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Ultimate Guide to Raising Goats for Beginners: Tips, Tricks, and Essential How-To’s

raising goats

If you're thinking about keeping goat, you're embarking on a rewarding journey into the world of animal husbandry. Keeping livestock can be a part of your homesteading journey like it is mine. After keeping a dairy cow for a year, I finally landed on goats and couldn’t be happier!

Goats are not only delightful creatures but also offer a source of fresh milk, meat, and even fiber. If you follow along, you know I am all about raw milk, so that is why I invested in my own goat herd to always have a supply of fresh raw goat milk! In this comprehensive blog, we will explore every aspect of goat keeping to ensure you start on the right hoof.

The Joy of Goat Keeping

Before diving into the technical details, let's touch on the joy that comes with goat keeping. These curious and affectionate animals can become beloved companions. Their playful antics and unique personalities will undoubtedly bring smiles to your face daily, like they do mine!

When I first was getting into goats, I was told that some breeds are more friendly than others. While I don’t doubt that, I was told that the breed I was getting (Nigerian Dwarf) was not the friendliest. I couldn’t find that to be further from the truth. I have found that the more time you spend with your goats (and the more treats you give them) they will come to love you! Individual personalities matter, and when they shine, they bring a plethora of joy!

goats on homestead

Choosing the Right Breed

Selecting the right breed is paramount. This will depend on your homestead, style, and goals. Different goat breeds have specific characteristics and purposes, so it's essential to choose one that aligns with your goals and preferences. When I was looking into getting goats, I had just finished my time with my large Jersey cow. I wanted a smaller, more manageable animal so I went with a small breed of goats—Nigerian Dwarf. Not only are they small and manageable for me, they give wonderful milk full of butterfat.

Dairy Goats

If your primary goal is milk production, consider breeds like Nigerian, Nubian, Saanen, or Alpine. These goats are renowned for their high milk yield and excellent milk quality. They're perfect for making your own cheese, yogurt, and butter.
I chose Nigerians out of the bunch because of their high percentage of butterfat in their milk. Generally, dairy goats will give 3-5% butterfat. Nigerians, on the other hand, will give you milk with 6-10% butterfat.

Meat Goats

For those interested in meat production, breeds like Boer, Kiko, and Kinder are popular choices. These breeds are known for their rapid growth and the quality of their meat. Raising meat goats can be a profitable venture.

Some people claim that Nigerians can be dual-purpose with dairy and meat, but I couldn’t imagine with how small they are that it would be worth the time for meat. I haven’t looked into the logistics of it, but they are an option for dual-purpose. Originally, I had been on the fence with Kinder goats because of their dual-purpose of meat and dairy, but I ultimately decided that the high butterfat was crucial for me.

Preparing the Shelter

To ensure your goats are healthy and safe, you'll need to provide them with suitable shelter. Your shelter should be well-ventilated, free from drafts, and have adequate space to accommodate your goats comfortably. Goats do not like to be in the rain or be wet, so they need somewhere to hop to when it starts to rain outside.

Consider the following factors when building your goat shelter:

  • Flooring: Use absorbent materials like sand or wood shavings for your goat’s flooring.
  • Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent respiratory issues. Install windows and vents to maintain air circulation. You don’t want stale air in the goat house because that can lead to respiratory problems.
  • Space: A general rule of thumb is to ensure each goat has at least 10-15 square feet of space in the shelter. I have four goats in a 10x8 area with a raised countertop, and they have plenty of room. Of course, they are pygmy goats so they require less size than traditional goats.
  • Fencing: Strong fencing is necessary to keep predators out and goats in. Goats LOVE to test the boundaries with fencing, trust me. This was one of the main reasons I stayed away from goats initially, but if you have sturdy fences, they shouldn’t be a problem.

Feeding and Nutrition

Goats are ruminant animals with specific dietary needs. To keep them healthy and productive, you must provide a balanced diet. A typical diet for goats includes:

  • Hay: High-quality hay should make up the bulk of their diet. There are different needs between male and female goats. It is preferable to have male goats on orchard grass and avoid alfalfa hay, while alfalfa hay mixes are beneficial for females and their milk production. Don’t opt for the cheapest leftover hay around you.
  • Grains: Supplement with grains like corn, oats, or barley for extra energy. I only supplement with grain if they are in milk as this helps them keep their milk up.
  • Minerals: Ensure they have access to loose free-choice minerals. This is crucial! Loose minerals are preferable over blocks, so they don’t have to sit and lick for an eternity to get what they need. It is valuable to know if there are minerals in your water like calcium or iron because these can inhibit the absorption of copper, which is an essential goat mineral.
  • Fresh Water: Always provide clean, fresh water to your goats. Again, it is helpful to know the minerals in your water because they can mess with the absorption of the loose minerals you are giving your goats.

Consult with a veterinarian or a goat nutrition expert to create a diet plan tailored to your goats' needs.

Health and Care

Regular health check-ups are crucial to prevent diseases and maintain your goats' well-being. Some common health concerns in goats include:

  • Mastitis: An inflammation of the udder, common in dairy goats.
  • Coccidiosis: A parasitic infection that can affect goats of all ages.
  • Foot Rot: A contagious hoof disease that requires prompt treatment.
  • Copper and selenium deficiency: Coat color changes and lameness.

Learn to spot the signs of these and other health issues and have a plan in place for addressing them promptly. I learned about my herd’s copper deficiency by keeping an eye on their coat colors. Their colors started to fade and change along with fishtails forming on their tails. I knew immediately we were dealing with a copper deficiency. How? I left out free-choice minerals that included copper. I discovered the calcium in the water was affecting the absorption of the copper.

Keep an eye on your goats and how their coats are!

raising goats on homestead

Daily Routine and Management

Establishing a daily routine for your goats is essential. This includes feeding, milking (if you have dairy goats), cleaning the shelter, and monitoring their health. Consistency is key to keeping your goats healthy and happy. My goats know that in the mornings they get their hay and treats, so they anxiously wait for me and start belting out as soon as I exit the door.

Breeding and Reproduction

If you plan to breed your goats, it's crucial to understand the breeding process. Ensure you have a suitable breeding buck and provide proper care to pregnant does and newborn kids.

It is important to keep in mind herd health. If you rent a buck or drop your girls off at another farm with a buck, there is a chance that disease could be spread. This is why it is important to make sure that whatever goats yours are around have been tested and are clean.

I have chosen to keep a buck and keep a closed herd. This means that I don’t rent my buck out and I don’t let any other goats onto the property for breeding. If I decide to purchase a goat, I purchase from clean herds only.

Common Challenges

Goat farming comes with its challenges, including parasite infestations, dietary issues, and managing goat behavior. However, with knowledge and preparation, these challenges can be overcome effectively.

You will need to stay on top of parasite management. Parasites can quickly find their way into your herd and wreak havoc. To stay on top of this, you can go the veterinary route of western medicines or you can go the herbal route of giving your goats a powder weekly to help detox their systems. I personally use an herbal powder that I mix with blackstrap molasses each week and give to my goats for their parasite management.

Parasite management will change depending on your climate. If you live in a wet climate, you may have to treat more often as parasites thrive in wetter climates.

Goat Products and Benefits

Goats offer a wide range of products and benefits to their owners:

  • Milk: Fresh, nutritious raw milk for consumption or processing into dairy products.
  • Meat: High-quality, lean meat for your family or to sell.
  • Fiber: Angora goats provide mohair, while cashmere goats offer luxurious cashmere wool. You could sell the wool or create crafts and clothes.
  • Manure: Goat manure is an excellent natural fertilizer for your garden.
    Companionship: Goats can be delightful and friendly pets. I love hanging out with my goats.

Cost and Investment

Determining the initial investment required for goat farming is essential. Consider expenses such as purchasing goats, building shelters, and acquiring equipment like stanchions. Be prepared for both startup and ongoing costs. Parasite maintenance, supplements, and feed cost. Hay will be a heavy expense during the months your goats are not on pasture, if available.

Legal Considerations

Before starting your goat farm, check your local regulations and obtain any necessary permits. Compliance with laws and regulations is essential to avoid potential legal issues. If you have an HOA, time to move. Goats are more important!

Goat Farming Resources

To deepen your knowledge and skills in goat farming, reach out to people in your area that already have goats. Maybe there are some goat Facebook pages that you can join to connect with others in your area that have goats. Some of my best goat knowledge has come from the breeders that I have gotten my goats from. Many have been raising goats for years and were more than happy to pass on wisdom to me.

Keeping goats can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience

I didn’t think I could love another dairy animal as much as my cow, but goats have really taken the cake! Whether you're interested in milk, meat, fiber, or simply the companionship of goat, you will be happy you chose goats (as long as you have good fencing.) With dedication, patience, and proper care, you'll find joy in every step of your goat-keeping journey.

FAQs

Can I keep goats in my backyard?

It depends on your local regulations and the available space in your backyard. Check with your local authorities to ensure compliance with zoning and animal welfare laws. Goats do like to get into things and get into trouble, so ensure you have proper fencing and no dangerous sections of your yard. Goats need space to roam, so as long as they aren’t cramped to a small yard!

How much space do goats need?

Goats require at least 200 square feet of space per goat, but more significant space is preferable for their well-being and comfort. My goats love to run about and having room to roam.

What is the lifespan of a goat?

On average, goats can live for 10 to 15 years, provided they receive proper care and attention.

Do I need a male and female goat to get milk?

Yes, you need both a male (buck) and female (doe) for breeding and milk production. The doe will only produce milk after kidding (giving birth). You can milk her up until 2 months before her next birth.

Can goats be potty trained?

While goats are not typically potty trained like dogs, they often establish a specific area within their shelter or enclosure for waste, making cleanup more manageable.

Ultimate Guide to Raising Goats for Beginners: Tips, Tricks, and Essential How-To\'s

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