Raising Goats – A Comprehensive Starter Guide

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Goats are characteristically known to be stubborn and somewhat hardy. They require a bit of attention, as does most other livestock, and a fairly large expanse for foraging and grazing. Despite all these perceptions, raising goats is not as difficult as it sounds.

Goats can sufficiently feed themselves, as long as you provide them with a source of feed. For instance, in some parts of the world, goats are usually tethered to a spot with a long rope, allowing them to graze on grasses and broadleaf weeds they can reach in their circumference. The longer the rope, the more feed they have access to. Also, some goat raisers feed them with kitchen wastes, such as banana and plantain peels, cassava peels, and many more.

Due to their browsing nature, and need to socialize, goats should be raised in plurals. Even as a beginner, do not raise one goat, it makes your effort to treat a goat right go to waste. Goats perform better when they have the company of another goat.

Another thing to be particular about is the goat housing. The housing doesn’t have to be elaborate; however, it should be strong, simple, and durable. Also, ensure you use a strong fence when it comes to restricting the movement of your goats, as they can be vicious when running around, and can easily pull weak fences down.

In this article, you will learn the intricacies of raising goats as per the advantages and disadvantages of raising goats, how you can successfully raise goats for milk and meat, and the concept of raising goats for pets. Take this as an introductory course – raising goats 101 – to raising goats.

How to raise goats starter guide

Why Raise Goats?

Table of Contents

To be fully committed to rearing goats, you must derive some benefits from it. In other words, you must envision some beneficial derivatives from raising goats before you venture into it. Here are some of the benefits you can derive from rearing goats. You can derive some or all of the, depending on the scale you intend to raise goats.

Milk production

raising goat milk

One of the major reasons most people raise goats is to have access to fresh milk. For this purpose, dairy goats are the best breed options, as they produce more volume of milk, annually than any other breed.

With goat milk, you can make cheese, yogurt, and kefir – if you like. Also, it is easy to make money from goat milk as it is high in demand in some places, and people are willing to pay a premium for its superior nutritional content.

Meat production

Meat Goats

Regardless of what other purpose your goat is for, it almost always ends up being used as meat. The demand for goat meat, even in places where it is not commonly raised is high. Therefore, they are a good source of income as much as their meat of is great quality.

Goat meat is a rich source of protein with a relatively lower amount of fat, making it a healthier meat choice.

Removal of Vegetation

Goat eating grass removal of vegetation

Goats do not have to be fed concentrated feed, especially when they are raised on a small scale, and there is vegetation around. They will feed on grasses and shrubs around them, and everywhere they go.

Their affinity for grasses and leaves, in general, helps to keep the vegetative thickness of the surrounding plants low, and this helps to ensure that the growth of weeds is put in check.

Use as pack animals

Although not common, goats can be used as pack animals; for carrying loads from one place to another. Generally, they can easily move loads that are about 25% of their body weight at lesser transportation cost.

Goats can easily travel rugged, steep, and hilly parts without giving you, the caregiver an ounce of worry. Also, they feed on grasses as they make travels such as this, reducing their feeding cost.

Soap production

Goat milk is a popular ingredient in making nourishing natural soap, Goat milk soap. It is effective in moisturizing and nourishing the skin with unsaturated fats, thereby, removing some skin blemishes and healing some skin conditions, such as eczema.

Goat milk is abundant in saturated and unsaturated fats, an essential quality for a good soap. They help the soap lather well and provide nourishment, respectively. It is usually used in combination with sodium hydroxide to produce lye, and the result is a creamier soap base.

Goat milk soap is a gentle cleanser since it is natural and contains no harsh surfactant like other commercial soaps. It also improves dry skin and prevents acne.

Dung as fuel

With more people interested in self-sufficiency, going off the grid is now a common thing. Many people will rather supply their own energy needs, instead of depending on the government’s provision.

One of the ways to acquire fuel for energy is the use of goat dung. Although there is the worry about air pollution, not with CFCs, but with a smell that may be offensive, goat dung as fuel is more effective and environmentally friendly compared to modern fuels.

It is sustainable, gives less pressure to woods in vegetation as a source of fuel, and provides an easy avenue to eliminate your goats’ wastes.

Dung as Fertilizer

One of the organic sources of fertilizer is animal dropping. Goat dung is one of the commonly used fertilizers in gardens. It, therefore, offers healthy and luxuriant growth of vegetables in your garden, better growth of grasses and legumes in ranges and pastures, if you choose to use them there, and improves the organic profile of the soil.

Skin and Hide Production

Goatskin is useful in the production of leather. It helps in the production of the thick, hard to penetrate materials that can be used as fabric for protection during cold weather, or for the manufacture of items, such as belts, shoes, gloves, and many more.

Goat hide is also useful in the entertainment industry, especially in Africa, as it is commonly used to make drum heads, to produce melodious sounds.

What Does It Cost to Raise a Goat?

Cost of raising goats

With all the benefits attached to raising goats, one will expect that it will cost as much as each of the advantages that come with it. However, it is fairly easy and relatively cheap to raise goats, regardless of how many they are.

It is no surprise that people will readily raise goats than cows. Have you wondered why that is? The short answer is that they are easier to handle. While goats and cows may feed on the same things, it’s difficult to control cows, largely due to their size. However, with goats, you – even your children – can easily steer them around and bring them back safely, if that how you prefer to train them.

They are social animals and do not require that you hover over them for any part of the day. Goats do not take much of your time, as long as you provide a companion in another goat for them. They will feed themselves – if they have to, go out to play, and return by themselves. All that is required of you is to make a strong fence, provide feed before you get busy for the day, and periodically check them for any form of deviation from normal health.

Best Goats for Beginners

Yes, goats are easy to handle and raise, but for a beginner, it can be a challenging task, especially if you start with goats that are not suited for your environment, and consequently require more attention from you.

It is, therefore, important that you, as a beginner, choose goats that fit your purpose, environment, and your availability. In this section, we will focus on the ease of raising the breeds of goats that are suitable for beginners, considering only their hardiness, quietude, and productivity.

Alpine Goats

Alpine breed

Alpine goats are friendly and docile goats that have characteristic long and straight noses. They are suitable for modern areas as their call is not usually loud, but low and raspy. They are one of the best dairy breeds of goat you can find, and they produce a good amount of meat, too.

Alpine goats are more suitable for older goat raisers who love to have milk but may have issues, such as arthritis, with their finger joints. This is because the goats are 30 inches tall, a little taller than most goat breeds, making milking them easier. Their teats are also larger, making handling them during milking easier, too.

They can be quite stubborn and active, giving the beginner a challenge, but they can be trained with consistency and patience, a trait every goat raiser must learn. Goats are independent and this trait serves a beginner well.

They require minimal labor and disturbance to help them maintain their productivity. Therefore, you have to keep their feeders and waterers clean, provide dry bedding, and good ventilation. Afterward, let them be.

Nigerian Dwarf Goats

The Nigerian Dwarf goats are a fairly common breed of goat in the world. They are mostly raised as dairy goats and they serve as a smaller option to larger dairy goats due to their small and compact size. They are suitable for small households and demand little in housing.

Nigerian dwarf goats are docile and friendly, making them easy to raise in households, they are usually well-suited to areas with high temperatures but can also do well in relatively cold areas. With a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years, you can get a lot out of them in terms of milk, meat, and kids. They commonly produce twin kids, but also give triplets and quadruplets.

As an advantage to the beginner goat raiser, the kids do not need to be specially cared for since they begin to move around once born.

LaMancha Goats

LaMancha Goat Breed

LaMancha goats are great milk producers. They are an American breed and have good temperaments. Their relationship with humans is also good, making them easy to train and raise. They are a small breed and do not require anything elaborate in housing. They are suitable for urban areas due to their docility and quietude.

The LaMancha breed of goats can milk continuously for two years and they are adaptable to different climates.

Purchasing Your First Goat

Goats are relatively cheap, even the pure breeds, compared to dogs. Purchasing your first goat is an exciting experience and this excitement can make you have bad judgment. Despite this excitement, it is important that you keep it in check, and focus on the goat, instead of the experience you will get from owning one, at least for the moment.

You must inspect the environment the goat you wish to buy is raised in; is it clean? Does it require some form of extra fortification? How well does it interact with other goats? These questions will help you form ideas about the goats before you purchase them. As obvious as these questions seem, it is easy to overlook them and get carried away by the cuteness of the kids and the sturdiness of the matured ones.

You should ask questions from the breeder and ensure that you get satisfactory answers.

To get the best value when purchasing your first goat, here is a guide to help you make the right choice.

Breed

Your want for a goat has a purpose. You do not want to look after another organism just for the sake of it. You either want it for the nutrition it gives, the companionship it offers, or the money you can make from it. No goat raiser does so without a purpose.

Therefore, to meet your purpose for raising goats, you must choose a breed that agrees with the purpose you have in mind. To make this easy, you should have begun researching goat breeds before venturing out to purchase one to start your herd.

Different breeds of goats are suited for different purposes. Some are best for milk production – dairy goats, some are best for meat production, others are suitable for certain climatic conditions, limiting the areas they can be raised in.

Make your findings of the breed of goats that are best suited for your environment as it will influence how well they produce, especially for dairy goats. Also, if you want goats that grow fast and bulky, for meat, don’t purchase a breed that produces more milk than meat.

Productivity

The productivity of your intended goat refers to how well it does what you expect it to do. It can be tricky to know this since you are just buying them and they are yet to start producing for you. However, you can begin to ascertain the productivity of the goat you intend to buy by asking questions from the seller.

How many gallons per day does this goat produce? What is the maximum weight this breed can attain? What conditions help this breed produce more? Questions such as these will give you an idea about how your desired goat compares to the average performance of the breed that fits your purpose.

Sellers and breeders who cannot provide satisfactory answers should be avoided. Also, you can ask for the opinion of other goat owners as they are more experienced than you are and can guide you. They may even have a good recommendation on where to buy goats that suit your purpose.

Disease Testing

You do not want to bring goats home and start to deal with diseases. It is essential to test the goats you wish to buy for common diseases, such as Tuberculosis, Caseous Lymphoma, and Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis.

These are some of the common disease tests that are available. They may vary from place to place, therefore, request that your goats be tested before purchase. If the seller or breeder is reputable, they will have had them tested and will provide you with a document that shows the health status and all tests and its results your choice goat had had.

Also, failure to test goats before purchase may lead to more costs in treatment as you will have to invite veterinarians in to help your goats get rid of their diseases. If they are brought in to meet other goats, they may introduce the disease to other healthy goats.

Registered or Not?

This is a dicey one, as some places in the world do not take registering animals seriously. However, in places like the United States of America, and other developed countries, the best goats to buy are the ones that have been registered.

Registered goats may be costlier, but they are worth it as you have access to the lineage of the goat to trace the deficiencies of that lineage and make informed decisions.

Vaccine and Worming Routine

Vaccination is important to prevent your goats from catching some dangerous diseases. Also, the use of anthelmintic keeps the population of worms that may disrupt the health of your goat to the barest minimum.

You must obtain the vaccination and worming routine from the breeder and seller of the goats you choose to prevent a repeated vaccination that is unnecessary.

Feeding Routine

As it is important to get the vaccination and worming routine from the seller, get the feeding routine, detailing what and when the goats feed. This is important because it helps the goat deal with the stress of moving.

You must continue with the feeding pattern and feed the seller uses for some time and gradually change the pattern and feed to your preferred choice.

Tips and Things to Avoid

Apart from the things you have to obtain like vaccination information while considering purchasing a goat, some tips can help you detect if the seller is telling the truth about a goat. Here are some tips to further help you make the right goat choice.

Ask specific questions about the doe

The doe is the most valuable of every goat. It costs most of both sexes, especially if it’s been bred or in milking season. The doe serves two primary purposes, milking, and breeding. Whichever one your purpose is, you should know what the historical performance is.

Ask questions such as how much milk does it produce daily? How often is she milked? How many kids does she produce?

This will give you an idea of what to expect.

Have the kids been treated against coccidiosis?

The digestive tracts of the kids are not as developed as the adult goats’; therefore, they need to be protected against the occurrence of coccidiosis caused by E. coli. This is why kids are usually medicated against coccidiosis, to aid their growing immunity against the disease.

Ask if the kids have been treated against coccidiosis to be sure you do not have to repeat it.

What is the temperament of the boar?

How manageable is the boar when it is in a rut? Some boars are practically difficult to handle when they are ready to mate and the doe isn’t. it is in these periods they can attack their caregivers.

You should know this before you buy more than you can handle.

Ask to see the parents of a kid you want to buy

A kid can be very cute and tempting to buy, but before you make that decision, ask to see the parents to see what they may grow to look like. Do the parents have qualities you want in your herd? Will they cause a problem in your herd?

Introducing Your Goat to the Family

You cannot introduce strangers into a family and expect them to get along with everyone, you need to give them time. In the case of new goats, you do not introduce them to the herd immediately after they arrive. In fact, it should take some weeks before they come in contact. This doesn’t mean the goats cannot see themselves, however, they cannot be allowed to mingle to avoid the introduction of diseases.

Here is how you introduce your new goats to the herd, starting from their time of arrival.

Quarantine

The first step in introducing your new goats to the herd is keeping them in a separate barn or cubicle. This is to discourage the spread of any possible disease the new goats might have. It also helps the new goats ease into the herd with less hostility bred by familiarity.

During quarantine, the new and old goats will see each other but are not allowed to move together. The sight makes them a little familiar, making them easily accepted into the herd when they are out of quarantine.

Also, it is during this time you can steadily change the feed they eat, to conform with what the herd eats. You should also do some disease tests, trim hooves, get rid of their external parasites, and deworm the goats if they haven’t.

See, no touch

This stage is for when the new goats are eager to join the herd. Goats are naturally social animals, they will want to be with their kind, therefore, the desire to be with the herd will make them seek out others’ attention. In the same vein, the established herd members will be curious as to the purpose of the new goats.

However, in order not to defeat the purpose of quarantine, they can see but not touch or mingle until the observation period is over.

First meeting

Goat introduction

Once the new goats have had the necessary checks and are deemed fit to join the herd, their first meeting should be on neutral ground. That is, they should be outdoors and not in the barn when they have their first meeting with the herd.

Territoriality is the reason for this. New goats are strangers, and established herd members have their territories in the pens and pasture. To avoid aggression and possible injury to your goats, take the herd to a pasture they’re not used to, as there will be no territoriality there.

Keep watch

Once the new goats have begun to mingle with the herd, there’s a possibility a fight will happen. Keep watch to see when this happens, so you can separate the goats involved to avoid injuries. This doesn’t mean you should interfere every time there’s a fight, it is bound to happen, and the new goat has to maintain its stand and establish its position in the herd.

Only get involved when the fight has lasted for hours or when either of the goats has begun to bleed.

Equal chance at feeding

To keep your goats nourished despite the territorial squabbles they may have, you have to ensure the new goats have as much feed as the other herd members. In every herd, some aggressors bully less aggressive goats away from the feeding trough, watch out for these goats and how they treat the new goats.

If the new goats happen to get along and feed well, leave them, their relationship with the others will only get better. However, if they are bullied away from the trough, you should feed them in a separate trough.

Goat Breeds

Goat breeds

Different goats suit different purposes. Although some can fit into different categories, others perform excellently for one purpose than others. This categorization is possible because goats have different breeds. These breeds of goats help to make a better choice of goats for the purpose a buyer has in mind.

For instance, a breeder who wants a goat that gives an enormous volume of milk will go in search of goats that fit that purpose, while one that needs good meat production will choose a goat that suits that purpose.

For better results in your purpose for raising goats, you need to have the knowledge of the breeds of goats and what they have to offer. It informs your choice and sets you up for a successful goat-raising endeavor.

Here are the common breeds of goat, classified according to their strength and peculiarities.

Milk Producers

According to Webmd.com Goat milk is the most commonly consumed type of dairy in the world. Nearly 65% to 72% of all dairy consumed globally is goat milk. Goat milk is thicker and creamier than cow milk or plant milk and offers more nutrients and health benefits and has become the main source of calories, protein, and fats.

Alpine Goats

Alpine goats originate from the French Alps and they have a size that ranges from medium to large – about 76 cm tall at the withers. They are horned and have different colors, plain and combined. They have short to medium hairs, which makes them suitable for warm climates, and have erect ears and profiles.

Alpines are arguably the best milk producers among the breeds of goat. Their milk has low-fat content but high in proteins and sugar. Ordinarily, dairy goats reach their optimum milk production when they reach an average weight of 130 pounds. However, Alpine goats reach an average of 135 pounds before they reach their optimum milk production stage.

Alpine goats reach sexual maturity in about five months for the male and six months for the female. They usually have twins during parturition but can have as many as quintuplets and as little as singles.

They are easy to handle due to their docile nature but can be independent and curious, making them a challenge too.

LaMancha Goats

LaMancha Goats are American, they are easily recognized by their characteristic ears. The ears are small – about 1 inch in the bucks and 2 inches in the does. They are either turned up or down. LaMancha goats have no particular skin color, they have the same skin colors goats are known to have.

They are one of the dairy goats that produce milk for two years straight, without the need for re-breeding. They produce milk that is high in butter-fat, and of course, protein and sugar. Their milk is excellent for making cheese, soap, yogurt, and sometimes, ice cream.

LaMancha goats are friendly and easy to raise, they are docile and suitable for beginners in goat raising. They require special ear cleaning as their small ears can trap dirt and water. Also, like most goats, they need to be kept within strong fences even though they are docile.

Saanen Goats

Saanen Goats

Saanen goats are native to Switzerland and they are large. They are one of the best dairy breeds of goat and have their population scattered all over the world. Switzerland is abundant in milking goats, and Saanen is the best of them all, that is saying something.

This breed of goat has erect ears that point forward or upward. Their skin is usually white and their coat has the same color, although it isn’t unusual to find some that have spots on their white coats. They have a concave face and can either be horned or hornless. Usually, the bucks grow to a height of 90 cm and weight of about 85 kg. The does are only a few numbers shy of that height and weight.

Saanen goats are not hardy like other goats, they prefer to be raised in an intensive system as they cannot tolerate strong sunlight, majorly due to their pale skin. They are easy to handle and raise, only that they require extra care and attention.

Meat Producers

Goat meat cuts

Goat meat has become more popular in the United States over the past 25 years. Goat meat is one of the most eaten meats in the world and has been gaining popularity in the state of Texas. You can find that goat meat is a much healthier choice, having less fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, or chicken.

Kiko

Kiko means meat. Therefore, Kiko goats are a breed is excellent at producing goat meat. They originate from New Zealand but have been widely cross-bred with other breeds of goat for their outstanding meat production.

Kiko goats are excellent at converting feed to meat, even when they are fed with the smallest amount of feed. Their growth is rapid and they attain maturity weight fast. Kiko goats are hardy, making the does capable of conceiving and giving birth to multiple kids without any support whatsoever.

They are usually cream or white, with the buck sporting prominent horns that usually face backward. Their ears can be erect or semi-erect with fully developed cartilages. Some Kiko goats can be brown with a stripe of black around the neck. Others can combine white and brown or black.

Due to their hardiness, Kiko goats are resistant to some parasites and are vigorous foragers. They do not need supplement feed to grow well and the lack of it does not affect their athleticism and breeding.

For beginners, they are easy to raise as they do not require much care but they can be a handful due to their vigorous breeding, which may give you more than you can handle.

Dual Purpose

Nubian Goats

Nubian goat Breed

Nubian goats are one of the less productive dairy goats, they do produce more milk than some breeds of goats, but not as much as others. They are a cross between the English Milch Goat and the Nubian bucks from India. This gave them the name, Anglo-Nubian goats, but simply called, Nubian goats.

They have characteristically long and floppy ears, which distinguishes them from other goats. Their face is also unique as it is convex in shape, giving them a Roman nose. They usually grow to a height of 88 cm for the bucks and 76 cm for the does – to the withers, and weight of 79 kg for the bucks and 61 kg for the does.

Nubian goats have short hair, and due to their origin in tropical regions, they cope well with hot climates.

Their milk production by volume is lower than average, compared to other dairy goats. However, their milk is exceptionally rich in butter-fat, making them tastier than other dairy goats’ milk. They are considered a dual-purpose breed of goat.

Goat Feed

Goats are classified as ruminant animals because of their four-compartment stomach and their preference for grasses and pasture. Although they will eat plants – grasses, legumes, and forages – they can very well survive on kitchen scraps and some grasses. However, survival does not connote living well.

To give your goats the best nutrition from what they eat, you need to provide them with other food sources such as hays, grain feed, minerals, kitchen scraps, and Chaffhaye. With these feeding options, your goats will get a wide range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals especially, and it will improve their well-being and productivity.

Let’s have a look at the goat feed choices you can choose from.

Range and Pasture

The range is a place where goats go to feed on grasses and shrubs to supply themselves the needed nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and some vitamins and minerals. A range comprises diverse grasses that are the natural vegetation of that area and the goats that feed there have access to the variety the range provides.

These varieties help to improve the tasting ability of the goats and enhance the activity of the bacteria in their rumen.

Pastures have the same function as ranges but they have a difference in the fact that they bear vegetation that are carefully planned and planted to meet the needs of the herd. A pasture will usually contain plants such as millet, sorghum, alfalfa, and so on.

Range and pasture are the primary sources of goat feed as they also encourage browsing in goats.

Hay

Hays are dried grasses that are gotten from the range or pasture. They are usually used to feed goats during times when they cannot have access to the range or pasture, as in winters. It is the next important source of providing nutrients to goats after range.

It can comprise grasses and legumes and can be freely fed to goats during winter as their primary source of food or restricted to twice a day when they have access to the range.

Grain feed

Grain feed is an important food for goats. It comprises majorly of grains that may be pelleted or not. The pellet grain feeds usually have a mixture of grains with different levels of nutrients to supply the needs of the goats.

They supply protein, vitamins, and minerals, in different proportions, and are important for does that are kidding. Although they are nutritive, they should not be the major nutrient source for your herd.

They can easily be overfed to your goats and can cause health problems such as obesity and stomach disturbance. It can also cause more serious health conditions that can lead to death.

You should have an animal nutritionist formulate this type of feed to meet the health needs of your herd.

Chaffhaye

Chaffhaye is processed hay. It is made by cutting young grasses or alfalfa and chopping them into smaller bits. They are further mixed with molasses and bacillus subtilis – a probiotic culture that is beneficial to the rumen of goats. The mixture is left to ferment in a container, sped up by the bacillus.

They make an excellent alternative to hays and have more nutrients to give your goats.

Kitchen Scraps

Food wastes from your kitchen should not have to be useless where goats are. Although they are ruminants, they will feed on kitchen scraps, giving you a lesser feeding cost. Goats will feed on left-over fruits and vegetables, bread, oats, and anything you can eat.

However, they do not take a liking to eggshells.

Minerals

Minerals are important in helping your herd maintain good health. They can be supplied to your goats in loose form and not mixed. Make sure your goats choose the ones they want to consume.

Goat Feeders

When your goats are not outdoors browsing, they need equipment to help them hold their feed when they are in the barn and eating. For instance, they cannot eat minerals from the floor, nor should they have hay on the floor, it will increase waste.

Therefore, your goats should have feeders that help them have easy access to their feed and also, hold their feed safe from contamination. Some of these feeders are available in:

Troughs

Feeding troughs for goats are long and large enough to accommodate more than one goat at a time during feeding. It usually takes the hays and grain feeds when goats are unable to be outdoors for browsing.

They are usually made of wood, metal, or plastic.

Buckets

Bucket feeders for goats are usually used to supply feed to goats singularly as it may not be convenient to feed more than a goat at a time. They are usually made from plastic or metal and can also be used to store grain feed and Chaffhaye.

Goat Waterer

Goat waterers are the equipment used to supply water to goats throughout the day. They are usually raised above the ground to prevent poop from getting into them and discourage kicking against them. goat waterers are usually made of the same materials as bucket feeders. However, they can be automatic, that is refill themselves once the water in the container is exhausted, or manual.

In some climates, you must have heaters to prevent water in the waterers from freezing during winter.

Simple Goat House Plans

Goats need strong houses. What I mean is you need to make sure that they are secure in their roaming areas. When raising goats you will find that they are escape artists. It is common for non-commercial goat keepers to keep goats in sheds that are hardly suitable for them, thinking they are saving on housing costs. It is best to invest in a good housing system for your herd and keep them safe from adverse weather conditions, harsh climate, and provide security for them.

There are numerous goat house plans online and they are fairly easy to build if you know your way around construction. If you don’t, you can always hire the service out.

The goat house plans that are available are either constructed using concrete or wood, regardless of what shape they take.

Regardless of which goat housing plan you decide on, they must do all of the following:

  • Be situated in areas that are not flood-prone
  • Well protected against rain
  • Be easy to clean
  • Provide adequate space
  • Well ventilated

How to Keep Goats Warm in Winter

Winter isn’t the best time for goats and their keepers. During this period, there is usually limited access to grasses and that means goats get less activities since it may be snowing and they are restricted to the shed and feed on grains and other feed. However, there are ways you can improve the comfort of your goats and keep them warm in winter.

Their warmth and comfort during this period mean, regardless of your purpose of raising goats, they remain productive. Some of the ways to achieve this include:

Feed them roughages

Roughages are preserved feed options that help goats generate internal heat due to their complex digestion processes. Roughages include silage, hay, fodder, and grass, and they help to provide heat that the goats’ fur will help trap and warm the body. In fact, goats that feed on grains only during the winter run a risk of freezing to death.

Provide adequate bedding

While bedding helps to manage waste better, it offers warmth and more comfort during the winter. It helps to trap the heat from the body of goats when the temperature seems a little high, at certain times of the day, and releases the same heat to the goats, when they lay on it, steadily.

The deeper the bedding, the better its heat trapping ability. Also, the darker the color of the bedding, the better it traps heat and releases it when the environmental temperature drops.

Improve ventilation and reduce draft

Contrary to popular opinion, that the shed should be protected from the cold air of the winter, it is best to allow air in; however, it is also important that the cold air is expelled from the shed as fast as possible as they are usually close to the floor since they are denser and they can cause pneumonia in goats.

Therefore, improve the ventilation of the shed by encouraging warm air to displace cold air, effectively reducing the chance of your goats getting pneumonia. However, discourage drafts, they are the enemy during this time of the year.

Add minerals to their diet some months before winter begins

Good fur health helps to trap as much internally generated heat as possible. The thicker the fur, the better the heat conservation, and the less likely the goat feels the impact of the winter air. Therefore, add mineral supplements to your goats’ diet some months before winter arrives. That helps them to grow some good fur and prepare their resistance to cold and improve their heat conservation ability.

Insulate the shed

Insulation is costly, but important. You need to insulate the shed to further help keep the goats comfortable and warm. Insulation is majorly meant to keep moist and cold out and allow more warmth and dryness in the shed.

It improves the comfort of the goats and keeps them productive, making it a good investment in raising goats.

Goat Bedding and Sleeping Arrangements

In an effort to keep your goats warm during winter, prevent the contact of their hooves with moisture, and easily manage their waste, the use of bedding for goats has increased in popularity, regardless of their location. Although, time of the year and climatic condition dictates how deep the bedding should be. Also, the availability of the bedding material determines which is the right one for you.

From the different bedding material options that you can possibly use for your goats, you need to consider some factors that determine the suitability of a material for your herd. Some of them include how easily they drain moisture, how well they absorb waste, and most importantly, how available they are in your area.

Some goat bedding options include:

Pine shavings

Pine shavings are good bedding materials as they are good absorbers of moisture. They help to manage both liquid and solid waste effectively and can effectively mask the ammonia smell caused by goat urine for some time.

Also, pine shavings are not a preference of consumption for goats since they contain aromatic oils; therefore, there’s a less chance of your goats picking food from the bedding, exposing them to pathogens.

Sawdust

One of the most popular and readily available bedding options for livestock, generally. Sawdust is lightweight and easy to manage. It is absorbent and provides a good soft surface for your goats to rest on. It covers a large surface with more volume, and compacts well, making its heat management during winter exemplary.

However, it does not last so long as it does not mask ammonia smell well, especially when it is soiled. Sawdust can also cause some respiratory issues in the herd as the small dusty particles can get into the nostrils of your goats.

Wood chips

Wood chips are gotten from saw mills and are available in different sizes, usually assorted. They are great for moisture drainage and help to prevent foot rot in the herd. Wood chips are readily available and cheap but may present some management issues.

Straw

Straw is also a popular bedding option. They are readily available and are cheap, especially in farming communities. They provide insulation in the shed through their soft and dark crop stems. Straw is usually gotten from the stem of grain crops that have been harvested. Sometimes, some grains may remain on the stem and your goats may feed on it.

It might become a problem if the grains have been contaminated with poop and urine.

Sand

One of the most abundant resources of nature, sand is an excellent choice of bedding as they drain well. They help to remove urine from the surface of the shed floor and prevent foot rot in your herd. Sand, although heavier than other bedding options, except gravel, can easily be removed and used in your garden.

It is important to note that the bedding in your shed determines how comfortable your goats are when they lay down to sleep. Therefore, it can influence their sleeping arrangement. Usually goats will lay on the floor, but they’ll prefer to sleep on a raised platform. This helps the older goats in the herd maintain good joint health and helps the herd get away from water in case of flood.

Therefore, make some raised platforms for your herd, and add some bedding on it to improve its comfortability.

How to Mate Goats

Regardless of if you want to raise goats for commercial purposes or to meet your household’s needs, your herd has to increase, especially as your family increases. For commercial purposes, you need to have more goats to increase your output; therefore, you should know the nitty-gritty of mating goats.

There is usually a breeding season for goats, that is a period when the environmental conditions are favorable for raising kids, it is mostly in the winter when they will be mostly indoors. However, it can vary from place to place. Before the breeding season, special attention should be given to the does, to make sure they are prepared for the pregnancy journey, starting with mating.

These guidelines will help you mate your goats successfully.

  • Weigh your does and ensure they have good bodyweight to carry a pregnancy
  • Three weeks before mating, deworm the does, trim their hooves, vaccinate them against tetanus
  • One week later, give them vitamin E and Selenium injection to help with ovulation, if you feel it’s needed.
  • After a week, put the does that are ready in a stall with a buck. Let them remain there for two estrus cycles, which is about 45 days.
  • Mark the does that have been mated.

Raising Baby Goats

The period between having baby goats and the mating exercise you practiced is when pregnancy happens. During pregnancy, the does are well cared for in terms of nutrition by increasing their portion and giving them more minerals. However, once the baby goats are delivered, there is a need to know how to handle them, at least until they are as capable of handling themselves as the adult goats.

The conditions for raising a baby goat are to be friendlier than what the adults are subjected to, later and they are explained below.

Shelter

Keep baby goats in the same stall as their mothers to facilitate the bonding between kids and mother, and give them more access to breast milk. The stall has to be filled with bedding to make them more comfortable and help manage waste better.

Ensure that the shelter has adequate drainage to prevent the kids from developing foot rot. Also, separate the kids from aggressive goats, even after weaning, for about three weeks.

Feeding

The major nutritional needs of kids are supplied through breast milk. However, as they grow older, about a week after their birth, they should be introduced to solid feed that comprise of 5 percent grains and 15 percent pasture. The rest of the fraction should be breast milk.

As they grow older, the feed ratio should be increased with their age.

Ventilation

The exchange of air between the interior and exterior of the goat shelter is important. Baby goats are susceptible to pneumonia; therefore, ensure that the shelter is open enough to avoid draft. However, there should be ample ventilation as it helps to rid the bedding of ammonia smell.

How Long Do Goats Live?

Goats are generally long-lifers. However, they rarely live to the ripe old age they can reach because they are often killed for meat, even if they were not intended for that purpose. Goats that are raised to produce milk usually stop productivity at about 6 years old. At this age, farmers will choose to kill them for meat rather than keep feeding them for less than the expected output.

However, goats can live for up to 18 years, all things being equal.

Caring for Your Goats?

Caring for your goats starts from when they were kids, and continues till they are done with their purpose. That doesn’t mean all you have to do is give them shelter, feed them, and change their bedding regularly.

Hoof Trimming

Your goats’ hooves protect their feet from contact with moisture. However, it can be a burden to them if they grow uncontrollably. It becomes heavy and can easily harbor pathogens. It also makes walking difficult for them. Therefore, trimming their hooves periodically will help improve their well-being.

Shearing your Goats

Shearing goats is not common in many parts of the world. However, in places where goats are raised for wool production, they need to be sheared annually. This helps them reduce the weight of the wool and exposes the skin to the sun, consequently helping them get rid of ectoparasites that may lurk beneath the wool.

Deworming your Goats

One of the most important health management practices in raising goats is the use of dewormers for the herd to rid their intestines of worms. These worms can cause diarrhea in goats and also make them appear emaciated, even though they feed regularly and well.

You may use dewormers that are available as feed supplements for this purpose, they are easier than other means.

Can you Make Money from Raising Goats as a Hobby or Business?

The presence of many goat farms is a testament to the fact that it is a profitable venture. You can raise goats for their meat, milk, wool, or all three. They have better milk than cows and they can fetch you good money if you manage them well.

Goats can thrive on different kinds of feed, even kitchen scraps, sometimes. They do not need as much attention as some livestock, such as rabbits, and are generally considered special meat in some areas of the world.

Therefore, watch your environment and study what needs they might have for goats. The soap manufacturers may need their milk, clothing, and textile may need their wool, and the meat processing industries can never have enough meat to meet the daily demand.

In short, raising goats can fetch you money if you do it right.

 

Signs of Goat Illness

Goats are largely resistant to a variety of diseases. However, they can be brought down by some pathogens, making them lose appetite in food, resulting in emaciation, and reduced productivity. In this section, we will see some of the common diseases of goats and the symptoms that they show when they have them.

Anthrax

Is usually contracted by livestock when they eat bacillus spores on plants in pastures. Anthrax is an airborne bacterial infection that is characterized by the bloody discharge from the orifices of the affected goat. The nose, eyes, anus, vagina, discharge blood while the affected goat is unable to feed. It climaxes at feverish conditions in the goat and death.

To prevent this disease, vaccinate your herd once every year against Anthrax. In case of an occurrence, do not open the affected animal, instead, bury or burn the carcass.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a condition that arises as a result of cold weather. It is characterized by the mucous discharge from the affected goat’s nostrils, cough, fever, respiratory distress, weight gain despite reduced feed intake.

To prevent this disease, ensure that your goat shed is well ventilated. Also, provide your goats with clean water round the clock.

Footrot

Moist is not friendly to goats, especially their feet. Footrot is a wound in one foot or both feet that makes movement difficult for goats. The affected goats may find it difficult to feed due to their inability to move to the feeding troughs or join the herd in grazing and browsing. Consequently, it begins to lose weight.

Footrot is caused by the constantly moist floor in the shed and can be prevented by keeping the goat shed floor dry and clean.

Mastitis

This is a condition that is most pronounced in dairy goats as it significantly affects their milk production. It is the swelling of the udder, and change in the nature of the milk. Mastitis causes the udder to be tender and painful, making milking almost impossible. When you get to milk the goat, the discharge is abnormal.

To prevent this condition, wash the udder with disinfectant to remove any bacteria that may cause inflammation and pain.

Goat Pox

Goat pox is a viral infection that affects goats that have not been vaccinated against the disease. It is characterized by respiratory distress, lesions on parts of the goat that has no hair, discharge from the eyes and nose, and fever.

To prevent this disease, ensure that your goats are vaccinated against goat pox every year.

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a disease caused by a parasite. It easily affects younger goats than adults and manifests with signs such as anemia, blood-stained fecal matter, diarrhea, and mortality in kids.

To prevent its occurrence, thoroughly clean the goat shed, spray ammonia solution in the shed, and give your herd anticoccidial medications.

Frequently Asked Questions About Raising Goats

How Difficult is it to Raise Goats?

Goats are relatively easy to raise. Put all the necessities in place, and you may not have to visit them more than once a day. Different goats have different needs, and the locality where they are being raised affects the amount of care they need.

To make your job easier, ensure that your goats are kept in a well-ventilated shed, the floor is kept free of moisture, and they regularly go out to forage. Do not forget to vaccinate them against common diseases and keep the shed as clean as possible.

Why are Goats Temperamental?

Goats are animals that have brains and hormones. They are not as sophisticated as humans, but they have their curiosity and needs. Goats get temperamental when their body needs a certain thing and they are not getting it. for instance, a buck will get temperamental and difficult to handle when its hormones say it’s time to mate but the doe isn’t ready to mate.

Goats are generally temperamental because they have hormones and brains that depict intelligence and emotions.

Why do Goats and Sheep Live Together?

Goats and sheep living together are majorly to save cost on so many grounds since they have similar biological make-up. It is easier to have goats and sheep in the same shed because they have opposing temperaments. Goats can be energetic, while sheep are calm.

They feed on the same types of food; they can easily get along in feeding since sheep won’t fight over territory with dominant goats.

Conclusion

Goats are energetic and require some level of energy from their keeper as well. They are intelligent and can be independent, making it difficult to control them sometimes. However, they can be tamed and controlled after some time and patience.

To keep goats healthy, feed them well and keep them away from cold and moist as much as you can. Ensure that your herd is vaccinated and prevented from being in contact with new goats to avoid infection and spread of diseases.

This guide to raising goats will help you make informed decisions in buying, feeding, and grooming your goats, based on your purpose.

 

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