Goat Facts for New Owners
By: Sherry Johnson, "Dwarf Digest" editor.
Each farm has its own management techniques. This information is offered as a basic guideline that can be modified. Techniques change over time, so it is important to read current goat publications, and books in order to stay educated about the care of your goats. The phone numbers for catalogues and other references currently available are listed at the end.
1. Goats are herd animals, and cannot thrive alone. They must always have another goat as a companion. They form a life long friendship with their companions, and will mourn for their companion if separated. A wether (neutered male goat) can be used as a companion for a doe (female goat) or a buck (male goat). Other herd animals can be substituted such as a calf, horse, or lamb, but two goats are always better than one.
2. Goats are intelligent and can be trained. Examples of treats that can be fed are apple slices, peanut shells, pumpkin slices, raisins, carrot slices, cabbage slices, and greens such as kale. Sometimes goats can be overly friendly. They can be trained to stop chewing on clothes or hair by blowing in their face. However when taming a shy goat, it is necessary to allow them to interact this way in the beginning.
3. It is essential that the newborn kids drink their mother's colostrum the first 24 hours. It is sometimes necessary to help a mother at birth by drying amniotic fluid off a new born with a towel, and then placing the kid under her teat. Hold the kid there and make sure that it nurses. If for some reason, it doesn't nurse within an hour after birth or if the mother rejects the kid, then the colostrum needs to be milked out, and the baby needs to be bottle-fed the colostrum. At this age, they will only drink about an ounce at a time. They need to be fed at least three times a day for the first 2 weeks. The red Pritchard nipples that are available at Caprine Supply or Hoegger Supply Company are a good size for Nigerian Dwarfs. If the kid is too weak to nurse, then it will need to be tube fed. A veterinarian or experienced breeder can help with this.
4. If you bottle feed a goat kid, and you have trouble getting the kid to take the bottle there are a few helpful tricks that can be used to help the kid nurse. Make sure the milk is warm. Milk temperature is especially important to very young kids. A goat's normal temperature is around 102 degrees, a few degrees warmer than human temperature, so it should feel slightly warmer than your skin to the touch. Be sure to shake the bottle to get out any hot spots. Try forcing the kid's mouth open, pushing the bottle in and cradling your hand around the goat's mouth to hold the bottle in place. Rub the top of the goat's head with your chin. This simulates the dark warmness of the belly of the mother to a baby goat. If the kid has trouble getting any milk after 12 hours, try adding a teaspoon of molasses to the mild. Expect them to eat around 6-8 oz. 3 times a day until they are 8-12 weeks old. They can be weaned using warm water bottles with a teaspoon of molasses.
5. Always pasteurize goat milk that you use to bottle feed to prevent the transmision of CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis) unless the dam is tested negative and your herd has tested negative for CAE. To pasteurize the milk, using a candy thermometer or dairy thermometer (available in goat catalogues) and a double boiler, heat the milk to 165 degrees and hold for 10 seconds. Then set the double boiler pan in the sink or in a mixing bowl full of water. Colostrum is treated differently than milk. It is heat treated rather than pasteurized. The sensitive immune proteins in colostrum can be destroyed but to kill pathogens, heat to 135 degrees in a double boiler, and hold at that temperature for one hour, carefully monitoring it the entire time that it is heated. Don't let it go above 135 degrees.
6. The types of tests for disease that are available that can be taken by veterinarians are: CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis), CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis- abscesses), Johnes "wasting disease", TB (Tuberculosis), and Brucellosis.
7. Vaccinations need to be given on a regular schedule. If the dam had a CD/T (clostridium perfringens C and D type/tetanus) one month before giving birth, the kids will gain immunity through her colostrum to tetanus and to enterotoxaemia (a fatal disease that the clostridium perfringerns vaccine prevents). The immunity will last for the first 8 weeks of the kids' lives. If the dam didn't have a vaccination, then it is necessary to give the kids a tetanus shot before disbudding or wethering. Vaccinate the kids at 8 weeks, and 12 weeks if the dam was vaccinated. If she wasn't vaccinated, then give those kids a third vaccination at 16 weeks. Vaccinate on an annual basis after the initial shots.
8. The best way to be accurate with deworming is to periodically take a stool sample of each goat to a veterinarian or vet school. This is done by collecting the sample in a paper cup, then storing it in a plastic bag marked with the goats' name in the refrigerator until it can be delivered to a vet. Deworm according to veterinarian prescription. Blanket instructions cannot be given for deworming because every area has its own types of parasites, each goat has its own parasite load, and some areas have parasites that are resistant to worming medications. Wormers are not approved for goats, so a veterinarian needs to prescribe the proper amount of medication. If records of the samples examined are kept, the breeder can take into consideration using the goats that are resistant to parasites in their breeding program. If a vet is not available, consult Dr Patton, head of the parasitology lab at the University of Tennessee for advice at email@example.com
9. Goats need hay, browse, and small amounts of grain daily. Fresh grass can be used a source of roughage. Fescue grass can cause does to dry up and should not be planted in pastures. Alfalfa, mixed grass hay is good for lactating does. Never use moldy hay with goats. Keep the hay up off the ground if possible to prevent goats from walking on it and soiling it. Take caution however, because hay racks can be a potential danger for broken necks if a goat gets butted from the side, gets hung in the hay rack, or gets caught in baling wire that hasn't been off of a bale. Feed goat chow as a supplement to add necessary vitamins to the diet. Horse feed is too high in copper, and sheep feed has no copper. Adult goats need 1-2 cups of feed a day, depending on size, maturity of the goat and whether or not they are being milked. Kids need less feed. Throw out feed that isn't eaten. Overeating, such as gorging on an open bag of feed is very dangerous, and can cause death by enterotoxaemia. Keep feed away from goats in a covered plastic container to prevent mold growth. Goats are browsers, not grazers like sheep prefer scrub on the forest floor to grass. They will browse on plants such as ivy, blackberries, honey suckle, and they love fallen, dry leaves. Tame goats follow you on walks in the woods, and will stay close by as you walk without a leash. Each herd of goats has a Queen goat that the herd has chosen after head butting challenges. In the wild, the Queen decides when to move to new grazing area, and the herd follows. Walking the Queen goat on a leash in the beginning will help insure that the goats stay close by until they feel safe in the new territory. Cherry, rhododendron, and most landscaping plants are poisonous to goats. When planting grass pastures for grazing, contact the extension office in your area for suggestions of grass types. Rotation of pasture is the best method for insuring a healthy pasture and low parasite loads in goats.
10. Loose minerals, and white salt are a necessary part of a goat's diet. White salt can be bought at feed stores. Loose goat minerals need to be ordered. A source for minerals is Nutritional Supply. This company also supplies other excellent supplements such as kelp, and powdered yeast, which are very high in vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds can be added to the feed. Cattle, sheep and horse salt blocks don't work for goats. A goat can't get the proper type and amount of minerals from a salt block. Use only loose minerals. Diatomaceous earth can be added to the feed as a mineral to help control parasites or rubbed on the goat to control lice. Baking soda (just like the kind found at the grocery stores) can be set out to help neutralize the excess acidity that develops in a goat's rumen caused by eating grain.
11. Bucks and wethers need ammonium chloride added to their diet to prevent urinary blockage by calculi- a painful type of condition that can only be corrected by surgery. Some feeds such as Nutrena products add this to the feed. Ammonium Chloride can be ordered as a supplement from Hoegger Supply if you are unable to find a feed that has ammonium chloride in it. Adding vinegar to the water occasionally is said to help prevent urinary blockage. Overfeeding grain causes crystals to form in the urinary tract. It is believed that waiting to wether a buck until he is 4 months old when his urinary track is mature helps prevent blockage. Bucks need to be separated from does at 7-12 weeks to prevent accidental breeding. A buck should have a companion buck or wether with it and not be alone.
12. Goats run for shelter with the first drop of rain. Goats don't like to get wet! They need a clean, dry, draft free, well-ventilated shelter from the elements and if there is a danger of predators, they can be locked up at night. Use a gravel or cement based floor with an inert mineral agricultural lime spread over it. Parasitic fly control can be ordered from Peaceful Pastures and released in the barn to control flies. In the winter, cover with straw or shavings (hardwood or pine, not cedar.) Clean frequently with a pitchfork to prevent a heavy muck build-up. Goats like to sleep off the ground. Sleeping benches can be constructed in the barn for the goats to sleep on. Goats handle the cold and heat well.
13. Predators can be a threat to goats. Stray dogs, neighborhood dogs, family dogs, coyotes, even hawks could all be a potential danger to a helpless goat. If there is a danger of predators, then the goats can be locked up at night in a shelter. Livestock guardian dogs can be used such as the Great Pyrenees for protection but be aware that they do require training when they are puppies.
14. Tethering a goat can be dangerous. If it is necessary for some reason to tether a goat, it is best to supervise the goat while it is being tethered. A goat that is tethered is helpless against predator attack, and could be strangled by the tether. The best solution for containing a goat is to build a small temporary pen.
15. Disbudding can be done at 10 days to 2 weeks of age. Anesthesia can be deadly to a goat, however isoflurine (available only at a veterinarian office) is safe to use with goats. It is a gas that is administered with a mask that is placed in the goat's face. It can be used to sedate the goat, and prevent pain while disbudding. Many goat owners learn how to disbud a goat on their farm with a disbudding iron. If the goat is not disbudded at an early age, and the horn bud comes through, it is more difficult to disbud. Scurs (small growths of horn grow out of the horn area after disbudding) can occur if the root of the horn is not completely burned out by the disbudding iron. Surgery by a veterinarian is done if the goat already has horns. The surgery is not recommended, it is traumatic and requires a long recuperation with a head wrap. Disbudding them also helps prevent the goats injuring each other in close spaces. Goats are not likely to ever butt a human, but it is advisable not to play with the goat's head when interacting with the goat so as not to form bad behavioral habits with the goat. It is difficult to keep horned goats with disbudded goats.
16. Goats need to have their hooves trimmed every 1-2 months. They can develop lameness and foot rot if their hooves aren't trimmed regularly. The best trimmers available for the Nigerian Dwarf are the orange handled trimmers available in Hoegger Supply and Caprine Supply. Hoegger Supply offers a box called, "Nanny Manicures" that illustrates hoof trimming. Have someone demonstrate correct hoof trimming to you. Having rocks for the goats to climb and gravel paths helps to wear the hoof down, so that hoof trimming doesn't need to be done quite as often. Nigerian Dwarves' coats are clipped for showing. Also, goats can be clipped in the summer to deep them cool and bug free. NDGA sells a video that demonstrates how to clip a goat.
17. Goats prefer clean water, and will refuse soiled water. Lactating goats need lots of fresh water. Keep the water and feed dishes clean by washing with vinegar frequently. Apple cider vinegar can be added to the water. In the winter, and after giving birth, goats like warm water with a little molasses added to it.
18. The Nigerian Dwarf is considered to be a miniature dairy breed. It is important to understand the breed standards that are ideal for the breed for conformation. It is important to strive for these standards when breeding, so that the breed is improved over time and faults are eliminated. A dairy goat needs to be able to withstand the years of breeding, pregnancy, milking or nursing. The ideal bone structure will give her a longer, healthier life. To understand the conformation that is ideal for the breed, it helps to read the Judges' Training Manual. This is available through NDGA (Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association).
19. Goats are sensitive, intelligent animals. They love attention, especially from young children. Goats are born wild, not tame. To tame a goat, it helps to be present at the birth, so that the goats can imprint on humans. If the kids are not bottle-raised, and tame goats are preferred, then they need to be handled frequently each day until they are tame. Taming a goat makes a life-long friend.
1. Caprine Supply catalogue, 1-800-646-7736 or order on line at www.caprinesupply.com
2. Hoegger Supply Company catalogue, 1-800-221-4628 also on line ordering available
3. AGS registry address: American Goat Society, Inc. www.americangoatsociety.com
4. Nutritional Research Associates, 1-219-723-4931, (goat minerals and supplements available)
5. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, 1-888-784-1722 (to order pasture grass seed and other supplies)
6. NDGA website: www.ndga.org has registration forms, Breeder's Directory, information, virtual goat shows, and other info
7. Jeffer's Animal Supply Catalogue, 1-800-533-3377
8. ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association), P.O. Box 865, 209 West Main St., Spindale, NC 28160, www.adga.org
Lynne Grasse ~ e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org ~ Phone 920-854-9036