is to have colorful and fun loving African pygmy’s as pets and weed control. Tho they are technically a dual purpose breed that is considered more of a meat goat but also offer a fairly substantial amount of milk to the person interested in making cheese, soap or simply enjoying the fabulous flavor of goats milk - chilled, raw and fresh. Note: Our goats are not tested with the intent to harvest milk for human consumption; we encourage those that have a desire to have goats for milk production to buy them from a certified herd and ask for their veterinarians information so you can verify their claim; please keep your family safe. Be aware that Not all herds are tested even if the owner says they are. We prefer our herd of pygmy goats to have horns, many breeders have selected dis-budding for various reasons. However we enjoy our pygmy goats in the natural way they were created. Besides the horns make great handle if a situation arises that requires immediate restraint. A fast grab works for the smaller breeds. However the larger the goat breeds the more challenging this reaction is to do and dis-budding (horn removal) is recommended only because of safety to you and alternatives for restraint; such as a dog collar works very well.
We prefer our herd of pygmy goats to have horns, many breeders have selected dis-budding for various reasons. However we enjoy our pygmy goats in the natural way they were created. Besides the horns make great handle if a situation arises that requires immediate restraint. A fast grab works for the smaller breeds. However the larger the goat breeds the more challenging this reaction is to do and dis-budding (horn removal) is recommended only because of safety to you and alternatives for restraint; such as a dog collar works very well.
Since we raise Pygmy Goats, it is only natural for my focus to lean towards them in my notes but it does not make a difference which breed you love, the message can be the same when it comes to the information. Just change Pygmy Goat for "any" goat; short of the brief history.
Something Interesting to know about Pygmy’s:
“The Pygmy Goat was originally called the Cameroon Dwarf Goat. The goat is mostly restricted to the West African countries. Similar forms of Pygmy goats also occur in all of northern Africa, in the south western African countries, and also in east
Our herd is not registered but we do promote the breed and maintain the standards for 4-H and beginning showman set by the NPGA.
The Pygmy Goat is genetically small, cobby and compact. It is full-barreled and well-muscled, the body circumference in relation to height and weight is proportionately greater than that of other breeds. Mature animals measure between 16 and 23 inches at the withers (shoulder blades to ground). Head and legs are short relative to body length. Genetic hornlessness is considered a disqualifying fault. However, dis-budded (de-horned) or horned goats are acceptable.
Preferred colors range from white through black with gray agouti being predominant. Muzzle, forehead, eyes and ears are accented in lighter tones. Front and rear hoofs and cannons (socks) are black, as are the crown and dorsal stripe. Random markings are acceptable in limited amounts and characteristics locations. Coat length and density vary with climates, making the Pygmy Goat equally at home in the desert or in the northern tundra. “
Many of the following questions arise when thinking about buying a goat.
Why would I want a goat? Goats are interesting, challenging and amazingly fun pets or hobby farm additions that have several purposes on your place. Most people think of them for weed control, they can offer milk for drinking, making soaps, yogurts and even fabulous Goat cheese, they can be companions or a source of food on your place if you are willing to take the time to process. Other folks are just looking for something different that required medium maintenance. Some people are involved in 4H or local projects that lead them to goats and others simply fall head over heels in love with them; much like the old Lay's potato chip ad; "you can't have just one".
What do goats eat? Goats will eat most grasses but prefer leaves, broad grasses, clovers, tender tree bark, new growth on lower tree limbs, pine needles and other small twigs and stems; known as Browse in the goat world. Unlike sheep, goats should be able to access a mineral that contains copper. If you happen to run goats and sheep together it’s okay for the goats to go with out copper in the diet but it is better if they have it to optimize the processing of feed and for breeding or if you are serious about raising the best animals possible you will want your goats to have a goat mineral that is designed just for goats. It is not necessary to feed super high dollar alfalfa to goats, a good quality mold free dry hay, that contains a bit of stems, leaves and browse during the winter months will be good enough. Commercial grain products are not required, simple oats can be offered as a treat or supplement for not so good hay. Mold free is a must, unlike cows that have a tolerance to moldy hay, goats will fall ill and possibly die from it.
Do I need to have a Veterinarian? Yes, you should have a veterinarian available that has goat knowledge. Goats can contract illnesses that are just goat related and treatment if administered immediately; can remedy a problem quickly. However, a good diet, clean housing; along with regular hoof trimming, worming and some basics you may be able to avoid a veterinarian all together. Sites on the web such a Goat-Links or Fiasco Farms are very helpful to those that need direction and have question on issues when their goat is showing signs of being sick or not.
What breed of goat is best for me? Depending on what you are planning to do, different breeds are meant for different purposes. If you plan to make cheese, yogurt, soaps and such you maybe looking for a Dairy Breed . If you are thinking of something for the freezer you maybe looking for a Meat Goat . Packing or hiking with goats you may want to consider a taller breed like a Nubian - You should think about it and then decide what you want before you buy. Especially when your goat is going to be just a pet. Too big can mean "unmanageable"; too little can mean "escape artist".
Let’s take a look at different breeds: http://home.earthlink.net/~lureynolds/breeds.html
Should I buy a Boy or Girl goat? Planning for a girl or a boy. That would be a Doe or Buck (intact male) or Wether (castrated buck). Keeping in mind that goats are herd animals and they NEED to be in a herd. Having only one is not a very smart idea and very unhealthy for the goat.
Females / Does: By a general rule female goats called Does are smaller then males, during heat cycle they will scream or bleat in a nearly distressed tone. Her screaming is an announcement to any male goat within ear shot and to the entire neighborhood that she is in estrus and she is ready to breed; it is compounded when the odor of a breeding male is within a few miles. If you never plan to have her bred, be prepared to tolerate this screaming every month but that is about all that makes them unattractive. The diets very a bit between males and females as the females are not as susceptible to some conditions such as urinary calculi as the males so giving treats and grain products in moderation is widely okay; where as grain products for the males is discouraged.
Males / Bucks & Wethers: Males of any goat breed are generally larger then the females regardless if they are castrated or not.
Keep in mind the old saying: “Horny Old Goat” – It is not just a saying but a fact in the nature of the beast. If you plan to have a breeding male; know that some males will begin to court right at birth. Their soul mission in life is to reproduce and that is all they think of from the day they are born. Humping turns into a game of sorts and anyone that will stand still long, mother, sister, brother, daughter will be subject to their actions.
Intact Males: This is a male that has not been castrated and one thing that you must know about an intact male goat is that have several unattractive issues. First being the never ending pursuit to breed. If you have ever heard the quote “Horny Old Goat”.. It is not just a coined phrase, it’s a fact. The next thing is once the begin to come of age intact males will urinate on themselves causing them to be very unpleasant to be around or to touch. The urination issue it seems is like a cologne of sorts. And let me tell you that they smell awful for miles.
Wethered Males: Castrated male/Non-Producing male – If you are wanting weed eaters, pasture companions for a Buck or additions to small flock of sheep the Wethered male maybe the way to go for you. These guys can be cooperative, fun to train and best of all you don’t have to worry about breeding season issues.
HOWEVER: Remember “Boys will be Boys” and as I said above “Horny Old Goat”. Even the castrated male will act like as Buck if given the opportunity and pursue, chase and hump females. Some people think that having a wether in with the herd of Does is acceptable But WE DO NOT.
With that said your male; young or old will need to be separated from all the females unless you want them bred year around; even young doelings (a few months old) will be forced into acts that they are not prepared for; and his off-spring are just another opportunity to reproduce in his mind.
I repeat - We do not recommend having a male and female as constant pasture companions since the male regardless of the males breeding status. In our experience wethers and bucks will chase, repeatedly mount as if to breed and can stress the female to the point of becoming sick or injured in many cases.
For the first time goat owner: We suggest a couple of wethers or a pair of does are the perfect start to weed control program and a great test to see if you would like to build a herd of your own.
How can I tell How old a goat is? You can get fairly close to the age of a goat by looking at the teeth. Goats, cattle and sheep do not have upper front teeth. Carefully viewing the number of teeth, length and wear. The link below can show you in very simple terms the way to look and what to look for. Of course the larger the goat the easier the view into their mouth. Little goats can be more difficult to get a good look.
Do I have a safe place for a goat? Thinking ahead you must consider how you plan to protect and care for your goats through all the season in your area. Goats need housing, protection from extreme weather such as rain, hale, wind, snow and options for shade in the hot summer. Fences need to be goat and predator proof. Just because your goats learn to stay in an electric fence doesn’t mean that neighborhood stray dogs, coyotes and other large predators won’t attempt and succeed at killing your goats. They are a pray animal and are defenseless even with horns. Dog kennel panels, horse safe panels or welded combo panels work as good fencing but in a large pasture setting Red Brand sells a sheep goat fence that we have found is the most economical and works the best in a large pasture setting. A line of electrical wire about belly high to your goats will keep them from rubbing on and damaging the fence that you worked so hard to make nice.
What do I need to care for a goat? Goats are not super hard to care for, but they do take time and effort to learn about. Good feed, clean water, safe warm shelter and your patients are the most important elements that your goats will need from you. Worming every so often and hoof trimming every 8 to 10 weeks is a must. Trimming time is also a great opportunity to inspect and score your goats condition. Keeping a note book of dates wormed, trimmed and conditional notes can help you and your vet if something comes up.
When you get to a point that you have the number of goats and sheep that we do, it is much nicer to have a working chute with am automatic head catch and the side open to access both sides of the animal freely. As you can see; the chute is a bit large for the standard pygmy goat but it works; the sheep are a bit larger and the chute to handle an animal as big as a full adult male boar buck; in the 250 range, we've even has a small calf in it and it holds them!
How do I trim my goats hooves?
http://www.boergoatshome.com/hooves.php This basic instructional on the above link is easy to follow and easy to understand. And will keep your goat bouncing around your pasture for a long time. What happens if my goat gets sick? There are literally hundreds of site to reference on the web. I have several on my Links page that will take you to a million answers that I can’t cover here. I use Goat-Links, Fiasco Farms and several University Medical sites and my local Veterinarian to find answers to any challenges I encounter. The Goat Lady at Goat-Links has helped me one-on-one several times and walked me through some very difficult issues that my local Vet did not have an answer for. For that I owe her a huge thank you, she was insistent, patient and exact with her instructions.
This basic instructional on the above link is easy to follow and easy to understand. And will keep your goat bouncing around your pasture for a long time.
What happens if my goat gets sick? There are literally hundreds of site to reference on the web. I have several on my Links page that will take you to a million answers that I can’t cover here. I use Goat-Links, Fiasco Farms and several University Medical sites and my local Veterinarian to find answers to any challenges I encounter. The Goat Lady at Goat-Links has helped me one-on-one several times and walked me through some very difficult issues that my local Vet did not have an answer for. For that I owe her a huge thank you, she was insistent, patient and exact with her instructions.
Personal Note: Remember if you go on line and ask a chat room a question, you are going to get a hounded ways to fix a problem and it may confuse you even more. Using one or two direct web sites can help you focus on the issue, determine a possible under lying problem or condition and solve the problem much faster.
As we use to say in the military – “If you need to ask a Lawyer a question, then ask a Lawyer and not the guy in the fox hole next to you”. Unless of course he or she is a Lawyer.
The thought is that you will more then likely come to a conclusion faster and with the right answer by asking a professional.
What is Summer time goat care? If you are not raising goats for breeding then you will have a nice summer of joy with these creatures. If you have does that have kids or are getting ready for kids you may wish to consider a mineral block or loose mineral dispenser or mineral tub like the ones shown in the photo at our web store; (see Mineral Rack hardware kit at our web store).
Shade is a must but don’t be angry or surprised if they lay out in the sun panting like a dog. I have not figured that one out yet, but they just do it sometimes even after you have broke your back to clean out a nice cool space in the barn for them. Minimal care is required if you have pasture and browse and mineral source.
The worming and hoof trimming is about it. It is a good idea to treat your goats for coccids about three times a year; goats are carriers of coccidia just like birds are and you can help them stay strong and healthy with a sulfa based additive in their water a few times a year. See your veterinarian and read the label carefully before treating just to be safe.
What is Winter time goat care? Most goat breeds are not designed for extreme cold. Here in
We have set dates for our breeding and kidding and lambing. No fall kids for us, we tried that and it was not easy on us or them. A heated water source to allow your goats to have water and again good quality grass hay, mineral and some oats will keep them going till spring.
Do not allow your goats to climb on your hay source; they are not mindful on where they leave their dropping and urine. Since goats are carriers of coccidia allowing them to climb on hay stacks (as fun as it may seem at the minute) will soil the hay and cause the coccidia to cycle faster in the herd, it is the number one killed of young kid goats and it can pass to other animals, sheep and cattle that may be forced to consume the fecal soiled hay. Save yourself time and money; just don't let them into the hay storage area of your barn or shed, they have plenty of room else where. Also a hay feeder is an absolute must when you own goats; do not feed hay or grain products on the ground for the same reason.
We offer minerals to our goats year around, a loose mineral containing copper will help a goat to produce healthy kids and process feed more efficiently. Know one knows for sure how much copper a goat really needs but research has shown that they do need it. Learn more about Copper in the diet.
Winters here are low in activity and we house our sheep and goats separately from breeding season through weaning. we have found that feeding the sheep/goat tub mineral becomes a food source rather then a mineral source for the sheep and soon we have a very dirty barn and diarrhea issues. Once we have kids and lambs on the ground we introduce the flocks from time to time through out the summer for weed control. Keeping in mind that sheep can NOT have copper so those minerals must be secured and un-accessible to the sheep at all times.
Are all goats the same? No, not all goats are the same. Some goats are designed and bred for milk production others for bred for meat production and others have been developed for fiber (weaving and yarn). Fiber goats need to be sheared, milk goats produce more milk then a goat kid can handle and will need to be milked to keep them healthy and happy. The larger breeds can make great pack goats, often seen in
Where can I see a variety of goat breeds? Your State Fair or local 4-H chapter is a great place to get up close and personal with a wide variety of goats that may be of interest. They truly do come in all shapes, sizes, colors and uses. You can ask the handlers questions and in fact most goat people would rather spend time talking about their goats then standing in the ring. Another option is to see if there are breeders in your area, call or contact them to see if you could come spend a little time and ask questions, see how they care for them and maybe clear up a few myths – like “Do Goats eat tin Cans like in the cartoons?” The answer to that one is NO. Goats can’t, don’t and won’t eat a can. The food labels on cans many years ago contain an adhesive that had a salty or briny taste so to a curious or starving goat it seemed like a food source, so the myth began from someone seeing a goat eating the label from a can. – You’ll have to come up with more questions for your host since we just covered that one.
Where can I buy a goat? After most 4-H fairs they will have an auction, you could potentially buy a very nice, broke to handle and lead goat from one of the kids there. Other ways are from the many breeder found across the country and from local breeders. Another way is to buy from a sale yard or specialty auction but a word of caution is a must. Normally goats taken to a sale yard are there for a reason and most of those reason are bad ones. For example, poor quality, illness, old, crippled, attitude, flighty or fighter along with a laundry list of other reasons. Bottle babies are sometimes available but be prepared for a very long 4 weeks of feeding. Babies at an auction can be a good thing as long as you worm, trim and isolate them from your main herd for a minimum of 60 days to ensure that they are not carriers of diseases that you don’t want in your main herd. Think of the bugs that they are bring with them – no need to create a monster just because that tiny guy was so darned cute.
What should I have BEFORE I bring my goat home? A safe enclosure like a large dog kennel or fenced in area and a warm safe place to sleep, like a dog house or A Frame like we have. Feed pan for oats, small bucket or tub for water, extra hay or straw for bedding. A shovel, muck bucket, rake and gloves would be a good idea and are sure to get a good work-out and maybe something for them to jump up on like a small tip proof spool, blocks or log. Be sure to think about the size of your first confinement, you want a good place where you can get acquainted with each other and start a new friendship. Plan to have at least two goats. Goats are herd animals, they need companionship and if you are a first time goat buyer two are a must. Here at our place we will not sell just one kid or lamb to anyone who does not already have goats or sheep.
Lambs and Kids can house together but goats are more aggressive by nature then a lamb and may dominate the feed source not allowing a lamb to have it’s share. Also, sheep can not have goat items such a goat mineral or commercial goat feeds since sheep can not have copper in the levels that a goat can; those levels will kill a sheep. So be sure to know what you are feeding if you mix these too species into one herd/flock.
Copper Caution: All creatures need copper however some animals can not tolerate high levels of copper.
For example: Cattle feed and supplements have a normal level of 250 ppm or there about for health growth and maintenance.
Goat minerals are much higher; in the 1250 ppm since goats do not retain copper in the liver and use more copper in there growth and well being.
In a stark contrast Sheep can tolerate very little copper; 2 to 5ppm is more then enough to keep them healthy and in good condition. Excess amounts will build up in the liver and become toxic to sheep as it is release under stressful situations. Sheep should NEVER have access to cattle feeds or minerals, Goat feeds or minerals, chicken litters or pig feeds of any sort. All of which contain higher levels of copper then the sheep can tolerate.
Special Notes: It also has been found that pastures that have been fertilized with chicken litter, pig or cattle manure and I am sure goat droppings would be included in the list; have also been linked to Copper Toxemia in sheep according to the Maryland Veterinary research center as the vegetation absorbs nutrients. Commercial fertilizers also can boost the levels of copper in the grasses, making it unsafe for sheep.
Your new kids will need time to adjust, they will cry out for the herd they just left, but mostly for their mothers. Sit down in their new confinement area with a little bucket of oats and a feed tray in front of you. With patients and time you will become the focus of their everyday existence and they will soon greet and call to you every time you walk out the door of your house.
Worms: Goats need to be wormed from time to time, we choose to treat our herd several times a year on an as need basis and then at least twice a year everyone regardless. Oral wormers are the easiest to use but least affective if you don't stay ahead of the bugs. Products such as Safgard only cover a minimum type of worms while others such as Valbezen are a little better. An off lable use of Ivemec SubQ inhjectable is the most affective in the constant battle agains worms and other internal parasites.
Coccidiosis: Goats are coccid carriers. These little beasts can build up very fast in a tiny goat and kill the kid in a hurry. What may appear to be just loose poops quickly turns to diarrhea and then death. Getting a handle on this issue at the first sign or even before is recommended. A 5 day treatment in the water is the easies way, starting when the kids are about 3 to 4 weeks old. We strongly suggest using a Sulfadimethoxine based product not Corid. The Sulf is affective for sheep and goats without being damaging to the intestine. We treat in the middle of our kidding season and again at the end of kidding season. We watch and plan to treat again in the middle of summer depending on the weather and pasture conditions.
Lice: It is common for goats to aquire lice, both biting and sucking lice when you travel to shows, bring things back from a sale barn or from another farms. They are more common in the winter months since they do not like the heat or sunlight. An affective treatment for external parasites is Ivemec Pour on for Cattle. A rate of 1ml or 1cc per 22 lbs is administered from the shoulders to the tail and is works well to eliminate the irritation and stress from these tiny beasts.
Ticks: Ticks are not as common on goats for some reason, we have had very few actually develope a mature tick but I think that is because we use the Ivemec pour on twice a year. Ticks can cause lameness in the joints of dogs so it is ppossible for them to cause issues with goats as well. We have also in the past used frontline (off lable) on our goats with success but that was before we started using the Ivemec pour on which is much more economical in our situation.
Fliies: There is very little you can do for biting flies and flies in general. Some products are dangerous to goats. So please be careful with sprays, powders and bates.