If you officially decided to buy goats, but now you need some beginner tips for raising goats, then this post is for you! *This post is part 2 of a blog post series. Part 1 discussed everything you need to know about buying your first goat*
Beginner tips for raising goats
When Ben and I decided to start a homestead in our own backyard, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Although neither of us had any prior experience with farming, we decided to jump right into homesteading. We literally had no idea how to raise goats, so we spent countless hours researching best practices. If you’re looking for beginner tips for raising goats, then this blog post is for you. I’ve compiled all of the information that we’ve learned over the past year+ of raising goats in the beginner tips for raising goats below.
Set up appropriate housing and fencing
Goats have a reputation for escaping, and for good reason! Goats are extremely curious and if given the opportunity, they will escape. Be sure to set up appropriate fencing (we ordered our electric fencing from Premier 1, but here’s an Amazon option!) It’s a bit pricey, but it’s an investment worth making. Goats also need appropriate housing to protect them from weather and predators. We live in the Chicago suburbs, so we have hot summers and cold winters. Our covered deck provides our goats with extra protection from heat, wind, and extreme cold temperatures. We also have fully enclosed goat houses to keep our bucks and does safe from predators at night (and protect them from harsh weather.)
Feeding guidelines & beginner tips for raising goats
One of the most important items on my beginner tips for raising goats list? Don’t forget to research feeding guidelines! Goats are ruminant animals that eat (and poop!) all day long. Up until recently, we fed our goats primarily alfalfa hay. At the time, we had 2 dry does and 1 doe in milk. One of our dry does (Penny) developed a zinc deficiency due to the high calcium content in the alfalfa (too much calcium binds to the zinc, causing a deficiency. The easiest way to treat a zinc deficiency is by removing the excess calcium from the goat’s diet.)
One of the biggest challenges of having a small homestead is when your goats require different feeding guidelines. Our dry does need less calcium, so we switched them to Timothy grass hay. Our milking doe needs the extra calcium, so we supplement her with extra alfalfa (i.e. extra calcium.) In addition to browsing the pasture, we use the following feeding guidelines for raising goats:
Dry does / bucks
- Free choice water
- Timothy grass hay (or an alfalfa/grass mix offered on a free choice basis.)
- Black oil sunflower seeds offered as a snack.
- Small amount of high quality grain
- Free choice loose minerals
Doe in milk
- Free choice water
- Alfalfa hay (or alfalfa/grass mix) offered on a free choice basis.)
- Free choice loose mineral
- Supplement with alfalfa pellets at least two times per day (especially important if feeding something other than pure alfalfa hay) – able to eat as much as she wants
- Food on the milk stand (2x/day) – alfalfa pellets, grain,black oil sunflower seeds
Have supplies on hand for raising goats
- Straw and/or pine shavings for bedding
- free choice loose minerals
- baking soda (offered free choice if you suspect bloat)
- Herbal wormer (there’s a lot of controversy about wormers out there. If you have a major wormload, then an herbal wormer probably isn’t the best option. We use an herbal wormer as a maintenance, but it’s difficult to determine if the herbal dewormer is working or if we simply haven’t experience a major worm problem.)
Get a goat mentor
This might be one the most most important beginner tips for raising goats. GET A GOAT MENTOR! I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a few Chicagoland farms, and it’s been such a blessing. When you wake up in the morning and your baby goat has diarrhea, or you notice a weird bald spot on your doe, then it’s time to contact your mentor. Online forums often times provide awful advice, so it’s always a good idea to have a few trusted people on hand that you can contact directly. Wondering where you can find a mentor? Network on Instagram or continue relationships with breeders after you purchase your goats.
Have a vet lined up
Mentors are great (and often times have more direct experience with goats), but be sure to have a vet lined up as well. At some point in your goat raising journey, you’ll find yourself needing to call a vet ASAP. I would recommend connecting with the vet prior to picking up your goats. Most farm vets make house calls, so be sure to inquire if he/she is able to provide services in your geographic area.
I briefly discussed annual testing in this post, but ask your vet if he/she can complete testing for you. Other options include competing the testing yourself or finding a local vet tech that visits nearby farms. (We have a wonderful vet tech/mentor that does our testing – if you’re located in Chicagoland, then I would be happy to send you her contact information!)