So you want to get some goats………
So lets talk about the planning!
I feel like this is a good topic to kick off my blog especially since we are in the midst of our kidding season. I will be covering a number of topics within this spectrum of doing your due diligence before making the decision to bring goats home.
Ask yourself why you want goats-
Do you just want a cool pet? Do you want one for milk production? Do you want them for meat production? Do you want one to show for 4-h or FFA? Then on top of that do you want to stick to commercial or do you want an animal that would be competitive in a Breed show? Do you think there would be a possibility that your goals may change over the next 2-5 years? Do you plan on breeding? What kind of kids or stock do you want to produce and what do you hope to achieve with them? Would you want registered proven stock or unregistered? What are the pros and cons?
All these questions will help you decide on what kind of stock you would like to start out with and help breeders to pick appropriate stock that we think you will be happy with and will meet your goals or if we don’t have what you are looking for we might be able to point you in the right direction. Goats breeds are very different and versatile , while one animal may really show well or excel in dairy strength might not be meant for meat production or fiber production or reverse. Same thing as a breeder, I don’t want to sell a show quality doe for someone to hide away in their barn as a pet and not fulfill their potential of a show quality doe. Believe it or not most breeders want to see their clients happy with their stock, so let us help you and lets start with what your goals are and what you want to achieve. J
Choosing your goats-
Knowing your “why” will help you to choose the right breed and kind of goat for your own personal goals. If you are looking for Meat Production ,some breeds with higher meat yield would include Boers, Kikos, Pygmies, Spanish, myotonic ---- Dairy goat breeds include, Saanan, Nubians, toggenburgs, Alpines, Sables, Lamanchas, and my personal favorite Nigerian Dwarfs. As far as fiber producing goats there are Angoras that I can think of off the top of my head. There are also people who look at dual purpose goats such as Kinders or Pygoras
Some basic things to consider when choosing your breeds that align with your goals are---- Hardiness, do they do well in your climate? Parasite resistance, temperament, noise level, resilience, do they match up with your kind of herd and barn management? Are they a size I think I could handle? Do I have space, or do I have any restrictions where I live to have standard size livestock or just miniatures?
Do I want Bucks, Wethers, or Does?
Intact bucks (males) make horrible pets, they can become aggressive and urinate on themselves and spray when they go into rut. They should only be kept if you are planning to breed in my own opinion, however you can do your own research and see what conclusions you come to.
Wethers are castrated males. They do not spray or go into rut and are usually of very good temperament. They usually are inexpensive, which is a good way to get started and figure out all the rest of your herd management style, they make very good pets, or they can be raised for meat production. They are very good lawn maintenance (but watch out or they will eat your pretty plant also), or the will clean up your fields of brush and weeds. They also make good companions for other goats
Does make excellent pets but do go through estrus and heat cycles so if not breeding this could possibly be annoying and unnecessary. Does are usually very loveable, most have good temperaments and are good pets and are used for production and milk.
Goats need proper shelter! They need a draft free shelter, one where they can get out of wind, rain and snow, where they can stay dry. If you live in a colder climate, they need deep bedding like deep straw to keep warm and dry. If you live in warmer climates, or in summer months, a deep bed of wood shavings is also appropriate.
If you also plan on breeding you will also need a way to separate your does(females) from your bucks (males) as bucks that are kept with does year round can become very territorial and start ramming--- they can also ram your females so they abort their pregnancies or keep running them so they re-enter a heat so they can breed again, also some breeds cycle year round and it isn’t very healthy for them to be re-bred back to back after just having babies, as well as some breeds can become fertile as early as 2-3 months old and if bred that early it is very possible that they could die from kidding complications. It is best to house them separately boys with boys and girls with girls ---- the exception is when boys are housed with wethers or girls are housed with wethers--
Creating a herd
Since we just talked about who should be kept with who------ I’m going to take a quick pit stop here to explain that goats are herd animals and they NEED a buddy , so if you get one to start with, you actually will need two (minimum) to make sure they stay healthy mentally and socially. Having another goat as a buddy can help prevent a lot of behavioral issues. I personally never recommend keeping one goat by itself and there is plenty of research to prove that ( do your due diligence and look it up ;) ) Goats are very social creatures and if you don’t want them in EVERYTHING or literally crying all the time for someone and you want them to feel safe & warm then you will get them a buddy!!!!
In order to avoid problems with goats getting out and causing issues and also to prevent predators from getting in, proper fencing is a must!!!! It will save you lots of headaches in the long run. We use 5 FT -6FT tall non-climb horse fencing but I have heard of others using panels, or traditional livestock fencing with hotwires. There is an old saying amongst goat herders, If you fence can’t hold in a cat, it can’t hold in a goat. The goats are smart and like to roam so they will test your whole fence line to find holes, places to crawl under, and low fences to jump over. Some of them also figure out how to open certain kinds of quick latch gates.
Proper Hay, Feed, Minerals & Water
Goats are a little higher maintenance compared to other livestock as they are very sensitive to a lack or imbalance of minerals--- They need a QUALITY mineral available to them 24/7 and this is where you need to do your homework and due diligence for the area that you live in YOU NEED TO FIND A MINERAL OR FEED PROGRAM THAT WORKS FOR YOU---- Every area is different and could be lacking certain vitamins or minerals----For example , in my area our water is very high in iron which leeches copper from goats--- so I have to supplement copper more so than some people , also in my particular area we are vitamin E deficient so I have to supplement Vitamin E rich food and supplements High in vitamin E. Also because of the high iron in our water it also causes zinc deficiency , so this key info has helped in choosing what is appropriate to use in my herd -----and just like mineral you will have to do your research and find a quality feed to support your stock and their goals --- for example if your goal is milk production you need a little higher protein & fat content – if they don’t get the calories needed they may not produce well ….. you want to build muscle on a meat goat to finish him you might want to look at a proper feed to get the best meat yield. These are things that most newbies try to skimp on and this is an area that you absolutely CANNOT skimp on!!!!!!!!! Quality alfalfa and grass hays are also key to keeping your goats happy and healthy when they don’t have good pastures available. Ask yourself are you willing to buy from a proven breeder who will help with nutrition program that is already tried and true? or will you be able to take the time to figure out a program and do you have the money to feed these animals properly? Lastly, they should always have fresh water made available to them 24/7 as well.
Figuring out your Barn Management and Herd Management Plan
These are things you just cannot wing. I would have been lost if I didn’t have a mentor when I first started!!! Sometimes buying from a reputable breeder can help you develop a great mentor/ student relationship and they can answer a lot of these questions that you should ask yourself before getting livestock. I would suggest asking yourself these questions and come up with some more planning and again do your research------ How will you clean their pens and stalls? How Often? How do I care for a pregnant doe? What should I have in my kidding kit? What should I have for my at home vetting kit? How do I care for her and her kids after she kids out? Do I live in an area where we have a vet that will see goats? Do I have a mentor if I get myself in a bind? How do I disbud(remove the horn bud) if I choose to? what vaccinations are necessary for my area and what is optional? what should be my deworming schedule and how should I rotate pen space or pastures? Will I test and quarantine any new stock coming onto my property or will I only buy from tested and clean herds? If I decide to breed and cannot sell all my stock that I have for sale, should I send them to the livestock auction/ should I butcher or cull some of them/ or try to continuously sell them for pets? These are important questions to ask yourself whether you need to know maintenance care for vaccination schedules and cleaning pens if you just have pets up to what you will do if you have a whole breeding program.
So overall, we covered some basic questions and points when it comes to keeping goats. We talked about why you would want a goat, questions to ask yourself how to choose a breed of goat, what is required to keep goats including fencing, housing, why multiples are a necessity, acquiring proper hay, feed, and minerals and what kind of questions may help with coming up with a barn / herd management plan. My hope for putting this out there is that this will help people to stop, think, and make an educated decision on getting goats and that it makes them think about important questions and that it helps them do their due diligence & research!
Happy Researching Everyone! Hope this helps you to prepare for your fun furry friends!!! Goats have so much love to give and they deserve the best treatment! <3 :)