• Jennifer Sartell

11 Things you need to know before getting goats

I am not a veterinarian. This post is not meant to provide any medical advice for your animals. It is just an example of what we do with our animals. Please check with your veterinarian.


This post is not sponsored.


Goats are relatively easy animals to care for. We got our first pair of Angora Goats in 2009. Two curly adorable sisters and I was hooked!



From there we added two Nubian sisters that came to us in poor health and after a LOT of trips to the vet, became the two most beloved and healthiest goats we've ever had the pleasure of raising.




At one point we had 18 goats. A mix of Angoras, Nubians and Alpines. And it was insane, but so much fun! After my daughter was born we decided to shrink down our herd and now we only have two beautiful Nubians; Winefred and Penelope. They have adorable personalities which makes up for any mischief they might get in.





If you have the means and room in your heart for goats, I absolutely encourage you to add 2 or three or more to your homestead. But before you take the plunge, here are 11 things you should consider before bringing them home.


You Can't Have just One

Like potato chips, you can't have just one. Goats are herd animals, they are programmed to be around others of their kind. They are miserable if kept alone and can go into a deep depression and even stop eating. This is usually not a problem... once you experience goats you'll want more.




Fencing

Fencing is the high on the list of goat needs because: #1 because it can be expensive initially, (so factor that in to your cost of getting goats) and #2 because you need GOOD fencing for goats, especially if you're getting into the larger breeds like Nubians or Alpines.




Goats are some of the most persistent animals I've ever encountered. If they find a possible escape opportunity in your fencing, they will fixate on that spot and work it all day and night until they bust through.



You need a sturdy wire fence made for goats and sheep. Do not get the welded wire garden fencing. It's cheaper initially, and it will hold your goats for a while, but eventually they will destroy it. I know this from experience.


They like to climb up the fence with their front legs and eventually those small welds give way and your fence will collapse. We used Red Barn brand Sheep and Goat Fencing, a 48" heavy gauge woven wire fencing with T-posts spaced 4' apart.



At the ends and corners we use a section of 4x4's and a ratcheting cinch system that keeps the fence anchored and taught.




Hoof Trimming

Hoof trimming is probably the most hands-on aspect of caring for goats, (unless you're milking or shearing).



Goats need their hooves trimmed about every 3-5 weeks. Depending on the size and personality of your goat this can be a bit challenging, but don't let it keep you away from getting goats.



I recommend a stanchion to hold the goat in place and to only get a goat breed that you can handle confidently. Our Nubian bucks get around 200+ pounds. If they're not in the mood to have their hooves trimmed, I struggle with getting the job done all in one go. My husband can trim them no problem, but if I was alone I would choose a smaller, more manageable breed.


Visit our YouTube channel to see a video on how we trim our goat's hooves.


Feeding

There's a myth that goats have and iron stomach. I have no idea where this fable came from, as in my experience goat's have pretty temperamental digestive systems. A good place to start when figuring out what a goat should eat is to talk with your breeder. Try to keep them on the same routine as the people from which you are buying the goat. But otherwise, a good place to start is with three elements:


  • source of protien grain/alfalfa

  • grass hay

  • pasture


Protein:

Goats need about a 12-18% protien in their diet. 16% is a good goal. This means that if you turn the bag of goat feed over and look at the analysis of ingredients, it should say 16% crude protien. (12% would be an all stock feed, 18% would be a grower/meat goat feed or show formula).


The proper amount of protien will keep your animals in good body condition. Alfalfa has around the same amount of protien (16%) so you can choose to feed grain or alfalfa. The amount depends on the goat breed, size and if they are in milk or being raised for meat. This is something you have to research.


We feed the Rural King Textured Goat Feed. It is 17% protien, I like this higher percentage because our Nubians have a hard time keeping weight on with lower protien feeds. We feed our girls their grain ration once in the morning and once in the evening.



There are often feed rate suggestions on the back of feed bags.


Grass hay:

Grass hay will also provide nutrition, but think of hay as more of a digestion aid. Goats are ruminants, in the wild they are brush eaters so their stomach's are designed to eat dry sticks, grasses, twigs, dry leaves. brush etc.


Hay helps mimic the goat's natural diet. It is dry, and it works well with the rumen. We offer grass hay constantly, free choice.


Pasture

It is possible to raise goats without pasture, but they will be much happier if they have access to wild grasses and an assortment of weeds and brush.


The amount of pasture you need per goat depends on the size and breed of goats and the number of animals in your herd. But give them what you can and they will thank you with health. Too much fresh grass all at once can cause digestion issues so gradually increase their access to pasture over a period of time.


Fresh Water

Goats are very finicky about their water. If their troughs are not clean they will not drink and become dehydrated. Always have fresh clean water available.


Minerals

When we first got goats, there wasn't a lot of mineral products available specifically aimed at goats. (At least in our area) You could get an all stock mineral or products aimed at horses or cattle.


And these will do fine supplementally, but goats need a fair bit more copper and selenium in their diet than these "all stock" products offer. We use a combination of loose minerals meant for goats. (Manna Pro Goat Mineral) and we have several (Billy Blocks) up just as a backup. We feed these free choice (meaning the goats have access to them at all times). Goats will self regulate how much minerals they need.


If you have whethers (castrated males) in your herd and you feed sweet feed, then it's a good idea to get a mineral with added ammonium chloride (Manna Pro brand includes this) to prevent Urinary Calculi.


Baking Soda

We offer baking soda free choice to our goats at all times. Like minerals, they will eat baking soda if they feel something is off in their rumen. Baking soda can help prevent bloat and balance the digestive system.


Bedding

Like all animals, goats appreciate fresh clean bedding. It keeps your herd healthy and happy.



We use a combination of stall dry or barn lime, layered over with highly absorbent pressed pine pellets covered with pine flakes. The pine helps keep odors at bay and the pellets absorb liquids, the lime keeps down parasites and odors. You do not have to do all these layers, fresh pine flakes or straw will work just fine. I find straw works better with fiber goats.


Check out our YouTube channel to see our process for how we clean stalls


Shelter


Goats need a decent shelter that keeps them out of the rain. Goats HATE water! This is especially important if you raise fiber goats. They also need protection from the sun, wind, cold and hot temperatures. If you have a small herd, a simple shed with an access door will work just fine. Above was our first goat shed. It housed 4 goats and the chicken coop was off the wing where the Dutch door is. This is now our chicken coop.


Worming and Parasite Control

Goats need to be wormed. They pick up worms as they are grazing on pasture and in dirty bedding. Even healthy goats will have a small worm load most of the time. Your job is to keep that load low enough to where it doesn't effect the condition of your goat. If you're new to goats, the best way to treat worms is to take a fecal sample to your veterinarian seasonally and have it analyzed.



You should also do this if you notice any changes to the consistency of their droppings if there hasn't been any recent dietary changes. Healthy droppings should look like individual oval shaped pellets. After you've been keeping goats for a while, you will get to know your animals, and how different things effect their digestive system. We worm seasonally, alternating with Safeguard (given orally) and Ivermectin (given subcutaneously, with a needle just under the skin). We alternate so the worms do not build up a tolerance to the de-wormer goat. If you're consuming the milk please do research to see what medications are safe to give your goat.


Goats can also get external parasites like mites, mange and lice. Keeping a clean shelter can help prevent this, but even the cleanest stalls sometimes get unwanted parasites. We treat with Pour-On Ivermectin meant for cattle. We simply adjust the weight accordingly.


Vaccinations

There are all different opinions on vaccinations for goats. That's something that you have to decide for your herd. But I encourage you to at least research your options, talk to your vet and other goat people in your area and make an educated decision one way or another.


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