So I am about to start up a goat farm, i need some advice especially on how i should design the holding area for the goats.
how many goats should i start up with? Should i get one male and one female first? should i get any babies? Thanks.
Goats are herd animals, so you need at least two. However, the bucks and does need to be kept separate so that the does are not getting pregnant too often. Also, if you want to milk the does, you don't want them to stay with the bucks because the bucks will rub on them and make the milk stinky. So, you need at least two does and two males. Some people start with a buck and a wether as a companion, but since it costs just as much to feed a wether as a buck, some people start with two bucks. If you plan to keep a doeling, then you'd have to buy a second buck to breed her to anyway.
I've been raising goats for ten years now and it's been a long learning curve. Goats are not as bombproof as people seem to think. They can be picky eaters and are prone to parasites and other disease if one doesn't know what they are doing. I've lost a few along the way because of what I didn't know, but I've learned some great lessons in the process.
I started out with two unrelated Nubian does. 4 and 5 months old. Then bred them at 7 and 8 months. I like getting a younger doe/s to start with so you can bond with them as they grow. Some older does have habits that are hard to overcome. I had a friend who had been raising Nubians for 30 years and breeding for nice udder attachments, sweet milk and strong genetics. So she has been my mentor, giving me advice on everything from breeding to feeding to birthing which is a great help to have. I also was able to get to know the genetics of her herd which was helpful as well. The stronger ( genetically) animals you start off with, the less problems you will have later. So it's good to have several conversations with the breeder you are buying from before you get the first goats rather than just answering an ad off Craigslist, showing up and taking the animal home.
Until you get more does( which can happen quickly as goats can have 1-4 kids every year), you can probably get by with borrowing someone's buck to breed the girls. Keeping a buck adds an entirely new dimension to goatkeeping and you probably do not want to get into that unless you have some experience and lots of space and an extra pasture/pen for the boy/s. So, if it was me, I would start off with two does and rent a buck for the first few years. Sometimes the buck can come to you, or you can bring your does to the buck. Because my does were unrelated, after the first year of borrowing a buck( from the same lady I bought the two girls from) I could get away with breeding the one doe to the other doe's buckling each year and in this way I "line-bred" for several years before I ever bought a new buck. This can work well if you have the strong genetics as the closer the breeding gets, the more potential you have for congenital defects. With line breeding, the good qualities get better and the bad qualities get worse. Be careful about the buck you choose as moving animals around can bring disease into your herd.
I breed my animals at 7 months, which means they have their first freshening at a year old. The rule is 7-8 months or 80 pounds to breed. My line of girls are big and strong so I have no problems breeding early. Other people wait til 18 months or so to breed but then you are feeding all that time with no return.
Which brings up the issue of making sure the animals you buy are disease free. You want to be very sure that they do not have CAE, CL, Johnes. They are so many stories of people falling in love with their first goats only to find out later that they are diseased and probably need to be put down. CL so very contagious that it will live on in the soil for years! I sell does every year and advertise as disease free and I seem to get away with it even though I do not have blood tests done yearly to prove it. Some people do have their animals tested so you can be sure about what you are getting. Most of those animals are registered, which I don't personally think is a big necessity.
A lot of breeders bottle feed, which is okay, but they also wean the kids early- to early IMO- and so the doeling will not grow up with as much nutrition as others who have been on mamas milk for a nice long time. The longer they get to nurse, the stronger their bones structure will develop so they can be strong mamas themselves eventually. Pregnancy and lactation take a lot out of an animal's body. If you can it is great to find a young doe who has been dam raised for 5-6 months.4 minimum. There is so much to look for when choosing a doe that it would be voluminous to list all the points here. The website Fiasco Farms might have info on choosing a goat and there are more websites, I am sure. Goats are herd animals so it is cruel and problematic to try to keep only one goat...you need to get two or more so they will have each other.
I am not sure where in the country you are located? Goats can do well in most areas with a well-ventilated , but not drafty barn. Goats do not do well in cold drafts and they need to be kept dry. We've got three pens( for 7 goats plus kids) one for the buck and two others so that the kidding mamas can be isolated or kids separated when you want to start getting milk at night. It's nice if you can open the barn door and have a good sized pen for them to go out into during the day for exercise. Exercise is the most important thing for a pregnant goat to help her delivery go smoothly. Good feed is essential too but that topic could fill a book! Goats are browsers rather than grazers, so while they do like some grass, esp in spring, they need a varied diet that includes all kinds of weeds and brush/tree leaves. We are lucky enough to have enough space to let our free range most of the time on oak leaves , and wild plants and brush and they also have some pasture. If you have to keep them penned up in a dry lot, it's good if you can take them for a walk in the woods to browse and get exercise every day. This way they can also "self- medicate" if needed on wild herbs. Goats know what they need to stay healthy if given variety of choice.
Good , strong fencing is the most important step you can take towards having your goat experience be easeful. Most people who get goats get frustrated early on because their goats are always getting out and eating their fruittrees and everything else on the property that they value. Field fence can be good if it is strung tightly but for a smaller pen, rigid cattle panel is the way to go. If it's a small area that they are in and there's nothing to do or eat, they will get bored and try to get out. Some folks use electric fence but you have to BE SURE to be there the first few times they test the fence in case they freak out and get tangled in the fence.
Make sure to build them some good feeders. You do not want to feed them on the ground. Goats will not eat anything that they have stepped on or that has poop on it so you'll have a lot of waste. It is also good parasite prevention to keep their food off the ground. And parasites can kill goats quickly. If you have some pasture space, plant some weeds in there like yarrow, chicory, dandelion, dock, etc if they are not in there already. Variety is essential and chicory is a natural anti-parasitic when eaten often.
If you can, The best book you can read about raising goats is David Mackenzie's "Goat Husbandry". It is out of print so you would need to look for a used copy. Try and get a older edition as it has more and better info that the revised editions. I think it's pre-1975 that are the best. I am also on a forum called Holistic Goats ( email@example.com) where we have a group of experienced and new goat people who discuss raising goats without vaccinations, drug intervention and with natural feed. They would also have lots of ideas about setting up a pen/barn and that kind of stuff. It's a great group to bring your questions to.
There is so much more that I could say but maybe this will give you some ideas.
I wish you well with your new adventure! You will fall in love with your new friends.
iv always loved goats i didnt have the room for them and i just bought an estate, so i have the room to have as many as i want.
i have only three because of the space issue now i want more and more!!! @kyrt Ryder i guess i wasnt clear lol sorry about that.
Thanks so much for taking the time to give me such a great response @Sunny baba IM from the Caribbean (Trinidad) very warm, i appreciate all the
responses so much! @deborah
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
If I knew several years ago what I know now, this would be my advice to myself ( and to you). First decide what you want in goats. Do you want Dairy, Meat or both. It makes a difference if you need to design your fencing so you can
run your dairy does into your milking facility from their pastures. You don't need to do that for meat goats. You can have both, I do. I keep the milking does closer to the house and keep a close eye on their worm load.
Draw a map of your farm. Include buildings, creeks, swamps, cliffs, drive ways roads and current fencing if you don't want to change that fencing. Using another copy of that map, draw out how you
would like your fencing. I like rotational grazing so I sectioned my 18 or so acres of grazing area into about 8 grazing areas. I mapped out where I wanted the gates, the lanes for moving the animals and
put in all your corner posts and H braces or Aussie Braces what ever you are using so that you can count up how many posts to buy instead of guessing. This also helps you figure out how many rolls of fence
to buy. how many insulators to buy, how much high tensile to buy, all that stuff. I used different colors to mark the posts if I was using different sizes so I could keep a better count. YOu might seek advice on stocking
rate per acre for you local area, but sometimes this info isn't as good for goats as it is for other animals. If you are running other species like horses or cows behind your goats and I suggest following the goats with
horses or cows to help keep worms under control, you would need to know the stocking rate for the size of pasture for them too.
I used a mix of six strands of high tensile with every other strand electrified and sheep/goat fence and cattle panels. Works pretty good as long as the fencer is shocking well. IF you run electric get the best fencer you
can afford and get a good fence tester.
I was rotating my goats in electric goat netting. This gets old after a while. IT does work, but again you need a kick but portable fencer. Kencove and Premier are good places to look for fencers. Kencove is usually
a bit cheaper. Moving goat netting around can be frustrating and if you are moving it through brush you will require the patience of a saiint. It got to the point where my husband would so mad that I quit moving goats
when he was home on the weekends and did all the goat moving during the week because he would lose his patience and have a fit and rip places in the net and break the posts. I found that the double spike posts
weren't worth it as the double spikes eventually broke off. IF you use electric net, then get some good tent stakes and some rope to support your corners.
The electric goat net was the reason I put in permanent fencing. If you can afford it use the sheep and goat fencing with the four inch by four inch holes in the fencing. They don't get out of it and few if any predators
will get in. High tensile is great. Just removed a big cherry tree that fell on it and it popped back up and you can't even tell there was a tree on it. Didn't even lose an insulator on the metal t-posts. However, if the fencer isn't
shocking good enough you will have goats get out and go exploring. IF you have goats with horns some of them might get stuck in cattle panels. YOu can wire a stick or board on their horns and keep them from getting their
heads through the spacing. I have not had to do that, yet.....
So I switched from the moveable electric neting to my permanent rotational grazing pastures. It is so much less work. I don't have to mow or use a weed eater where I am putting the electric net. I don't have goats getting out all the time,
and my pastures are improving. I am worming so much less now. I check the goats eyelids/conjunctiva once a month with some spot checks in between times. Last year, I only had a worm a couple does in the summer. This winter,
I didn't worm any does until they had their kids. YOu don't want to be worming all the time as the worms become resistant. IF you just worm the ones who need it then you keep the worms from becoming as resistant as fast. I am shooting
for not worming at all or only worming once a year. I did have does that did not nead wormed and my buck has not been wormed since last June and he was in the Maryland Goat test from June to October.
I will suggest that you might want to look at Kiko goats if you are thinking about meat goats and you live in a climate that is not dry. I am switching to Kikos for my meat breed as I got tired of having Boer goats that would drop their kids in
a snow bank, then not have any milk to raise the kids if the kids lived. I have several different dairy breeds but I kind of like Alpines and Sanaans the best so far. My current buck is a KIko, the one that was in the Maryland Goat test.
My Kiko and Kiko crosses didn't need goat coats or heat mats or heat lamps for that matter during kidding this year. They bounced around in the cold and wet and just didn't care to sleep on my heat mats. I wish I would have started
with Kikos as they will go out and eat in light rain instead of running for shelter. My dairy goats will also go out in the light rain and snow and aren't bothered by it.
Good fencing is hte key to staying in love with your goats. Unless you like having the sleep on your back stairs along with all the goat poop that gets left behind. We have a mobile goat shelter called the goat-a-stoga built on a hay wagpn
running gear with a hoop shelter top on it. The goats like it. We have a goat play ground in the winter kidding pasture. the kids love that too.
I hope I gave you some ideas and I hope you have fun with your goats.