In this raising goats for beginners primer we will cover all the things you need to know about keeping goats when you are first starting out. When I got my first goats, Marsha and Fadra I knew next to nothing about goats. Quite frankly they kind of scared me. I thought they would bite me! It wasn’t until some time later I came to realize, they don’t have top teeth and while they can bite, it isn’t probable that they will.
Raising Goats For Beginners – Picking Your Goats
When it comes to raising goats for beginners the first step is choosing what type of goat you want. Are you looking for goats to milk or meat goats to sell? For me I wanted goat milk so I talked to people in the area and found a Saneen & a Nubian. Marsha was a Saneen and Fadra was a Nubian. The next step was to get them pregnant so I needed a buck.
The only buck I could find was a Boer (that I named Joe) Joe only lived for about 6 months at our house because I didn’t know that much about raising goats for beginners and he was eating too much grain.
Must have item for raising goats for beginners – Pepto Bismol! Fill up a syringe (like the kind you would use for giving babies/toddlers medicine) with a tablespoon, for a full grown goat, and it will help put a stop to the scours. Diarrhea in goats is called scours. It is what killed poor ole Joe.
- Boer goats are bigger and more preferable as meat goats. Goat meat tastes kind of like lamb but is a bit more greasy.
- Saneen’s are known to give more milk
- Nubian’s give richer milk
Over the years I had several different varieties of goats, like Alpine and Oberhasli (Oberhasli is actually an off shoot of Alpine but they have wattles) Wattles are those little dangley tufts that hang down on their necks. Because I’m not real anal about things in life, most of my goats were not strictly one breed or another.
Raising Goats For Beginners – Feeding Your Goats
Goats need fresh hay. They love weeds, leaves & shrubbery. Grass not so much. While I realize that the joke about using goats as lawn mowers has been around forever, if you need a living lawn mower, get a cow. We used to tie our cow up around the yard.
Anytime you are trimming trees, or pruning you should throw your trimmings into the goat enclosure. If you are milking your females you need to make sure that you aren’t feeding them weeds. It will make the milk taste bad.
Females that are being milked and at the end of their pregnancy need some grain. I liked to give mine 3 in one with molasses. Barley, wheat and corn with a drizzle of molasses on top.
Pumpkins are a natural dewormer.
Raising Goats For Beginners – Birthing Your Goats
The gestation period for goats is 5 months. Many people I know try to get their goats pregnant towards the end of October. Personally, probably because I let the bucks and does run together, mine were usually pregnant by the end of August and I was having babies in January/February.
Does only go into heat a couple times a year. They usually have two babies, though I’ve had my goats give birth to as many as four at a time. Goats can get pregnant their first year, but it is probably better for them to wait until they are two years old before letting them breed.
Bucks can do the deed at about five or six months old.
When the doe is getting ready to give birth there are some tell tale signs.
This last video is a really good look at the trials and tribulations of delivering goats. Things to remember if you need to “go in and help”
- Use KY Jelly for lubrication;
- Wash your hands and then put on the gloves and wash the gloves & the goat business area with Betadine solution.
- You can tell if the feet belong to the baby that is on the way out by feeling along from the nose or rump to try to get them out first. Sometimes they do come out butt first and sometimes they try to present with their head turned back against their side. You can try to push them back in a bit and point the head forward. Be gentle, move slow. It sometimes helps to close your eyes and try to visualize what you are feeling.
Raising Goats For Beginners – Milking Your Goats
Milking goats is a pretty simple and straight forward process. Do it a few times and you’re a pro. Here is a good video showing the technique
His comments about racing to finish milking are right on from my experience. The hobbles they talk about are for restraining the back legs so the random foot doesn’t end up in the milk. Also when you are done milking make sure to get your milk in the fridge or freezer right away. You would be amazed at how fast the bacteria will start growing.
If you decide to use mason jars leave a good couple inches at the top if you are going to put them in the freezer.
Raising Goats For Beginners – Hoof trimming
When it comes to trimming hooves a picture is worth a thousand words.
Those are trimmers for bushes probably. I like to use heavy duty nippers. Nippers are easy to get under the little bits that fold over. They are also extremely sharp. Either way if you do this while you have them hooked up to the milk stand it is easier to practice. Don’t worry if you only get one hoof a day.
Raising Goats For Beginners – Managing Your Herd
It doesn’t take long to have a really big herd once your mama’s start having babies. You need to decide how many goats you want to care for. Selling babies, especially the boys is a good idea. I like to keep a couple males from the spring for breeding back to the girls in the fall. They are about ready to be useful, yet they aren’t big enough to be a problem.
I’ve kept bucks around for a couple years and my experience is that they get to be rather a handful and aggressive especially when the girls are in heat.
This is Buckly. He learned to jump a five foot fence. Though I loved him dearly when he was little, he had to go after about three years because he was too aggressive and I couldn’t keep him contained.
A word about containment. Goats are smart. Containing them is difficult. Your goats will escape and they will eat your fruit trees if they can find them. Think about where you intend to keep them well before you get them. Goats also hate to be rained on. They need shelter. I used to keep them in some big silos I had when they were getting ready to kid, but for the most part they had the “goat shed”. You will notice there is a lot of “stuff” around the goat shed…that is so that was my attempt to keep my goats from escaping.
Some Final Thoughts on Raising Goats For Beginners
Horns – People get all wrapped around the axle about horns and cutting them off. In my experience it is easiest to just let them be. I’ve done the burning them off route both at home and with a vet. The vet is expensive. I kind of like the horns because they make good handles.
Goats are amazing animals. Some of my favorite creatures. If you have questions about them feel free to hit me up on Facebook or message me here in the comments.
A few tools that are helpful for getting started: