LOOKING AFTER GOATS
There are a few key things you will need to organise before you bring your goats home. You need to have secure fencing, goats need shelter, and baby goats needs to be locked up at night to protect from predators such as foxes or wild dogs.
And once you are goat owners, you will need to ensure access to food and water, trim hooves regularly, and learn to recognise when they are unwell. Here are some of our tips, but our best tip is to do your research! There's heaps of info online about goats.
This is something you will definitely need sorted out you bring your goats home. We have dog mesh or sheep mesh attached to our normal farm fencing. The mesh is placed with the smallest holes at the bottom and runs up to the second top wire on the fence.
Of course paling, colourbond or other enclosed fences are fine. While the miniature goats are much less like to get over a fence, there is a possibility they may get UNDER, so check the boundary and around the gate to ensure they are secure.
Sheep panels, gate inserts and ‘school’ fence panels make great goat fencing. They are very affordable and you can easily move them around to give your goats access to clean pasture. Electric fencing works well too for adults.
Ideally you would have at least two paddocks for your goats so that way you can rotate them every few months.
You will also need to have a shelter for your new goats before you bring them home. Protection from rain and wind are the key elements for goat housing. In cooler climates they need somewhere to keep warm at night. It really depends on how many goats you have – a large dog kennel can work, a dedicated area in a current shed or outbuilding, or an old kids cubby house. For adults we find it best if closed on 3 sides facing North.
During the cooler months of if it is wet you may like to add bedding straw to keep things warm and dry. Your goat house will need to be kept clean and don’t allow too many droppings to build up in and around their house. Be sure to rake and take away the straw too so the ground can dry out. Babies (and grown-ups!) can wear dog coats in winter for some additional warmth.
Your baby goats should be locked up at night until around 4-5 months of age for protection from foxes and dogs, even if they are close to your house. Babies are often locked into a chicken yard for protection at night, just be careful they cannot access the chicken food though as it can make them very sick.
We feed our goats oaten hay or pasture hay as a staple, along with mixed chaff (dry blend of oaten, wheaten and lucerne). Depending on our pasture, we add a quality goat pellets, cracked lupins and a little extruded barley for our does, increased over kidding and milking season. Wethers do not get too many grains so we usually stick to a diet of hay and chaff for them. They love the occasional weetbix treat too!
Goats need access to fresh water at all times. We have found if the water has not been changed for a few days they may not drink it. They will need a mineral lick –‘Go Blocks’ are good general blocks for goats. They love variety and we give our guys fruit salad (apple, pumpkin, carrot, banana, celery, lettuce, watermelon), along with wattle, lilipilli and willow branches that grow on our property.
There is a lot of good information on line about what goats can and cannot eat, so always Google before you feed them to check. Introduce any new foods slowly/in small quantities. Contrary to popular opinion, goats do not 'eat everything' and actually have quite sensitive stomachs so don’t make any dramatic changes to their diet.
You will need sufficient space for your goats to run and play, and if you live in a built up area note that babies can be quite noisy when you wean them from the bottle.
There will be a pecking order in your goat herd and it is quite normal for goats to butt and mount each other to gain dominance – although sometimes just for fun! When you are hand-feeding just make sure everyone gets a fair share.
When you take your babies home do not allow them to climb on you or push you. Never play ‘butting’ games with your babies – they do grow up and you don’t want them to start butting your visitors! They love to climb so access to play equipment, kennels etc is great.
CARE + HUSBANDRY
Goats need their feet trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Periodically check for lice or mites – you can bath them to get rid of these kinds of pests, or use a powder such as Pestene available at the farm shop or vet. You can train your goat to walk on a lead from just a few months old which makes them very easy to handle when it comes to care.
Goats are susceptible to worms. You need to check them often for any signs of worms. You can do this by looking at their gums or inside their eyelids – if they are pale and not nice and pink then they may have worms and require drenching. Good idea to drench or do a worm count to see what worms they are carrying.
Goats can also often scour. This could be food related, changing their diet, new pasture or sign of worm burden. If scouring ensure your goat is well hydrated, and drench with a mixture of natural yoghurt and cornflour to settle tummy. You can also give them a pro-biotic such as Inner Health Plus.
Goats do go down quickly so be sure to call the vet asap if your goat is not well. Always take the temperature of a goat that is looking unwell to rule out infection. If your goat has a temperature of 40 degrees or more, seek vetrinary advice asap.