You’ve Goat to be Kidding Me! Introducing Goats to Your Herd

Reader Contribution by Corinne Gompf and Heritage Harvest Farm
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Whew! The past month, I have been overwhelmed with back-to-school shopping, the Morrow County Fair, the first day of school, planning my 10-year-old’s birthday party, etc., that I haven’t been able to sit down and write a grocery list, let alone a blog post. Needless to say, I’ve missed it. And now that we’re back into the routine, and the kids are out of my hair for a few hours a day, I’m ready to get back to writing.

Speaking of kids (goat kids, that is), Fletcher did exceptionally well for his first year showing at the fair. He took his two Boer doelings, Mandy and Danae, and both placed in their BBR (bred, born, and raised in MoCo) classes, as well as weight classes. Fletcher even won rate-of-gain champion for Mandy and third in beginner showmanship, and is so proud of his banner, rosettes, and ribbons (Mom’s just a little proud, too!).

The plan was to keep the bigger doe, Mandy, to breed next year, and for Fletcher to sell Danae in a private sale once the fair was over (boy, does he want the money to buy a new Xbox One!). Well, after placing second in both her BBR and weight classes (beating a lot of wethers), a guy who knows a heck of a lot more about goats than we do, approached my husband, Matt, after the show and, let’s just say, “politely encouraged” us to keep both does to breed in 2019.

So, we loaded up the girls and brought them back to the barn. But wait, there’s more! My nephew headed off to college a few weeks ago and made a deal with Matt to keep and breed his two does while he is away. Matt picked them up Saturday. So, we went from the original plan to have just three goats to a herd of six in a week.

Introducing Goats

Introducing goats to an existing herd can be a challenge, but here are a few tips to help reduce the stress of moving new animals into the barn.

Clean out old bedding: This should be a no-brainer. Because many diseases are spread through infected manure, you should remove soiled straw and pressure wash walls and floors to reduce the likelihood of illness. You may want to dust with diatomaceous earth to combat external parasites, such as lice or mites. Wait until the pen is thoroughly dry before adding fresh straw or wood shavings.

Separate pens: Quarantining your new goats is a good idea to make sure there are no signs of illness until you introduce them to your herd. If you can, keep the new goats separated for a few days, or up to a month, as some online references suggest. You may want to deworm, too. Watch for signs of illness during the quarantine period, such as a temperature higher than 103 degrees, snotty nose, deep coughing, or panting/fast breathing. Contact your vet should you notice these signs.

Buy feed from the previous owner: This will help the transition to your preferred goat feed, as mixing the two feeds is beneficial to your new animals. Rather than a quick change of feed, mixing can reduce the chance for intestinal upset (diarrhea).

Sanitize buckets and feeders: Again, this is all part of infection control. Thoroughly wash your water buckets and feed pans before you put them in the cleaned pen. If you are moving goats locally, you may even want to fill a jug of water from the previous owner’s pump to mix with your water until the new goats are used to it. We did this for the week of the fair, filling cleaned milk jugs with our well water to mix with the fairground’s city water to help prevent diarrhea.

Understand temperament: Now, just because your goats are sweet and funny and fill-in-your-adjective, doesn’t mean that they won’t turn aggressive once you turn out new goats into the herd. There definitely is a social ranking among goats, and you’re likely to see it in full-force in the early days of introduction. This is true for our doe, Zilah, who can be very food aggressive. Let’s just say, she’s been known to knock heads around the feed pan. But after a few days, they should have settled down and accepted the new goats into the herd. You’ll know fairly quickly the self-imposed social hierarchy. Most of the time, goats are good-natured as long as they are healthy and have plenty of room in the pen and around the water buckets and feeders.

So, if you end up in a goat-acquiring situation, I hope these tips help you get through the introduction time. If you have additional advice, please leave a comment below so that we can all learn to be better herdsmen.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.

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