Goat Care 101

Nigerian Doe Split Decision

1. Your Goat's Diet

Preface before we start: Goats don't like to be alone.  You need to have more than one for them to be happy. Although I do know a person who has one pet whether and he is doing just fine, it is preferable though. They are a herd animal and can get depressed without others of their type.

Goats will eat grass, but they absolutely prefer broad leaf plants, trees and shrubs. If you use rotational grazing and don’t spray a bunch of chemicals to take out those “weeds” the goats will have a happy supply of diverse forage.   If you have them in a more confined place, or in the winter when there isn’t fresh grass to eat, give them good quality grass hay. Avoid rich alfalfa, as it can cause bloat. We also give them a little pelleted goat feed (check the bag to make sure that it has ammonium chloride in it to detour any urinary blockages that can be life threatening). They should also have access to selenium and salt in a free choice feeder. If you are milking or your doe is feeding babies, you may want to supplement with a bit of alfalfa, but it may not be necessary, especially if you have a rich GARDEN. If you are able garden, Garden a lot! They will love to eat diverse garden greens. Ideally, you could almost forgo any supplement if you have a great garden or just enjoy scavenging for broad leaf “weeds”.

2. Your Goat's Shelter and Fencing

Goats don’t like to get wet, ever. They much prefer to take refuge when a storm comes in. Any type of shelter will work, even a dog igloo. Use your imagination, because the goat sure will. You can be creative and make improvements with time. A wind block is very important in the winter as well. They do grow a winter coat and can take cold temperatures when well fed, but use your good judgment. We decided to bring our goats in our shop when it got to 25 below zero.   As for fencing, Goats can be escape artists, but at least Nigerian Dwarfs are a small breed. We use Premier 1 fencing and find that the poultry netting works best for our needs. What is nice about this fencing is that you can move it around to do your rotational grazing. We like the poultry net that is a 164’ roll with pole spacing of 12.5’ so that it isn’t too heavy. We then put an extra support pole in between each pole so that it doesn’t sag. We buy the extra poles at our local farm store. It is VERY IMPORTANT to always keep the fenced charged. They can become entangled in the fence and strangle themselves. It almost happened to one of our baby sheep.

3. Your Goat's Hoof Care and Milking

Goats need to have their hooves trimmed frequently. I love these lightweight little Nigerian Dwarfs, because it’s not a problem to wrestle them while you do the trimming. Here is a good link to hoof trimming from Tractor and Supply Co.

Milking your Nigerian is something I hope every person who buys a doe from me does. The milk is very nutritious and it is a part you can play to become more sustainable in your own household. You can use the milk for fresh drinking or you can make yogurt, ice cream, cheese or any number of soaps, and lotions. You will need to have baby goats in order for production to start. Breed your goat when she is at least 35Ib. That could be the same year that she is born. All depends on what you personally feel is best for your goat. Some people I know wait till the goat is older. My grandpa would wait till his goats were 2 years old. We asked around and those that bred their does at 30-40Ib didn’t have a problem with kidding. Kidding is what they call it when the goat gives birth.  When you are ready to start milking its good to have a routine and milk at least twice a day. Making a goat-milking stand can be beneficial to help confine the goat to one spot. You can feed her grain while you milk. She will come to enjoy the routine and the food!

4. Your Goat Challenge

So I challenge every goat owner to garden! GARDEN? Yes, garden.  There are many benefits for your own health in gardening.  Don't think to use any kind of spray, however.  Using sprays as herbicides and pesticides kill beneficial insects and microbes in the soil, is not sustainable and is poison to your body.  You might not be able to have a large garden, but having one helps you learn a beautiful skill and enhances your appreciation for well grown food.  And believe me, it will taste better than anything you buy in the store.

We use rotational grazing so we don't have access to goat manure during most of the year, but in the winter we are able to put our goats directly over our garden.  We also have a system of planting where we do not till.  We use mulch on our garden the whole year long and scootch the mulch out of the way to plant our seeds or seedlings.  This makes having to compost the manure before planting obsolete.

Another challenge is for you to EAT MORE GREENS.  Greens are so essential for good cell production and longevity in our own bodies. When we eat fresh greens from the garden we consume more enzymes that our body needs to function well, digest well, and even contributes to more mental clarity and detoxifies our body.  We haven't taken care of our bodies well.  We can reverse this by deciding to eat healthier.

Lastly, and most important is knowing that God has given us good gifts and He enjoys seeing us enjoy the blessings he has for us and to share them with others.  I want you to ENJOY LIFE. Don't be glued to the TV, phone or tablet, but enjoy your family and enjoy your goats.  Spend time just being. Slow down and enjoy your relationships with others and enjoy the intricate web of life all around you.

I hope you are up for the challenge.  It will really change your life.  Who would've thought that buying a goat would be LIFE CHANGING!