Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When thinking about housing/shelter for the goats it doesn't have to be fancy. They just want to have some place dry and draft-free.
Housing/Shelter: They need some type of enclosed shelter that can be a barn, enclosed lean-to added to another building or barn. They don't need elaborate housing just shelter to keep them from the weather and severe drafts. Be creative and re-use/re-purpose old materials.
Fencing: Electrical fencing is probably the most effective and cost-efficient. Usually 2 strands will suffice. There is solar fencing available for out-of-the-way pastures.
Health/Maintenance: When feeding look the goats over to see if there are any wounds/injuries they may have sustained while roaming pasture if so, take care of those immediately. Check to make sure there is no diarrhea, if there is attend to that. Sometimes you may need to separate the goat from others to keep them from harming it and so you can administer help.
If unsure what to do call vet. Sometimes they may get their horns hung in their hay racks, on another goats collar, in fences or in trees/shrubbery. If they are bleeding use blood-stop powder.
If you don't see a goat when it's time to feed go look for it...sometimes they do get trapped in fencing or shrubbery and have to be helped. Look them over to see if their hooves are growing out and need trimming. You can either do this now or if you have several that need trimming set up a specific time to trim all the ones that need it. If you don't know how to do this there are DVD's available to train and also video online. Make sure their bedding area stays dry.
Increasing Your Goat Population: If you decide to increase your goat population and decide to breed your goats there are things to consider.
1. Breeding season is usually sometime in September through January. When does come into estrus they will exhibit tail twitching and/or become verbal. If there is a buck near they will stand near where they can see the buck. The does can stay in estrus anywhere from 24-48 hours...some may go a little longer. At this point you may want to breed the doe or wait until her next cycle. Most people plan the breeding around the estimated gestation time so the babies won't be born in extreme weather.
2. Goats can have, most often, 1-3 kids. If you're just wanting the milk and don't want to feed/house or take care of the kids prepare ahead of time. Contact someone to either sell or give the babies to. Sometimes people will sell these offspring for meat. Sometimes if the stock is good you can raise the kids until old enough to wean and then try to sell them. Either way prepare ahead of time for what you will do.
3. Does will go usually 145-155 days before giving birth. Start watching at about 130 days in case there are complications. You may want to have someone with you when your goat has her kids if you've not experienced it before in case there are complications or this is the does first kidding. Most does do fine and there is no problem. One of the biggest problems is not enough room in the stall and the doe steps on a kid or she lays down on one. Make sure there is enough room in her stall and it is draft-free or the kid/kids could chill.
You will need to decide if you want to leave the kid/kids with the mother or you want to take them away and bottle feed. If you leave with the mother it usually takes around 3 months to wean the kids.
Other decisions you will need to make are: Do you plan to leave the horns? If not, will you disbud (burn the hornbud with an iron) or use bands to remove horns? It is always a tricky situation when trying to disbud. The iron must be hot enough and you must burn it long enough for it to keep the horn from growing...sometimes there will still be a small growth called a scur. If the iron is left too long it can cause encephalitis to the brain and cause complications for the kid. Some suggest that a goat needs to keep the horns because this is their "cooling" system If you keep their horns watch your herd often because when scuffling the goats can get their horns hung in each others collars and this can cause injury or death.
You may opt not to use collars...it is easier to "catch" one if necessary. There are also bridle-type harnesses for when you need to lead a goat.
If your kids are male do you want to keep them a buck...take into consideration what this will mean. Bucks do have a certain "aroma" that some people find very offensive. This is especially during breeding season. They will urinate on their face/beard, front legs and anything standing nearby! They will also need to be kept separately from the females. This decision needs to be made before the kid is 14 days or sooner. If you keep the kid a buck make sure you remove him from the herd between 2-3 months old because he can produce offspring by this age.
If you want to make the male kid a wether you must decide how this will be done. The options are to surgically (with blade) remove the testicles as soon as they have developed enough or to band. There are really strong feelings on both these methods. If banding is used a band is slipped over the scrotum above the testes with an elastrator. The testicles will atrophy and the sac will fall off usually with 1-2 weeks. Either way the goat will need a tetanus vaccine. If you are selling your male goats at a young age for "meat" you wont have to worry about castration.
Milking If you are milking the goats. The milk will be rich and lemony yellow for about 3-7 days. This is Colostrum and contains the nutrients that the young kid needs to develop a healthy immune system. You must make sure the kid is nursing within the first few hours of birth or that you are feeding this to the kid.
You need to decide what hours are best for you to do your milking because it needs to be on a schedule. There should be at least 10-12 hours between milking. This needs to be done early morning and evening. Watch the doe after kidding for a few days to make sure she looks healthy and is eating. She may need extra electrolytes/nutrients after kidding to get her energy back. If she appears very listless or doesn't want the kid to nurse, examine her udder to make sure it doesn't feel hot to the touch or have hard lumps. If there is ever a doubt call the vet. Goats get sick quickly so you must react quickly.
When milking care should be taken with the goat. Make sure long hair around the udder is clipped. At each milking clean the udder. Again you need to decide what to use for this. There are wipes out there just for this
purpose but, make sure you don't have contact dermatitis or eczema because these could cause rash to you. These can also chaff the udder.
Plain water will suffice but, make sure the udder is dried before milking. You can use a strip cup...just a container to squirt the first squirts of milk into because the first squirts usually contain any bacteria if there
is bacteria. Watch your goat when you start to milk sometimes you will have kickers and they will turn the pail over. While your goat is on the "milk stand" or stanchion you can be feeding your goat her ration of feed to keep her occupied while you milk. Sometimes they will even "talk" to you as if you are one of their kids while you are milking. Make sure you get the milk to a cool place as soon as possible because this does affect the taste of the milk. Make sure the milk is strained and then, placed in the refrigerator. You can
store the milk in glass mason jars. Plastic can be used but, may cause a "taste". Milk into a stainless steel pail, never use aluminum or other metal...glass is ok. Don't leave in direct sunlight.
NOTE: See our blog Starting a Rotational Grazing Goat-Rental Service, Part 1 and 2
Deworming has been overused to the point where it is hard to find anything that is effective against them anymore. The best way to fight parasites is Rotational grazing. Switch out pastures...leave the goats on new pasture for about 3-4 weeks (life cycle of most parasites) and then, turn them back into their Home pasture. Try to feed hay in hay racks (off the ground). Check the inner lid of the goats' eye. This should be pink in color...if white, this is a sign of anemia most often caused by parasites. If internal you will need to get a wormer from your vet. They will usually ask you to bring in a sample of feces to be checked to make sure it is internal parasites and not coccidia or lice/mites. The wormer can also affect your milk you consume so, make sure you find out about "hold" time for milk.
Poisonous Plants When deciding to own a goat make sure it willl be a safe place for your goat to live. Goats can die from laurel/rhododendro, azalea, poke can make them very sick and cause diarrhea.
Also watch out for: dock, hemlock,some milkweed, cherry, too much oak leaves (tannins), rhubarb, etc. Keep your goats safe from possible predators such as coyotes and neighbors dogs.
Whatever your reason for wanting to own goats...good luck and enjoy!
Susan Tipton-Fox continues the farming and preserving practices that have been passed down to her by her family. She presents on-farm workshops in Yancey County, North Carolina, and growing her on-farm agritourism by promoting "workshop stays" on the farm (extending the farm experience).
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