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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

For The Love of Goat

It was requested that I write up a tutorial for goat neophytes. Not sure about a tutorial, but I can give you a basic run down of being a goat herder.

By now you all know that goats are quite handy to have around a homestead. They are used for milk, meat, fiber, lawn mowers and companions.

There are more than 200 goat breeds out in the world, I can't cover them all (I could, but than I might bore myself to tears)

Meat goats to look at;

Boers, Kiko and Spanish (more info on these and others here)

Milk goats;

Alpines, La Mancha, Nubian, Saanen ( more info here)

Fiber Goats;

Angora, Cashmere, ( having a difficult time finding a link to fiber goats, I know there are more out there like the pygora)

There are lots of mixed breeds out there as well. Some mutts do just fine, like my Nubian/ Alpine mix. Do a little research, don't take a breeders word that their breed is the best, and decide what breed or breeds would be best for you and your family.

Now that you know what breed you want, how many of them do you need? When it comes to dairy goats, you want 1 per person to fill all your dairy needs. Meat goats you are looking at 35-60 lbs of meat per goat. How many of those you want to butcher is up to you and your families taste.

What to ask;

When answering an ad for a goat, there are some things to ask.

If you don't know already, ask what breed it is.

How old?

Is she Bred?

Yes? To what type of goat?

Has she kidded before?

How many kids did she have?

How long has she been milking and what is her temperament when being milked? (ask if you can see her milked)

How many teats does she have, and how much milk does she give?

Is she an escape artist? Easy to catch?

Does she bite? Butt?

Udder health? (tumors/abscesses)

Has she been tested for TB or Bruccelloisis? Can I get that in writing? (those are rare in goats)

If you can watch her being milked, check the stripping and see how the milk looks. No strings, clots, blood. (blood can happen if she has recently kidded, and hadn't been milked for awhile before hand. Test for mastitis anyway)

Remember that goats can be hard on one another. New goats will be mistreated by your established herd, but usually will get along over time. If you have a sick goat, separate it out. The other's might not allow her to eat.

Goats should get 1/4 acre each. Check your fencing, the height should be no less than 4 1/2 feet in height (although they have been known to clear a 6 ft fence) Wrap any trees you wish to keep in chicken wire. Keeping them well fed should keep them in their pens, but sometimes they will get out, just 'cuz. Make sure your fence doesn't lean, that there isn't a step up too close, and that there isn't a vertical gap greater than 14 inches and no horizontal gap greater than 8 inches. Solid wood fences (like privacy fences) work well. Make sure the "bark" side is facing out. If they can get a hold of it, they will destroy it. They can loosen up just about any nail.

Goats don't need anything fancy for shelter, just something to get them out of the wet. Goats are hardy, as long as the shelter is draft free, they will be fine in the cold. However if your temps drop lower than 20F below, a heat lamp is a good idea.

Lots of fresh water, and a mixture of grass, hay and grains for feed. Goats need a variety of food stuff, including vegetables. Do not give them any chicken layer mash, it could be fatal. Goats are actually very finicky about their food. I know it doesn't seem like it, as my Mother had a goat that ate nuts and bolts. Goats will nibble on everything, just to taste. Grain should be fed 1 lb to every 3 lbs of milk produced.

That would be the basics for starters. I will cover more on goats tomorrow. Any questions so far?

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