Basic Goat Care for New Goat Keepers
If you are thinking about getting goats it’s a good idea to have an overview of basic goat care.
Basic Goat Care Essentials
Goats can have a bit of a learning curve when moved, so get your basic goat care down first before you bring your new goats home. It’s always a good idea to have everything set up and prepared BEFORE you get a new animal.
-Educate yourself as much as possible before purchasing a goat. It is important to know what you are signing up for. Read through some books and reliable educational websites.
-Build your fencing and shelter (see below for tips)
-Have feed and any essentials from the feed store prepared. We like to go to Top Shelf in Duncan to buy our feed and supplies.
-Choose a local vet before hand. Make sure they have agreed to accept you as a client.
Goat Proofing Your Yard
Goats really are escape artists. They can fit through tiny holes, and jump onto and over the most unlikeliest things. A good rule of thumb is that if your cat can get past the fence so can the goats. Chain link fencing is best. Electric can be good too. Nothing less than four feet tall will keep a goat in, and even then you may need to go up to six feet.
Goats should not have full access to feed concentrates. Goats are very efficient browsers and can readily make use of many plants and growth on your property even if you don’t have grass pasture. They will stand on their hind legs to reach the branches and leaves they want and they have a high tolerance to plants that other species find toxic. People often utilize a goat herd to clear poison ivy as it seems to be a favourite food of goats, with no complications.
If you keep your goats in a barn or a dry lot with hay feeding, you might want to supplement with a small amount of grain. The amount will vary depending on the size of your goat. Goats can colic easily from over eating concentrate feeds. Keep the feed outside of the barn. Voracious eaters, as most goats tend to be, will eat without stopping, so make sure you secure the feed. Feeding hay should keep them happy and provide nutrition and roughage. Fresh drinking water should always be available.
Nutrition & Health
Keeping goats requires that their health needs are tended to on a regular basis. In addition to making sure that you are feeding a quality forage to supplement any grazing, and providing fresh water each day, there are vaccinations to be updated and occasional de-worming medication that needs to be administered. The vaccinations given and the worming schedule is something that every goat owner should read up on and make their own decision about. If you are going to take your goats to shows, county fairs and other events, your decision may be different than others who have pet goats.
Caring for your goat's hooves
Goat's hooves need to be trimmed periodically to prevent infection and keep the animals comfortable. It can be stressful to trim your goat's feet if you've never done it before, but the process is fairly straightforward. Take your time, be gentle, and avoid trimming into the pink portion of the hoof. There are many hoof trimming tutorials on YouTube or consult a local trimmer to do your goats. Goats need their hooves maintained about once a month, more if they live in a wet, muddy climate/pen. Hoof rot can come quickly if their hooves aren't examined and trimmed regularly and can make your goat very lame.
A great example of a trimmed hoof. It should be level from heel to toe
Hooves should never get to this stage. Mud, feces and rocks will get trapped in the overgrown crevices of the hoof, causing lameness and hoof rot
There are many different tools you can use to trim hooves. Find what works best for you and your goat!
proper hoof trimming care ensures that the goat's ligaments are being supported properly at the correct angle
Improper hoof care will cause strain on the goat's ligaments, causing severe lameness
Goats hate to get wet! They need a sheltered place to sleep and get out of the rain because goats cannot control their body temperature when wet ! They need a dry place to sleep, eat and exercise in. They also should have some shade in the summer time, so consider how the sun moves across the sky above your pasture. Goats are also unfortunately susceptible to most common predators so it is strongly advised to have a fully enclosed barn for them to go into at night.
All goats, especially milking does needs to have a clean floor in their barn with fresh shavings that are replaced as soon as they are soiled to prevent mastitis and contaminated teats/milk. especially if you have young kids, with their compromised immune systems. Outdoor pens should also be raked often so they are not stepping in their own feces.
Happy goats in a clean barn!
Goats love to jump, so make sure they have some different levels they can get to.
Straw bales, the top of an igloo, picnic tables, custom built platforms or cable spools are all good choices. Playgrounds will provide your goats with better health and will help maintain their nail growth. Playgrounds are also great for stimulation, a bored goat is a sad goat. They love to run and jump.
We recommend searching up 'goat platforms' on google images or Pinterest for inspiration!. Teeter-totters are also great fun for them!
Platforms also make for the BEST communal sunbathing spots!
Food/Water Containment and Cleanliness
Goats are not clean animals. They will urinate and defecate wherever they please and that includes in their food and water. it is important to never feed goats directly on the ground and have regular cleaning routines for their feeding and watering areas.
Hay makes up the majority of their diet and need 24/7 access to it. Dusty, moldy, or moist/fermented hay are huge turnoffs for goats and will turn their nose away, or get very sick if consumed, so its important for hay feeders to be regularly emptied completely, and cleaned so there is no dirt, dust, or feces that can contaminate your hay, as well as regularly turning over your hay so any stuff at the bottom isn't getting squished and left to rot.
Water buckets are also easy to get contaminated by feces, dust, bits of grain, shavings or algae/bacteria growth in the bucket. Water buckets should be emptied and scrubbed, rinsed and refilled with fresh, clean water at least once a day. Again, goats will turn their noses away from contaminated water leading to dehydration and sickness. Their water source should always be up off the ground and away from food.
If you are feeding your goats a concentrated feed, we recommend purchasing a hanging feeder of some sort to ensure they are fed off the ground and so you can take the bucket off and hang them up high where the goats can't touch them and contaminate them by standing in them after they are finished eating. You should have 1 bucket per goat and feed them as separate as possible to prevent fighting over the food and/or if each goat has different specific diet needs. These buckets should also be cleaned daily.
Minerals And Supplements
Goats tend to be neglected for extra minerals and supplements with their stereotype of having an iron stomach and eating everything. They need them too! Especially if you have does in milk, what they eat will reflect on the quality of their milk that you are drinking. Common signs of mineral deficiency are, but not limited to; a dull coat, weight loss, hair loss, low energy, sickness, miscarriages, and a common sign, a "fish tail". To maintain a happy, healthy goat, give them free-choice minerals in a container or dispenser off the ground and they will consume as they need!
"Fishtailing" is a sign of copper deficiency.
Coat dullness and/or hair loss is also another clear sign of deficiency
Toxic Plants for goats
It is a common stereotype that goats will eat just about anything, edible or not. And while they may chew everything, they are actually very selective eaters with a delicate digestive tract! While they do favor plants that we try our best to avoid, such as stinging nettle and poison ivy, which are no harm for them, there are also many toxic plants to goats that you can find in nearly any backyard that you may turn a blind eye to. It is important to become familiar with these plants so you can create a safe space for your goats in their home. Goats should never have access to any flower or vegetable garden beds or taken to unknown areas without doing a walk through first to prevent any accidental ingestion of toxic plants. That is why is it important to build a designated pen for them so it can be regularly checked for toxic plants and removed.
Here is a mega list of (almost) all toxic plants to goats.
list courtesy of https://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/goatlist.html
Black Snake Root
Pink Death Camas
Poison Rye Grass
Spotted Water Hemlock
Ivy (not poison ivy)
Lily of the Valley
Wild Black Cherry