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What do I need starting out?

 
Crystal Wright
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We have 8 acres. Four of which are forested. We fenced about 1ish acre that contains about 1/5 blackberries, 1/5 meadow, and 3/5 wooded under brushy maple, hazelnut, snowberry and fir. In the fence is our chicken coop and will soon be our livestock guardian pup, and about to add 4 alpine goat kids. We will probably fence the pup within the fenced area to be along side, but not able to harm until she is fully trained. We can reach a hose to the upper area (the land is on a hill meadow at the top, blackberries at the bottom forest in the middle). We plan to build a mobil goat house, either skiable or on a trailer, so they can help brush clearing in the other areas of our lot.
As far as supplies go, I hear I need to plan for rainy day feed because they won't go out and forage in the rain. I hear I need to get something to trim hooves and learn how. I heard I need to get minerals and a way to feed them that my dogs and chickens won't get at.
My questions are:
What rainy day feed should I try? Are down branches drug into their shelter good enough?
What other supplies do I need? I hear a lot about having a medicine kit and it all seems like a rather un-natural way of caring for goats but I don't know what I should have.
What are your good ideas on a way to water to go with a movable structure? Other places we want to move them won't be very reachable by a hose, until I get a much much longer hose I suppose.
What are thoughts on collars? I have heard plastic chain link brake away ones are best, but it has that nasty word plastic involved so I am hesitant.
What things should I read to help me learn as we are starting out?
Can I use chipped branches as bedding?
I am a true beginner to goats and will appreciate any additional advice on how to begin.
Thanks, Crystal
 
Deborah Niemann
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Welcome to the wonderful world of goats! Most people feed hay in the barn: grass hay for dry does or bucks, a grass-legume mix for pregnant does, and a legume hay, such as alfalfa or peanut for milkers. When you say "down branches," I'm picturing branches that have fallen from a tree, and they usually have no leaves left on them. If you mean branches that you've cut from a tree, and they are covered with green leaves, that would be fine. Goats need green stuff for vitamin A. That also means no brown hay. Some people think that goats will eat "anything," but that just means things like rose bushes, not low-quality forage.

We just carry buckets of water to our goats in remote locations. It's rather old school, but it works.

As for a medical kit, you don't really need to keep much on hand with only for goats, as the odds of something going wrong are pretty slim. I try to remember to keep a bottle of antibiotics on hand, even though they usually get thrown away unopened after they expire in a couple of years. It seems you only need them at 2 a.m. or Sunday right after the local farm store closed. You do need a thermometer for them, however, because if a goat is acting off, you need to know if it has a temperature. A goat that is just laying there not eating could have an infection (high temp), could have hypocalcemia if she just gave birth (low temp), or could have a bad case of parasites (normal temp). Treatment for those three things are all completely different.

Since I wouldn't want to sit on chipped branches, I wouldn't attempt to use them as bedding for my goats. Their skin is not thick like cows, so it's not that hard to wind up with a damaged udder or other body part, although the udder would certainly be the most problematic. Plus you will want to sit with your goats sometimes, so it's a good idea to have comfy bedding. If you are in a colder climate, straw is the warmest option for bedding. Wood chips do pretty much nothing in terms of keeping you warm. I know this from spending many hours sitting out there with does in labor.

No worried on the dog and chickens and the goat minerals. They will ignore them, and even if they don't, they won't hurt them. But I've never had a dog or chicken pay any attention to the goat minerals. You need to get loose goat minerals (not a block) because goats have a soft tongue and may wind up deficient if you get a block because it's too hard for them to get enough minerals from it. I get the $5 two-hole mineral feeders that they sell at Tractor Supply and put baking soda in the other dish.

My book, Raising Goats Naturally, of course goes into all this and more in 300 pages, so it's kind of tough to summarize most important stuff in a forum post.
 
Kurt Stailey
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Location: Indiana, zone 6
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Crystal Wright wrote:
What rainy day feed should I try? Are down branches drug into their shelter good enough?

We don't use any rainy day feed, our goats forage in the rain unless it begins to rain very hard and even then if they get hungry they will go back out into it for some leaves. The correct branches are great, your goats will let you know which ones are correct, just avoid wilted cherry leaves. Our goats act like its Christmas when you walk up carrying a large limb covered with leaves.
Crystal Wright wrote:
What other supplies do I need? I hear a lot about having a medicine kit and it all seems like a rather un-natural way of caring for goats but I don't know what I should have.

You will want a drench gun (giant syringe), some slippery elm for scours (diarrhea) if you are going natural if not get some scours medicine and stop drinking the milk for the recommended time. If you are going to vaccinate, you will need some needles/syringes for things like CDT. If you are worming the commercial way get some Ivermectin plus and safeguard. We use herbal wormer which requires more frequent use but doesn't require a waiting period for milk consumption. The others do. If you are breeding and milking them, for mastitis we use peppermint and tea tree oil in a coconut carrier and inject it into the teat. This way we can keep drinking milk from the other teat. If you go commercial, again you have to stop drinking the milk. If you are breeding them you will want a separate birthing kit with items that are nice to have on-hand in case there are issues. For teat tears (briars and thorns) we use essential oils as well.
Crystal Wright wrote:
What are your good ideas on a way to water to go with a movable structure? Other places we want to move them won't be very reachable by a hose, until I get a much much longer hose I suppose.

Get a 55 gallon drum and put it on your trailer. That much water will last weeks for 4 goats. Also consider capturing water off the roof of your trailer if you can to offset the number of times you have to drag it back up to the hose. We usually just carry 5 gallon buckets back to the paddocks once a day.
Crystal Wright wrote:
What are thoughts on collars? I have heard plastic chain link brake away ones are best, but it has that nasty word plastic involved so I am hesitant.

We don't use them except to move goats, so we leave them hanging on the paddock gate and put them on as needed. If you spend enough time with your goats, they will come to you fairly easily, and worse case can be bribed with a tree limb or flower or a head of lettuce.
Crystal Wright wrote:
What things should I read to help me learn as we are starting out?

I haven't read Deborah's book yet, but from her responses on here so far my guess is her book would be an awesome read and very helpful.
Crystal Wright wrote:
Can I use chipped branches as bedding?

We only use bedding for birthing and in the winter. We usually use straw, which they will also eat even though it has to taste gross
Crystal Wright wrote:
I am a true beginner to goats and will appreciate any additional advice on how to begin.
Thanks, Crystal

Hope this helps some I don't want to sound like a broken record, but no amount of reading or equipment can replace you spending time with your goats. Sit and watch them as much as you can, notice their personalities so that you can more easily tell when one of them isn't right. This more than anything else will help with your goat keeping. Also, check their eye lids, pull back the lower lid and look at the inside flash color, it should be pink/salmon colored. It it gets light pink or grey or white (white is bad), you have anemia issues which is usually too high of a worm load. Grab some fresh droppings and take them to a vet for a worm load check. Their needs are actually very few, and if you watch closely you will usually know when something isn't being met.
 
Richard Huff
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Deborah Niemann wrote:Welcome to the wonderful world of goats! Most people feed hay in the barn: grass hay for dry does or bucks, a grass-legume mix for pregnant does, and a legume hay, such as alfalfa or peanut for milkers. When you say "down branches," I'm picturing branches that have fallen from a tree, and they usually have no leaves left on them. If you mean branches that you've cut from a tree, and they are covered with green leaves, that would be fine. Goats need green stuff for vitamin A. That also means no brown hay. Some people think that goats will eat "anything," but that just means things like rose bushes, not low-quality forage.

We just carry buckets of water to our goats in remote locations. It's rather old school, but it works.

As for a medical kit, you don't really need to keep much on hand with only for goats, as the odds of something going wrong are pretty slim. I try to remember to keep a bottle of antibiotics on hand, even though they usually get thrown away unopened after they expire in a couple of years. It seems you only need them at 2 a.m. or Sunday right after the local farm store closed. You do need a thermometer for them, however, because if a goat is acting off, you need to know if it has a temperature. A goat that is just laying there not eating could have an infection (high temp), could have hypocalcemia if she just gave birth (low temp), or could have a bad case of parasites (normal temp). Treatment for those three things are all completely different.

Since I wouldn't want to sit on chipped branches, I wouldn't attempt to use them as bedding for my goats. Their skin is not thick like cows, so it's not that hard to wind up with a damaged udder or other body part, although the udder would certainly be the most problematic. Plus you will want to sit with your goats sometimes, so it's a good idea to have comfy bedding. If you are in a colder climate, straw is the warmest option for bedding. Wood chips do pretty much nothing in terms of keeping you warm. I know this from spending many hours sitting out there with does in labor.

No worried on the dog and chickens and the goat minerals. They will ignore them, and even if they don't, they won't hurt them. But I've never had a dog or chicken pay any attention to the goat minerals. You need to get loose goat minerals (not a block) because goats have a soft tongue and may wind up deficient if you get a block because it's too hard for them to get enough minerals from it. I get the $5 two-hole mineral feeders that they sell at Tractor Supply and put baking soda in the other dish.

My book, Raising Goats Naturally, of course goes into all this and more in 300 pages, so it's kind of tough to summarize most important stuff in a forum post.


There is a lot of information in your response. Wow. I am hoping to move to where I can buy some land and raise animals. I have enjoyed goat's m ilk in the past. Thanks.
 
Ce Rice
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Location: Zone 8-9
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As for cut branches, we use those a lot of times for the rainy days or other times when we can't let the goats out.

We just go to fence lines and places that need thinned out anyway, and cut branches or saplings and tie them up with a twine and hang them in their pen.

I guess our goats are pretty smart, because they will eat absolutely nothing that touches the ground in their pen. With no grass in the pen, just their droppings, I don't know how long parasites live, but it might be a bad idea to just try throwing branches onto the ground in the pen.

And we use hay for their bedding, but they do poop and pee on it, which kind of surprised me. So we have to add to it or switch it out frequently. And like I said, our goats wouldn't even think about trying to eat the bedding hay. Not once it reaches the ground. I'm not sure how many goats are that smart, but ours seem to be.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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On my mobile goat house I have installed guttering and a water butt. I have to empty the butt when we move the house but it rains often enough that it soon fills up and I can fill their buckets from the butt.

A medicine kit is essential as animals do have accidents and it is not an unnatural way to keep them to treat them - it is essential for their welfare. I would say as a minimum you need a thermometer, a drenching syringe and antibiotic spray for wounds.
 
Deborah Niemann
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Ce Rice -- a perennial complaint among goat owners is that most goats won't eat hay after it hits the ground. They're browsers, and they know it. An old adage says that goats should never eat below their knees.

Katy -- Great point about the medicine kit! "Natural" does not mean survival of the fittest. You can wind up losing some very good animals if you just leave them to fend for themselves. Our second year kidding, we had a tiny doe kid born when we weren't there. When we went into the barn, there were two big buck kids nursing, and this tiny doe kid who was half their size looked like she was dead, but my daughter said she felt a heart beat, so we put her in a bucket of warm water because she was obviously suffering from hypothermia (inside of mouth was ice cold). She perked up, but couldn't stand, so we wound up with our first bottle baby. My husband questioned the fact that the children and I had saved her. At the time, it was just a compassionate thing to do. But she grew up to be strong and healthy and became the mother of one of my best milking lines and the MOST parasite resistant line on my farm. I didn't go to any extremes to save her. She had simply gotten cold because mama was busy with the two big boys. Had I been there to dry her off when she was born, things would have been different. Hypothermia kills kids fast, and the first thing it does is completely wipe out their sucking instinct.

My definition of raising goats naturally means that no one gets routine antibiotics or dewormers or other drugs, and I don't routinely intervene in births. I basically take the same approach to my goats' health care as I do with mine. If a doctor told me I needed to take a drug for high blood pressure, the first thing I'd do is look at lifestyle modifications. With my own health and my goats, I pay attention to proper nutrition, getting enough rest, reducing stress, getting exercise and fresh air, and things like that. Because these are livestock, however, if I find that one is not that hardy, I will not continue to breed it. For example, I have a two strikes rule about helping with births. The second time a doe needs help, she's retired. I also won't keep bucks that don't have high parasite resistance. There is no point in letting an animal die, but I also don't want to perpetuate genes from goats that are high need, so they're sold as pets, brush eaters, etc. If they're not breeding, the stress on their body goes way down, and they usually live a long, healthy life.
 
Kent Ormsby
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My first question to anyone who wants to raise goats is Why? We're long time goat keepers in NE Texas. We love our goats and we still work to discourage those interested in keeping goats. This year for example, I buried the first 11 kids born on our farm, my Nubian herd buck, Woodrow, the healthiest goat we've ever had, Dana, a beautiful two year old, Fauntine, and will probably lose more. Torrential rains have caused significant problems with hoof rot and gastro-intestinal worms of all kinds. Never have we had problems like this year, but many goat keepers we know have experienced these same types of issues in the past. I contend that goats are the most difficult class of ruminants to keep healthy. We do absolutely nothing to our cattle and they are problem free.

Much of what you will want to keep on hand will depend on where you live, the farm you buy your animals from, and how you mange your animals long term. I applaud your decision to build a portable goat shelter, but not your decision to raise your pup away from goats. After raising many guardian dogs and making some serious mistakes, the best formula we've found is to raise a 6 week old pup with two to three month old kids and that females are the easiest to train.

The very best way to learn about goats is to visit farms in your area, talk to the goat keepers and find out what they keep on hand and why. Sometimes local vets are a useful source of information (if goat friendly, many are not) and can tell you what kinds of problems they see.

4 goats will burn through an acre before you can say Jack Robinson so you'll probably want to find a quality feed to use on at least a semi regular basis. If you have Alpines, you're probably planning on milking so you may want o start training them early.
We have five good guardian dogs, small paddocks, are attentive and still lose kids to predators.
We work very hard to provide quality browse and minerals and still have animals that suffer from nutrition deficiencies.
I think we've tried every formulation of herbal remedy on the market with limited success so we changed our philosophy to catastrophic treatment only and very strict culling which works for us.
We've use chain collars, nylon collars, and even some plastic. The only goat we ever lost to entanglement (a beautiful Nubian/Saanen hybrid named "Tubs") was not wearing a collar.
I've hand toted many a gallon of water but for 8 acres I'd spend the money and buy a hose or a drip watering 1/2" supply line, it's cheap and works well if your only watering a few animals.

BTW: Most people only keep goats for 3 years or less.
 
Crystal Wright
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Thanks for all the ideas and the info on your experiences.
I do want to say that I didn't intent to get my pup before my goats. I thought I would have a lot of trouble finding a pure bread Anatolian Shepherd which is what we wanted and when one came available less than an hour away we jumped at the opportunity thinking we would have goats within two weeks. Then we had issues with the plans we had to get goats and are now looking to get them. Since I have never had them, I was planing to raise them along side as long as necessary until they could be trusted together, I don't know how long that will be, and will be thrilled if it is only a few days. I won't keep them separate if it seems it doesn't need to be that way and we will work out with them to be social a lot during the day every day.
We do not plan to only keep the goats in the 1 acre fenced area, that is just what we have to start out with. We have a lot more space that needs brush cleared and plan as they get older to paddock shift them in that area, that is why I was looking into a movable shelter with plans for water.
Kurt, I love the idea of the 50gallon drum with gutters on the goat shelter to help fill it with water. We get about 23 inches a year, so that will be a good way to use that resource.
Thanks for all the information about browsing on branches and trimming where we need trimming to feed on rainy days. We can feed that way in down pours. I also hope that when it is just a bit drippy that we can teach them to go out for some leaves and not just eat hay.
It's good to know that the dog and chickens will leave the minerals alone.
Thanks Deborah for your input on birthing and also on everything. I probably do need the check out your book.
Thank you everyone for your input on the "natural way". I agree with Deborah that the way I approach my health is to look for a lifestyle change first, but I am not into survival of the fittest, I would try to save a struggling cold kid or a goat that has too many worms, I probably wouldn't give it chemotherapy. I will probably not spend more than what I feel the animal can provide just to keep it alive.
As to why I want goats. They are one of the steps toward becoming self sufficient for us. They will help us clear our land without heavy machinery. They will provide milk for us after they get old enough and we learn to milk. They will provide us with fertilizer to help us improve our soil to grow more food. I see them as a key part of our permaculture food forest self sufficiency plan. They will also help my boys learn about life and care of another and responsibility as they grow up with animals.
I think we are going to try to go without collars and see if we can get them to come when we call, and then just put a regular webbing type collar on if we need to walk outside a fenced area with them. Then if we think we need something, if that isn't working we can evaluate then.

More questions:
What is a drench gun? I have a 60cc syringe with a narrow tip (probably comes down to about 1cm diameter with a 2.5mm opening. Will that work, or do I need something bigger? Would a turkey baster work? Is it just for giving medicine and things to aim toward the back of the mouth?
What is drip watering 1/2" supply line? I have seen a dog licksit. It is like that only something that has a few of them? Or it is something that just slowly drips into a watering container?
 
Deborah Niemann
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This is what a drench syringe looks like:
http://www.statelinetack.com/item/goat-dosing-syringes/E012888/?srccode=GPSLT&gclid=CNLjyJ33psYCFYU6aQodrkoC5A&kwid=productads-plaid^79297875042-sku^449337-adType^PLA-device^c-adid^40184736948
You can buy them at most farm supply stores and lots of websites.

A 60 cc syringe or a turkey baster will work in a pinch, but not as good as a real drench syringe because the real one goes over the back of their tongue, so they'll spit out less. I have a really large drench syringe for things like giving water or homemade yogurt when a goat is down and dehydrated or needs probiotics.
 
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