Goat Care

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul.  Psalm 23: 1-3 



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 My Favorite Goat Care Sites:

Hoegger's Goat Supply 

Custom Milling (Golden Blend Minerals)

PBS Animal Health for Goats 

Fias Co Farm (extensive information)

Goat World - Goat Nutrition 

Goat World Nutrition Analysis

Goat Dairy Library   Excellent resource for all goat-keepers.

Study on Copper Deficiencies

 



Every goat keeper has  an opinion about the best way to care for goats.  Our care giving has evolved over the years and we owe a lot of our knowledge to others who have shared what they know with us.  Our method is still changing as we try to approach things in an even more natural manner.  This is our current method and it is working well for us, but we are still learning and remain open to the wisdom of others.  Please check out the links to the resources and herd web-sites that we have found most useful to the left.

How do we care for our goats?

Food - I know a lot of goat keepers feed whatever is on hand  or cheap and try to save money by using products that were not designed specifically for goats.  While I understand the economic factor in this practice, I believe that vet bills and herd losses can be reduced substantially by using feeds and supplements designed specifically for goats.  This takes the guess-work out of nutrition and helps the goats develop to their full genetic potential. 

We have tried various feeds for our goats.  We used to feed Purina Goat Chow which is adequate and goats like it.  In our last herd, we used a recipe from Springbriar Farms which resulted in sleek coats, but the feed from the mill was never consistent and tended to look like fluff.  The goats liked it well enough, but for our small herd, the trouble to get it made in a large enough batch and the risk of having it go sour was not economical.   I never thought that I would like a pelleted feed and had tried a few with no success as the goats wouldn't eat it.  Our feed supplier was out of Purina one day, and they suggested I try the Dairy Goat Power Pellets from Moorman.  I was skeptical, but we needed feed, so I got some to try.  The goats loved it!    The goats clean their plates and it takes less feed to get them into condition than either of the previous feeds that we tried.  People are always asking at shows how we are growing such "monsters" in size.  On all the other feeds, our girls tended to be small in stature and skinny compared to the others at the shows.  The only thing we are doing differently is allowing the kids to nurse their dams from the beginning, and feeding them the pelleted feed free choice as they are growing.   

They also get Alfalfa as kids until they are a year old and then we switch them to grass hay until they freshen.  The dams and kids eat together on Alfalfa or mixed hay.  When we milk the does, the kids climb up and eat the ration out of their mom's dish, or if they can't reach, we put a dish on the floor for them to nibble at from the very first week.  I'd like to make a creep feeder and have tried, but the does get into trouble by trying to break into it to get to the feed.  I had one doe get stuck and so I still haven't gotten one made that will work yet.  We separate the doelings and the bucklings as soon as the boys start to really bother the girls at about 10 weeks.  We allow the doelings to stay with their moms longer than the bucklings.   Once they are separated, we give them ration free choice up to a year old and then back it down to 1 cup at each feeding for wethers and dry yearling does.  Wethers at one year old are given grass hay, 1 cup of ration at each feeding and some kind of urinary calculi prevention.  Bucks are fed more to keep them in condition during breeding season.   Our buck is currently getting 1 lb. of ration twice a day to build up his condition for breeding season.  Watch your buck's weight to make sure that he is in good condition but not overweight for breeding season.  It is hard to maintain their condition once they are in full rut.  Encourage them to eat during this time if you have to separate them temporarily to make sure they are getting enough nutrition.

How do you know if a goat is at a healthy weight for their size?  You can tell by running your hand down their spine.  If you can't easily feel the spine or ribs, your goat is overweight which can result in breeding problems and lead to ketosis.  If you can feel the bony spine and ribs easily, your goat needs to put on some weight.  Pregnant and lactating goats need to be assessed regularly for their weight and their feed adjusted to give them enough energy to maintain their ideal weight.  You should be able to feel the spine with some extra fat on either side and no sharpness.  Even though you may be tempted, do not keep more goats than you can afford to feed.

Minerals - We use Golden Blend Goat Minerals available from Hoegger's or direct from the Custom Milling and offer this daily, free choice.  It is very important for goats to have a mineral supplement with copper included.  Remember copper is bad for sheep, but good for goats. 

See Copper Deficiency study at Saanandoah for extensive information and photos.  If your water has a lot of sulfur in it, (smells like rotten eggs) your goats could be in danger of Copper deficiency.  Take steps to protect your herd before they experience irreversible damage.

Vitamins - We give Nutri-Drench for goats when our does are stressed due to kidding, worm-overload, showing or moving.

Probiotics - I consider this a daily necessity.  We top dress with Goats Prefer Probiotic Powder to keep their rumens working at top efficiency.

Baking Soda - We offer this when they change feeding conditions or develop burps.  Ideally you should offer this free choice at all times.

Fresh water - Dairy Goats need lots of fresh water, especially when in milk.  We change their water twice a day and add Gatoraide powder to their water at the shows.

Forage - We live in a densely wooded area, but over the past 10 years the goats have eliminated all of the undergrowth and are just left with weeds and are now starting to debark the trees.   A pasture would be very nice, but not practical on our north facing hill.  Therefore, we feed quality grass hay and alfalfa throughout the summer months and are looking for a neighbor who may allow us to browse our girls on their land.

Pest Control - This year we have been using fly predators throughout the fly season.  I have seen an improvement of the fly population through the season and expect that the flies will be minimal next year.

Parasite Control - worms, mites and lice are common in goats.  We use various means to control them, such as Safe-guard goat wormer or Ivermectin for internal parasites.  Lately, there have been reports of worms becoming resistant to wormers.  The old recommendations were to alternate wormers to avoid resistance, but now they believe that this very practice has led to increased resistance to wormers.  The latest recommendation is to only treat goats that show worm load and not to worm the whole herd at one time to reduce the number of resistant worms in the field.  They also recommend dosing the infected goats with wormer twice with a twelve hour interval to increase efficiency to over 90%.  Do not worm goats immediately before introducing them to a new field or before mixing them with other goats.

We have experienced worm overload this winter and are exploring alternatives to our current treatments which appear to have lost their effectiveness.  We will update this recommendation as we learn more.

We dust with diatomacious earth to control mites and lice.  Alternatively we use Co-Ral dust.  

In the spring we give Sulfa Dimethox to our kids as a Coccidia prevention.  Coccidia is a devastating infestation that is not evident until the kid develops scours at which time the damage  has already been done to the intestinal tract and growth will be stunted.  Coccidia can be fatal.  I believe that prevention is the best policy.

Vaccinations - We vaccinate annually for CD and T.    Does at 4 weeks before kidding and kids at disbudding with 2 week boosters.

Disbudding - Kids should be disbudded,  for their protection and the protection of herdmates and owners.  I love the look of horns, which were necessary in the wild for self-preservation.  A buck with a full set of horns is a majestic sight, however  the horns are very dangerous and all goats are unpredictable at times.  A wether that is gentle with family members may not take too kindly to a stranger.  We have all of our kids disbudded as soon as the horn buds are big enough to burn off completely.  We occasionally have to burn off developing scurs at a later date on bucklings.

Exercise - Our hilly terrain is ideal for Alpine Dairy goats as it gives them more exercise which is essential to healthy kidding.  Empty wooden wire spools and wooden boxes and see-saws for the kids can be added to a level pasture to give the growing kids exercise.

Fresh air   - Our goat shelter is open year round.  It is not healthy to keep goats in an enclosed barn.  We have only experienced one case of Pneumonia in the years that we have been goat keeping which a yearling caught at the county fair.  Fair barns should always be airy and open to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses.

Protection from Predators - We keep our girls in the shelter each night due to coyote activity in the area.   We used to keep a donkey, but she died due to Red Maple poisoning from some wind-fall.  Llamas and donkeys make excellent, easy care herd guardians.  Dogs such as Maremma, Great Pyrenees and Australian Shepherds who are raised with goats are wonderful at protecting their herds.

Fencing - We use electric wire fencing on our hill due to ease of installation.  It must be constantly maintained and checked after storms to make sure it is operational.  The girls know when it isn't working right and will take advantage and escape when it is off.  Bucks need at least a 6' high fence and I highly recommend running an electric wire around the inside perimeter to keep them away from the fence to discourage climbing.

Grooming - Goats should be brushed regularly to help rid them of external parasites and to allow you to have a closer inspection of their overall health and condition.  A good brushing prior to milking your doe will help keep the milk clean and fresh.  Bathing and clipping is necessary before shows.   Most important is their hoof trimmings.  We check their feet regularly and trim at least every 12 weeks to remove excess and keep their legs in proper alignment.