Basic Goat Care & General Info
Updated: Jan 24
Goats are generally easy keepers, but there are a few basic management techniques that will go a long way to keeping your herd happy & healthy. Please keep in mind that the advice on this sheet reflects only the experience of a few goat keepers and should not be considered a replacement for solid veterinary care or advice. All info provided is meant to be as an example of the care we provide for our goats, you may find other methods that work best for you and your goats. We highly recommend that you consult a veterinary professional for advice and treatment.
Understanding an ADGA Pedigree Are you confused by all the abbreviations, letters and/or numbers surrounding some registered names? I was too when I started. This topic required it's own page and you can find an explanation for all of that HERE. :) Bringing Goats Home Any time you take a goat kid or adult away from their herd, expect some amount of distress. This can manifest in crying and/or changes to appetite. Spending extra time with your goats during this time can help ease their discomfort. If your new goat(s) will have access to a large pasture area, it may be helpful to limit their initial area to their sleeping quarters and a smaller outdoor area to allow for easier observation. Providing a probiotic supplement such as Probios gel and/or top dressing their feed with a powdered probiotic will help keep their rumen bacteria flourishing and thus their overall health well. You can find probiotics at your local feed store. If you have the setup to allow, quarantining any new arrival from others for 30 days is highly recommended (but at least a minimum of 15 days). Please note that it's best to quarantine the new arrival in an area that does not share the same air space as other animals. Quarantining protects other animals from any unknown ailments, disease, and/or parasites the new animal may expose them to. During this time it's best to submit a fecal for testing of internal parasites, and a blood sample (if not very recently tested) for such diseases like CAE, CL, Johne's Disease, Q-Fever, and/or Brucellois. Observe the new animals for any signs of disease, lesions, abnormal breathing (fast or slow), nasal discharge, body temperature above 103.5 or below 101.5, off feed, signs of pain such as grinding teeth, or diarrhea or problems in their bowel movement (a stool that looks like their normal "berries" clumped into a log is often a sign of stress and most likely due to the move and change of environment and/or new food - offer probiotics). Petting Goats Many goats love attention! And they love to be petted, but don't just pet them like you would a dog. Goats like their front chest and shoulders scratched. They often, before they get to know and trust you, do not like for you to pet the top of their head; this is because goats have eyes that can see practically 360 degrees around themselves (even behind them) but they cannot see above them very well. When you come at them with your hand from above like you are going to pet the top of their head, they cannot see what you are doing and it makes them nervous. Instead, pet their neck, chest or chin rather than the top of the head. Taming your goat There is no simple way to "tame" a goat. To win the goat over will take a lot of patience, caring, and love (food treats such as a few corn chips, animal crackers, raisins, or bits of grain work wonders too). Try not to chase the goat, being prey animals this will only make them more scared of you. Let them get used to their new home first. Once used to their new home, you might try taking advantage of their natural curiosity and just sit there with some grain or a treat in your hand, in a non-threatening peaceful fashion and let them approach you. If (and when) they do approach you, offer a treat like raisins or grain. Go slowly and patiently, don't push the issue too fast. Another idea is to "hang out" with them just after you feed them. They will be most concerned with eating and will not be as shy or skittish of your presence. You can take advantage of this by putting out their grain and giving each one a gentle pet while they are focused on their food. The younger the goat is, the easier it will be to convince them that you are their friend. The older they are, the more patience you will need. We always make sure to ‘leave on a good note’ when working with our goats. One negative event can take hours, even days, to work back out. General Goats thrive on routine. They like to know what to expect and will be much quieter when a routine is established and stuck to. Herd Order No matter how sweet and loving your goat may be with you, they will on occasion get aggressive with their herdmates. This is the natural ways of things, and no matter how you want them to always get along, there will be occasions where your goats fight. A goat herd has a "pecking order", every goat has their place in the herd. When you add new goats to a herd, they may get beat up by members of the established herd until the new goat's place in the herd is established. There is no way to stop the fighting; separating them won't help because when you let them back together again, they will start the fighting again. Just let it run its course. If possible, allowing the goats to get familiar with each other in an open space is best so the newcomer can move about freely. Depending on your feeding set up, allowing for feed to be spread out helps as well as you’ll find the herd will be more aggressive toward the newcomer when food is involved. Head Butting Head butting in young goats is ‘playtime’, it’s practicing to become an adult (like all child play is). But never push on a goat's head because you do not want to encourage head butting behavior between a goat & a person - someone (like you or a child) could get hurt. Especially if the goat has horns. Feed and Water Our goats are primarily raised and maintained on a grain free diet. Only young kids and does in milk are provided grain regularly, other does may receive very limited amounts as a treat (like during hoof trimming). We provide quality orchard grass free choice (timothy and/or bermuda hays are also good choices); alfalfa hay is fed to pregnant does in the last month of pregnancy and throughout lactation. Hay should always be kept clean and dry to avoid the potential for mold growth. I provide horse-quality alfalfa pellets* (alfalfa is a great source of calcium for does & bucks) to my goats. I find the end of day feeding to be useful in getting my goats in the barn so I can secure them over night. Kids can be started off on 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pellets a day (per goat) and increased up to 1 cup as they grow. Feed amounts should always be determined by rate of growth and body condition. Dairy goats are best maintained trim, but not thin. Black oil sunflower seeds are a good source of fat and selenium and may be added in to the diet. By attaching each goat to a lead at their feeding station you can make sure each goat is getting the appropriate feed, amount, and specific supplements desired. If/when changing a goat’s diet, do so slowly. *A Note on Wethers: Wethers are prone to Urinary Calculi which can be extremely painful and deadly. A diet that is high in roughage and low in grain is imperative. Wethers do not have a need for grain as a lactating doe does. You may read that blackberry and alfalfa may contribute as well. While this is true, limiting blackberry consumption is often difficult in rural areas, and on a grain free diet is likely unnecessary. Alfalfa consumption is a common debate amongst goat owners, some believe it increases the risks of urinary calculi while others believe it helps to maintain a good balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus (2:1 is ideal). Either way… avoiding grain, providing good minerals and fresh, clean water will go a long way to preventing calculi. Ammonium Chloride changes the pH of urine in a way that prevents excess minerals from crystalizing into stones. Ammonium chloride is often found in goat specific feed (check labels) or a powder form can be added to your wether’s food or water. Use caution when feeding Ammonium Chloride to any does in the pasture, especially those that are lactating. The Ammonium Chloride will not allow the uptake of needed calcium and in later years does’ bones will become brittle if continually being fed a ration containing Ammonium Chloride. FRESH, clean water is a MUST. Goats will turn their nose up at dirty water and dehydration is serious. I empty and refill my buckets daily or more often if needed. I also provide several extra buckets of water to ensure they have other options if someone kicks hay or dirt in one (or poops in another!). Apple cider vinegar can be added to a water source; it’s rich in enzymes and potassium, supports a healthy immune system; promotes digestion & pH balance, and helps remove toxins. I like to occasionally add apx 2 cups to a 5 gallon bucket of water. Vaccines, Supplements and De-Worming
Vaccines – A CD&T vaccine is administered annually, does to be bred receive their dose 4-6 weeks before due date. You can purchase a small 10-dose bottle at your local farm store for apx $10. Dose with 2cc’s injected under the skin (subcutaneously) and not in the muscle with a ½” 20 gauge (22 gauge for kids) once yearly. If you are uncomfortable with administering this, please contact your local livestock veterinarian.
Selenium – We do Selenium supplementation at least once a year, but preferably twice a year. BoSe Injectable Rx is used for Selenium deficient area’s (which is now most of the US). Give 2cc’s injected subcutaneously per goat, we do this about a month before any does are due to kid. Sometimes we use the Selenium/Vitamin E gel, which is very convenient & avoids the hassle of getting a vet Rx and also of giving an injection. The Selenium/Vitamin E Gel can be purchased at any local farm store for about $15 a tube. Take caution to not overdose on Selenium.
Minerals – Provide free choice goat specific loose minerals that do NOT contain salt as the primary ingredient. Look for a blend such as 16:8. Minerals must be kept clean and dry. Never feed sheep or horse minerals - sheep minerals have too little copper while horse minerals have too much. Loose minerals are best as a mineral block will get dirty and the goats will stop using it. Sweetlix Meat Maker is a great option but not available in all areas. Manna Pro Goat Mineral is a good choice as well. I was suggested Payback Goat Mineral Plus by a large, well known breeder and I have to say… it’s a winner! My goats love it and I am finally happy with their wiliness to eat their minerals!
Replamin Gel Plus – This is a great boost of vitamins to administer to your goats. Some people use it weekly and as a replacement for Copper Bolus, others use only when a goat’s coat lacks luster and requires a boost. This is not meant as a replacement to loose minerals.
Copper Bolus – Common symptoms of copper deficiency is the loss of hair along the bridge of the nose, dull, rough & changing coat color (a black goat may start to get red spots for example) and the hair on the tip of the tail may start to resemble a “fish tail” (separating in the middle like a ‘V’). Copper deficiency has become pretty common in goats as feed just doesn’t contain the levels goats require. There are 2 capsule sizes, 4g for adults over 100 lbs and 2g for kids over 25 lbs and 5 weeks of age.
Probiotics – Probiotics help to stabilize the rumen and maintain a normal appetite and digestion. I use this then whenever a goat’s fecal is slightly off (not the normal loose pellets) and the goat is otherwise behaving normally. This can be anything from stress, change in diet, too much feed or too much milk in kids. I always suggest providing this during stressful events like bringing new goats home or to a doe after she kids . Either administer the paste or top dress (sprinkle) on pelleted feed. If ongoing for more than a couple of days or more symptoms are present, seek veterinary advice. You could be dealing with illness or parasites.
Nutri-Drench – Concentrated vitamins and minerals that are readily absorbed for quick energy. I give to any goat that seems off, recovering from illness and to all newborns.
Vitamin ADE & B12 Gel – A great boost of vitamins for an ill, stressed or pregnant goat.
Worming: I rarely de-worm my goats as I choose to perform annual fecal testing (or more often as necessary) as well as monitor conditioning and performing FAMACHA. Please consult your veterinarian for advice on this issue. Internal parasites can vary greatly from region to region as with the recommended de-worming medication for your area and situation.
Ivermectin does most everything including liver flukes & lungworms but doesn’t treat tapeworms. You can use the 1.87 % Ivermectin paste for horses. Give this at the dose of 3 times the horse amount. Example 100 lb goat gets 300 lb horse dose. A mature Nigerian Dwarf would weigh about 60-80 lbs, so you can use a 250lb dose. It's almost impossible to overdose goats on Ivermectin Horse Paste. Administer the paste orally by holding the animal’s head tipped up while you squeeze the paste slowly into the back of the throat & along the cheek. Another Ivermectin product is Ivomec 1% Injectable (labeled for Cattle). This injectable form can be given to goats either orally or via subcutaneous injection (be aware that it’s a painful injection & the goat will jump!). When used as an injectable in goats, it is considered a great choice for treating any external parasites such as lice & mites. Recommended does is 1 ml per 25lbs body weight. If necessary a 2nd dose can be repeated about 2-3 weeks after the initial dose. Ivomec is not recommended for kids under 6 months of age and do not give orally to severely anemic goats.
Valbazen (labeled for cattle) is another great de-wormer. Valbazen is a good, all-around de-wormer; it treats everything including lungworms, adult liver flukes, and tapeworms too. Many experienced goat owners dose orally at 1cc per 10 lbs orally annually, with the exception of kids (dose at 3-4 weeks & again at 8-9 weeks). Valbazen can also be used on dams a day or two after kidding. DO NOT use Valbazen on a pregnant doe.
Hooves: Trim hooves every 1-2 months or as needed to keep the feet in proper form & condition. The more often you upkeep the hooves, the easier they are to trim as you won’t need to re-shape the hoof from overgrowth.
Check for any lice or mites (especially in the winter) - you can use a "dust" such as Co-Ral if you need to. There’s also a product called Ultra Boss, apply a few drops onto the skin down the spine. Some suggest the use of a top-quality horse fly spray which works well as a preventative on the goats and also works as a premise spray around the barn. Ivomec 1% Injectable (when given as an injection) also works to treat for lice/mites.
Goats are very susceptible to poisoning from our common Rhododendrons & Azaleas, be cautious of these plants.
Normal Rectal Temperature Range: 102 - 104 (This varies depending on the temperature of the goat's surroundings)
Life span of Does & Wethers: 9-14 years
Life Span of Bucks: 8-10 years
Full growth size: Most goats reach their full size at 2-3 years of age, about 19”-23” tall and about 50-75lbs.
Estrus/Heat Cycle: Apx every 18-23 days and lasts about 12-36 hours
Things to keep on hand:
Probiotics (paste or powder such as Probios or Probiotic Power)
GOAT SPECIFIC loose minerals such as Sweetlix, Purina, Manna Pro or Payback
Good hoof trimmers
Hoof pick with brush attached
Blood stop powder
Baking Soda (for stomach aches/bloat)
Digital thermometer (quick read one’s are easiest!)
Some Syringes (3ml, 6 ml, & 12ml)
Needles – we keep a few 18 gauge for thicker injectables, but mostly use 20 and 22 gauge
Bio-Mycin over the counter antibiotic which treats a WIDE range of issues (Nuflor is also an excellent goat antibiotic but it requires a vet Rx)
Children’s Liquid Motrin or Ibuprofen (1cc per 10 lbs) for fever (may act as a blood thinner, do not give to a bleeding goat).
Vitamin B Complex Injectable Solution
A Vitamin/Electrolyte powder in cases of stress, illness
Ammonium Chloride if you have bucks/wethers, add a pinch of this to food or water to reduce urinary stones. It can be purchased online through veterinary sources or even Amazon.com
BoSe Injectable (requires a vet Rx) or easy to use Selenium/Vitamin E Gel (available in farm stores)
De-wormer such as Ivermectin Horse Paste and/or Valbazen White liquid cattle de-wormer
Pill gun (good for administering pills to the back of the throat & avoiding the razor-sharp rear teeth)
Replamin Gel Plus
Milk stand – Even if you don’t plan to breed and milk your goats, I HIGHLY recommend the use of a milk stand for common things such as hoof trimming and administering shots. The milk stand keeps the goat under some amount of control and the food provided during this time keeps the goat occupied and content. It really makes life easier! After building one, I couldn’t believe how I went so long without! I provided a link below for a wonderfully easy plan that I used. I shortened the height of the head gate by about 4 or 5” to accommodate the shorter height of Nigerians as this plan is designed for full sized goats.
Update: Be sure to see the Favorite Links blog for a DIY Stanchion Plan! I built one years ago and it's still in use!