Dairy Goat Management
All About Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Milk and Milking – Pholia Farm (a great read if you’re curious about milking Nigerian Dwarf goats, how much milk to expect, quality of milk)
Nutritional Requirements for Goats (feed, minerals, parasites)
Fiasco Farm This website has a lot of information (goat care, health, & husbandry – I highly recommend bookmarking this one)
Hooves: We trim hooves every 8 weeks, more frequent trimming makes the task easier, depending on the goat and the rate their hooves grow you may need to trim more or less frequently. Goats hooves continually grow and need to be trimmed to a proper length for the longevity and comfort. Hoof trimming is something you can learn to do on your own, it helps if you have someone to show you in person your first few times. These are my favorite hoof trimmers, and a good deal compared to others we’ve tried, they’ve held up well. Click on the photo below for a link to more hoof trimming info:
Feeding Wethers/Bucks: If you plan to have wethers as pets I recommend learning about urinary calculi because it’s something to be aware of. We’ve never had an issue with urinary calculi in our bucks or wethers but have heard of this being an issue that is very painful and potentially life threatening. Urinary calculi (or stones) can develop in the bladder potentially causing blockage that prevents the flow of urine, this is mainly a problem for wethers and bucks, does typically do not have this issue. It’s very important to feed a properly balanced diet. Their diet should be lots of hay, very little grain and with the calcium and phosphorous in the grain being balanced at 2 to 1 (twice as much calcium as phosphorous). Check your feed and mineral labels for the calcium to phosphorus ratio. And don’t forget access to plenty of fresh clean water. For more info about urinary calculi check out the following links:
Quality Feed: a well fed goat will be less susceptible to parasites and illness, without proper nutrition your goats will not thrive. A clean source of water must be available at all times. Water consumption is also important for avoiding urinary calculi in wethers. During cold winter months consider offering your goats warm water to drink, it will help increase water intake, and the goats really seem to enjoy it.
Our goats are free to go out and browse but we always provide hay free choice. Find the best feed in your area that is available, don’t believe the myth that goats will eat anything, I always look for horse quality hay. We like to feed our does second or third cut eastern orchard grass and alfalfa, our bucks get mainly just orchard grass and browse except during rut when they need higher nutrients. You need good hay feeders that keep your goats food clean and off the ground, this reduces waste and minimizes the risk of parasites being picked up if they were to eat soiled hay. Be prepared for hay waste, you might be surprised that goats can actually be pretty picky about their hay, goats are browsers and like a variety of food they may pick out their favorite parts and leave the rest. Take some time to learn about plants that are potentially dangerous to goats depending on your location what you need to watch out for may vary, for example, rhododendrons are common to our area and may even be part of your landscaping, they are very poisonous to goats.
Minerals should be available free choice, minerals are important for good health and productivity. We like Sweetlix Meatmaker goat minerals and mix in kelp occasionally, which is full of nutrients, and the goats really love them. Make sure the minerals you get are specifically formulated for goats, not sheep and goats (goats need more copper at levels that could be toxic to sheep, sheep minerals are too low in copper). Ideally you want to feed a loose mineral, rather than a block, so they can consume enough. You might want to check with your local vet to find out if additional minerals would be necessary, some areas are more deficient in certain minerals and additional supplements may be necessary.
Goats will have parasites, it’s something you manage, our current approach to deworming is case-by-case. We don’t follow a schedule and we only deworm individual goats showing symptoms rather than the whole herd. If you deworm just because, you may be deworming a goat that doesn’t need to be and every time you use a dewormer you’re potentially moving closer to parasites developing resistance. Some goats tolorate parasites better than others and don’t need deworming as often. We keep an eye on weight, the condition of their coat, we’re mindful of their normal behavior so we can quickly tell if they seem off, we pay attention the consistency of their feces, they should be pellets rather than soft clumpy stool which could be a sign of intestinal irritation, this could be parasites or it could just be a change in feed. Did the goat recently have an diet change like an increase in grain, are they out on a new grassy spring pasture? Knowing how to check eyelid color is a helpful tool, you can study FAMANCHA scoring. If you suspect worms you should collect a fecal sample and take it to your vet for a fecal egg count to determine the best treatment, if necessary.
Shelter/Fencing: Keep pens and fences in good repair, if you don’t, you will probably find your goats where they don’t belong. Fences should be properly installed and stretched tight so goats can’t climb over or under. Shelter from the elements, doesn’t have to be fancy, a three sided shelter with as much space as you are able to provide to protect the goats from wind and rain. You can use bedding like straw for the floor. Shelves, platforms, or spools are a good idea and allow your goats to get up off the ground. Use as much of your property as possible, spread out the goats and avoid overcrowding. Our fences are no climb horse fencing, 4 ft high with 2″x 4″ openings, it keeps even the smallest kids from squeezing out. A hot wire is also a good idea to keep your goats from standing and rubbing on your fence. Also remember, the fence should keep your goats in, and predators out.
Grooming: Goats are normally pretty clean animals and do not stink (except for bucks who are very stinky, particularly during rut). A good brushing is really all that is needed and goats usually love being brushed. Bathing isn’t really necessary except if you plan to show and will be clipping your goats. Goats like rubbing and scratching on things, but if they seem especially itchy it’s possible they could have external parasites, like lice, which should be treated. The lice that infect goats is species specific, so don’t worry about it transferring to people.
We vaccinate annually with CD&T, it is a vaccination you can pick up at your local feed store, if you’re up to doing it yourself. It is a vaccination for Clostridium perfringens type C + D and tetanus. Click here for more info. Our does are vaccinated 30 days prior to kidding, this ensures they’ll provide the kids initial protection until they’re old enough to be vaccinated we typically vaccinate kids at 6-8 weeks followed by a booster shot 3-4 weeks later and then one annual shot.
There are certain diseases to be aware of and avoid when purchasing goats, we test our herd annually, through WADDL, our vet comes and does blood draws on every adult goat and sends them to a lab. As much as it may seem like a nice idea to purchase/rescue a goat at a livestock auction, sadly you may be at a high risk of purchasing a sick animal, or one that has been exposed to life threatening and highly contagious chronic and potentially deadly illness. If you have goats already you would want to be extremely careful, new animals with unknown health status should be quarantined and tested before introduction to your herd or land as they can contaminate your goats and property for a long time and are best avoided. We try and avoid risks when possible by keeping a closed herd and testing annually and our herd has tested negative every year since the first year we purchased goats in 2012. When our own goats return from a show they are quarantined to make sure they aren’t bringing back any illnesses from the show/fairs and spreading it to the rest of the herd.
I recommend finding a vet if you don’t already have one. Not all veterinarians see goats, so it’s good to already have an established relationship with a goat vet before you have an emergency.
Books I’ve read and recommend:
Your Goats A Kids Guide To Raising and Showing (technically a kids guide but it’s straightforward and has good info on goat care and I think it’s a good read for all ages)
Northwest Oregon Dairy Goat Annual Conference I’ve attended several times, so many great classes and knowledgeable teachers, there’s something for everyone.
Become a Certified Dairy Goat Producer with free online training from the American Institute for Goat Research. The training is free the certificate upon successful completion is optional, $25. About the course: https://go.adga.org/2nmfD7i Sign up Here: https://go.adga.org/2njvDqO
Four Day Goat Academy Another fun learning opportunity, I attended this class in 2017 and really enjoyed my time at Pholia Farm.