GOATS ARE GREAT!
I think they are the friendliest of livestock and really enjoy being with "their" humans but there are a few bits of advice I give to all new potential goat owners:
1 Check the zoning laws in your town. Some residential areas will not allow goats.
2. Goat are livestock and live in barns. You can love them as much as you want, BUT they do not belong in your house. If you bring them in when they are small, they will either be obnoxious screaming from the barn for you or will take out more screen doors than you can imagine!
3. Goats require you to provide them with food & water at least TWICE A DAY at approximately the same time and like to have a schedule. Change stresses them.
4.Goats require regular preventative care just like any other domesticated animal: annual vaccinations, deworming, hoof care & more. Know financially what you are getting into, what you can do yourself and what you will need to pay a vet for. Find a vet in your area, both a regular vet & an emergency 24 hour vet who can assist you should something go wrong.
5. Goats require STRONG, SECURE fencing. They can easily climb, break or destroy fences if you do not put them up securely and use fences adequate to contain your goats AND to keep dogs and coyotes out. (contact your local fish & game department to find out what predators live in your area) AND NO, you cannot leave them loose, they will not just stay in your yard.
6. Buy a book and learn about what they require and if they would fit into your livestyle. Never buy an animal you have no knowledge of how to care for. Also this will enable you to ask specific questions to the breeder if you should have some.
Do ALL OF THIS this BEFORE going to see some cute goat kids! Once you see the kids, you will buy them. Even the hardest non-animal lover I have ever met (usually the husband-sorry guys) is smiling and laughing when the kids pop up and down like popcorn on their rocks and toys and can't reist. Please also remember that they o grow up and won't be babies forever. If you are not interested in milking, you can teach them to be be pack animals, just teach them to lead and go on walks, teach them to pull carts...
What is Normal for a goat?
TEMPERATURE: 102-104 degrees
PULSE: 70-80 per minute
RESPIRATION: 15 to 30 per minute depending on the weather and how fast they ran to the grain bucket!
RUMEN MOVEMENTS: should always be moving and you should hear movement 1-2 per minute
PUBERTY: Does shouldn't bred until they reach 75% of their adult size, or so when they kid, they will be at least 12 months but more ideally 18 months old. Bucks can breed at 3 months, so separate early enough!
GROWTH: Dairy Goats mature to their full size in 2-3 years. Height first, then depth & width
DOE'S HEAT CYCLE: every 16-20 Days with standing heat when a doe will accept the buck lasting up to 24 hours
GESTATION (PREGNANCY): 145-154 DAYS
LIFE SPAN: Does that are kidding/milking yearly 8-10 years, Pet or "retired" dairy does 10-16+ years, bucks & wethers (castrated males) 8-10+ years
BASIC GOAT REQUIREMENTS:
Please remember these are very general guidelines. I recommend all goat owners purchase a few goat books for reference and consult with their veterinarian for more in-depth health care information. The information presented here is only to be used as a guide and not intended to prescribe any treatment for your goats.
Afternoon "maple leaf snack"
Miniature goats require about 10 square feet of indoor space per animal. I would plan on at least twice the amount you need for your "original" goats, since goats tend to multiply, either by breeding or goat owners who want more! The house should be dry, well ventilated and provide protection from rain, snow & wind. You can easily convert a shed, section off part of your existing barn, use a calf hutch or even buy a large dog house for them. Wood or "dirt" floors don't drain well. For a good floor surface that wil drain, stay dry and be easy to clean: remove all of the top soil from the area, fill with about a foot of gravel and then top with 6" stone dust. Wet the stone dust and pack it level. Set your house on top. Make sure your goat house or barn will be easy for you to clean. The easier to clean, the more likely that you will do it often! Facing the house towards the south to southeast is best. Do not face the doorway to the north. The wind will blow right into the house in winter. I also like a house with a patio where the goats can hang out when it is raining or snowing. Goats will not go out in the rain! Having a patio area with a hayrack will keep your hay dry and provide a place for them outside of their house on rainy days.
I have to say that I am meticulous when it comes to stall cleaning. My husband would tell you that I clean the barn more than the house - he's so silly! Overall, the cleaner the environment your animals are in, the healthier they will be. I sometimes see goats kept in stalls with no bedding, just a build up of manure on the floor, or in what appear to be very dirty stalls. Although they'll survive, contact with bacteria from the manure is bound to impact their overall health and well-being over time. My advice would be to keep your stalls as clean as you can, make sure everyone has adequate space by not crowding animals, and plan your cleaning schedule on a chart so you will be more likely to stick with it.
I bed the house with shavings SPRING, SUMMER & FALL. I also use Sweet PDZ stall deodorizer regularly to keep the stalls smelling fresh. “Fluff” the bedding daily or several times a week with a manure fork or rake and sprinkle new bedding on top as necessary. Completely clean out the house weekly, at a minimum of once per month. More often when they spend a lot of time indoors, mainly if there has been rainy or inclement weather. Also your doe kidding stalls and new kid pens must be kept especially clean to keep everyone healthy.
In WINTER, I use a bed pack method. I start with a completely cleaned out stall and sprinkle the floor with a generous coating of Sweet PDZ (stall deodorizer), then I layer on about 4" of pine shavings. Over the shavings, I spread 1-2" of straw. Every day I remove whatever manure I can and rake the top layer so any remaining goat manure falls below the surface. I then sprinkle a bit of shavings and fresh straw on the top layer. The idea is to keep the top clean and dry and let the bedding below compost and create heat. The trick is to keep the bed pack dry which you do by consistently adding enough bedding to absorb any moisture. If we get a damp or rainy spell during the winter, I spread a layer of diatamaceous earth on the bad pack to keep lice under control (you can dust the goats too along their topline at the same time, just try not to create alot of dust since diatamaceous earth isn't good to breathe) and spread more shavings to absorb everything. By the end of winter I have a good foot or so of bedding to dig out and spread in my garden! The stall needs to be cleaned out completely by the first warm, wet spell in early spring, otherwise lice can become a real problem.
Housing the Does & Kids: OUR MAIN BARN is 22' X 34'
View coming down the hill in the kid pen. We use this pen for all our does and their kids once they are 2-3 weeks old during the day and to house our young kids after weaning day & night the first year. The stall is 6' X 5'. We close the sliding door at night. The window you see on this is in the milk room.
This ia a view from the main doe herd side. The inside "day" stall is 6' X 7'. At night, we open up the aisle section (an additional 6' X 6' area) so everyone has room. In the winter we open the stall on the other side of the aisle and the herd has another 8' X 10', so everyone has a nice, cozy spot (below). We also use this stall during kidding season to seperate the does from their kids at night.
One week after our does kid, they are moved out of their private kidding stall to our community doe & kid stall. They are kept in groups according to age so does & kids can socialize. We usually pair 2-3 does together depending on how well they get along with each other. At two weeks the kids are seperated at night so we can milk. This picture shows access to the stall as well as a fenced in area with 4" X 4" panels so no one can escape and nothing can get in.
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The doe pen heading out to the hay shelter on the other side of the hill.
Housing the Big Boys: BUCK HOUSING
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The top buck house was the first one we made. I like the patio area in the front as the goats can hang out there when it's raining, but this house is hard to clean and quite back breaking! I wouldn't make such a "low" house again that I couldn't walk into. I use it now for a seperation pen or for my oldest buck Merlin rut so the young bucks aren't so hard on him.
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The pen has many hills and logs for climbing. The high areas also don't get muddy during spring which is important.
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This picture shows our "calf hutches" which we use for our 4 large bucks. Because they are opaque, the sun can shine in and warms them up quite a bit. When I want to clean them, I just tip them over (a one person job) and scrape it away with the tractor.
FENCING & PENS
Miniature goats require a minimum of 130 square feet of outdoor space. Fencing must be strong, high and escape proof. Goats are great at finding gaps in fencing! The best I found are called Combo or Stock panels. They are 16’ long and 52” high. The line wires are spaced closer at the bottom and gradually increase upward. The goats can climb all over them and they don’t bend. An 8-week old goat can walk right through them though so you should line the panels with hex net wire to keep baby goats from going through. There are also 20' long panels available that have 4" X4" squares which cost more, but will contain even kid goats. These panels can be connected at the corners with wire cable ties and supported with a few t-posts. The fence also needs to be high enough so a stray dog or coyote cannot jump the fence and also when the goats are adults they cannot jump out.
Please never tie your goats out on a rope. They easily become entangled and can strangle themselves. They love to go for walks and browse around trees though! They love to go for walks & browse though. Mine have been in parades!
OK so your goats don't need a tree to climb but I love this picture because it reminds everyone how agile and sure-footed goats are. Your pen should contain some type of safe climbing toy: a big rock, a cable spool (with the holes covered), a wooden box or an old picnic table (make sure the paint is non-toxic). Goats need to climb!
FOOD & WATER Grain, Hay, Water, Minerals, Baking Soda
Grain-Always use a feed intended for goats. Sheep feeds do not contain copper and goats need copper! Grain should be fed sparingly to goats who are not milking, in their last month of gestation or growing. Goats utilize their feed very efficiently and grain is a concentrate so it will seem as if you are feeding them very little, however it is important to not overfeed grain for several health reasons...
For wethers (castrated males) add a pinch of Ammonium Chloride daily or feed them a meat goat pellet or mineral mix that contain ammonium chloride. It is VERY important to add this to help prevent urine calculi. This condition is very painful and costly to treat, so preventing it is essential. Other preventative measures include making sure your goat drinks enough water (have clean, fresh water available at all times), avoid alfalfa hay (too much calcium for wethers) and do not overfeed grain (if fed at all).
Hay-The bulk of their food intake should be a nice clean, leafy hay. Offer them fresh hay often and feed enough so they are munching hay for at least 20 minutes twice a day.Our pregnant does, young kids and lactating does get all the hay they want free choice. The hay should be dust-free, free from mold and be fine in texture and as leafy as possible. 2nd cut is the best as it is the most nutritious. Of course, many times only coarser hay will be available which is fine, they will just waste more of it. Remove any hay that becomes wet and completely clean out hay manger and rake under it once per week. Look for 2nd cut grass hay during the summer. If you find some hay they like, stock up!
We use a 10' X 20' canopy to feed hay to three pens at once, our main doe pen, our kid pen and one of our buck pens. I can fill all three racks from the one center area in the kid pen which cuts down on chore time.
ABOVE-The doe side on the left and the center kid area. We also use some wooden homemade racks so all the does have plenty of room to eat.
BELOW-We feed our bucks in the hay & grain bunk pictured on the left and use the sheltered rack area on the right during rainy or snowy weather.
Water-Keep fresh, clean water available at all times. You will find your goats will drink small amounts of water, unless they are lactating. I like to put two buckets in each pen in different areas. Sometimes the goats will knock over a bucket while playing or poop in it and this way they still have another bucket. Forget using a large open tank. Chances are the goats will foul it and you will constantly be dumping out the water and wasting it. I prefer to use several 5 gallon flatback pails in my main goat pen and two smaller 8 quart pails in my other pens.
In the winter I bring my goats warm water twice a day depending on the temperature outdoors. In winter, goats will drink more if the water is warm. Be careful that the water is not too hot-you don't want to burn them! If you use a heated bucket make sure the cord is inaccessible to nibbling goats! A bucket inside their house nestled in the straw will take longer to freeze too. I also like the older style plastic coolers. They keep the water cool in summer and unfrozen longer in winter.
Minerals-Loose minerals offered in an appropriate mineral feeder are best. Choose the one for the type of hay you are feeding. I use Blue Seal Min-A-Mix fed free choice (don't confuse it with Min-A-Vite which I like, but it is a mineral AND conditioning supplement so you should not leave it out free choice. You need to measure what you feed). Manna Pro also makes a mineral which contains ammonium chloride to help prevent urinary calculi which makes it a good choice for wethers.
Mineral & Soda feeder
Baking Soda-it’s a good idea to keep a small can of baking soda available to your goats. When a goat’s stomach becomes too acidic they instinctually consume an alkaline substance like baking soda to restore the balance and keep from becoming sick. Baking soda does not taste good and they won't consume alot.
Goats love to be scratched, therefore usually love being brushed. Use a stiff brush to remove mud and dirt first and then finish with a soft brush to polish the coat. You may wish to clip your goat’s coats in the summertime. This not only makes them look more attractive but it also keeps them cooler and allows sunlight to reach their skin, which will help keep mites and other pests to a minimum.
Untrimmed hoof. Start by cleaning out the hoof with the point of your shears, then trim the side walls down level with the sole.
Do each side, remember to keep the shears pointing away from you. (If the goat kicks or jerks their leg, you do not want to stab yourself or the goat!) Then trim sideways across the heels to make flush with the sole.
Trim/check your goat’s hooves at least once per season/4 times per year. Since young goats are growing, I start trimming their feet at 2 months old and trim monthly until they are a year old. Goats eating a lot of grain (milking/growing) will have hooves that grow faster and need more frequent trimming. You also want their feet trimmed going into any wet season so mud doesn't collect in their hooves and cause foot rot.
Handle their feet often when they are young so they are accustomed to it. Goats will never like their feet handled, but they will learn to tolerate it. When you hold your goat's hoof up for trimming, in the front, hold it securely and try not to hold the hoof higher than the goat's knee and keef close to the goat's body. In the rear, cross over the leg from the opposite side at an angle and again stay close to the goat's body. This should keep the goat from pulling away excessively.
A pair of small pruning shears usually work best and a surfoam (carpenter’s tool) to finish them off. Do not buy "foot rot" shears as they are way too big for Nigerians! Look at a diagram in a book to see what the hooves should look like. A baby goat’s hooves are perfect and if you keep them trimmed they will not become overgrown. It is very important to give your goats good, frequent hoof care.
Vaccinations here in NH (depending on where you live, you may be advised by your veterinarian to give additional vaccinations)
CD & Tetanus - follow the labels directions and give yearly boosters. This shot is give SubQ (under the skin).
Deworming your goats
As far as deworming, you always hear that you need to rotae dewormers so that parasites don't build up resistance, but don't rotate every time you worm! You rotate once a year at best. You should use the same wormer until it's no longer effective (resistance has built up), then switch to a completely different class of dewormer. Look at the chemical ingredient-ivermectin, pyrantel, fenbendazole etc. and not the brand name. It's a bit tricky really because most dewormers are not labelled for goats and many can't be used on milking does. I really like Rumatel pelleted dewormer by Durvet and their equine paste dewormers which are apple flavored and the goats actually like them. I deworm 2-3 times a year-usually spring before the great mud season, then do a fecal float early-mid summer and see how everyone's doing, followed by a dewormer if needed, then deworm again in fall. Over the winter if any one looks "wormy" they get dewormed again. Kids get dewormed much more frequently as do the more "prone" herd members. Your veterinarian can convert many dosages on other species dewormers to the proper goat dose. I use chemical dewormers when needed. I just don't have faith in the effectiveness of herbal dewormers.
Goats hate to be forced to swallow a copper bolus, but it's important part of keeping them in good health. They should receive a bolus every 5 months. The dosage is 1 gram for every 22 lbs of bodyweight. Measure their heart girth, calculate their weight and divide by 22 for the correct dose. There are no studies about bolusing in early pregnancy, so avoid it. I have also used the copper sulfate method diluted with water. It is effective but difficult to keep administering to each goat daily for two weeks, then break, then again, when you have several goats to supplement. Using a bolusing gun to administer the bolus isn't any fun either. I have found that making an irresistable treat for your goat to eat is better for the goats and me. Just press the bolus in something tasty for the goat to swallow. Some people put the copper rods right in the treat, but since the goats should not actually chew on the rods, I like putting the rods in gelatin capsules first and then hiding them in the treat. The capsule give the rods a bit of protection against chewing.
My bucks will eat large marshmallows whole so I simply put the bolus in the marshmallow for them. Since they are always afraid the other buck will get it, they swallow it immediately, especially if you hold up another treat in front of them as soon as you give them theirs. My does are a bit more fussy. I have tried many types of treats, but I have found that everyone loves this recipe: Squeezy Buns horse treats, Manna Pro licorice treats and light Karo syrup. I microwave the squeezy buns for a few seconds so I can crumble them into a bowl, then I crush up some Manna Pro licorice treats and mix together. Add enough Karo syrup to bond the mix together. Spoon out about a little more than a teaspoon and press a bolus into the center, then press the ball together firmly in your fist. It's sticky and very messy, but they love them! I try to make them as small as possible, just enough to cover the bolus evenly all around.
Before I begin, I cover cookie sheets with aluminum foil and use a marker to draw squares with each goat's name in the square. I can then drop the correct sticky treat for each goat in their square so it's easy to see which treat goes to each goat.
SICKNESS IN GOATS
More than likely you will be able to tell when your goats are not acting “normal” just because you observe them daily and know their routines. Symptoms of a sick goat are diarrhea, restlessness-getting up and lying down repeatedly, extreme inactivity, loss of appetite, noticeable weight loss, twitching, teeth grinding (usually done when they are in pain), lameness, loss of hair, fever, runny nose and eyes, labored or fast breathing, continual coughing, frothing at the mouth, kicking at abdomen… If you suspect something is wrong with your goat, take your goat’s temperature (rectal temp should be 102-105 degrees) and call your vet.
Goats with proper management rarely get sick but it’s important to observe them daily. A healthy goat is alert, follows the herd, eats and drinks normally, is free of any signs of discomfort and has no noticable ailments
IN THE SHOW RING
MORE TO COME ABOUT HOW MUCH FUN (AND TIRING!) SHOWING CAN BE!
RANDOM THINGS I'VE LEARNED:
The best water buckets are plastic-sided coolers. The water stays cool in the summer and freezes less in the winter. When it's cold, we fill ours with warm water and sit them in a bank of straw and they rarely freeze all winter long.
To chill your milk, place your tote in a frozen bucket during winter. In summer I use a bucket with ice water and some cold packs. I bring it out to the barn and set my tote right in it. The faster you cool your milk, the better it will taste!
To help prevent the doe's discharge from drying in hr tail hail, apply a light coating of petroleum jelly to her tail daily. Don't forget a little fly spray too.
Dental floss is great for tying off umbilical cords!
If you are planning on getting 2 goats, build your shed & pen big enough for at least four. If you have does and are planning on breeding them, tbuild bug enough for 8! Most goat owners increase their herd and at least double their numbers because they are such fun animals to have!
Calf hutches make great shelters. I use them for my bucks. They are easy to clean, just flip them over. They are easy to move too. A 4'x8' hutch can house three to four bucks. They are warm in the winter because the sun shines right in and "captures" the warmth.
If you are new to goats or just considering them…
Call or e-mail us!. We love to talk goat!