Raising Goats For Dummies book cover

Raising Goats For Dummies

By: Cheryl K. Smith Published: 03-16-2021

No buts: discover the addictive joy of raising goats

Goats are amazing, multi-talented creatures that have been domesticated for over 10,000 years. As well as being a source of food, clothes, and milk, they're wonderful companions: cute, intelligent, and playful—and often as friendly and attentive as dogs. In addition, they make endearing noises and—according to ancient Ethiopian legend—discovered coffee. So what's holding you back? The new edition of Raising Goats For Dummies rebuts all your excuses, and shows you why having one—or, actually, a few—of these companionable ruminants (cud-chewing animals) in your life will bring you great joy, and, if you choose, unbeatable homemade milk and cheese—and possibly a cozy new sweater.

A happy goat aficionado since 1998, Cheryl K. Smith takes you from the grassroots of raising your goat—choosing and buying the breed you want, building and maintaining goat-friendly housing—to more elevated terrain, including how to build your own milk stand, participate in online goat shows (it’s a thing!), and even monetize your goat. You'll also learn the fundamentals of proper care to make sure your goats are fed, kept healthy, and bred in ways that ensure they have the happiest life you can provide.

  • Study the history and breeds of goat, like the Nigerian Dwarf or Pygmy
  • Live sustainably from and even profit from your goat
  • Identify and alleviate common ailments
  • Have fun raising the kids!

Whether you're researching buying a goat or learning on the hoof about the ones you have, this book has everything you need to see why getting your goat will bring years and years of joy.

Articles From Raising Goats For Dummies

page 1
page 2
15 results
15 results
How to Draw Blood from a Goat

Article / Updated 07-22-2021

A veterinarian will come out to your farm to do most kinds of tests on your goats. But you can be more sustainable and save money by drawing blood from your goats and sending the samples directly to a lab. Ask your veterinarian or another breeder who is comfortable with drawing blood to show you how they do it, or follow the steps below. Your veterinarian or another breeder can also help you find out where to send samples from your area and how to ship. To get an idea of shipping requirements, see the Universal Biomedical Research Laboratory (Livestock Diagnostics). Necessary supplies To draw blood, you need a helper to hold the goat, as well as the following supplies: Alcohol prep wipes 3 ml syringes with 3/4-inch 20-gauge needles, one for each goat Vacutainer tubes (from a veterinary supply store or vet) The color of the container top varies according to the type of test to be done. Make sure you have the correct tubes. Clippers, if you need to shave the area Paper, pen, and permanent marker Drawing blood Here's how to draw blood for testing: Make a list of all goats to be tested, numbering each one. Label the tube with the name of the goat, the date, and your name or farm name. Have the helper back the goat into a corner and hold the goat's nose with one hand and around the chest with the other. Find the jugular vein by pressing on the left side of the goat's throat near the bottom of the neck. The vein pops up slightly when you press on it. If you need to, shave the area to more easily locate the vein. Feel the vein and insert the needle. Remove the needle cap and insert the needle upward into the skin and vein at an angle nearly parallel to the vein. Be careful not to the push the needle through the vein. Gently pull back on the plunger. If blood does not enter the syringe, remove the needle and start over. If you see blood in the syringe, continue pulling the plunger until you have 3 cc. Remove the needle, replace the cap, and put pressure on the goat's neck for 30 seconds. Remove the needle cap, insert the needle into the goat's labeled tube and inject the blood. When you have finished drawing blood from your goats, refrigerate the samples or prepare them for delivery to the lab or veterinary office.

View Article
How to Assess Your Goat's Health by Observing Rumination

Article / Updated 06-21-2021

If you're new to raising goats in your effort to live sustainably, you may not know that rumination is a good indicator of your goat's health. Because rumination is an essential part of how goats digest food, you can use cud-chewing habits as an indicator of goat health. A ruminating goat is eating and generating heat and energy. You can determine whether a goat is ruminating in two ways: by looking for cud-chewing and by listening to the goat's body. Digestion Goats are ruminants, which means that they have four stomach compartments and part of their digestive process includes regurgitating partially digested food and chewing it, called ruminating. This kind of digestive system needs a plant-based diet. The goat stomach consists of three forestomachs — the rumen, reticulum, and omasum — and a true stomach, the abomasum. The forestomachs are responsible for grinding and digesting hay, with the help of bacteria. The last compartment, the abomasum, is similar to the human stomach and digests most proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. A goat's rumen is located on the left side of the abdomen. You can watch this area or feel the side of the abdomen for movement. The rumen is the largest of the forestomachs, with a 1- to 2-gallon capacity. Rumination Signs The best way to determine whether a goat is ruminating and the strength and frequency of rumination is to listen. Often, ruminations are loud enough that you can hear them by just sitting next to the goat. If you can't hear them, put your head up to the left side of your goat's abdomen. If you still have trouble hearing ruminations, use a stethoscope. You can purchase an inexpensive stethoscope from a livestock supply catalog. Healthy ruminations are loud, sound kind of like a growling stomach, and occur about two or three times a minute. If they are weak or infrequent, give your goat some roughage and probiotics ("good" microbes given orally that protect against disease) to stimulate the rumen and to add to the rumen bacteria. Look around your herd to see whether each goat is chewing its cud. A good time for this is the early afternoon, when the goats are resting before their last go at the pasture for the day. Usually, at least two-thirds of them will be ruminating at the same time. Take a closer look at any goats that aren't chewing cud. If they don't look well in some other way, go up to them and listen for rumination sounds.

View Article
Supplying and Maintaining Bedding for Your Goats

Article / Updated 06-21-2021

If you've decided to raise goats to further your sustainable lifestyle, before you bring them home, you need to provide them shelter and bedding. Bedding for goats has two purposes: to provide a more comfortable area on which goats can walk and lie down and to absorb the goats’ urine and feces. You have several options for bedding: Straw: Straw is easy to store because it comes in bales, and it’s inexpensive. Wheat straw is preferable to other straws because it's easier to muck out when used, it's less dusty, and the goats like to eat it when it’s fresh. Wood shavings: Depending on where you live, wood shavings may be a better option. If you’re in a region with little rain, you won’t have a problem with storage, because you can even keep it outside. Wood pellets: Wood pellets absorb urine and odors but are too hard and uncomfortable by themselves for goats to use as bedding. They also are expensive. When the bedding gets saturated with water, urine, and feces, it becomes a perfect breeding ground for flies and parasites and must be mucked out. Mucking out a barn involves removing all the used bedding down to the floor and replacing it with clean bedding to prevent the spread of parasites and other problems. How frequently you need to muck your barn depends on the size of the area and how many goats you have. In the winter, if you live in a cold area, you can allow the muck to build up and add new bedding to the top. This provides extra heat for the goats from the composting bedding under the fresh layer. In the summer, you may be able to get away with mucking only once a month or so if your goats spend more time outdoors. If you have a large area to be mucked and are lucky enough to have a tractor or similar equipment, you can use that. But if you have only a backyard or a small homestead, you’ll have to muck by hand. To muck a barn by hand, you need Gloves Muck boots or old shoes A pitchfork A wheelbarrow Pace yourself. If you have a large area, start on one side and finish that first. You can do the other half the next day. It can help to have one or two people removing the used bedding and one running the wheelbarrow. Use gloves to prevent blisters and muck boots to keep your shoes and clothes clean. If the used bedding is very deep, to save your back, take it off in layers with your pitchfork rather than trying to lift huge chunks. Move all of the used bedding to a single pile in a place where goats won’t be tempted to play on it. The pile may seem high at first, but with rain and time, it will shrink down to nice compost. Some people cover their muck pile with a tarp to aid in composting. Because goat manure doesn’t burn plants like chicken manure does, you can put it directly on the garden, if you choose.

View Article
How to Tell When Your Goat Will Kid

Article / Updated 06-21-2021

As part of your sustainable lifestyle, you'll want to be able to handle the routine birth of goats without calling in a vet. As the time nears for your goat to kid, you may get just as nervous as she does. She most likely can kid on her own, but you want to make sure that she has a clean, safe place to do so. Here are some tips on how to tell when your goat is getting close to kidding. Reading the ligaments A goat's rump is normally flat and solid, but as a doe gets to the end of pregnancy, that changes. Her tailbone becomes elevated, and the ligaments that connect it to her pelvis begin to stretch and loosen in preparation for the journey the kid (or kids) will make from her body. Sometimes you can tell that she will kid soon when you see a hollow on either side of the tail. One of the best ways to identify an impending kidding is to feel the two tail ligaments located on each side of the tail. Feel a doe that isn't pregnant and you will notice that those ligaments are very firm. The same will be true of a doe that is pregnant but not ready to kid. When these ligaments begin to get soft, and then completely vanish, you know that the goat is due to kid within 24 hours. You may make a mistake the first few times you try to read the ligaments, but over time you find the technique to be almost foolproof. Check the ligaments on a goat to tell whether she is going to kid. A few weeks before the doe is ready to kid, start feeling her ligaments routinely. One day you will find that they've turned to mush, and then you will know that it's time to put her in the kidding pen. Identifying other signs of impending kidding Besides softened ligaments, a doe will show other signs of kidding. Each doe might exhibit different signs, so keep an eye out for a change in behavior. Some other signs to look for include Isolation: The doe stands off from the crowd, sometimes seeming "spaced out." Mucus discharge: You may observe some whitish or yellowish discharge on her vulva. Firm, shiny udder: Her udder may become tight and filled up, called bagging up. Loss of appetite: She may become uninterested in food. Personality change: She may start fighting with other goats or become overly friendly to you when she was previously standoffish. Restlessness: She may lie down, then get up, paw at the ground, and just seem uncomfortable. When you have checked her ligaments and they're soft, or when you notice her exhibiting any or a combination of these signs around her due date, put her in the kidding pen, give her some fresh hay or alfalfa and observe her in this environment. When you have determined to your satisfaction that this is the day, turn on the baby monitor and leave her to focus on the mysterious process of having a kid.

View Article
How to Protect Your Goats from Predators

Article / Updated 06-21-2021

If you're going to raise goats, you need to watch out for common predators in your area, even if you are well within the city. Most of the animals that we traditionally think of as predators, such as wolves and bobcats, are rarely found in the city. But, smaller predators like dogs and birds of prey are much more common. Young goats, also known as kids, are particularly at risk because they are small and lack life experience. The best way to ensure that your goats are safe, especially if you don’t have a guardian animal, is to make sure that they're secured in a building with no open windows from dusk until dawn. Make sure the door closes and latches to prevent animals from getting in and goats from getting out. Here are some of the more common goat predators to guard against: Domestic or feral dogs: Dogs are the worst predators of goats, attacking and killing more often than any wild animal and doing it for fun rather than because they’re hungry. Dogs go after goats individually or in packs, with pack attacks being the worst. Dogs dig under fences to get to goats. You can identify a dog attack because dogs usually go for a goat’s hind legs and rear end. Goats that are attacked by dogs often have to be euthanized. Coyotes: Eastern coyotes hunt individually, looking for weak members of a herd; western coyotes hunt in packs. You can tell the difference between a coyote attack and a dog attack because dogs chase and try to get as many goats as they can, while coyotes go for the throat and then try to get at a goat’s internal organs. They may even try to carry the animal away for safe eating. Cougars: Cougars hunt individually. They leave tooth punctures and claw marks on the upper torso when they attack a goat. They also have been known to drag their prey a distance away, bury it, and come back later to eat. A good livestock guardian dog will normally deter a cougar unless it is very hungry. If you live in an area with cougars, get more than one livestock guardian dog to protect your goats. Birds: Ravens and black vultures sometimes attack goats, especially when goats are down from sickness or trying to have their kids outside. Ravens peck an animal’s head and gouge out its eyes. Ravens also attack in groups, which causes a problem for goats trying to protect more than one kid. The USDA recommends hanging a vulture carcass (real or fake) to deter vultures. Owls, eagles, and large hawks also may bother small kids, especially if they get separated from their mothers and cry. You can prevent losses to all types of birds by making sure your goats have safe, indoor kidding pens. Other predators: Wolves, bears, foxes, wild pigs, and even feral cats will go after goats if their regular food supply is disrupted. Humans are also predators on goats — some rustling for food, but others killing for the fun of it, or for some other misguided reason. Don’t tether your goats. A tethered goat is a bait for any predator that lives in the area. Instead of tethering your goats, build them a proper fence, or if you need to move them around, use cattle panel sections or electric wire to create a barrier that you can move from place to place during the day. And supervise them or get them a guardian for protection.

View Article
How Much to Feed Pregnant and Lactating Goats

Article / Updated 06-20-2021

If you're raising goats as part of a green lifestyle, you need an overall feeding program to keep your goats at maximal performance, but at times you need to make exceptions for certain goats or categories of goats. Pregnant goats, milking does, kids, and senior goats need special attention and modified diets. Pregnant does Pregnant does don't have increased nutritional needs until the last two months of gestation, when the kids do 70 percent of their growing. They also need additional water throughout pregnancy. A feeding program for pregnant goats includes: Early pregnancy (first 3 months): Feed does to maintain their body condition or to improve their body condition if they are thin. You can meet their nutritional requirements with good hay or pasture, or some added grain for thin does. Unless they're lactating, does don't need grain in early pregnancy. Do not overfeed. Overfeeding can lead to complications such as hypocalcemia and ketosis. Throughout pregnancy: Monitor and compensate for pregnant does' increased water consumption. Pregnant goats can drink up to four gallons a day. Monitor body condition and adjust feed and water accordingly. Late pregnancy (last two months): Does' nutritional requirements increase greatly during this time because the unborn kids are growing rapidly. Start grain gradually (just a handful a day) until your does are eating up to a half-pound of grain a day (depending on the goat size and breed) or half to two-thirds of their normal milking ration by the time they kid, in addition to hay. Gradually replace their hay with alfalfa so they get the proper balance of calcium and phosphorus. Continue to monitor their body condition and adjust feed accordingly; does carrying multiple kids need even more calories and nutrients. Make sure not to overfeed grain during pregnancy to avoid the risk of having the kids grow so large that the doe has birthing difficulties. Milking does Milking does, or does that are nursing their kids, have higher nutritional needs than other goats. You will likely have started your pregnant goats on grain and gotten them used to eating a substantial amount of grain during the last two months of pregnancy. Continue this feeding, even increasing it to several pounds a day, according to the doe's body condition and the number of kids she is feeding or the amount of milk she is producing. Also, make sure that she is drinking plenty of fresh, clean water.

View Article
Raising Goats For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 06-18-2021

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.

View Cheat Sheet
Preparing Your Property for Raising Goats

Article / Updated 06-18-2021

Bringing home goats requires some forethought on your part so that you can keep your goats safe, healthy, and protected 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, 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 grazers, 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 by adding some protection to their trunks.

View Article
How to Take Your Goat’s Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration

Article / Updated 06-17-2021

Part of a green lifestyle may include raising goats. As a goat owner, you need to know how to check your animal’s vital signs. Checking your goat’s temperature, pulse, and respiration can tell you a lot about its overall health. Taking a goat’s temperature Taking a goat’s temperature is easy. You need either a digital or traditional glass thermometer that you can buy from a feed store, a drug store, or a livestock supply catalog. Both types are fairly inexpensive. If you use a glass thermometer, make sure you shake it down before you start so that it reads accurately. Tie a string around one end of a glass thermometer so that you can retrieve it if it goes too far. To take a goat’s temperature, get your thermometer and take the following steps: Immobilize the goat. You can hold a small kid across your lap. Secure an adult in a stanchion, have a helper hold him still, or tie him to a gate or fence. Lubricate your thermometer. Use KY jelly or petroleum jelly. Insert the thermometer a few inches into the goat’s rectum. Hold the thermometer in place for at least two minutes. Slowly remove the thermometer. Read the temperature and record it on the goat’s health record. Clean the thermometer. Use an alcohol wipe or a cotton ball that has been wet with alcohol. A goat’s normal temperature is 102 degrees to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. But it can be a degree higher or lower, depending on the goat. A goat’s temperature can also go up or down throughout the day. On a hot day, you can expect some of your goats to have higher temperatures. To determine what a normal temperature is for your goats, be sure to take their temperatures when they are healthy and keep a record of it. Measure their temperatures on a hot day and a normal day so you have an accurate baseline. Checking a goat’s pulse The normal pulse for an adult goat is 70 to 90 beats per minute. Kids’ heart rates may be twice that fast. To take your goat’s pulse: Make sure she is calm and resting. Find the goat’s artery below and slightly inside the jaw with your fingers. Watch a clock and count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to get the pulse rate. Checking a goat’s respiration The normal respiration rate for an adult goat is 10 to 30 breaths per minute. For a kid it is 20 to 40 breaths per minute. To count respirations, simply watch the goat’s side when she is calm and resting. For 60 seconds, count one respiration for each time the goat’s side rises and falls.

View Article
How to Hand-Milk a Goat

Article / Updated 06-16-2021

If you're raising goats as part of a green, sustainable lifestyle, you'll want to milk them. Hand-milking a goat isn't difficult, but you do have to practice to be efficient at it. Some goats are like cows and have teats that are large enough for you to use all your fingers on them, while others are so small that you can only use three fingers. Never pull on the teat. This is not how milk is extracted, and it can cause injury to the mammary system. Wrap your thumb and forefinger around the teat to trap the milk and then gently squeeze it out. You need few supplies to milk a goat: Milk stand: Although people milk their goats in every situation imaginable, investing in a milk stand will make milking easier. Stainless steel bucket: Start with a six-quart bucket unless you're milking Nigerian Dwarves or Pygmies, which require a smaller one because they're shorter. Udder-washing supplies: You can use an old plastic coffee can with hot water and dish soap, rags made from towels cut into smaller pieces, and paper towels for drying. You need to wash the container after every milking and rinse with boiling water or a bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water). Teat sanitizing supplies: You need teat dip and cups or spray teat sanitizer, which you can purchase from a dairy supply company or feed store. Stainless steel strainer and milk filters: You can buy strainers and filters from a dairy supply company or feed store. Jars for milk storage: Half-gallon mason jars with plastic lids work great, because the plastic doesn't rust when it gets wet. To hand-milk a goat, follow these steps: Get the goat onto the milk stand and secure her in the stanchion with some grain for her to eat. Wash your hands. Clean the udder and teats with warm water and soap or sanitize with a wipe such as Milk Check Teat Wipes and dry them with a clean paper towel. Make sure to thoroughly dry your hands. Wrap your fingers and thumb around each teat to trap some milk in the teat and squeeze to quickly milk one or two squirts from each teat into a cup. This step allows you to check for abnormalities and removes any milk close to the surface of the teat that is more likely to be contaminated with bacteria. If the milk is abnormal, dispose of it after milking. Promptly milk the goat using a sanitized bucket, being careful not to pull on the teats. If you take too long to milk, the goat may start dancing or causing other mischief. When you think the udder is empty, massage the back and bottom of the udder and bump it gently with your fist in the front near the teats to encourage further let-down. Pour the milk through a clean, filtered strainer into a clean jar. Dip or spray the teats with a sanitizer such as Derma Sept Teat Dip. If you use dip cups, use a clean one for each goat to avoid cross-contamination. Return the goat to the herd. Have some fresh hay or alfalfa and fresh water available for the goat right after milking. She will eat and drink, instead of lying down and exposing an open teat orifice to bacteria. Clean the bucket and strainer and air dry. Rinse the bucket and strainer with tepid water right away. Wash with warm soapy water and rinse with boiling water or a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water. To practice milking without fear of injuring the goat, use a rubber glove filled with water and tied shut at the top. This will give you an idea of how closing the teat (finger) off from the udder (hand) traps the water in the finger, allowing you to capture the liquid by squeezing the teat.

View Article
page 1
page 2