Before you get a goat, decide why you want one. Milk? A pet or companion? A breeder?
A doe, or female goat, is usually purchased for milking purposes or as a pet. She will not make milk unless she has had kids. A wether, or neutered male goat, is usually purchased as a pet and is useful for eating weeds and trimming trees. A buck, or intact male goat, is usually purchased for breeding purposes. If you purchase a buck as a pet you need to be aware that when the mating season comes around, the buck will develop a definite musky stench, will urinate on his own face to make himself more attractive to females, and will be generally frisky and energetic. A wethered male will not display any of these characteristics.
Spend a little time with the goat first to see if you both like each other. Goats live 12 or more years and will be with you a long time. Be aware that goats are herd animals. They need another goat or herd animal to keep them company or they will become depressed and constantly cry for their missing herd-members.
Goats are browsers. They like to eat woody brush when in their natural environment and contrary to popular belief, they do not eat anything. They are picky. Don’t feed your goat unusual foods as it can make them sick and give them diarrhea. We feed our goats alfalfa or mixed hay (heavy on the alfalfa). The ratio to feed is a pound per goat twice daily. They get mesquite bean pods for treats and sweet feed with molasses during milking or as a treat. Goats require a mineral supplement which can be purchased at feed stores. It is easily sprinkled on their food or offered to them in a feeder as a free choice item. Be aware of any potentially poisonous plants on your property that your goats may get into such as oleanders. Either remove the plants or secure your goat so he or she can’t eat them.
Your goat always needs plenty of fresh water available. Place your water container in a way so that your goat does not poop in it. Automatic waterers are great.
Goats in nature live in rocky areas where their hooves can be worn down by the environment. This may not happen where you’re keeping your goat. Try to offer some rough surfaces for your goat to climb on, but keep an eye on his or her hooves. They need to be trimmed if they do not wear down naturally or the overgrown hoof can cause foot problems for your goat. Trimming hooves is easy once you know how. You will need hoof trimming sheers which can be purchased online or at a feed store. Here is a good article with photos on hoof trimming:
Goats don’t like the rain. A Nigerian Dwarf can take shelter in a medium to large size doghouse. I have found that the Dogloo brand works best since the goats don’t seem able to destroy them. You can build a house for your goat but be sure to make it very sturdy. They love to rub and scratch against their homes and they like to butt things with their heads.
Goats are smart and if they get bored, they will try to escape from their designated area. Provide sturdy fencing and gates that latch securely.
Goats poop a lot and their poos are called berries. They are fairly dry and very easy to clean up with a push broom, a wide flat shovel, and with a trashcan or a wheelbarrow (if you have a lot of goats). Goat poop is a great fertilizer for your plants and because it is not a ‘hot’ manure, it can be placed directly into the garden.
Goats tend to be hardy animals that do well when their basic needs are met. You may choose to vaccinate your goats. A CD&T vaccination and a rabies vaccination are recommended in the spring. Contact a local veterinary center for more information. You may also choose to raise your goats holistically with no vaccinations.
When cared for properly, goats usually do not develop parasites but you may choose to deworm your goats on a periodic basis. We use an herbal wormer found here:
https://www.fiascofarm.com/herbs/mollysherbals.php/categories/herbal-wormer You can use over the counter products available online or through your local feed store.
Goats love to climb. If you can provide places for them to play and climb on, they will be happy and you’ll be entertained. They also like to go for walks and can be trained to walk on a leash like a dog. They are naturally curious animals and will come to ‘check out’ anything new you place in their area. They will always try to ‘help’ you when you’re cleaning by stealing your rake or shovel or standing in your wheelbarrow.
We do not dehorn our goats. We believe it detracts from the animal’s natural beauty. Horns also give the goat a way to protect themselves if attacked by a predator. When treated humanely and raised to trust humans, horned animals normally do not try to hurt their human companions. However, be aware that a goat may not understand how large its horns are, so exert good common sense when handling your goat. In a pinch, horns make a good handle.
Although they don’t like water, bathe your goat as needed. We use Mane and Tail horse shampoo which is available at Wal-Mart and feed stores. Goats do like to be brushed.
Regardless of their horns, goats are a prey animal. Take precautions to keep them safe from coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and even dogs.