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Getting started with goats - advice needed!

 
Kimmi Woodmansee
Posts: 7
Location: Loveland, CO - zone 5
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My husband and I just recently purchased a two acre property. We have a one acre, well water irrigated, fenced pasture. We would love to get some goats for milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. We've been doing a TON of reading and have been talking to as many people as we can but still have some unanswered questions.

We would like to get a standard sized goat (leaning toward Lamancha or alpine) so that we can have a decent amount of milk and also a Nigerian to have some richer milk to play with for cheese making. We don't want to over burden our pasture, so we would like to limit the number of goats we have. I also imagine we'll keep a kid here and there and end up with more goats than we start with. We plan to divide the pasture into six paddocks and use one as a garden. That leaves us with 5 - 1/6 acre rotating areas (with a moveable shelter on skids.) I know goats like to browse more than graze so we plan to bring in supplemental branches from tree services if possible. I guess our questions are twofold:

1) Can we have a single Lamancha doe with a single Nigerian doe? What if one were a kid? Would the size difference be an issue? Would the baby try to nurse off the adult even if she were bottle fed? We were hoping to get the lamancha in milk and the Nigerian as a kid. Would the full size goat bully the little one? Would it matter if the full sized goat were a yearling as opposed to being older?

2) How long should we leave the goats in each area before rotating them in order to minimize parasites and protect the pasture? We hope to follow the goat section with a flock of chickens to clean up. We also are considering getting a cow to co-graze with the goats. Is that way too tight?

Is this even possible in our one acre pasture? Thanks!!
 
Su Ba
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You didn't mention where you are located. That might have a bearing on answers you'll get.

Personally I think the cow idea is out. Adam could give you advice on that, but one acre isn't enough to sustain a cow year around where I'm located. I suspect you'd need to be buying in feed, especially if you have cold winters.

I have a few goats of various breeds. I haven't had a problem keeping them together after they got over their initial introductions. You may wish to read Leigh's blog about her goats, since she's worked with different breeds. She keeps her's for milking. ...... http://www.5acresandadream.com

A kid may try to nurse a strange female adult a few times, but after getting bashed every time, the smart ones will give up. No way will my female does allow another kid other than their own to freely nurse.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Research is a great place to start.

Can you describe the acreage? How about the neighbors? Most importantly: What does the ground look like? Things like your soil type and water table level are essential when considering what livestock is best for your homestead.

 
Kimmi Woodmansee
Posts: 7
Location: Loveland, CO - zone 5
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Our property is located in a rural portion of Loveland, CO. The neighbors have some animals of their own. Two horses and a goat on our pasture side and two horses on our house side of our property. The previous owners took great care of the property. He did not have animals though so he preferred the look of mowed pasture and would water the whole acre pasture then mow it down regularly (see Pics) He did let one section go to seed so you can see the potential of the pasture. The other pic is the fence I installed for the perimeter of the pasture. It also shows the pasture currently in winter. Keep in mind it was mowed through fall so that is why there is no growth. We have clay soil here and have a well house on the property for irrigation. We have a creek that runs through the property so the well house has a good supply of continuous water.

We understand that we will have to supplement the goats with feed and definitely a cow with feed (if we got one next year) but would it be possible or would the cow just ruin the pasture even with supplementing and regular rotating between the 5 paddocks?

What fence would you recommend for separating the paddocks? 48" No climb horse mesh like the perimeter but on on 4" wood posts with no rails, or 48" electric mesh on T posts, or electric strands?

If you haven't caught on by now we are complete nubbies to the country living. Could we rotated a couple pigs through the pasture at some point as well or would they just destroy it too fast?
1 Acre Pasture.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1 Acre Pasture.jpg]
1 Acre pasture in summer mowed down and prior to fence
grass let go to seed.jpg
[Thumbnail for grass let go to seed.jpg]
summer grass let go to seed
Winter Pasture.JPG
[Thumbnail for Winter Pasture.JPG]
winter pasture that was mowed down at the end of summer
 
Landon Sunrich
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That looks awesome!

I am totally unfamiliar with goats in that area and setting but two is probably the place to start. They're social critters.
 
R Ranson
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Welcome to the world of goats. What a beautiful plot of land.

It's a long post, so I put in bold the parts that are of vital importance.

I don't know much about your region, so I can't help with how often to rotate your livestock. It depends on so many factors, many of which are specific to your farm that all we could give are generalities at best. The two things I can recommend from personal experience, are have a great variety of different pasture plants and avoid chemical fertilizers and watering as this makes the roots grow shallower than pasture plants that have been stressed. If you can get your hands on the book by Pat Coleby, Natural Goat Care, it has some very useful thoughts on the subject. Keep in mind she's writing for a different part of the world, so specific plants and supplements may not apply to you - or it may. The theory behind her opinions is very good however and a great chance to geek out about goat nutritional needs.

Two different kinds of goats living together - In principle this isn't a problem. In practice, it depends entirely on the goats in question. Goats have personality and will definitely get into trouble if they aren't happy with their environment. Quite often if animals come from different flocks, they (this is going to sound silly, I know it, but it's the human interpretation of goat-thoughts) speak a different language. Not knowing the full vocabulary of goats, it's hard to know exactly what's different, be it body language, tone of voice, different calls mean different things, but there is an adjustment time when you introduce animals to each other. They fight for hierarchy, they need to learn each other's language.

This isn't said to discourage you. Some of the best animal 'friendships' on my farm, are between animals from different flocks. It's just shocking the first few times you see it. It's so difficult to watch them sort themselves out, but human interference prolongs this period of adjustment. However if one gets seriously injured, it's time to step in (if you can without endangering yourself).

Fencing: Goats must be trained to use electric fences - this takes a great deal of time and isn't always successful.

Most important piece of advice for any animal purchase: Buy the farmer, not the livestock. When you get your goats, a good farmer will be willing to take the goat back if there is problems (often, but not always, offer to refund part or all the price of the animal). If they aren't... double check with yourself that you are confident in the situation - Sounds like you aren't experienced enough to judge the animal, so judge the farmer - if you haven't been breeding and showing goats for a couple of decades you aren't going to know every tiny detail to look for when evaluating a goat. So spend at least as much time looking at the farm and farmer as you do looking at the goat. Ask questions that you already know the answer to - then see if they know the answer. If they answer something different than what you've heard, then get them to tell you why they think so. If they can, then this is a good sign.

Do you have a local goat guru you can cultivate? This is your number one resource and if you don't do anything else, do this.

Do you know the local parasite, goat STDs and other local issues with goats?

Where are you going to get your buck service? You going to keep your own buck (they are destructive and stink - sometimes a good thing depending on your neighbours)? Do you know what testing your future stud has had for which diseases? How often are they tested? There are a lot of STDs in goats, some places worse than others.

The farmer(s) selling you the goat(s), what is their worming and vaccination practices? Do they worm on schedule or as needed? Are you going to use worming meds? If not, are you willing to let the animal suffer and die if they do get an infestation and it can't be treated by natural means? (disclaimer: I advocate prevention of parasites and illness, but will treat with meds IF AND ONLY IF the animal needs it, and feel that worming to schedual is one of the biggest causes of parasite resistance - my opinion which I feel a bit too strongly about and know full well I come across that way.)

The one thing I kicked myself most when bringing animals from mixed flocks into my home is the worming meds weren't the same. Animal A came from a flock that was resistant to wormer Z, Animal B came from one resistant to wormer X. Z and X are the main two wormers one can buy here. So now what do I worm with when an animal needs it? X and Y don't work all that well anymore, so I import super-expensive wormer Y. There are a lot of restrictions on what meds can be used locally. Get to know the restrictions for your area - and which ones you are willing to take the risk to break.

What's the closest vet who deals with large animals? Where's the second closest? Do they do house calls? Do they do goats or are they horse only? What's their after hour number? How much are you willing to spend on vet bills in an emergency? Know now that emergencies that require a vet only happen after hours or on statutory holidays (for some reason). Do they castrate? Will you castrate (see note above about Billy being destructive and smelly - also they sexually mature younger than you think)

Sorry, this got kind of long. I can wax poetic about all the things I wish I had known to think about before I got my animals.

One more thing before I go, the breed.

If you aren't fully set on these two breeds, it is worth considering that the quality of the individual goat and the quality of it's care will affect the milk production more than their breed. I personally know quite a few saanens that give higher milk fat content than the standard for any other breed of goat - but that's primarily because of the care these girls receive from their owner (my goat guru). You can make great cheese from almost any goat milk. Another thing to consider is hybrid vigor. Goat crosses often produce better than pure breed (and are more affordable starting place). In the end it's a personal choice, but it is a choice.

Some of my least favourite animals have been pure breed and my favourite have been mixed. My absolute favourite goat is Oberhasli grade. Oberhasli are a very rare breed, so the gene pool is very limited. For that reason, it's okay to take a non-oberhasli and breed it to a Oberhasli buck, take that kid, breed it to an Oberhasli...and so on and so on. The part breed kids are called 'grade' or 'experimental' and once you get to 7/8ths oberhasli (I think) then you can call it pure. Without this breeding up option, the gene pool would be limited to the dozen registered animals (in Canada) they started with when this programme was introduced. I guess my point is, preserving breeds is good, but sometimes it can be too limiting to the gene pool. Landrace varieties often preform better than pure breeds. Maybe there is a landrace goat local to your area?

Or if you are already in love with the breeds you have chosen, then don't doubt yourself any longer. Give them a go. It's better to take action than get stuck trying to think out all the best ways - because no matter how much thinking and research you do, the problems you get will probably be completely different than anything you imagined.
 
Kimmi Woodmansee
Posts: 7
Location: Loveland, CO - zone 5
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That is some great information! I really appreciate you taking the time to write that. We are super excited to start the adventure and know we will learn a ton along the way!
 
R Ranson
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It did rather get away from me there, didn't it.

Hopefully you can find something helpful in my gluttony of words. Feel free to ask if you have any questions or need any clarification. If I don't know, I can ask my goat gurus and see what they can tell me.

As much trouble as they can be sometimes, goats are lovely. My only regret was that I waited so long before I had to courage to bring one home.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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On such a small acreage I would say that a cow and pigs are definitely out of the equation. You need to remember that for a big part of the year you will have more than 2 goats on the grazing as you will have kids as well. Even if you don't keep them long term you will need to keep them until weaning time so if you get triplets that's a big increase in demand on your grazing.

With electric fencing make sure you don't use the net type as horns can get entangled and the animals really suffer being constantly shocked.

With your neighbour with a goat you need to make sure you have double fencing so that diseases can't be transferred by contact through the fence.

With any goat that you buy you want to ensure that it has been tested for CAE

Another thing to bear in mind is that all of the watering done by the previous owner may have caused leaching of the minerals in the soil. Goats have a very high requirement for minerals, particularly copper so make sure that you have a good mineral supplement for them that is specifically designed for goats.
 
R Ranson
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Something else to think about in regards to space: you don't have to kid every year unless you need the meet. A well cared for goat (girl goat) will provide milk for years before needing to be freshened again. My number one goat guru goes an average of 4 years between freshening, but has had girls provide milk for more than 8 years before she (my guru) decided that she (her goat) had reached retirement age and got moved to the extra-special-pampered-old-goat flock she has.
 
clovis hebert
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Keep up with your research. Looks like some good advice here. I would say, you are going way to fast in considering so many different animals with little to no skills. Forget cows and pigs. Stick with goats. Mesh fence. No electric. 2" posts in cement. Strong gates for bucks. Separate buck from does at all times except when breeding. Chickens and goats should not be housed together. Dwarfs don't necessarily make better cheese. Artisans make good cheese with what they have. It takes 2 gallon of milk to make a 1 pound wheel.  One goat will produce about 1 liter per milking at peak production. Milk goats twice a day until they drop production. Consistent timings are important. 12 hours between is not important. Do not pasteurize milk for cheese making.

I could go on and on but you have a lot of other material to read.
 
clovis hebert
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R Ranson wrote:Something else to think about in regards to space: you don't have to kid every year unless you need the meet.  A well cared for goat (girl goat) will provide milk for years before needing to be freshened again.  My number one goat guru goes an average of 4 years between freshening, but has had girls provide milk for more than 8 years before she (my guru) decided that she (her goat) had reached retirement age and got moved to the extra-special-pampered-old-goat flock she has. 


Please share your method of achieving milk without breeding and kidding! I can hardly wait to hear this. My production has dropped from 10 liters to 3 liters per day for 5 does.
 
R Ranson
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clovis hebert wrote:
R Ranson wrote:Something else to think about in regards to space: you don't have to kid every year unless you need the meet.  A well cared for goat (girl goat) will provide milk for years before needing to be freshened again.  My number one goat guru goes an average of 4 years between freshening, but has had girls provide milk for more than 8 years before she (my guru) decided that she (her goat) had reached retirement age and got moved to the extra-special-pampered-old-goat flock she has. 


Please share your method of achieving milk without breeding and kidding! I can hardly wait to hear this. My production has dropped from 10 liters to 3 liters per day for 5 does.


When I decided to keep goats, I looked around the community for people who would mentor me.  I'm very selective and overly opinionated about animal care - I demand that my animals be given an environment that allows them to express their nature (aka, a goat is given a place that lets it be a goat - not a tiny, boring pen with nothing to do and forced to eat a diet that isn't natural to it).  I also demand that any mentor I find is respectful of the animal.  I managed to find three people in my part of the world that meet these standards.  I've spent time training under all three of them, helping them with their flocks, asking questions, and basically learning everything I can from them before I get my own goats.  I spent about four years off and on training - I don't usually spend that long but goats are tricky creatures and I wanted to start off on the right foot.  Most of what I say here is from what I learned from these three people and the library.  Most of what I learned from the library turned out to be inaccurate when it came to real life experience, but it's still useful to see what the books had to say.


My understanding of how to keep a goat in milk for several years without freshening.

  • make certain the goat is healthy before she gets pregnent - really healthy, not just doing well - a lot of people seem to miss this stage. -  Goats are probably the best animal I've had at telling you if they aren't 100% tip top shape.  Learning how to listen to them is really important.


  • Milk on schedual, every day, on time, daily, keep to a schedual. - Twice a day seems to be best, but once a day is okay. 


  • Milk every last drop.  Each and every time.


  • Pay very close attention to the nutritional needs of each, individual goat! - My one goat guru that milks for 4 to 8 years between freshing (my other gurus only milk 2 to 5 years) mixes up a special mash for each individual goat, with specific minierals and nutrients to each goat - on top of the standard mineral block and feed they get as a herd.


  • Understanding the mineral and nutritional needs for your area. - My other goat guru has moved to another part of our provance.  If she gave the mineral mix she used here to the goats where they now live, she would probably kill her goats in a few weeks.  The soil there is very different than here.  Her goats need different minerals and different nutrition.


  • Understand how the season changes the nutritional needs of animals. - okay, so I'm still learning this one.  But from personal observation, my goats and sheep need a drastically higher amount of zinc in the spring, more copper in the winter, and less of everything in the summer and fall - unless they are in milk or about to reproduce, then they need really high selenium to prevent infection and increase fertility.  However, that's my flock on my land.  Other parts of the world are going ot need different minerals at different times of year.  By other parts of the world, I mean anything more than a five minuites drive from my farm.


  • How much milk they make will go down over time, and it fluxuates with the seasons, but not hugely.  Going from 10 to 3 liters per day for five girls seems a bit much to me.  I suppose the breed could have something to do with it.  With my Oberhasli grade, I would expect to go from 4 ltrs in the peek season to 2 in the down season for one girl.  Maybe down to 1 ltr if I'm not on top of things with the nutrition.  Whereas one of my goat gurus with Saanans goes from as high as 8 ltrs down to 6 ltrs... and after a few years, down to just shy of 4 ltrs.  But hers is a combination of good breeding practices and good nutrition.  I think it would be difficult for a beginger to get numbers as high as she does.   

     
    Waylon Breaux
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    Location: Campti, LA, Natchitoches Parish, Zone 8
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    Glad to hear that you are getting goats!  Me and my girlfriend have a small herd (14) in central Louisiana.  Mostly Spanish (or brush) goats.  They are the best things top have on site if you want to get rid of brush. 
     
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