Can I let you in on a little secret? Although I did a lot of reading, rereading and research before I got goats, I was not prepared. February of 2013 my husband and I drove about 2 hours from home to pick up our first goats. They were two newborn doelings who were so cute my heart nearly stopped when I saw them. I got them home only to be overwhelmed. One would not take a bottle, and constantly ground her teeth, the other ate too much and had diarrhea. They both got pneumonia, and one got navel ill, which can be fatal and crippling. Somehow I made it through, and in the almost 2 years since I've learned more than I thought possible. If you are thinking of adding goats to your farm or homestead, here are 5 things to keep in mind.
This is the most important aspect to buying goats. You should buy goats from clean, disease tested herds. If you are buying from someone and they say they are disease free, do not take them at their word. Ask to see documentation. If they have none, request disease testing be done. You can buy them untested and do the testing yourself, but the main goat diseases are nasty and can live in the soil for years. You want your goats to come from CL, CAE, and Johnes free herds. If you are buying nubians you are also looking for G6 normal. In case you are curious, here is a brief overview of these diseases:
CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephilitis) This is a disease that can be transferred from goat to goat, but is commonly passed form doe to her kids through milk. Most kids are not affected, but those that are suffer from encephalitis seizures. Adults who have CAE can have a range of symptoms, most being arthritis in joints, swollen knees, and hard udders with low production. Pasteurization kills the CAE virus, so you can pasteurize the milk and feed it to the kids. As far as I know it is not dangerous to humans.
CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis) CL is a serious disease. Any goat that is found to have CL should be culled. CL causes both external and internal abcesses. If an abcess ruptures the exudate contaminates anything it comes in contact with. This is zoonotic in nature, and can be contagious to humans.
Johnes disease is similar to Chrones disease in humans. This causes weight loss, and wasting in animals. It is important to test your herd for this as it may also be zoonotic.
As you can see, herd health is extremely important. And the other important thing to remember is that these diseases are NOT TREATABLE. Once a goat has these they will always have them, and in some cases your land may be contaminated for years.
You are already headed in the right direction by reading something like this. I encourage you to keep reading! Read everything you can get your hands on, books, articles, blog posts and forums. Ask loads of questions, even if they seem silly. Goats are a very tricky creature. They can bloat quickly, succumb to parasites quickly, and when stressed are prone to pneumonia. Before bringing your goats home, you need a basic understanding of what is and is not normal. Along with that you need to have the supplies at the ready if they do bloat, get cut, or get pneumonia. (There are obviously more than just these things!) If you are raising bottle babies you will need to start cocci treatments at 3 weeks old, don't wait to get those supplies! Time is of the essence when treating a sick goat. They are not like other livestock that can "wait until morning". Morning usually means the goat is dead. If your goat is going to get sick, I can almost guarantee it'll be at midnight or on a holiday when the stores are closed! Along with having these supplies ready, you should also make sure you have shelter for them along with a safe area for them to roam. Goats are extremely hard to keep in, so do plenty of research! To sum this up before a goat steps onto your land, buy medicines, probiotics, hay, syringes, baking soda, needles, nutridrench, etc. If you can't afford it you may not be ready to bring those goats home.
This is something serious enough it get's to have it's own section. You know that phrase, "The grass is greener on the other side." Well goats take that literally. As in whatever is on the other side of the fence is THE BEST GRASS/TREE/LEAF ever. Goats are hard on fencing, and most fencing types are not suitibale for goats. You cannot just string something together and expect it to hold. They will use fencing as help to stand on their tippy toes to reach a particular leaf, they rub on them to scratch themselves, and will climb, jump, or crawl under it if they can. Barbed wire is a huge no no, and will only result in an injured goat. One of the main areas we used to hold our goats in was tube gates for cattle. It took absolutely forever to get it secure. Anyplace too high we had to put something along the ground because they would crawl under. They are also adept as squeezing their squishy bellies through narrow openings! My favorite fencing for goats is cattle panels. They are quick to erect and sturdy.
While goats do not eat tin cans, they will eat the label off. They are very food motivated, and food curious. They will let you know if they do not like something, but throwing a fit, sneezing, spitting and acting like you tried to poison them. Goats are not sheep, they do not walk around a pasture all day grazing. They love and spend most of their time browsing. This means they eat trees, leaves, thistles, and brush. The only exception to this is during the winter and early spring when there is really only grass available. We have been absolutely amazed at their ability to clear fences of brush. If you want or intend to keep goats, but do not have a lot of brush for them to eat, it doesn't mean goats are not an option. It does mean you will have to buy much more in the way of hay. You can also take your goats on a walk to available brushy areas, or even have friends bring by and brush they've cleared (if people drop off brush be able to identify it and make sure it is not poisonous to goats, nor that it's been sprayed with any chemicals).
As a goat owner be ready for an onslaught of different ideas and practices. Some say give grain daily, others say don't. Some believe in disbudding to remove horns, and some don't. There is advice to worm monthly, and advice that says never worm on a schedule. Some people keep their extra bucklings to butcher, some sell them. How will you castrate? Will you use a burridizo, bands, or cutting. I think it's good if you know what your intentions are with raising goats. My goal is to raise healthy goats who give me milk. Eventually, maybe meat. I want to raise my goats as close to how God intended as possible, it means that I keep the horns. Although I like to keep things as organic and antibiotic free as possible, sometimes chemicals and antibiotics have their place. Sometimes an animal needs an antibiotic, just like a person, and I wouldn't refuse that treatment. Some of these things you need to know right away, others you'll just cross the bridge when you get there. And sometimes you'll start off one way only to find yourself headed in the wrong direction.
In conclusion, getting goats isn't something that should be done quickly, or without proper thought or preparation. However, you can only read and research so much before you have to just take the plunge. When I started reading and researching I had second thoughts bout getting goats. People make them seem very fragile and very frustrating. The other end of that is that they are quite charming creatures. Each and every time they see me, I am greeted by bleats, both soft and murderously loud. They follow nearly like dogs when we go on walks and rub along my legs to be petted.
So to summarize...read, research, prepare...and get a goat.
Do you raise goats? Have any questions not addressed in this article? Leave it in the comment section!
Linked Up At:
Home Acre Hop
Homestead Blog Hop
Back 2 Basics
Old Fashioned Friday
Front Porch Friday
From the Farm Hop
My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.