Basic Care

Basic Care

Tools
Shelter
Fencing
Feed
Common Deficiencies
Medicine Chest

Tools

Here are a few basic but necessary tools to get you started! If you intend to milk your goats, there will be additional items.
Goat Collar (you may need this if you have a goat that is skittish, or if you ever need to transport a goat, for example, to the vet)
Hoof Trimmers
Mini Hoof Rasp
Mineral Feeder
Hay feeder
Feed bowl/tub
Water bucket
Drenching syringe
Milk stand (even if you don’t intend to milk your goats, a stand is invaluable for hoof trimming and any other care you might need to provide while the goat is kept still)

Shelter

Goats hate the rain, and will want to run for shelter at the first drop! At the very least, they require a shelter that is rainproof, where they can be out of the rain and wind. Consider the extent of your seasons (do you get a lot of rain? snow? heat etc). Some do well in a three-sided shelter, but it needs to be facing south/southeast to make the most of sunlight in winter. There should be enough length of wall to block wind, and deep enough so that they can get out of rain blowing in. If possible, a three sided shelter with a half enclosed front is great so they can snuggle in away from the elements in winter, and sleep on the more open side in summer.

Fencing

Much is said about the need for goats to be disbudded so they don’t get horns stuck in fences, but we have found that having the correct fencing almost 100% avoids any mishaps, either with horned or hornless goats.
For Nigerians, Pygmy, the fence should be at least 3 feet high – ours are 5 feet, because we also have donkeys. (Keep in mind that if you have bucks that can see or smell does, they may be determined to jump, and require that extra height! Ours do not, thankfully attempt to jump over the 5 foot fence, but 3 feet might tempt them.) Welded or woven wire and spacing of 2″ x 4″ is a must – no heads will get stuck, and teensy babies won’t escape through it! If you’re using the woven wire, make sure it’s well stretched, but not so tight that it loses its flexibility.

The worst fencing is cattle panel or any wire fence that has openings larger than 4″. Goats, horned or polled, can and do get heads stuck in larger openings, so it’s well worth investing in the right fencing from the start.

Welded or woven?

Keep in mind that goats are VERY ROUGH ON FENCES. Yes, even miniature goats will snap the wires of a welded wire fence. Welded wire fences are safe and sturdy – up to a point. But if there’s a spot where you notice your animals always hang out, you’ll notice they also love to rub on the nearest fence, so be sure to upgrade that section of fence so that it doesn’t gradually get broken! We’ve found that putting in extra T-posts, and alternating them inside-outside the fence works to stop wires snapping. Woven wire has more flexibility.

It’s also great if you have the space, to create more than one enclosure. This way, you can rotate your stock each month or two (you will find a range of opinions on how long rotations should be, so it’s best to research what will work for you!) . Rotating is advisable because it a) decreased the amount of parasites on the pasture and b) gives one area a chance to recover from continual grazing/foraging.

Feed

There are many opinions on what to feed and how much. We are not “feed snobs,” and we understand that not everyone can afford the most expensive feeds and supplements. We choose feed that is affordable, but thought goes into what we feed. We want to make our animals happy and keep them in good condition. The following are what works for us.

PLEASE READ: WE ARE NOT VETERINARIANS. It is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided on these pages.

  1. Pasture

Goats much prefer to browse (eat leaves from brush and trees) rather than graze (eat grasses). This makes a lot of sense, because parasites are generally at ground level (4 inches from the soil). By browsing from trees, weeds, brush, and vines, goats are much less likely to have problems with worms. However, if there isn’t enough browse for them, they will turn to eating grasses and will do quite well. Goats will also gobble up fall leaves, pine needles and will search for acorns!

  1. Hay

As well as their green feed, goats need hay fed free choice. Our animals have access to hay 24/7. Don’t be fooled by suppliers selling “goat hay.” Goats require good quality hay and it’s extremely dangerous to feed anything very dusty or even slightly moldy to goats. The different grass hays are fine for goats.

A portion of alfalfa hay can be given to pregnant, lactating and growing goats. (Bucks can also eat alfalfa, but care should be taken to keep the total feed calcium:phosphorous ratio at least 2:1, because bucks and wethers are prone to urinary calculi, which is extremely painful, a medical emergency, and is often fatal.)

Alfalfa hay, pellets or cubes are available at feed stores. Alfalfa pellets are often created in a size for horses – that’s why we soak our pellets and cubes, so there’s no worry about our Nigerian Dwarf, Pygmy goats choking – plus we know they’re getting some fluids. They especially love their mash with warm water on winter mornings! Sometimes we add extras in, like Apple Cider Vinegar, garlic, or cinnamon.

  1. Grain and Pelleted feed.

New goat owners are often confused by people talking about feeding grain to their goats. They don’t always mean corn, barley, oats and the like. Both that kind of grain (cereal seeds) and pelleted feed (prepared and balanced feed) is called grain in goat world, even though pelleted feeds contain more alfalfa, peanut hulls and the like than actual grain.
Many times I read people advising new goat owners that goats do not need grain. This may be true for lucky goats on many lush acres of brush, but not everyone has the same situation. That advice doesn’t take into account goats on smaller acreages, or lower quality forage, on dry lots, or on drought affected or dormant winter pastures.
There are as many brands and varieties of pelleted goat feed as their are opinions on what is best. What works for some may not work for others. However, goats should never be fed corn alone, because although it may provide energy, it has low nutrient value.
Goats should never have their feed thrown onto the ground – that is asking for parasite problems!
Pelleted grain/feed may contain things like oats, barley, cottonseed, corn, peas, flaxseed, molasses, wheat middlings, peanut or soy hulls, and other protein products. It’s a good idea to read and compare labels, so you know what is going into your goats. The feed should of course have added vitamins and minerals. Be sure to check that the calcium:phosphorus ratio is between 1.5:1 to 2:1. To avoid an imbalance, the zinc to copper ratio should be at least 3:1, and preferably 4:1 (four times more zinc than copper).

WARNING: Corn is extremely yummy to goats – if allowed, they will gobble down all the corn they can. They will also gorge on feed pellets and make themselves very sick. They will also happily feast on chicken feed, bird seed, horse feed etc and hurt themselves in doing so. Goats are very clever, and can easily figure out how to open that tub or sack. There are a couple of horrible problems that over-feeding can cause (bloat, overeating disease), both of which can be fatal, so make sure your goat and any other livestock feed is locked away where the goats can’t break into it!
Be guided by your goats’ body condition. Pelleted feed should be the smallest part of the goat’s daily diet, and may not be necessary if they have enough browse and hay and are in good condition. If they are getting fat, cut back on the feed. If they are becoming thin, the feed can be increased (but check first for parasites!).
When adding feed or changing feed, exercise extreme caution. Sudden changes in feed or a feed increase can cause stress and digestive problems, so remember that when adding to or changing feed, it must be done very gradually. Increasing the amounts of the new feed while reducing the old feed over at least a week or two is not being overly cautious.
Goats love treats, but they should be given in moderation. A small amount of vegetable or fruit scraps, a slice of bread now and then are fine. We sometimes use a few raisins to help skittish goats to trust us, and we train our goats with a small piece of bread. But moderation is the key.

  1. Loose minerals.

Minerals are really a supplement, but they’re so important that they belong here with feeding! Loose minerals are better for goats than the mineral blocks, because goats have soft mouths and have difficulty taking what they need from a block. There are some great and some not so great loose minerals available for goats, so research what’s best for your goats and get the best you can find or afford. Despite feeding pelleted feed and loose minerals, you’ll almost certainly find that you will still need to provide some extra supplements to your livestock.

Deficiencies

NOTE: We are not vets and this information is not intended to replace veterinarian advice. These are only things we have seen and experienced ourselves, and situations vary. You will need to diligently do your own research, including discussing issues with your own veterinarian or goat mentor before providing care.

Every livestock owner will come upon deficiencies in their animals from time to time. This is because what we can provide to them in terms of feed and even minerals, does not always fill in every gap. In fact, watching for signs of deficiency is almost a daily task. There are many minerals and vitamins that keep a body healthy, and most are needed in micro doses. It’s not possible to pinpoint every deficiency here, but there are a few main ones worth noting:

  1. Copper
    This deficiency is probably the one goat owners encounter most often. A good loose mineral will go a long way toward avoiding a deficiency, but it’s often not enough to make up what’s needed. Signs of a copper deficiency are:
    The coat starts to get a hook/curl on the ends of the hairs. I look for such hooked hairs to start on the neck area, and rear legs. The whole coat gets a ‘rough’ look.
    The tail tip goes bald and the tail becomes what’s known as ‘fish tail’ because of how it resembles the shape of a fish’s tail.
    The goat starts to lose hair around the eyes.
    The coat starts to fade in color – black goats start to turn reddish, gold goats lighten to cream etc. (Not all faded coats are copper-related! It seems that some goats, in particular black goats, tend to have some fading when they sunbathe, and we know they are not copper deficient! However, a faded coat PLUS any of the other symptoms might point to deficiency.)
    The goat is slow to shed the winter coat and may still have the winter fluffy undercoat even when weather is getting hot and the coat should be looking sleek.
    The goat has more problems with internal parasites and may become anemic.
    The goat begins to have problems with getting pregnant or staying pregnant if a doe, or shooting blanks if a buck.
    Copper wire boluses (COWP – copper wire particles) are probably the safest and most effective way to deal with copper deficiency. Some people give the bolus with a bolus gun, but we prefer the gentle way that our goats love.

We open the capsule and sprinkle the particles onto a half slice of bread that has been spread with peanut butter. We fold the half slice so that the particles are squished into the peanut butter and won’t fall out while the goat is munching on it. They love these copper ‘sandwiches’ and will fight to get one! No, half a slice of bread now and then won’t hurt them, but if it makes you feel better, use a whole grain bread! (we do!) In fact, we use this method to supplement or dose our goats whenever possible.

  1. Zinc
    Zinc is another deficiency we sometimes encounter. It seems to happen more often when we feed alfalfa (the extra calcium in alfalfa competes with zinc). Signs of zinc deficiency are:
    The goat loses hair. This is more noticeable if the hair loss is occurring in fall or winter when they should not be shedding!
    The goat develops dandruff. This can be a slightly greasy-feeling dandruff, often a bit scaly, perhaps biggish flakes. (Dandruff can also be caused by lice and mites, so always check for parasites and signs of itchiness or mange! Smaller, dry flakes could well be caused by mites! In fact, a zinc deficiency may in some way allow external parasites to take hold, so it’s best to get on top of it quickly.)
    Their coat looks rough and feels hard, crunchy.
    Bucks may not be able to breed does, and does may not get pregnant.
    Goats may still be eating well, even eat more than other goats, but stay skinny.
    Goat may stand with a ‘hunched’ posture.
    They may have some swelling of their feet.
    Goats eventually lose their appetite.
    Thankfully, zinc deficiency is quick and easy to fix! Zinc supplementation makes the goat feel better and stop standing hunched within a day or two, and their hair will stop falling after about two or three days of supplementation. After about a week or two, new, soft hair will start to grow in. The goat will start eating better and gaining weight again. Some types of zinc are better absorbed than others. Zinc methionine is one frequently recommended.
  2. Selenium
    Selenium deficiency is a tricky one, but can be diagnosed by blood test. Some pasture areas in the United States have a lot of selenium, and many are very deficient. In a deficient pasture, your goats may not be getting enough. Selenium is extremely toxic if overdosed, and they only need minute amounts. Selenium deficiency can go hand in hand with Vitamin E deficiency. (Feeding a lot of alfalfa can contribute to selenium deficiency.) There are few obvious visible signs, which makes it a challenge to identify. Care must be taken, and any supplementation done at low doses. Selenium and vitamin E deficiency shows itself as a muscle weakness. Some signs of selenium deficiency could be:
    Goats may start to look ‘down in the pasterns’, indicating a weakness in the ankle.
    The goat’s tail may not be held upright and looks to flop down and to one side.
    The legs, in particular the rear legs, may become stiff.
    You may not suspect a deficiency until your doe gives birth to kids that are too weak to stand, walk on their ankles, or can’t suckle.
    Does may have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.
    Pregnant does may abort or give birth prematurely.
    Kids may be stillborn.
    Kids may cough and develop pneumonia because of their inability to be mobile plus having weak lungs.
    Does may have prolonged labors due to weak contractions.
    Does may have retained afterbirth.
    Do your due diligence to seek help in determining the selenium levels in your area. Get vet advice about how best to supplement selenium in your herd. Although goats are less prone to toxicity than other animals, selenium toxicity can be quickly fatal.
    We give Replamin Plus Gel on a weekly or every two weeks, and sometimes monthly basis, depending on the season and the condition of the goat.
    We have had kids born weak in the past, so we also give a selenium supplement to our pregnant does about a month before kidding. We supplement Vitamin E during the winter months when green feed is dormant.

Meds and Remedies to have on hand

Now and then, goats don’t feel well. Please do your own research and seek veterinary attention if you are concerned about the health of your goats.
You’ll quickly learn that it’s best to have a few basic meds, remedies, and treatments on hand. Here are a few main ones, in no particular order, that we couldn’t do without:
CDT Antitoxin If this is needed, it’s best to have it on hand, because there’s often not an hour to spare while you run to look for it in a store. The CDT vaccine, while definitely important, is not a foolproof guarantee, so having the antitoxin on hand is a good backup. Thankfully, we’ve not had to use it, but it’s there if needed.
Deworming medication (a whole book could be written about these!) We don’t need to deworm very often. In fact, we can go a year or more without needing to deworm anyone. When we do, we use different dewormers and dosages depending on what worms we’re treating for. It’s important to have a fecal done to discover what worm load and which type of worms your goats have prior to deworming so that you know which dewormer to use.
Copper Wire Particles – a great way to supplement copper, which also serves to kill barberpole worms.
Replamin Plus Gel – a fabulous multivitamin containing micronutrients that goats love! We can’t say enough about how great this stuff works, but be aware that the zinc:copper ratio is a little off with this one.
Rectal thermometer – normal goat temperatures are between 101.5 and 103.5
Red Cell – for anemia
Nutri-Drench – an invaluable, high energy, nutrient dense drench that works to ‘wake up’ sluggish newborns, provides a boost to sick or stressed goats
Baking Soda – bloat
Goats Prefer Pro-biotic Powder – a vitamin and probiotic powder helps manage stress, maintain normal appetite and repopulate the friendly bacterial flora in the gut. Given with treatment for scours, before and after deworming, after a course of antibiotics, kidding, weaning, any time of stress, etc.
Benadryl – colds
VetRX – for mild colds, runny nose
LA200 or other antibiotic injectible. Also keep on hand some syringes (smaller ones, eg. 3cc, 5cc) and needles (18 gauge, 20 gauge)
Spectogard – for treating the immediate scours, settle the tummy and avoid more damage to the gut and greater loss of condition. Does not cure scours (unless caused by ecoli), but gives relief to the animal and prevents further gut damage while you determine and treat the cause of the scours!
Toltrazuril/Corid/Albon – to prevent and treat coccidia
Ammonium Chloride – an addition to Bucks’ feed to help prevent urinary calculi
Blu-Kote germicidal, fungicidal, wound dressing and healing aid
FAMACHA Card – to identify anemia and possible worm infections

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