Hi! I'm Elise, I just joined. I'd like to introduce myself and ask a few questions.
My family and I are looking into purchasing two or three young NDG wethers to have as companions/pets in our backyard (don't worry, there's space.) Since we will likely be bringing them home around mid-July, I'm doing all the research I can to find out how to care for them.
I know that I'll need a shelter (we're probably going with a large dog house), plenty of water and wire fencing around where we'd like to keep them, and some sort of hay and grain supplement. But that last thing is what I'm struggling with, as I get lots of different complicated answers online that I know depend on the age and gender of the goats as well as what's available and the climate.
Here's basically the situation most likely: there will be two young (under 6 months, probably around 2 or 3) NDG wethers living in a roughly 300 sq ft enclosure with mostly regular sod grass and a couple other random plants and low-ish hanging branches of trees (no poisonous plants, I checked) in southwestern Tennessee in a suburban area.
What I need to know is:
What type of hay should I purchase and how much?
Should I give them a grain/mineral/protein/whatever supplement?
If so, what kind?
For how long?
I read about this thing called Chaffhaye, is that a good choice?
Do they need a salt or mineral block?
Any other things to know?
Goats hate mud and like to be dry when it rains. So keep that in mind when you do the shelter. You might want to have it up on a pallet or something. I think that your area is pretty small, and
the goats will have it denuded in no time. If they can get at an edible tree trunk or limb they might debark it.
A mixed grass hay with clover or some alfalfa would be fine. Plain mixed grass hay would also be fine. You will need a good hay feeder. If the hay touches the ground, the goats won't want to
eat it. I often scoop up the hay that my goats drop and won't eat and feed it to my horses and steers. Or I will use that dropped hay in my chicken nests. You want a hay feeder that is up at the height
that a goat will browse at. IF they are so hungry that they eat off the ground they will reinfest themselves with worms. Purchase small amounts of hay. Like a couple small square bales at a time
unelss you have a good place to store larger amounts.
Provide a good plain white salt block. My goats hit that salt block a couple times a day. You can get a big 50 lb one or you can get the smaller ones that go in horses stalls. You will need a salt block holder.
Goats need mineral. Copper actually helps them be more resistant to worms. You can use a mineral supplement that is special for goats or you can use a a multi species one for cattle goats and horses. Sheep can't
handle copper as well as goats and other animals so many of the sheep mineral supplements won't be high enough in copper for goats. I use a multi species mineral mix but then I have a lot of goats, four horses, steers
and pigs so it is more cost effective that way.
You can feed a goat feed or even a feed that is designed for multi species use. I use a cheap multi species feed for the goats. YOu don't need the expensive 20 dollar a bag goat feed and you don't need the medicated goats
feed. They always try to sell that stuff to people and it is usually designed for peope trying to get their goats ready for the show ring. You won't need to feed the nigerians very much. I gave a friend two nigerian cross goats
for pets. I warned her not to feed them to much. Then she came to visit and watched me feed my goats. She said is that all you feed them? Apparently she was feeding her two goats the same amount I was feeding to ten goats.
Sometimes goat wethers can have problems getting stones in their bladder if you feed them to much grain or feed with a lot of grain products in it. That is another reason to not feed them too much grain. Look for a feed with
soy hulls in it as it is a highly digestible fiber. Goats will eat plain soy hull pellets. I fed them to mine for years.
What you need to keep in mind is that goats are rumminants and are designed to ferment fiber in the chambers of their stomach. Goats are not really meant to eat a lot of grain. So technically goats don't need grain. Goats like variety.
Goats usually prefer to browse on bushes and taller weeds. Let them have as many rose bush trimmings and blackberry vines as they want. They love them.
Do some research on worms in goats so you know what to look for. If goats are in a small area and are eating off the ground they have a very high likelyhood of getting a high worm load. Goats can die pretty easily from a heavy worm load.
I agree with everything Bonnie said. I just wanted to add, that, if you are keeping them in a small area, it's usually better for their health to dry-lot them. Which means removing grass and vegetation from their pen (the overhanging branches would be fine). The reason for this, is, living primarily on hay, they will be desperate for some greenery, and they will eat grass close to the ground, and this will give you major parasite trouble. With a small area, the grass will never grow tall enough to be safe or beneficial to eat. I have seen this happen with an acquaintance, who then wonders why she is constantly battling parasites.
You can cut greens for them in other parts of your yard (you can even grow stuff specifically for them), collect trimmings from friends and neighbors, etc., and they will eat it with glee.
One thing, which I'm sure you've seen already in your research but I just want to emphasize, make sure you have goat friendly fence. They are little escape artists and incredibly persistent! For the first year I had goats I always assumed people were exaggerating until I tried to separate a visiting buck from my does. He was only around for maybe two weeks but those two weeks were ridiculous! He would find one weak spot in the fence and just push until he could get under. We would patch that spot and he would find another one within the hour. He was a NDG but he was soo strong! They are also really great climbers so it's important not to have any structures near the fence that they could use to jump over.
Also, have someone experienced show you how to trim their hooves. It took me a couple months of trial and error to find something that worked for me because I didn't know anyone that knew anything about goats.
Oh and when it comes to goats, you could ask 10 different people the same question and get 10 different answers. And they might not all be wrong, although some of them might be terrible. I hired a farm hand recently who told me she tells her guests to just throw their cigarette butts on the ground because the goats will clean them up! I know tobacco has been used as a dewormer but those filters can't be good for them! Anyways, best thing is to just do your best to evaluate everyone's advice and see what works best for you.
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