Any experienced farmer knows that goat rearing –– the process of raising and breeding domestic goats to eventually farm their meat, milk, skins, and fibers –– has been around since forever. This is because goats are multi-functional animals, who can produce an array of products from their milk, meat, fiber, and even manure! For example, goat milk alone can produce full cream or skimmed goat milk powder, goat butter, fresh goat milk, and goat milk cream. Goat meat is healthy, nutritious, and tasty, which makes it a great choice for consumers. Furthermore, goat wool and skin are incredibly versatile and make up a large part of the leather industry.
Goat farming is a popular production method amongst farmers because it can turn low-quality grazing land into quality lean meat, without using up large areas of pastures or resources. As a result of its advantageous economic prospects, goat rearing is and has been under intensive and semi-intensive pressures for commercial production for the past few years.
If you’re thinking of trying your hard at goat farming, look no further! We’ve compiled a list of indispensable things to take note of before beginning to care for your first goat. However, do note that this article is tailored specifically towards rearing goats in a dairy goat farm.
Have Two Or More Goats
Goats are naturally herding animals, which means that they need to live with one or more of their kind to survive. These gentle giants are incredibly social creatures, and they’re one of the most curious, intelligent, independent yet gentle animals out there. It’s recommended that you have a minimum of two goats: either two does (females), a doe and a wether (neutered male goat), or if you’re ready to start a herd, get a buck (male) and doe. In their natural environments, goats are rarely alone and hence isolation can cause undue anxiety for the animal. Even for pregnant females, forced isolation can have negative lasting effects on their offspring. In such scenarios, we encourage you to either create groups of pregnant females or conduct partial isolation, such as still allowing the isolated goats to smell, see, and hear their companions from the same group.
No matter how cute the goat may look, a human’s company can never replace another goat’s. A lonely goat in distress may attempt to escape the farm, rummage through your garden, climb on top of cars, and begin calling for a companion.
Goats Are Natural Wanderers
Goats love to explore, which means that they’re not going to remain confined in one place for long. They’re naturally curious and will pull, tug, and chew on everything that moves. Yes, that, unfortunately, includes your fences and rose bushes! Goats are quite intelligent, so don’t let them catch you opening a feeding can, or a gate latch –– they’ll start practicing it behind your back, and you’ll start catching them peeping through to see what you’re up to.
Before setting up your farm, take note that goats hate wet, swampy areas and will actively avoid any puddles or areas with excess moisture. You’ll need to prepare the place with ample dry shelters, paddocks, and pastures before bringing any over.
Goats Love To Eat
A hungry goat is a naughty goat. Goats are ruminant animals –– this means that they have four stomach compartments, where they will partially digest, regurgitate, and chew on the remaining balls of ‘cud’. The ‘cud’ is then re-absorbed into the stomach as it passes through the next three compartments. This means that there’s never a moment where the goat is not munching on food, or chewing on its cud.
However, a hungry goat will begin eyeing everyone around it, and eating things it shouldn’t –– this may even include nearby bushes, bark, flowers (regardless if they’re poisonous or not!), and even leftover snacks lying around. Goats love to nibble and will chew on anything they can get their hooves on. As such, you’ll need to set aside a sufficient budget to feed your hungry goats. Hay, grain feed, and kitchen compost are good sources of nutrition for goats. Alternatively, raisins, corn chips, and bread slices make great ‘treats’ for them too. Do take note that goats have a set of razor-sharp teeth located at the top, bottom, and back of the mouth, so don’t go poking around without proper safety measures in place!
Crush, crack, and freeze-proof, this feed pan is great for withstanding any type of weather and climate. Plus, the rubber is naturally safe and soft for animals like goats, horses, and even alpacas.
Protect your goats from escaping your farm with this latch that has a three step opening process. It works well for gate doors, shed doors, and stalls. Plus, the spring action bolt automatically retracts to clear entry.
A durable pail is always necessary on any farm. This one is perfect for hanging on fences, cages, crates, or kennels. Use it to clean up after your animals or to distribute feed. It won’t crack or rust.
Acknowledging The Pecking Order
In the wild, goat herds will establish a “pecking order” which helps to minimize aggressive tendencies amongst members. This comprises of the occasional “play fighting” or “gentle” reminders of dominance, which may include ramming and head-butting each other. Such hierarchy is taken very seriously, and goats will not appreciate any threat or upset to their established rule.
The pecking order is dependent on factors such as sex, age, temperament, and horn size. Newer goats are likely to get picked on, so it’s best to introduce two kids together when dealing with a new herd. Plus, we recommend keeping goats of similar sizes together so that smaller goats aren’t at the risk of getting hurt.
Dairy goats will produce milk during lactation, which typically occurs ten months after kidding. Whilst the length of the lactation cycle and amount of milk produced differs based on age, health, breed, and nutrition, a common goat produces around two quarts of milk daily for six months, whilst a higher-quality goat can produce as much as four quarts of milk daily for ten months.
Rain or shine, it’s important to milk your goats regularly until they dry off. Excess milk left in their bodies will cause the goat to develop mastitis –– an inflammation of the udder that manifests in a swollen or hot udder to the touch, or the appearance of clots and serum in the milk.
Clean Your Farm
Producing high-quality milk and cheese requires a safe, sanitary environment to do so. Hence, it’s essential to clean your farm regularly with stainless steel pails, buckets, a milking bench, and clean pens; be it in your milking parlor, porch, or garage.
Do keep in mind that goats love routine, and they will become distressed if they find too many changes in the farm. Try to not change the location of the milking stands and pens, if possible.
Featuring a snap-on nipple with a vacuum air vent, this nursing bottle is made of strong and durable polyethylene. It works to make calf-lamb and goat feeding more sanitary and entirely fuss-free.
A 24” x 7” reversible steel blade scraper, it has a steel ferrule with dual bracket bracing. In total, it is 63” in length and perfect for any kind of farm work that you need to get done on a daily basis.
Check On Your Goat’s Health
Unfortunately, goats are prone to getting sick and have a shorter lifespan; this is a result of being able to breed young and have multiple kids within one birthing session. As such, you’ll need to keep an extra eye on your goats and give them the appropriate medical attention should something feel amiss. We encourage you to schedule regular vet checkups, deworming sessions, and vaccinations. Early detection is key, so it’s paramount to learn what “normal” goat behavior is like so that you’re able to react quickly in the face of “abnormal” behavior. Each minute delayed could be the difference between life and death!
Disbud, Not Dehorn
Disbudding may be one of the most dreaded chores amongst goat rearers, but it’s an essential procedure in preventing damage and injuries to other goats or handlers. In the wild, goats use their horns as a natural defense against predators and a way of asserting dominance to compete for a social rank in the herd. However, there’s no use for horns once they’ve been housed indoors. Horns can cause domesticated goats to be stuck in gates, fences, and doors, which may result in severe injury, destruction of property, and even death. For these reasons, commercial dairy goat producers disbud kids at an early age –– a process that entails destroying tissues that will later develop into horns.
This should be done before the kid hits three weeks of age, as this is when the horns start developing from the skull. In comparison to disbudding, dehorning is an invasive procedure that carries way more risks, pain, and major inconvenience to the goat. We highly recommend not to engage in dehorning, if possible.
Whilst goats may not look like the most cuddly animal out there, they are incredibly intelligent, sweet, and can equally build emotional relationships with humans too. If you’re planning to rear goats, you better start preparing your wallet and your heart for them –– we guarantee that you’ll end up falling in love with these creatures along the way too.
|1||Black DuraFlex Rubber 3 Gallon Feed Pan|
Crush, crack, and freeze-proof, this feed pan is great for withstanding any type of climate. Plus, the rubber is naturally safe.
|2||Spring-Loaded Heavy Duty Sliding Bolt Latch|
Protect your goats from escaping your farm with this latch that has a three step opening process. It works well for doors and stalls.
|3||ProSelect Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Pail|
A durable, clean-up pail is always necessary on any farm. This one is perfect for hanging on fences, cages, crates, or kennels.
Featuring a snap-on nipple with a vacuum air vent, this bottle is made of strong and durable polyethylene. It works for lambs and goats.
|5||Steel Barn Scraper|
A 24” x 7” reversible steel blade scraper, it has a steel ferrule with dual bracket bracing. In total, it is 63” in length.