Thursday, September 18, 2014

Goats - The Basics

Like any living creatures, goats need food, water and shelter. They are relatively easy to keep, but do require a bit of maintenance.


Our home-made hay manger
Goats are browsers, so they should have access to a wide variety of plant matter in order to stay healthy. Goats will munch on grass, weeds, leaves, twigs, and bark. If these items are in short supply or winter snow has covered them, hay should be provided. It is also a good idea to have some grain for those little fellows to nibble on. A little goes a long way, so watch your portions! Over feeding grain will cause your goats to become overweight (like mine.) Especially at risk for grain-induced obesity are wethered bucks and does which are not pregnant or in milk. My dry doe and her wether son tend to hog more than their fair share of grain and, therefore, are quite fat indeed. I wonder if they would go jogging? They certainly need it.
Well-used salt block
Some type of mineral should also be provided, either in the form of a salt block or in a granulated form mixed with grain. Goats benefit from mineral mixes that are high in copper. Take care if you are keeping your goats with sheep or other forms of livestock, though. Too much copper can kill sheep.
Always feed goats from a bin, bowl or trough. Eating grain off of the ground can increase worm infestation, and may lead to coccidosis, which may be lethal.


Our raised trough
Goats need access to clean water at all times. Goats will not drink dirty water, and can become dehydrated as a result. If keeping your goats with any type of waterfowl (ducks, geese, etc) be sure to raise your water troughs off the ground a bit to discourage bathing in them. One method that we use is to put your trough on top of an old tire.


The goats' and birds' mansion
Goats need a spot to get out of the rain, snow, wind and sun. It doesn't need to be a fancy or particularly large structure, just has to have a roof and at least three walls. Our goats are spoiled. They have a two-room house that they share with the birds, windows, a shingle roof, and a covered porch.


Since hooves are continually growing, they need to be checked and trimmed on a regular basis. I like to try to trim hooves every month or two, but check the hooves and feet every week or so for length, soundness, injuries, or signs of rot. Hoof root can occur when feet are not kept trimmed and clean. A sharp pair of garden shears (with narrow blades) and a drywall rasp will do well for trimming and shaping goat hooves. I will be posting an article on trimming hooves, so please be sure to check back later for more detailed information!


All goats have worms. Although it is impossible to eliminate worms entirely, steps should be taken to keep their numbers as low as possible. Worm your goats on a regular basis, but step up your efforts during the springtime, or when stress levels are high (moved to another area, added new goat to herd, change in diet.) Worming medication comes in an oral suspension, an injectable, or in pelleted forms. You can choose which method you prefer, but try to change it up periodically so that the worms don't build a resistance. If you need help on the subject, I hope to write an article in the future on how to administer worming medication. In the meantime, check with a goat breeder or livestock veterinarian if you have any questions on administration or dosages.


Your goats will need a CDT shot annually. Their first shot can be administered after they are about 8 weeks of age. Please check back frequently, as I hope to write an article in the future on giving injections to goats. When in doubt, seek out an experienced hand. Either from a veterinarian, or a trusted goat breeder.


Goat-proofed peach tree
Goats explore with their mouths, and will chew anything that they can fit in their mouths. As a result, great care must be taken when deciding which items are appropriate to keep within access of goats. So far, our goats have eaten the wiring for our sprinkler timer, torn apart and broken plastic flower pots, torn up weed blocking plastic sheeting under the gravel in the back yard, eaten the wiring and igniter switch on a barbecue grill, and are currently working on stripping the bark off of one of our trees. They also eat any piece of paper or plastic bag that happens to blow into their territory. The only thing that seems to deter goats from doing whatever it is that they are doing, that they know they shouldn't be doing (like eating chicken feed, or climbing up on the back porch,) is spraying them with the hose. Getting wet is very low on their list of preferred activities.