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What are the Basics of Raising Goats?

By Eleanor Newman
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Goats are affectionate animals and can be raised for food, milk, textiles, or as an unusual pet. With the proper care and feeding, a person can raise a goat that will produce offspring of its own. There are a number of important elements to raising goats, including choosing the right animals, providing a comfortable place for them to sleep, feeding them the right food, and helping them to stay healthy. Raising goats can be a rewarding activity if they are cared for properly.

It's best to buy goats from 4-H clubs or breeders so the buyer can thoroughly check over the animal. Auctions are noisy, fast-paced affairs, and an inexperienced buyer may end up with a sub-par goat. When choosing a goat, the buyer should comb through for lice, check the eyes for clarity, and make sure the coat is smooth and shiny. The goat should appear well-fed, happy, and alert. The breeder should be able to provide immunization records and a medical history.

Although goats like to roam around during the day, they need a clean, dry place to sleep. A sturdy goat pen should be built out of good, solid wood. It should have a secure gate for the goat to go in and out, and to make cleaning the pen easier. The goat owner should construct a pen that is big enough to hold an extra goat or two, just in case he wants to add more.

The pen should include a roof to keep the goat dry; alternatively, the pen can be kept in a barn or shed. A layer of hay, straw, or grass should fill the pen, and be changed at least weekly. Larger goat farms should be fenced in with at least a 4 or 5 foot (1.2 to 1.5 m) wire fence. In cold climates, the pen should be well insulated and goats should be kept indoors in the winter.

In the wild, goats subsist on scrubby grass and small plants. Raising goats requires a more nutritious diet. Domestic goats enjoy alfalfa hay. Full-grown adults will consume about 5 pounds (2.26 kg) of hay every day. While doe goats are pregnant or nursing, it's a good idea to feed them a protein-rich grain mix as a supplement. The mixture should contain about 15% protein.

A mineral brick should be provided to keep goats in good health. Angora goats are finicky eaters, and need cottonseed cake and yellow corn as additional supplements. Food should be stored somewhere where the goat can't soil it; a raised hay manger is a good idea to keep the hay off the ground and make it easier to fill. Goats are grazers and will snack on grass, weeds, and other plants, too.

Buck goats can be temperamental and difficult to keep. When breeding season rolls around in September and October, a local stud can be hired to come service the doe goats for a few days. If the owner wants to raise a male goat himself, he should make sure to keep the buck in a separate pen.

In most cases, a local veterinarian can ensure a goat receives important vaccinations. Goats also need to have their hooves trimmed regularly. When raising goats, the most common health problems are parasites and pneumonia.

Worms can be treated with drugs, but parasites are becoming more resistant to medicines so it's best to focus on prevention. A balanced and nutritional diet is essential to keep a goat's immune system in tip-top condition — all the better to fight off parasites. Also, parasites are easily passed along, so goats should not be kept too crowded in their pen and grazing areas.

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Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Oct 17, 2014

@Iluviaporos - Raising goats for milk shouldn't be done lightly anyway. If you're going to keep a milk goat you have to make sure they aren't going to be stressed, that they are going to get adequate nutrition (which means you can't just keep them as a glorified lawnmower) and that you have access to sterilized milking equipment.

You're also committing yourself to regular milking. You can't just decide that you don't feel like getting up on the weekend, or your milking goat will end up with infected teats or worse.

By lluviaporos — On Oct 16, 2014

@Fa5t3r - If you want goats as pets I'd make sure that you get a miniature breed and one that doesn't need shearing (unless you have easy access to someone who will do that for you).

I know those little fluffy-looking cashmere and angora goats seem like they would be adorable pets but they need quite a lot more care than, say, a boer goat would.

Also, in case you aren't aware, goats won't produce milk unless they are bred, which means that you might end up having to remove the kid from the mother if you want a decent supply of milk. So dreams of having a pet goat that provides milk for your breakfast is only going to work if you are willing to do that (something your children are probably not going to be happy about).

By Fa5t3r — On Oct 16, 2014

Goats make really lovely pets as long as you get the right kind. I would recommend getting a female or two if they are intended for that, since males tend to be obnoxious and smelly once they reach maturity.

There is absolutely nothing cuter than a baby goat, so they can be a good way for your children to get into animal husbandry. But remember that they are excellent climbers, so don't assume that baby will stay with its mother and out of trouble if you haven't secured it.

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