Think about why you want to raise goats.,
Choose a breed based on your needs.,
Consider how much space you have.,
Pick the best, healthiest-looking goats.,
Choose does over wethers and bucks.,
Consider the age of the does.,
Understand that goats are herd animals.,
Give your goats access to shelter.,
Build a goat-proof fence.,
Allow your goats to browse.,
Provide your goats with hay and grain.,
Supply your goats with plenty of water.,
Breed your goats when the does reach maturity.,
Decide how you want to raise the baby goats.,
Decide what to do with the kids.,
Understand the lactation cycle.,
Protect your goats from predators.,
Learn to recognize the signs of a sick goat.,
Keep your goat clean and trimmed.
Before you purchase any goats, it’s a good idea to think long and hard about why you want them.
Do you want them for milk? For meat or fiber? Or do you just think they’d make a cute pet? The motivation behind your decision to raise goats will influence what breed of goat you will buy and how you’ll raise them.
Keeping goats is a big commitment – you’ll need to feed them everyday, pay for their food and veterinary bills, and ensure that they are healthy and happy – so make sure that you are prepared to take this responsibility on board.
Take the time to read a few books or talk to someone who knows about goats so you have all the details before you jump in head first.;
, As mentioned above, the type of goats you choose will be influenced by whether you want them for milk, meat or fiber. You will also need to consider the goats’ size, temperament and care requirements. Some of the most popular breeds are as follows:
Dairy Goats: Alpine, La Mancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen and Sable, and Toggenburg.
Meat Goats: Boer, Kiko, Spanish, Savannah, Texmaster, Genemaster and Moneymaker.
Fiber Goats: Angora (which produce Mohair), Cashmere, Pygora and Nigora.
Pet Goats: Miniature goat breeds like Nigerian Dwarfs, Pygmy Goats and Kinder tend to make the best pets.
, Ideally, you should have a large outdoor area where your goats can range, browse and get the exercise they need to stay healthy. The goats will also need an indoor space for rest and shelter.
The general rule of thumb is to provide 10 to 15 feet (3.0 to 4.6 m) of space for every standard size adult goat. Miniature breeds will require slightly less space.It’s important not to overcrowd your goats or keep them in confined spaces. This will cause them to become stressed and unhealthy, and may contribute to the spread of disease.
, If you decide to go ahead and start your herd of goats, it’s important to know what to look for. You don’t want to buy a sick or unhealthy goat that doesn’t meet your needs.
Look for bright-eyed and alert goats which move around quickly and easily, with an even gait.
Run your hands over the goat’s body to check for any lumps or bumps – as this could indicate the presence of an abscess. Check the goat’s droppings to make sure they are firm, not runny.
Look for goats with deep, rounded bellies, wide-set hips and large milk sacks with downward-pointing udders (in does). If possible, you should also try milking any potential does, to make sure they have a good temperament and that the milk comes easily.If you’re buying dairy goats, make sure they are friendly and not skittish, as you will need to get close to them in order to milk them.
, When starting out, it’s a good idea to just purchase does, as only they can bear kids and produce milk.
Bucks can be aggressive and start to smell as they grow older. The pheromones they release can also affect the flavor of the does’ milk if they are kept in close quarters.
Unless you want to raise a large herd of goats, it’s better just to borrow a buck when you need one for breeding, rather than purchasing one yourself.
Wethers are castrated male goats, and are only useful for providing meat (or as pets). However, if you wait until the first baby goats arrive (which have a 50/50 chance of being male) you will be able to sell the young bucks for a particular type of goat’s meat called chevon, which is popular for its lamb-like flavor. , You have a number of options when it comes to buying does – which option you decide to go for will depend on your budget and how soon you want your goats to produce milk or have kids.
Buy a doeling: A baby doe, or doeling can be as young as 8 weeks old, as this is the soonest they can be weaned from their mothers. Doelings are relatively cheap to buy, but you will have to wait about a year and half before you can breed them, and another five months before they will start to produce milk.
Buy a junior doe: A junior doe is a young doe that hasn’t been bred yet. These are more expensive than doelings as you don’t have to wait as long to breed them and start producing milk. Sometimes you can buy a young doe that has already been bred (i.e pregnant), so you only have to wait 5 months before she starts producing milk, but you will have to buy a breeding fee.
Buy a doe in milk: A final option is to buy a senior doe who is already producing milk. This option is faster and cheaper than the previous ones, however there is a much higher risk that the doe you buy will have problems, as breeders will usually try to sell off the weakest animals in their herd., Goats are herd animals, which means that they prefer to live in groups. Therefore, you will need to buy a minimum of two goats to start off.
Many people make the mistake of buying only one goat. Single goats get lonely and will become very loud, as they bleat and call out for company.
If possible, try to buy two goats from the same herd (especially if they’re related). This will help them to adjust to their new surroundings much more quickly.
Under certain circumstances, goats will bond with other hoofed creatures, such as sheep, cows and horses, so this is an option if you already own some of these animals., As mentioned in the previous section, goats will require a sheltered indoor area for sleeping, feeding and protection from the weather and night-time predators.
The housing does not need to be very elaborate, and as long as the goats have plenty of outdoor space to roam around during the day, it doesn’t have to be very large – goats like to sleep together in small groups.
You just need to make sure that the shelter stays dry and draft-free. It’s also a good idea to have a small stall where you can place sick, injured or heavily pregnant goats.
The floor of the shelter should be covered in a thick layer of bedding, comprised of wood shavings (anything except cedar), straw or waste hay., Goats are notorious escape artists, as they can climb trees, jump over fences, chew through rope and wriggle their way through the smallest of spaces. Therefore, it is essential that you erect a strong, goat-proof fence around the enclosure.
Your fence should be a minimum of four feet high, or five feet for more active goat breeds such as Nubians. Wooden, stock panel or chain-link fences are all good options if you are building a new fence. However, if you simply want to goat-proof an existing fence, you can use high tensile, smooth electrified wire.
Also make sure to brace any gates or fence posts on the outside of the fence as this will prevent goats from climbing up them. You should also make sure that the goats’ shelter does not have an easily climbable roof.
, Goats are browsers rather than grazers, which means that they prefer to eat twigs, leaves and weeds rather than plain grass.
This allows goats to be raised alongside sheep, cows and horses, as they do not compete for food. Goats can also be used to clear rough land and get rid of unwanted vegetation.
If you live in a green or wooded, rural location, feel free to put your goats out to pasture and let them forage for things like young shrubs and saplings, blackberry canes, poison ivy and clover, to name but a few.
, Goats will not get all the nourishment they need from browsing alone, so they will also need a large supply of good quality hay (or other forage crop). You can supply the hay free-choice — meaning they can it as much or as little of it as they like.
Does that are pregnant or producing milk will have extra protein requirements, so they will also need a pound or two of grain each day. You should also supply your goats with a good free-choice mineral mix or mineral block, which is available in most feed stores.
In terms of treats, you can give your goats a wide selection of fruit and veg, including apples, pears, peaches, watermelon, banana, carrots, celery, squash and spinach. Just avoid giving them potatoes, tomatoes and kale, as these can be poisonous to goats., It is essential that your goats have a constant supply of fresh water, especially during very hot, dry weather. So depending on weather conditions, you will need to supply your goats with 1⁄2 gallon (1.9 L) to 4 gallons (15.1 L) of water per goat each day.
It’s a good idea to plan out how you will supply your goats with water in advance, as you don’t want to be stuck carrying buckets of water back and forth to their shelter each day. If you don’t have one already, consider digging a water line to your goat shelter or barn or installing a stock tank.
If you have a creek or pond on your land, this is a convenient way of ensuring that your goats stay hydrated. However, make sure to get the water tested first to make sure it is safe for drinking. You will also need to watch out for contamination or stagnation., When your does reach maturity – which happens when they are 6 months old or weigh at least 60 pounds (for standard goats) – they are ready for breeding. Their yearly heat cycles usually begin around August or September.
If you don’t own a buck, you can either hire a buck or bring your does to a farm that has a buck. You will have to pay a stud fee, which is usually somewhere between $50 to $100.
It can be difficult to tell if a doe is pregnant, so one of the best signs of a successful mating is a milky-white colored discharge coming from her nether regions.
A goat’s pregnancy lasts for 150 days, or five months and most pregnancies will produce two kids, though sometimes there can be as many as four.
, Immediately after the baby goats are born, give them a thorough rub down with a cloth to remove any blood or birthing material, or allow the mother to lick them clean. From this point on, there are two schools of thought when it comes caring for and feeding the kids.
Some people prefer to immediately separate the kids from their mother. To feed them, they milk the mother by hand then pour the milk into bottles to feed the kids. The reasoning behind this is that baby goats can be difficult to wean and cause the mother goat to produce less milk. It is also believed that bottle-fed goats will be be tamer and friendlier.However, others believe that separating the mother from her babies is cruel and unnecessary. They allow the mother to feed the babies herself (though you will want to keep a watchful eye to make sure none of the kids are left out) and will only separate them when the kids are ready to be weaned, between 8 and 12 weeks old.Which route you decide to go down is a matter of personal preference and will depend on whether you value increased milk production above a more natural process.
, If you aren’t interested in significantly increasing the size of your herd, you will have to decide what to do with the kids.
Young does are usually easy to deal with, as the demand for milk-producing does is high and you can sell them on to other goat owners as soon as they are weaned. If you like, you can keep the female offspring of your best milker, as she can take her mother’s place in a couple of years time.
Bucks are slightly more difficult. The majority of young bucks should be castrated by the time they are three weeks of age, as they will ultimately be sold for meat. You can do this as soon as they are weaned, or wait until they have reached maturity. If you want, you can keep one buck as a breeding sire.
, Once a doe has produced her first offspring, she will start producing milk and will continue to do so for approximately 305 days following delivery.
The milk flow is usually highest 2 to 3 months after giving birth then tapers off towards the end of the lactation cycle. The doe will require a two month “dry spell” before she gives birth a second time and begins producing milk again – an event which is known as “freshening” in the dairy world.
If you have never milked an animal before, it is important to get the technique right. Rather than tugging on the teat, you need to wrap your hand around it, cutting off the milk supply at the top using your thumb and forefinger. Then you can use your other fingers to squeeze the teat and extract the milk.
At first, you might find milking to be somewhat slow and awkward, and it could take you up to 30 minutes per goat. But once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to do it in a jiffy!
You should milk your goats once in the morning and once at night. During peak production, standard-sized goats will produce up to 3 quarts of milk per day, while miniature goats will produce slightly less., It’s important to be aware of the predators in your area so you can take steps towards protecting your goats.
Common goat predators include dogs, coyotes, cougars, and birds such as ravens and vultures. Some of these predators will carry your goats (especially the kids) away, while others will injure them so badly that they will need to be put down.
The best way to keep your goats safe is to lock them in a secured building (with no open windows or doors) every night. You should also consider getting a livestock guardian dog to fend off predators 24/7.
If you need to deter vultures specifically, the USDA recommends hanging a vulture carcass (which doesn’t have to be real) from a tree or post.
You should also avoid tethering your goats, as this makes them an easy target for any predators. Leaving them loose in an enclosed space with a high fence is much safer., You will inevitably have to deal with a sick goat at one point or another, so it’s important to be able to read the signs:
Some of the most common and visible symptoms of a sick goat are: not eating or drinking, crusty eyes, diarrhea, hot udders, pressing its face against a wall or fence, coughing, crying or calling more than usual, grinding teeth, separating itself from the group, pale eyelids and grey gums.
The sooner you call the vet to treat your goat, the greater the chance of restoring the goat to full health. Your goats will also need yearly vaccinations against tetanus and enterotoxemia (an overeating disease) and you will need to watch out for parasites like lice and ticks., In general, goats don’t require too much grooming (except for the long haired varieties), but you will need to give them some attention every now and then in order to keep them clean and comfortable.
Brushing and bathing: Goats should be brushed at least once a year (preferably at the start of summer when they’re shedding) with a firm-bristled grooming brush. This removes dandruff and loose hair, stimulates blood flow, and gives you a chance to check for any lumps on the skin or other signs of diseases. Bathing your goats is not strictly necessary, but it helps to remove lice and makes clipping easier.
Clipping: You will need to clip your goats hair at least once a year, to help them stay cool throughout the summer. You may want to clip the tail and udder regions of female goats more frequently, to help keep them clean during milking and kidding season. You will also need to bathe and clip them more frequently if you plan on entering them in shows.
Trimming hooves: You will also need to trim your goats’ hooves about once a month, otherwise they will become overgrown and hard to walk on. This is a relatively quick and easy process, which you can do with a packet or roofing knife.