FAQ’s for Goat Raisers
By: Leslie, The Goat Source
What breed of goat should I raise?
Before deciding what breed of goat to raise, you need to decide what your reason for having goats is. If you want household milk, then a dairy breed is what you need. If you want to have a pet goat, just about any breed will do, but a wether (neutered male) is preferred. Meat goats can be of most any breed, but there are several breeds that are bred just for meat. Fiber goats are a specialized type of goat, raised for their hair. Pack goats need to be large, with good feet and legs. They are quite frequently cross bred goats.
The main dairy breeds are: Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Sannen, Toggenburg and Nigerian Dwarf.
Meat goats include Boer, and Pygmy, and Myatonic (fainting goats), Spanish goats and Kiko.
Some of the Fiber goats are
How much should I have to pay for a goat?
Goats are like anything else - you get what you pay for. A pet goat may cost as little as 10$ and a show champion may cost hundreds of dollars or even thousands. Shop around and compare so you can buy just what you want at a price you can afford! There are many places you can look for prices. Newsletters, classifieds, sale barn reports, USDA reports, magazines all may have current prices. Breeders usually have a price list.
What is the difference between a grade goat and a purebred goat?
Purebred goats have registration papers issued by an association (such as the American Dairy Goat Association). Grade goats do not have papers and may be of mixed parentage ( Crossbreds are a mix of two breeds - some grade goats have more than two breeds in their parentage.) The advantage of registered goats is that you know who their parents are and what their performance was - how much milk did the dam give, how large were the meat kids, etc...
What do goats eat?
Goats are browsers by nature and will eat many weeds and woody shrubs that don't look to appealing to us! But - this doesn't mean they don't need other good quality food. Goats should have fresh clean water available at all times & salt and minerals free choice. They should have all of the good quality hay they will clean up in a day. Alfalfa hay is the best for milking animals. If pasture is available, adjust the amount and kind of hay. Milking animals and growing kids need supplemental grain. As always, look at the body condition of the animals and feed accordingly.
What kind of shelter do goats need?
Goats need a place to stay out of the weather and wind. A three sided shed works nicely. A more elaborate barn can be used, but is not necessary.
A rule of thumb is 12 to 15 square feet of barn space per adult animal.
How do I fence my goats in?
They need a good solid fence that will keep them in and dogs and other pests out.
The goat is probably the hardest domestic animal to fence. I recommend at least 32" hog wire with two strands of smooth wire on top, and a hot wire about 6" above the ground and another one at about chest height on your goats. Bucks may require another hot wire. I use steel t-posts on 8' centers with railroad ties for corner posts. Sink all corner posts and braces at least 3' in the ground. Use sturdy gates (steel tube gates with hog panel welded on them are great) as the goats will stand on them. Make sure the hinges are well secured. Check frequently for damage.
How do I tell if my goat is in heat?
The goat is classified as seasonally polyestrous. This is a fancy way of saying that she comes in heat several times in the fall. Most goats start coming in heat when the days begin getting shorter in the fall. They will usually behave differently than normal - bleating or calling constantly, flagging or wagging the tail off and on or when you run your hand down her rump, & mounting other goats. Milk production may be down and she may not eat the same as usual. If there is a buck nearby, she might plant herself at the part of the fence nearest the buck and won't want to leave. Of course there is the exception to this rule. Some does never show any signs of heat. This is called a "silent heat" and can be very frustrating. Most does with silent heats will show signs of interest when teased with the buck, but not always. If you don't have a buck, get a "buck rag". This is a rag that is rubbed on the buck until it is nice and smelly and kept in an airtight jar. The doe gets to smell it every day twice a day until she shows interest.
Sometimes, the only way to get a doe bred is to run her with the buck. Do this for a minimum of three weeks after the first breeding, just in case it didn't take and she comes back in heat. For a more in depth discussion, read Breeding Your Goat.
What is the gestation period for goats? (How long will she be pregnant?)
A normal pregnancy in a goat lasts for about 5 months from the date of breeding.
What if my goat gets sick?
Goats are really a very healthy animal overall. There are some minor health problems that occur and can be treated easily. A healthy goat should appear bright and alert, with no discharge from the eyes or nose. Watery or crusty eyes may only be irritated or may signal a more serious health problem such as pinkeye. If the animal is squinting and seems sensitive to light, she could have pinkeye or something similar and would need to be treated. If in doubt, call your vet!
A runny nose could be from a respiratory problem or just dust. Coughing and hacking or heavy breathing should be paid attention to immediately so as to not let a little problem become a big one.
Scours in kids can be potentially life threatening. Sometimes it is just an upset stomach but other times it can indicate a disease problem.
Getting newborns a good drink of colostrum right away is the best start. Make sure your kids are raised in a clean environment. Feed a consistent diet on a regular schedule. Clean their feeding equipment thoroughly after every use. Treat kids on a monthly basis for coccidiosis. Vaccinate for Enterotoxemia.
If a problem occurs, call your vet! The vet is your first line of defense in keeping your kids healthy!
Before calling your vet, always take the goat's temperature (103 degrees is normal) and note any symptoms. This will help the vet with her diagnosis.
There are many good articles and books available on health and disease in goats. Check out my Resource Guide for Goat Owners for an extensive list.
How long do goats live?
A goat is considered mature at 4 to 5 years of age. An 11 year old goat is an old goat! Most does will live longer than the bucks, usually because they receive better care. I heard of an 18 year old goat that was still milking and kidding yearly! Now THAT is an OLD GOAT!!
How do I sell my goats?
The best market for the small goat producer is usually local. A small classified ad in the local ad paper is inexpensive and will let interested people know what you have for sale. If there is a livestock sale barn in your area, they sometimes have special goat sales. Check these out. Put up cards at the free bulletin boards in all the feed and ranch stores. Let everyone in your local goat group know that you have goats for sale. Read Advertising Your Goats and Goat Products for more information. Good Luck!
How big are baby goats?
The size of a kid at birth can vary quit a lot. The larger breeds such as Saanens can have kids that are quite large - I have seen 14# kids but usually they aren't that big.
Nubians tend to have smaller kids, 6 to 10 pounds. Yearlings mostly have smaller kids. Multiple births have smaller birth weights as a rule. Quads and quints can be VERY small - 1 to 2 pounds or smaller! For more information on kidding and kids, read Kidding Begins With Pregnancy.
How do I get started with goats?
Starting with goats should start with reading as much as you can about them. Talk to as many people as you can find that raise goats. Subscribe to a goat magazine. Get a place to keep the goats in before you go and buy them. READ, READ, READ!
You never stop learning about these fascinating animals even if you have them for many years. Don't get discouraged - goat keeping has ups and downs just like everything else.
Remember - there are no stupid questions!!
Where do I find a Vet for my goats?
Talk to other goat breeders in your area and see who they use. Look in the phone book yellow pages for vets that specialize in "small ruminants" (goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas) or "food animal medicine". Yes, I know you are not going to eat your pet! Call around, some vets are not experienced with goats but are willing to learn. Remember, they had lots of training in school on lots of different animals. In my Resource Guide for Goat Owners, there are several good places to find a vet for your goats.
How much does goat’s milk cost and where do I get it?
I charge $3.50 per gallon for the milk I sell in my area. This is pasteurized, frozen milk for livestock consumption only. Milk for humans in the grocery store is almost this much for a quart. I haven't priced the canned milk that is available, but it is comparatively priced.
Goats' milk that you buy in the store is produced by a "Grade A" dairy, where it is milked from the goats (by machine usually) pasteurized (heat treated), bottled or canned and shipped to the store. A Goat dairy has some very strict rules that they need to follow to ensure that the milk you get is clean and healthy for drinking. The rules vary from state to state. Goat’s cheese is also produced by Grade A dairies.
What kind of goats do cashmere and mohair come from?
Fiber goats are kept for their hair.
Can I use my goat for a pack animal?
Yes, goats make very good pack animals. They can be trained very easily. All kinds of pack saddles and accessories are available for them.
Copyright by The Goat Source 2005
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Thanks, Leslie, The Goat Source