• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Goats - getting started

 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ok, I've been thinking about goats for a long while thinking that they'd eat our meadows up nicely.  But I've been educated here and realise that they may not eat the grass but will eat the horrible thistles and MASSES of blackberries that border all 5 of our fields.  So still a good idea.  I'm maybe thinking also goat's milk and cheese (can you do butter?)

Questions at present are:

Are blackberry hedges 8ft thick enough to contain them?
Do they need extra food and if so what?
Do they need a shelter?
Is it easy to milk them?
Does milking them take up a lot of time?
Do they need milked every day or more frequently than once a day?
Is cheese making time consuming?
What's a good number to get started with?
Is it best to get young ones so they get used to us?
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are blackberry hedges 8ft thick enough to contain them?

probably for now. if they have plenty of browse in the area they dont' usually go far or work too hard to get out. I would train them to a twice a day feeding just to get them accustomed to the area before just turning them loose. fencing is unfortunatly one of the things that can be difficult about goats.

Do they need extra food and if so what?

dairy goats will generally require some additional concentrated calories and form of calcium or they will literally milk themselves to death by robbing their body to make milk. young goats benefit greatly by utilizing a creep feed and practicing coccidioses prevention. if you are planning on retaining some for breeding stock or selling some for breeding stock (generally doelings) you will need to feed the young ones some to get good fast growth and allow them to reach their full potential.

Do they need a shelter?

yes. nothing elaborate. a dry place and draft free in a cool climate.

Is it easy to milk them?

they are easy to handle after trained to the milk stand. make sure you get a quality dairy goat with large teats and orifices.

Does milking them take up a lot of time?

I can  milk out 1/2 gallon in a few minutes.

Do they need milked every day or more frequently than once a day?

right after kidding you can allow the kids to stay 'on' the dam during the day and seperate them at night to allow milk to build up and then milk in the morning (or visa versa) eventually most goats will need you to milk 2x per day as the kids nurse less or if you wean them. it is a supply and demand thing. the less she is milked either by you or her kids the less milk she will make. milking once a day is the first step to drying them off. some goats will continue to make some milk while others with continue the dry up process even if you milk once a day.

Is cheese making time consuming?

this is very dependent on the type of cheese. some are ready overnight (yogurt cheese) and some must age for months.

What's a good number to get started with?

two. if you have access to a buck for breeding elswhere then keeping two is a good start. they need at least one other goat. if you wish, you can have a doe for milk and a wether (castrated male) for company. this takes care of the need for a herd and minimizes the amount of care needed. (wethers require little but roughage, minerals and hoof trimming)

Is it best to get young ones so they get used to us?

like most animals goats that are already basically tame become used to you the instant they realize you are the bearer of food! I would suggest (if you want a dairy goat) to purchase a young-ish but experienced doe already trained to the milkstand that is already bred (make sure this is confirmed through a pregnancy test). it can be difficult for those inexperienced with prey animal mentality/livestock and cognitive abilities to train one. they do not respond to praise. and have no 'pure desire to please' like dogs. better to slowly learn the ropes with an already trained animal then suffer the frustration of a young spunky untrained one that will very quickly learn to train YOU.
 
                            
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Depending on time of year, and what other browse is available the goats might select blackberry first.  It is often the preferred browse here, and great nutritionally.  I wouldn't count on a 8-ft hedge holding (my) animals for long. 

Also, I know it has been said this forum before, but it is really important: blackberry can damage full/big udders.
 
                          
Posts: 37
Location: Western Washington
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Alisa wrote:
Depending on time of year, and what other browse is available the goats might select blackberry first.  It is often the preferred browse here, and great nutritionally.  I wouldn't count on a 8-ft hedge holding (my) animals for long. 

Also, I know it has been said this forum before, but it is really important: blackberry can damage full/big udders.


Yes, an eight-foot-thick blackberry hedge will contain goats........temporarily.

That "natural" fence will last only as long as it takes the goats to eat it.   

When I moved my goats up here about 3 1/2 years ago, my place was overgrown with blackberries.  You couldn't even see the pond from the highway! 

They have definitely cleaned up the property and, since so much of my 5 acres is hillside and would be virtually impossible for me to keep under any control and, even though I no longer milk, breed, or sell my goats, I will always keep some around for brush control.

The only thing I would add to what Leah said would be the minerals (loose) and worming issues.

And, I'm one of those who is dead-set against tethering goats (although there are others who swear it's ok).

Unfortunately, my herd is aging.  My favorite Saanen doe is ten, as is her half-sister.  The youngest ones in my herd are around five years now.  I've lost several seniors in the last two years.
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for all the comments about the brambles.  I appreciate that they'd only be a temporary barrier.  Afterall, that's the point of getting them, to eat the damn things.  How on earth do you prevent damage to their udders though?  Ow.

Leah Sattler wrote:
I would train them to a twice a day feeding just to get them accustomed to the area before just turning them loose.


Does that mean keep them in somewhere and give them a feed by hand twice a day?

Leah Sattler wrote:
dairy goats will generally require some additional concentrated calories and form of calcium or they will literally milk themselves to death by robbing their body to make milk. young goats benefit greatly by utilizing a creep feed and practicing coccidioses prevention. if you are planning on retaining some for breeding stock or selling some for breeding stock (generally doelings) you will need to feed the young ones some to get good fast growth and allow them to reach their full potential.

Yikes "milk themselves to death".  I sometimes feel like that when Sammy does one of his mammoth breastfeeding times 
What is a 'creep feed'?  And what is 'coccidioses'?
Not intending to breed at this point.

Leah Sattler wrote:
make sure you get a quality dairy goat with large teats and orifices.

How would I know what's 'large' and eeek what 'orifices' are we talking about?

Leah Sattler wrote:
right after kidding you can allow the kids to stay 'on' the dam during the day and seperate them at night to allow milk to build up and then milk in the morning (or visa versa) eventually most goats will need you to milk 2x per day as the kids nurse less or if you wean them. it is a supply and demand thing. the less she is milked either by you or her kids the less milk she will make. milking once a day is the first step to drying them off. some goats will continue to make some milk while others with continue the dry up process even if you milk once a day.

Maybe I'm too soft for this   Don't they pine for each other if they're separated? How long do the kids normally nurse for?  I guess also that I would need another person that could milk them if we go away for few days or even overnight.


Maybe we should just get a plain ol' goat to get used to goats before we go down the dairy route.  Would that make a difference?

And Alisa, what's the bit about loose minerals and worming 'issues'?

What's the normal life-expectancy of a goat?  It must be really sad when your friends leave this mortal coil. 
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
your right in that it might be a good idea to start with just a few "plain' goats. then you can get accustomed to dealing with them and don't have to worry about special feeds, milking, udder issues etc.... at first.


Does that mean keep them in somewhere and give them a feed by hand twice a day?

not neccessarily by hand at first just some food. the idea is to just make sure they know where home and get them looking forwared to breakfast and dinner before just turning them loose somewhere where they might wander off and escape never to be seen again. I have read several heartbreaking stories on goat forums where people went out and bought a goat or two, let it go on there large property on purpose or on accident and never saw it again.

coocidia are a protazoan parasite that lives in the dirt. young stock nibble this and that and end up getting sick. sometimes there is little more then a 'failure to thrive' sort of syndrome and other times they develop full blown coccidioses with major diahrea and weight loss. after a bout of full blown coccidioesse their intestines are reportedly often damaged to the point that they will never absorb nutrients at full capacity and will there fore never really grow as good or be as thrifty as there counterparts. my own personal experience coupled with some pics of nasty coccidia damaged intestines has made me a big believer in cocci prevention for kids.

a creep feed area is an area designed to allow babies in but not adults so that youngsters can have access to a high quality feed that is designed to be safe enough that they can eat as much as they want. otherwise the adults will bully the kids at feeding time and prevent them from getting any.

at first the little ones and mom may pine for each other a bit at night while they are seperated but you would be surprised at how fast they get over it. it helps if they are right next door to each other with a fence between them that the kids can't suckle through. that way they can lay down together. that pretty much eliminates all crying in my experience.

most goats can supposedly live to 12 or so barring any major illness. I am in the opposite position as  cinebar. all my does are youngish. the oldest is maybe 7 but that is a guess as I don't know her history. cinebar would probablybe the one to ask for age related questions hopefully she'll chime in. I am told that retiring them from breeding at some point will greatly increase their lifespan.

ah yes. I forgot about loose minerals. very important. and worming can be extra difficult in goats. they don't naturally have as much resistance to parasites as grazing animals because they are naturally browsers.
 
                            
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I feed minerals because I want optimum health and healthy immune systems.  When animals perform well it is easier for me.

The loose mineral is formulated to balance minerals, in soils and vegetation, generally found in this location.  I don't want mineral blocks because sodium rates are generally higher and they are often have some sort of unnecessary attractant, like molasses.  I monitor the rate at which the mineral is put out and consumed--sometimes the goats are not interested, sometimes they really are. 

I formed a group of local goat owners who are also interested in feeding loose minerals.  I asked an extension agent, an expert on animal nutrition and goats, to help formulate a general mineral mix that works for our geographic area.  I found a feed manufacturer that is willing to make the mix in smaller batches (3 ton minimum) several times a year which helps with efficacy (mineral values can decline with oxidation). 

I don't expect a zero rate of parasitism.  I carefully selected goats that I believe have genetics and healthy systems to handle some load.  We move goats often, and try to keep them eating with their heads up, above knee level, as most (worm) parasites have only several inches of mobility in dewy, wet conditions.  There are also plants in this area that act act as natural wormers.



 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another reason to use loose minerals for goats, rather than blocks, is that goats don't have rough raspy tongues like cows do, and it's hard for them to get enough from a hard block.  Also, from what I've seen, the blocks (and some commercial goat minerals) seem to use the same formula as sheep mineral.  Unfortunately, sheep and goats require very different levels of copper (it's toxic to sheep, while goats NEED quite a bit of it).  So that doesn't work too well, either. 

Kathleen
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have found the same to be true. many things are labeled "sheep and goats". avoid those. they are really just for sheep. It has been revealed that goats and sheep have very different mineral requirements especially pertaining to copper. but lumping them together from a nutritional standpoint seems to still be common.

some other interesting notes.

goats often require higher dosages of anthlemintics by weight than other species. and they are almost always used orally except for specific reasons. the underdosing of goats with wormers has contributed significantly to the development of resistance in the parasites. most things labeled for goats don't actually work anymore and off label products must be used. of course the best thing to do is to manage them in such a way that infection with parasites is minimized without chemical wormers.

goats can be seriously affected by selenium deficiency. many people do routine injections of selenium and vit. E (vit. E is closely tied to utilization of selenium) especially for breeding animals. this is available through a vet.

copper bolusing has shown to be an effective way of increasing the resistance to intestinal parasites. tiny copper rods are placed in a gelatin cap and the goat is bolused (made to swallow it whole). the tiny copper rods lodge in the lining of the "stomach" and slowly dissolve giving the goat a long term (approx 4-6 month) dose of copper which seems to greatly reduce parasitism. I plan on giving this a try in my own goats soon in an effort to reduce the need for chemical wormers.

 
Gwen Lynn
Posts: 736
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Now that is really interesting about copper boluses. Never heard that word before or about the practice. Got to file boluses in my brain under "S"...for SCRABBLE! 
 
                          
Posts: 37
Location: Western Washington
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I give a good loose mineral with selenium and a good level of copper.  I've been hearing/reading about the copper boluses, too, but wonder if it's necessary with copper in the minerals.  Can you "over-copper?"

Also, I offer baking soda.  There is some debate out there about its necessity.  Some say it should be available at all times; others say it isn't necessary.  I guess I kind of fall in between......I try to keep it available but don't always remember or get around to it, so they do go without it at times.  When I do remember to put it out, it disappears pretty quickly.

Whenever there is a change in anything that goes in their bellies, I always try to remember to make sure its available.  I've recently been giving two of my old girls a little pre-soaked beet pulp, along with their alfalfa, because they're starting to lose their appetites and I figure, since the beet pulp is something their tummies aren't used to, it's a good idea to have the baking soda available.

Better safe than sorry.

I give the injectable wormers orally.  Again, there is some debate (some of it quite heated!) about giving inectables (or pour-ons) orally.  You have to sift through the information and just make a decision that makes the most sense to you.

As for my seniors?  They start to lose condition, appetite, etc.  It gets harder to keep weight on them and I believe it gets harder for them to fight off things like parasites (even with regular worming, etc.).

I have to separate my two oldest girls (Sweet Pea and Jasmine) at meal times because the other goats get really, really bad about bullying as the older goats get....well, older.  And it gets too hard for the older ones to compete for the food. Sometimes, goats are not very nice to each other.

Also, the winters are hard on them as they get older.  The winters here are wet and cool and I worry a lot about my older ones during those months.  I also worried last week during our record heat but they have lots and lots of shade and they all seemed to come through it just fine.  Of course, I made sure they had plenty of fresh water (that's a no-brainer).

As for how long you can breed/milk your goats?  I don't know.  Mine had their last babies five years ago and I no longer keep bucks.  I doubt very much, if I were still breeding, that I would breed past 8 or so but I often see people on forums posting about breeding well past that age.
 
                            
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am also using kelp for micronutrients
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that there is some debate about how much of what form of copper is absorbed in the minerals. from my understanding the copper boluses seem to provide some resistence to parasites where the simple supplementation is pretty iffy. I have been on the fence about this one for a while. my mineral contains both copper sulfate and copper chelate combining to a fairly large amount but I finally have decided that in order to know if the bolusing is good for my situation I will simply have to give it a go and try to decide if it seems to help.  at this time I do not give bo-se injections either. I was a little put off when researching to find out that the signs of selenium toxicity were the same as selenium deficiency! so I wonder how many people (one I personally know) have been seeing signs of 'deficiency' and been oversupplementing and actually are the cause of the problems they are seeing after they started a cycle of supplementation. my mineral also contains a goodly amount of selenium for a loose mineral. after trying to switch last year and encountering problems with uterine infection I am back to my old mineral.....and back to coughing up the bucks for it  the best thing to do is to find a top notch long time successful breeder near you since mineral problems tend to be geographic and ask them what they have been doing for their 'mineral program'.
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gosh, the minerals bit is quite complex then.

I had one lil question that didn't get answered - maybe cos it's not possible to answer it - how do you prevent the goats' udders from getting damaged on the brambles?
 
                            
Posts: 13
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To prevent damage to udders:  avoid blackberry with does, except when they are dry.  Or browse meat goats, they have more internal udder than dairy goats. Or use wethers. 
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
yep. there is nothing you can really do to make the does with large productive udders safe from things. many people "dry lot*" dairy goats to nearly eliminate need for worming, to control the diet entirely, and to minimize injury. Just as expensive equines are often housed. although they will sometimes damage their udder by stepping on it or finding some ingenius way to get hurt anyway.

*to dry lot' an animal is to keep them in a paddock that has no vegetation. it is very important that the paddock actually be dry and that it doesnt' really have anything growing for them to eat and not be somewhere in between where it is too small to maintain an abundance of vegetation inspite of the goat nibbling on it yet has enough to encourage them to go out there and nibble anyway.   
 
                              
Posts: 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You might want to consider a goat care course where they can show you milking technique & how to pare their hooves before you get them.  I went on a one day course which wasn't expensive.

Another question for seasoned goat keepers- I'd like to get a pair of low mainteneance goats for milk, but I can't decide between the toggenburg and the old english.  Does anyone have ecperience of either or both?  I live in the UK.
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow a goat keeping course - that would be great Alyssa but I live in France and haven't been able to track down many courses on anything  . I'm wondering if life is still so traditional here in rural France that skills get passed on in local communities just by 'doing'.
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
you might check with some universities for goat keeping courses. Langston university in Oklahoma hosts goat feild days where you can learn about goats, try goat products etc..... they are offering an AI class this september that I am thinking of attending.
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
24
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
heninfrance,

I live in France too and if you're not too far from me you're welcome to visit. I've lots of goatkeeper friends all over France who I could put you in touch with. Most people are delighted to show new goatkeepers the ropes.

In my blog you'll find articles and videos on milking goats

http://lafermedesourrou.blogspot.com/search?q=milking+goats

cutting toenails

http://lafermedesourrou.blogspot.com/search?q=goats+feet

Goats births

http://lafermedesourrou.blogspot.com/search?q=birth

...and so on. Just put your key word in the top left hand search box and you should find what you're looking for.

Goats are wonderful creatures and it's thanks to them that our veg garden produces the way it does ! 

 
                          
Posts: 37
Location: Western Washington
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Awesome blog, Hardworkinghippy!   

I've bookmarked it and plan to spend some time exploring it when I have a little more time than I do today.  
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On the baking soda question, it's really only necessary if the goats are heavy milkers and getting a LOT of grain.  If they are average milkers getting a diet that's mostly roughage with a little grain on the milking stand, they don't need baking soda.

Kathleen
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
24
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks cinebar ! 

Leah,

You're so right about asking local smallholders - they'll know what's in the soil. We had a skin problem in our Angoras and tracked it to a lack of Zinc in the soil thanks to neighbours.

heninfrance, We use this block called Sodichèvre (chèvre is goat in French) local agricultural coops will get it for you or you can buy it online from Alliance pastorale.

http://www.catalliance.com/dept20_20_03_002_0200201_fiche_sodichevre_bloc_12_kgs.html ;
 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
educated locals can be a precious resource.

I agree with kathleen about the baking soda. there is also some debate wether there is much point at all. as in whether they can really self medicate with it. baking soda also tastes salty and may steer them away from the mineral mix they need since salt is what attracts them to the mix. a high grain diet can create a state of chronic acidoses and the baking soda can temper that...if a goat is smart/instinctive enough to go for it when they need it. the only time goats went for it is if one decided to check it out and then of course all the others were afraid they were missing out on something and they would empty the container. most of the time it just turned into a soda rock in the humidity. I stopped using it. although you should always have it on hand to dose them with if you suspect tummy troubles.
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
gosh it seems a lot more complicated than getting started with chickens and geese 
Do they do Goat Starter Packs at the supermarkets   Handy if they did.  You guys all sound so experienced.

hardworkinghippy - you're about 270 miles from us - we're just NE of Le Mans but visiting you sounds just fantastic as you guys are my heroes (also on TotalFrance).  You already have what we're trying to work towards.  Having 3 young children in tow makes the going a little slower but also very funny.  We have a camper van if you have a wee slot that we can park up in maybe overnight?

On the breeze at our house today I can hear a tinkling bell like a cow bell but I'm just now wondering if it's maybe goats?  Quite wooded here.
 
Ute Chook
Posts: 39
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all, I'm new to this forum. We live in the West of Ireland and have had goats for 17 years now just on a hobby scale, 2-3 milking females and yearly offspring. We sell most females except for the odd replacement, and butcher the males on the farm. Our stock originates from feral animals with random infusion of fresh blood from domestic stock in the area. Our females are not high-yielding but they are hardy. And we get more than enough milk for the house and for a bit of soft cheese and yoghurt.
Hardworkinghippy, I love your blog, spend hours yesterday reading and looking at photos. You're doing an awesome job with that farm and the Angora wool enterprise is superb. I've toyed with the idea of Angora goats in the past but the Irish climate is just not good enough for them. Reading about hot August days makes me pine. It hasn't stopped raining here in two months and last summer was just as bad, and the one before that not much better... Fed up with mud, mud, and more mud.
Anyway, heninfrance, I think a lot of your questions have been answered, so I'll just add little tidbits.

re: containment
We have a half acre fenced with 5 strands of 12 gauge wire hooked up to a high power electric mains, divided into 6 paddocks with electric string to graze in rotation with permanent access to their shed, and another 3/4 acre in total of smaller areas that I let them graze on dry days, fenced with a 50 meter movable electric net.  When we moved here 14 years ago our 2.5 acre lot had virtually no woody vegetation so we planted hundreds of trees including lots of willow, around borders as well internally and I cut quite a bit of that for the goats who love to browse more than to graze. Browse, and bark in particular, is a good source of minerals too. They take the leaves and bark off and what's left dries quite quickly with bigger stuff used for firewood and finer material as kindling, for deadwood hedges, raised beds etc. Just got a Bearcat chipper/shredder so from now on we can also make some mulch for paths from the 'remains'. Leaf hay as winter fodder has a tradition on the continent (basically lopped branches dried in summer); unfortunately the climate here is too damp to do that so I just feed it fresh.
Goats and trees do not mix, so secure containment is very important, unless you want rid of the trees... It takes them no time at all to ringbark your favourite fruit tree. However, do not use barbed wire, as they inevitably will sustain injury from trying to break out.

re: extra food
We feed bought-in hay c. Oct-April-early May and a small amount (c. 10 oz per head) of oats or organic goat nuts daily 'to keep them sweet'. The grain/nuts are also great for leading them to the current days paddock when they are about the place rather than in 'their' field.

re: Do they need a shelter?
Absolutely yes.  Goats hate rain and they are not built for it. They don't have the subcutaneous and internal fat that bovines have, nor the water-shedding wool that sheep have. Cold is not a problem to them (provided to have sufficient access to roughage to keep them warm)  but wet is.

re: Is it easy to milk them?
Once you get the hang of it, yes.

re: Does milking them take up a lot of time?
No. We milk just once a day. I guess high-yielding ones may need milked twice daily or if the kids are taken off right after birth. We use the following system: When the kids are 5-6 weeks old, we separate them from the dams at night and take the morning milk. The kids then run with their dams for the rest of the day. When they are 4-6 months old they are sold/butchered. Commercial dairy farms take the kids away from the dams right away and tend to rear females artificially and destroy most males which is understandable but time-consuming, unnatural and ethically questionable in my view, so I'm happy with our system. We have to forego some milk but the kids rear easily and quite naturally.

Is cheese making time consuming? Hard cheese yes. I have tried and failed and have stopped to bother. But I make a good bit of soft cheese which is quick and easy. I usually start it at night (in 5 litre batches, you get about a quarter of that in soft cheese) over the news or a movie... drain the following day and then press into cheese molds or leave it as is. Fresh it can even be used for deserts and cheesecake. The whey goes into the chickens' morning mash.

re: What's a good number to get started with?
I agree with 2, as others have said.

re: baking soda
We had a case of floppy kid syndrome once and it helped but I haven't used it since. But I keep it on hand just in case.

re: minerals
Kelp is a good mineral addition. They love it.  For the past two years I have been using mineral blocks with a relatively high copper content, specifically formulated for goats from kroni.ch in Switzerland as we had copper-deficiency leading to swayback in the kids following the liming of our main paddock.

re: worming. As it's really always wet here, we use a proprietary anthelmintic 1-2 times annually, once 6 weeks before parturition and once perhaps in the autumn on a need-to basis. I have found however, that running chickens through their paddocks (perhaps Runner Ducks would even be better) reduces the slug population - they are intermediary hosts for a lot of gastro-intestinal bugs - and reduces the need to worm.

re: age
So far our oldest girl (and original feral goat caught in the wilds of Donegal as a kid with her mum) died when she was 14. She gave us 19 live kids and in her 13th year had triplets for the first time ever, albeit something went wrong and they were stillborn. She died the following spring.
I have heard of 17-year olds though.
We still have her 12 year old daughter (the 'queen', a 7-year old one, and a 2 year old one at present. If you have livestock you have to get used to deadstock - as adults we have lost one to worm burden due to our own inexperience, one to an accident, and the former 'queen' to old age, she took her last breath in my arms. And there are the almost inevitable losses of kids to chill (inexperienced doe kidded out in the rain), a weak twin, diarrhea, swayback, floppy kid etc. With a total of 76 kids I guess we have seen most of it through the years, including intersex kids from two polled parents (won't make that mistake again!). It's live and learn. If you can benefit from others' experience, such as hardworkinghippy and/or courses, go for it. A good reference book is Mackenzie's (spelling?) 'Goat Husbandy'.
For my part I love them to bits and plan on keeping them until the day I will be too frail to manage them.
They fit so perfectly into a pc system, turning grass, brambles and scrub into milk, cheese and whey, meat, hides (if you can figure out a way to preserve them), endless manure for the garden, kindling...
Back in June, when we had a bit of a summer, I sat out behind the house, pulled some wood they had worked on out of the yard, chopped it up, lit a wee fire and fried battered goats cheese and some of our eggs for dinner while watching the goat kids bouncing around. Perfect!

HTH

chook-in-eire

 
Leah Sattler
Posts: 2603
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi chook! your post really re iterates how important it is to talk to local goat owners. the barber pole worm is the danger around here. occasionally someone will have trouble with meningeal worm known as deer worm or liver flukes. they have and intermediate host of snails or slugs. but primarily when someones goat gets a serious parasite load around here its the barber pole worm that has a direct life cycle with no intermediate host. 
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks chook-in-eire (and Hello).  What a wealth of experience all you guys have. 

I was just out for a walk yesterday evening and noticed that out neighbours have got two goats  (I normally walk the other direction).  I'll need to learn my French vocabulary for goat talk.

Is there a 'good' time of year to get them?  Like, is autumn OK?
 
Ute Chook
Posts: 39
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi heninfrance,
Autumn should be fine. You'll have to choose whether to get doelings or does that are not yet served or in-kid does. If they are in-kid already you won't have to hunt about for a breeding male when the time comes. If they are not yet served you'll need to learn to see the signs of them coming into heat (vaginal discharge, vocalization, restlessness) and then have a male at hand quickly. The time window for getting them served is very small. (They come in heat every 21 days or so from about now on (at our latitude anyway) and the first heat of the season is often infertile.)
Much depends on your circumstances. For many years our neighbour always had a billy on the farm, so all we had to do is go over and let them do their thing once we saw the signs. But if you have to drive a goat for hours to get her served it's a different story.
Another possibility would be to buy does with kid(s) at foot in the spring. You could then get used to them before having to jump in the deep end with having to deal with births (though births are almost always quick and easy; problems are the exception).
You could also get young doelings now and get them served in autumn 2010. They will then be nicely matured and you know each other etc. But it's a long wait for milk if that's what you are after.
See what you can get in the area, whether there are others who have males at stud etc.
One word of advice: most first-time kidders have single kids, the following births are often twins. Triplets and quadruplets seem to run in certain lines. Stay away from the latter. While it is nice to have plenty kids, especially if you are trying to establish a herd, anything more than two is asking for trouble as goats, unlike cows, only have two teats, so invariably the weakest kid or kids will get pushed away by the stronger ones and loose out and you end up having to hand-rear it/them which is a lot of work and not always successful.
It all sounds complex etc. but isn't really. Like anything else in life you grow with the task at hand. Talk to your neighbours, go see hardworkinghippy, read a book or two and go with your instincts.

Best,
chook-in-eire
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just realized that one thing that was mentioned above was never addressed (or else I missed it).  Having just sold some pullets (young hens) to some people who didn't know that you don't need a rooster to get eggs, I thought maybe I'd better not let that one comment slide....

The original poster mentioned somewhere up there that she doesn't intend to breed her goats (I think it was the OP, LOL!).  Unlike poultry, where you don't need males in order to get eggs, you do need to breed your does in order to get milk.  Mammals normally (with rare exceptions) only produce milk in order to feed their offspring, so in order to get milk, you must have babies.  You don't have to KEEP the babies, or raise many goats, but your does will need to give birth regularly in order to stay in milk.  Normally they are bred every year, being dried off about two months before they are due to kid (if they haven't already dried off).  Some does will stay in milk for quite a while without being re-bred; this is called 'milking through,' and goats that will milk through are valued highly.  Of course, if you have good stock to start with, you'll probably be able to sell your surplus kids if you don't want to put them in the freezer (goat meat is good).  And often it's nice to have that brief vacation from milking while the does are dry. 

Kathleen
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
OK, having been out bramble picking and noticed just how far and fast these damn things are spreading, I'm on a renewed mission to get a muncher.  Some further questions please...

1. did I read here that it's kindest to get two or more as they get lonely on their own? I'm thinking non-milkers first to get used to them as I've never kept 4-legged livestock before.

2. Am I best to get females or males?

3. Would a shelter made of pallets be OK for them if it had a corrugated metal roof and the pallets were packed with straw?

4. Excuse my major ignorance here, but how does an electric fence work?  I'm assuming that it needs to have a complete loop in it (from what I remember of electronics at school - why wasn't I home educated My dad was an electrician).  I've read on other threads 'just run an electric fence along it...'  Do we just run it parallel to the bramble 'fence' with the loop in a vertical plane meaning a two-strand job or would it have to go in a rectangle in a horizontal plane with two loops on top of each other?  And would two strands be sufficient for a goat?

5. Are pygmy goats a real option or are they just for cute factor?  Would foxes attack them?  Would foxes attack a 'normal' size one?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Definitely get two or more goats, as they are herd animals and can be very noise if you try to keep one alone (not to mention harder to contain).  I doubt that pygmies would be as useful for brush goats as the larger breeds, but if all you want right now is brush goats, then look for wethers.  You still want healthy stock, though.  A shelter made of pallets should be fine as long as it keeps them dry and out of the wind.  Make sure the floor of the shelter isn't sitting in a low spot, or they'll end up in a puddle/mud hole when it rains. 

I can't help you too much on the electric fence, but Premier Fencing has a good website, and quality products.  Go take a look there and see if they can answer your questions.  I do know that the fence needs a good ground, a long rod (or several of them) into damp earth.  I wouldn't use electric fencing alone for your perimeter fence; there needs to be a physical barrier as well as the psychological barrier of the electric wires.

Kathleen
 
Alison Thomas
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: France
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well one year on and we've finally got our goats  They arrived about six weeks ago, four of them - Granny (Mim), Mummy (Mandy) and her 5 month old baby (Kiera), and another 5 month old (Sara) - all does.  They were a royal pain in the bum a week after they arrived as they kept pushing through or jumping over the electric fence - oddly I think they liked being with the pigs.  However, we've now moved them where they can't see the pigs and they seem much more settled and haven't attempted escape (yet).

Two questions though. 

The Mummy one is very skinny and currently doesn't have pellet droppings like the others, but rather larger nasty lumps that seem a bit sticky (it's stuck on her fur around her bum).  She was like this when she arrived and I put it down to new surroundings.  It improved for a week or two but now it's back again.  Plus she's very thin - her hip bones really stick out.  Is there anything I should be doing/checking/changing?

Granny is very aggressive towards the little 5 month old, Sara.  I understand that there is maybe a 'pecking order' thing but she won't let Sara eat, won't let her in their house even if it's pouring with rain, butts her around etc.  Plus today she had a go at me!  She has horns (a French Alpine) and I was just telling her what an attractive goat she was and she lunged at me with her horns.  So I decided that I wasn't going to run off and stood my ground but then she went up on her hind legs to whack me.. so I ran  ops:  The others are all very friendly and will let you stroke them (Mandy in particular).  I had hoped that they would be milkers and Granny was an obvious choice as she's in good form, not had a baby this year, is mature enough BUT I can't even get near enough to stroke her let alone milk her.  Can this situation be improved?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow!  A lot to say here, and I'm at work, but I'll see how far I can get on my lunch break!

First of all, when were they last wormed?  If they haven't been wormed recently, they almost certainly need that done as soon as possible.  I don't know what kinds of worms will be the most trouble there, so check with an experienced goat breeder or a vet who knows about goats (many vets here don't know much about them) and see what needs to be done about that.  Very likely, Mummy will improve fairly rapidly after being wormed.  Normally goats on pasture should be wormed at least twice a year (minimum), once in the fall and again the DAY AFTER THEY KID in the spring.  Timing is CRITICAL on that last one, as kidding causes the worms to reproduce quickly and the goat can easily end up with a fatal overload.  In some areas, worming needs to be taken care of more often.  Here where I am, with my goats in dry-lot, I usually only worm right after kidding, and worm the kids when they are a few weeks old.  But a more humid climate with the goats on pasture is going to be more of a problem. 

Other things to check are teeth (goats can need their teeth floated just like a horse) and general health -- CAE can cause a goat to be thin and in poor condition.  It's also possible that the doe has just not been well-fed, and since she was nursing a kid, she's now down in condition.

Alpines are notorious for being (pardon me) snots, both to the other goats and to humans.  Granny is establishing a pecking order.  She's being nasty to the doe kid because the kid is growing up and becoming independent of the mother, and has to find her own place in the herd.  You may need to offer a second shelter for the low goats on the totem pole, as it's really not good for them to be forced to stay out in bad weather, or be forced out of the feed.  (This is probably why Granny isn't as thin as Mummy, too -- the herd queen gets to eat all she wants and the rest get the left-overs IF she allows them to eat at all!)

As far as how she's treating you, that needs to be stopped, NOW.  A goat can be dangerous, especially a horned one (you may have heard the recent news report of a hiker who was killed by a wild Mountain Goat in Washington State -- it was a buck in rut, but the wild goats are more or less the same size as domestic goats).  She's trying to put YOU in your place at the bottom the pecking order.  I deal with this by turning the goat upside down and sitting on them until they quit fighting me (grab two legs on the same side of the goat and flip them).  It will be a little difficult if you can't catch her, though.  What I would do is tie her up, inside the fence where she's safe and can't get tangled on anything, where she can get to the food and shelter.  Make SURE there is NOTHING for the rope to get caught on, because if they CAN get into trouble, they WILL!!  However, as long as you clear the area first, she should be okay.  My four are tied nearly all the time, with access to food, shelter, and water, and far enough apart that they can't get tangled up on each other.  They are inside a fence, and this arrangement has worked really well for me for the couple of years that I've been doing it (almost three years, I guess).  I can feed each doe what she needs; I can trim hooves without being bothered by the others; I can take one doe to the milking stand without the others trying to squeeze through the gate, too; I can feed and water without being mobbed.  Yet they are close enough to be company for each other (the three does are in the goat shelter where they can go in or out if they want to; the buck is a little farther out but has a large dog house for shelter). 

Another advantage of having the does tied (I use horse lead ropes -- heavy rope and heavy snaps) is that they can't get away from me.  If I want to work with one, I don't have to chase her down (mine are all bottle-raised except one doe, so they would come, anyway).  The one doe who wasn't bottle-raised is the reason why I started tying.  She was wild when I got her at six weeks old, and I knew if I let her loose, she'd be impossible to catch, and I don't have time to just sit out there to try to tame a wild goat.  So I tied her, and she never got into the habit of being able to run away from me. 

Most goats will challenge you, even if just lowering their head at you (you don't want to let it get to the point of them standing up on their hind legs at you!).  Don't let them get away with ANYTHING!!!  The slightest challenge needs to be dealt with instantly, even if all you can do is whack them a good one.  Don't feel bad about it if you do have to whack one of them -- you've seen how rough they are with each other.  If you let them get that rough with you, you will, at the least, have bruises!

I hope some of this helps!

Kathleen
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I forgot to address the milking question.  You don't really have to get the does 'tame' before milking, just get them used to going to the milking stand for grain.  I don't recommend handling the udder like some people do -- if the doe isn't bonded to you, it will just irritate her and set up some bad habits on the milking stand. 

To get the doe bonded to you, it is absolutely critical that you be there when she kids, or immediately afterwards.  I take the kids to bottle-feed.  People say you can leave them on -- there are several reasons why I choose not to do that, but if you want the does to raise their own kids, you can.  But you MUST milk her immediately after she kids, with birthing fluid on you!!  Goats don't think or reason -- they go on instinct and hormones, and immediately after birthing, her hormones are telling her that she needs to let her kids -- anything that smells of birthing fluid -- nurse.  She isn't going to look at you and reason, "This doesn't look like one of my kids!"  She will smell you and if you smell right (like a newborn goat kid) she'll accept you.  Since I take the kids away to bottle-feed, my does attach to me like they would to their own kid, and cry when I leave them for the first few days. 

If you want the does to raise their own kids, you just have to put one of the kids alongside the milking stand while you milk, where the doe can see and smell it, and she'll let her milk down for you.  After the kids are about three weeks old, you can start penning them up separately at night, and milking the doe yourself in the morning before you let the kids go back with her.  (Before that, they need the night feedings.) 

The obvious advantages of leaving the kids with their mother are that you won't have to bother with bottle-feeding them, and the goat family structure is kept intact.

The disadvantages are that you'll need to spend time with the kids or they'll end up wild and difficult to handle; you won't get any milk from their mother until they are old enough to spend the night away from her; and you won't be able to leave them with the older goats without them nursing for a long time -- I've seen yearlings nursing alongside their newborn siblings, to the great detriment of the newborns. 

Kathleen
 
Brice Moss
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
1) get on the phone with a vet about that loose stool.

2) two ways to deal with this:
If you need to milk now get a milking stand to hold her head load the feeder on the stand with grain and tie her legs down or have someone hold her ankles and milk away, for the first week or so she'll think you're killing her but after a while she'll get up on the stand looking for food and stand  calmly
If you have more time just take a poket full of treats down and sit with youre girls for an hour or so a day

 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic