Raising Goats For Dummies
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Goats make great pets. And as more and more people look for ways to live sustainably and grow their own food, goats are a wonderful option for raising meat and milk. You can harvest their fleece, as well. Whether you want to raise goats for food or as the smart, lovable pets they can be, you need to know what questions to ask.

goats © AnastasiaPash / Shutterstock.com

Questions to ask before buying goats

Although you probably are excited to buy goats and bring them home, taking some precautions to make sure that you get healthy goats is an important first step. After you have determined what kind of goats you want and how you intend to use them, you can eliminate goats from consideration by asking the following questions:

  • Are your goats registered? If so, with what registry?
  • What vaccinations do you give your goats?
  • Do you routinely test your goats for any diseases?
  • Are these goats negative for Caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) and Caseous lymphadenitis (CL)?
  • Have you had any health problems in your herd, and if so, what were they?
  • Were your goats born without horns (“polled”) or have they been disbudded?
  • Have you had any goats die from undiagnosed disease in the past few years? If so, what are the details?
  • Do you bottle-feed or dam-raise kids? Do you pasteurize the milk?
  • Have you had a history of abortion in your herd?
  • What is your feeding program?
  • What kinds of market weights do you get for your goats? (Meat)
  • How much fiber and what type do you get from your goats? (Fleece)
  • How much milk do you get from your goats? Are you on milk test? (Dairy)

Before you make a final decision to bring goats on to your property, check your local zoning regulations to make sure they’re allowed — especially if you’re living in an urban area. More and more cities have begun to allow a limited number of miniature goats and other small livestock, but they may have special requirements you need to know about.

Preparing your property for raising goats

Bringing home goats requires some forethought on your part so that you can keep your goats safe and healthy and protect them from predators. Here’s a glimpse of the projects you need to undertake before you get your goats:

  • Build housing or get current housing ready. Goats need some kind of shelter from the elements and a safe place to bunk down. In addition, you might want a dedicated area for milking or kidding, if you decide to breed your goats.
  • Build a fence or check your fencing for security. Goats are smart and curious, and they will head out into the neighborhood if given the chance. Furthermore, wolves, wild dogs, and other predators would love to be able to get at your goats, and so you need to do your best to keep them out.
  • Buy feed and feeding equipment. Goats need hay, grain, minerals, and other supplemental feed, depending on the kind of goats you get, their stage of life, and the way you intend to use them. And, of course, your goats need clean, fresh water every day. At a minimum, you need:
    • Feed storage containers
    • Food bowls
    • Hay manger
    • Mineral feeder
    • Water buckets
  • Put together a first aid kit. Accidents and illnesses are inevitable, and so you need to be ready for common problems you’re likely to face as you raise goats, from stopping the bleeding from a hoof-trimming injury to giving injections to combat infections or illnesses.
  • Goat-proof your yard or pasture. Goats are browsers, which means that they move from plant to plant and tree to tree, eating all the way. Some of the common plants that homeowners use for landscaping can poison goats, and so you need to clear them out. You may also want to protect the trees that you can’t or don’t want to remove but adding some protection to their trunks.

Signs of a sick goat

Your goats will let you know when something’s wrong, but you need to recognize the signs. You need to investigate further or begin taking action if you see the following signs of illness:

  • Not chewing cud
  • Not getting up
  • Pressing their head against a wall or fence
  • Not eating
  • Feces aren’t pelleted
  • Not urinating or straining to urinate
  • Not drinking
  • Pale or gray eyelids or gums
  • Hot udder
  • Limping or staggering
  • Ears held oddly
  • Isolating from the herd
  • Grinding teeth
  • Coughing
  • Unusual crying
  • Runny nose or eyes

Preparing for a vet visit

Before you call a vet to come to your farm or bring a goat in for a non-routine care visit — unless it is a serious emergency — take a few steps to make sure that your goat gets the most appropriate care.

Make notes of the goat’s symptoms, how long it has been sick, and the medications or other care you’ve given so far. Sometimes remembering everything is hard when you’re under stress, and having this kind of information to share helps the vet make a correct diagnosis.

If you have time, do the following before your vet visit:

  • Take the goat’s temperature
  • Check their gums for color
  • Listen for heart rate and ruminations
  • Note whether the goat has:
    • Injuries
    • Crusty eyes
    • Breathing problems or coughing
    • Diarrhea
  • Check for dehydration by pinching the skin on the neck in front of the shoulder, using your thumb and forefinger. Note whether the skin snaps back to its normal position quickly or stays in a tent before it slowly goes back to normal. A slow return to normal indicates that the goat is dehydrated.

Record all of your observations for the vet’s reference. Also be ready to share the goat’s history of prior illness, vaccinations, and other health care information.

If the vet will be making a farm call, ask whether you can do anything before they arrive. For example, they might want a urine or fecal sample. You also need to catch the goat and put it in a confined, lighted area while waiting for the vet to arrive.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Cheryl K. Smith has raised a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf and Oberian dairy goats under the herd name Mystic Acres since 1998. She is the owner of karmadillo Press and is the author of Goat Health Care, Goat Midwifery, The Best of Ruminations Goat Milk and Cheese Recipes, and Raising Goats: Some Essentials.

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