Thinking about getting goats, but need a crash course in Goats 101? I’m sharing 5 tips for raising goats in this post!
Goats 101: 5 tips for raising goats
When we decided to start a homestead, I knew that I wanted to raise goats. My husband wasn’t totally on board, but I somehow convinced him that it was a good idea…. and within 1.5 years we more than tripled our goat herd. Whoops!
If you haven’t raised livestock before, then making the decision to get goats can feel overwhelming. What are their nutritional needs? Can I buy just one? What type of shelter do they need? Don’t fret, because my Goats 101 post includes 5 tips for raising goats.
1. How many?
Tip #1 in Goats 101? Goats are herd animals, so they absolutely NEED a goat buddy. Even if your goat will be around other livestock, you cannot purchase a single goat. A lone goat is a sad (and very noisy) goat! When deciding how many goats to purchase, two goats is the bare minimum.
2. Shelter + Fencing
Goats require appropriate shelter and adequate fencing for weather and predator protection. Regardless of which type of shelter you choose, it must remain dry and include clean straw or pine shavings for bedding. Goats do not like to be wet, so they must have access to a safe, dry, and clean shelter at all times.
Some goat owners who live in a warmer climate choose to use a three sided shelter, but I highly discourage this decision. Even if you think that you don’t have many predators in your area, utilizing a three sided shelter simply puts your heard at an increased risk for predator attacks. If you live in a colder climate, then a fully enclosed, four sided shelter is an absolute necessity. During colder months, appropriate shelter must also be draft free to keep your herd warm and healthy overnight.
Once you set up your goat shelter, don’t forget fencing! Fencing is perhaps one of the most important tips for Goats 101. Failing to set up appropriate fencing is gambling with the health and safety of your herd. If you live in an area with predators, then be aware that coyotes and other predators can easily jump fences. Goats are also extremely curious, so they will escape through fences if given the opportunity. We use an Electric PoultryNet to prevent predator attacks and keep our goats safely contained.
3. Food + Water
Goats need to have free choice access to clean water and hay at all times. However, the nutritional needs of your goats will differ depending on a few different factors. Below are general Goat 101 feeding guidelines:
- Clean water
- Free choice hay (we prefer Timothy grass hay when possible)
- Free choice loose minerals
- Treat: Small amount of black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS)
- Treat: Small amount of high quality grain
Doe in milk
- Clean water
- Free choice alfalfa hay (does in milk need the extra calcium from alfalfa)
- Free choice loose mineral
- Food on the milk stand (2x/day) – alfalfa pellets, grain, black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS)
- (If you are unable to find pure alfalfa hay, then supplement with alfalfa pellets at least two times per day)
4. Mineral requirements
In addition to food and water, goats require free choice access to loose minerals. Your goats will eat as much (or as little) as he/she needs, so be sure to always have your mineral feeder filled. Here’s a practical Goat 101 tip- goats are extremely finicky, so if their mineral feeder gets even remotely damp, they will refuse to eat from it. Rather than pouring an entire bag into the mineral feeder, simply fill it up as needed in order to prevent waste.
Mineral deficiencies are extremely common in goats, so be sure to frequently monitor their health. Zinc and copper deficiencies are two of the most common mineral deficiencies, and we have experienced both in our herd. Depending on your geographic location and symptoms presented, your goats may require additional supplementation in addition to their free choice minerals.
5. First Aid Kit
Goats are extremely hardy animals, but it’s always important to have a first aid kit on hand in case of health problems. The list below is nowhere near comprehensive, but includes some basic Goat 101 items that we have needed.
- Baking Soda (free choice if you suspect bloat)
- Goat Electrolytes
- Herbal Dewormer
- Copper Bolus (Kids & Adults)
- Corid or Toltrazuril (beneficial to have on hand for coccidiosis if you have goat kids)
What are some of your Goat 101 tips?