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Getting Your Goat

Goat selection & Common questions
By Brian L. Beer
Oct 28, 2002, 9:48am

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The following is a collection of frequently asked questions about goat management.

What is the best type of goat?
There is not a "best goat". Some goats are better suited for certain production systems than others. For milk production the Alpine, LaMancha, Toggenburg, Saanen and Oberhasli are popular breeds. The Nubian is considered a dual purpose breed, suitable for milk and meat production. For meat production the Boer, Tennessee stiff-legged, Pygmy and crosses of these with dairy breeds are all common. If you are considering fiber production, the Angora and Cashmere breeds would be good choices.

How many goats can I place on my property?
A general recommendation is 6 to 10 goats per acre for stocking year-round. This rate will vary with the quantity and quality of forage and browse available. Browse includes shrubs, woody plants, weeds and briars.

What can I feed to my goats?
Goats have a high nutritional requirement. This requirement varies with stage of production, stage of growth and the type of production system. With the exception of milkers, high quality browse and forage will meet most goat's requirements. Goats will consume 4.5 pounds of dry matter per 100 pounds of body weight per day.

Understanding the stages of maturity and how this affects forage quality is important. Graze grass when it is 6 to 8 inches tall and remove the goats when grass is 3 to 4 inches. Matching forage quality to the animal's nutrient requirement can reduce the need for supplemental grain, saving you money.

If forage and browse are not available, such as in winter or during severe drought, supplemental feed is required. This is usually given in the form of hay or grain. Fresh water and a loose mineral supplement should be available at all times.

Can you run goats with other livestock?
Goats work well as companion grazers. This is true because goats prefer plants that are undesirable to other livestock. Goats will prefer browse and weeds over grass and clover. The result is more desirable forage (grass and clover) for the other livestock.

You can run one to three goats for each cow. Again, this number depends on the quality and quantity of forage and browse available. Seven or eight goats will eat about as much as one cow.

What type of fence will keep a goat in the pasture?
Woven wire fences do a good job of containing goats. Goats with horns can get their heads caught in this type of fence, so dehorn them. High tensile electric fencing (5 strands) will also works well and is less expensive to build and maintain.

What type of housing do I need for goats?
Housing needs will depend on the production system you choose. For meat, fiber or brush control goats, some type of structure to protect the goats from cold, wind, rain and wet ground is recommended. This can range from a natural wind break or rock outcropping, to a traditional barn. For a dairy, you will need a building to use as a milking parlor and a place to keep the baby goats (kids) away from their mothers and out of the elements.

How many kids do goats have?
Goats can have from one to five kids. Twins are the most common birth rate. Four or five is very rare.

How long is pregnancy (gestation) in goats?
Gestation lasts five months in goats. The range is 146-155 days.

When do I breed young does?
It is best to breed a young doe when she is one year old. Breeding her earlier will stunt her growth and could lead to birthing difficulties. A good rule is to breed does when they reach 60-75% of their mature weight.

When do I wean kids?
Wean kids when they are three months old. This will allow the doe to gain weight before her next kidding. You do not want a doe to be in poor condition when her next kids are born because her milk production will be reduced and there is a possibility of kids being born weak.

When is the best time to castrate and dehorn kids?
The best time for these procedures is when the kids are 7 to 10 days old. Performing these procedures at this age will be less stressful on the kids. Dehorning is best accomplished with an electric dehorning iron. Castration can be done surgically or by banding.

What diseases should I worry about in adult goats?
Tetanus, Enterotoxemia (overeating disease), Soremouth, Caprine Arthritis, Salmonellosis, Jone's Disease and Pasteurella Pneumonia are a few diseases that goats can contract. Vaccinations are a cheap way to give goats protection from some diseases. The two most common diseases goats are vaccinated for are Enterotoxemia and Tetanus.

What diseases are problems in young kids?
One of the most important things with young kids is to be sure that it nurses the doe in the first 12 hours after birth. Babies need the "first milk" (colostrum) from their mother in order to get antibodies that will help the kid fight off diseases. After 12 hours, the kid begins to lose the ability to absorb the antibodies. It is also good to dip the navel in a weak betadine or iodine solution to protect the kid from bacteria that can cause infection or death.

Diarrhea is a common problem in kids. You need to be able to identify the cause of the diarrhea in order to administer the proper treatment. If the diarrhea is green, the kid has probably eaten a poisonous plant. If the diarrhea is brown or yellow, the kid has scours. If the diarrhea is black, the kid probably has coccidiosis.

Are some plants poisonous to goats?
There are many plants that are poisonous to goats. Rhododendron, Wild Cherry, Nightshade, Velvet Grass, Yew, Azalea and Laurels are a few of the most common species of poisonous plants. For a complete list of poisonous plants contact your local County Extension Center.

How do I control parasites?
Internal parasites are a problem in goats. Failure to deworm goats will result in breeding problems, poor milk production, weak kids, poor performance, and death loss. Unfortunately, there are very few products labeled for use in goats. A veterinarian can give you permission to use products that are approved for other livestock. Read the label to make sure that the product you use will control the parasites that infect goats.

How often should I trim my goat's hooves?
Some breeds, as well as individuals within a breed, have faster growing hooves than others. The terrain and environment can influence the amount of wear on the hoof. Most goat owners trim feet four or more times per year. If hooves are not trimmed foot rot and lameness may occur.

This list continues to grow as new questions come my way. If you have a question that I might be able to help answer, feel free to contact me via e-mail at

Prepared by:
Brian L. Beer, Assistant Agricultural Extension Agent
February 3, 1998


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