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Squire Woods Farm

Goat Care

Goat Care:
Oh, I want a goat, pleeeasse!"
It happens every time someone visits our farm...
"Ohhh they're so cuuuute, “I want a goat!" 
Awesome:) ... Now please read-on about the responsibilities you will need to take on for their care.

The reality is goats need daily care and human attention.
Unlike cactus plants, gold fish or even cats, you can't just disappear for a couple days, as someone will need to be there to ensure they always have
a constant supply of fresh hay, fresh water, and daily cleaning of their barn, at a bare minimum.

If you are seriously considering goats, we offer goat care workshops which are a hands-on, personalized, by appointment only workshop with our goats, where you'll experience the many aspects of caring for goats. You can learn more about our  goat care workshops on our Workshop page. 
 

There are three fundamental questions you will need answers to:

  1. Is your lifestyle compatible with owning goats?

  2. Does your community or township allow goats on your own property?

  3. How would your neighbors react to you having goats?
     

While you ponder those questions, let's look at what Nigerian Dwarfs offer and what they require.
  

Our farm raises excellent pedigree Nigerian Dawrf goats to have as pets and potentially for show.

We do not raise goats for meat or industrial livestock use, or to be ignored all day like some outdoor garden plant. 
Goats absolutely have specific needs and require intra-day care, even on rainy days,  snow and ice storms  when you are sick with the flu.


Housing:

Goats will need a shed that protects them from the rain and inclement weather. Their shed/barn will need daily up-keep to freshen it up with dry wood shavings or straw.  A dirty stall means your goats will sleep in urine and poop, not sanitary or healthy for them or you. 

Fencing:

Goats need good solid fencing, to protect them from predators. The most common predator on Long Island are loose dogs. In other rural areas, coyotes, wolves, bears, panthers are also potential threats.  A solid metal 4 to 5 foot fence is a minimum. Six or seven feet is much better. On the goat side of the fence, goats will keep testing the fence as they just want to reach those tasty bushes a few feet out of their reach. Therefore, an electrified fence wire or tape is a good idea.  Goats are fast learners. They get zapped once and they get it.
 

Hoof care:
Goats will need their hoofs clipped every six to eight weeks. You learn to do this or have your veterinarian do it.

Medical care:
The veterinarian who who will care for you goats, is not the same vet who takes care of cats & dogs. This veterinarian spends most of his/her time driving from farm to farm caring for horses and other livestock. It's a good idea to figure out who that veterinarian is and make contact with them before you need his/her services. 

Goats are quite hearty, however, when they do get sick, immediate attention is required as the ailment can become critical very fast, and the vet may not be available when you call. Over time, you should learn to be their first responder, providing whatever urgent care is needed before the vet can arrive.

Most livestock vets are more than happy to impart their knowledge and empower you with the knowledge to handle the routine care. From taking their temperature, administering injections, anti-biotics, anti-toxins, clipping hooves or feeding them medication, all these are within the skills of a hands-on goat owner.

So hopefully this has provided a little insight into what is required to own and care for goats. 


So are you still interested?


Great, so let's move on.
It must be stated and understood that goats are herd animals.
Although goats are a lot like dogs in their playfulness and intelligence, they are quite different. 

Dogs are born predators. Goats are born prey and hence are herd animals.
A starter herd is generally four goats. A single goat at your home will feel lost, be miserable, and will yearn to find a herd to belong to.

If you already have goats and want to add to your herd, we recommend you get at least two. Either two siblings, or mother-daughter, or a couple of neutered 'wethers'(neutered males).   At least they will have a companion while they go through the assimilation process into their new herd. 

In each herd there is a pecking order. One goat will assume the role of leader and protector and the other goats will follow its lead.

 

For your first toe in the water, consider getting some “wethers” (neutered males).  Wethers make excellent gentle goats that have a wonderful disposition and live happily among the does and teach other. 

When it comes to bucks, the stark reality is many breeders only want the best pedigree. Many farms just sell the unwanted bucklings off to the slaughterhouse.
 

If you are interested in goats, please do as much research as you can. Learn as much as you can about their needs, their diet and their care.

But at the end of the day,  it all starts with you. Ask yourself:

Do you have a lifestyle that is compatible with having goats?

  • Are you prepared to care for the goats for the rest of their lives... 10 - 15 years?

  • Does everyone in your family disappear from 9 to 5?

  • Do you spend part of the year in an different residence.

  • Is someone around during the day to care for the goats?

  • If you go away on vacation, who will be able to provide the needed intra-day care?


Goats hate rain, but they still need to eat even in the worst weather conditions and you will have to be the one caring for them no matter what mother nature brings.
 

Do you live in a community that allows goats?

Find out if goats are even allowed on your property. If you live in the suburbs, check with your town code enforcement and also check with your neighbors and see how they feel about the prospect of having goats next door.
 
Yes, we keep using the plural, goats. You really shouldn’t have a single lonely goat, you should have a small herd of goats. So you need to be able to take on at least three or four, and provide them the space, feed, health care, and love & attention that they need.

 
Feed.
You are going to need to provide your goats with plenty of good quality hay, feed* and fresh water. 

*Feed usually comes in 50 lb bags of 12, 14, 16 or 17% protein.  But higher protein amounts is NOT necessarily better!  

We give the higher protein feed to pregnant and lactating does. Bucks and wethers do better with LESS protein, 12 or 14%. That will lower the risk of urinary calculi in males. Goats also need important supplements of copper and selenium in their diet. There are specific "goat mineral salts" that goats like to eat freely. Salt blocks are not as highly recommended as the powdered varieties. 

Do not make the mistake of thinking you are getting goats to mow your lawn. They are not grazers like sheep or horses.
Goats reach across (at head height) or up for food, not down. Grazing grasses that are shorter than 6″ tall also means that there is a higher load of parasites, which are a huge health risk to your animals. Make sure you are able to get good quality green grassy hay for your goats (often referred to as “2nd cut”)

Hay is
 not the same thing as straw!
  Straw is the hollow stalks that are left over after wheat or oats are harvested, and does not have any nutritive value. Straw makes for great bedding but is not considered food. However, don’t be surprised if your goats munch on some of it. They’re just being goats. It’s like junk food. But do not confuse STRAW with Hay.  Straw makes for good bedding, but offers little nutrition. A nice grassy hay is 
nutritious and does not make for good bedding.

 

Other considerations.

  1. Goats are vulnerable to many parasites. Of course, the best medicine is prevention, but you will need to be prepared to treat them for any infestations they might suffer.  Depending on your access to a large animal veterinarian, you will probably want to learn how to perform injections on your goats in case they do get parasites.
     

  2. Do you have a large animal veterinarian willing to travel to your location, or will you need to bring your goat quite a distance to their location?  If so, do you have the means to transport them there?
     

  3. Housing & predators — do you have a safe place for your goats to sleep at night, lounge during the day, and be protected from the elements in severe weather? Even if you are in a relatively suburban area, remember, coyote populations are found everywhere, and because of all of the urban sprawl, they are adapting to urban environments– they’ve even been a problem in big cities, like Detroit! And loose dogs and coyotes love to eat goats. So you need to protect your goats from predators in the day and especially at night.
     

  4. Quality time with your goats:  The more time you spend with your goats, the better socialized and friendly and playful they will be. Goats love routines. Routines are safe. They've done them before. You can easily take them for a walk around your property or for a walk in the woods if you have access to them. If they've done the same walk a few times, they will learn quickly that this walk is a fun adventure and it is safe!
     

  5. Go to a reputable breeder for your goats. Goats can have diseases that you do not want them to have. You don’t want to form a bond with your goats only to discover that someone sold you some goats who are only going to live for a few months.
     

  6. Don’t think because you’ve read our website, you are now an expert on pet goats. Pick up a copy of Cheryl K. Smith’s Raising Goats For Dummies and read it at least once before you actually put the wheels in motion to bring home some goat
     

  7. We have covered many, but not all of the points you need to review as you ponder bringing pet goats into your life.

Have we discouraged you? Well, perhaps we’ve also saved you (and your family, and some goats!) a lot of heartache. If you really just want to spend some time with goats, check to see if there are any petting zoos or local farms that have “agritourism” in your area. Agritourism is a great way to go spend time on a farm and interact with the animals, without the commitment required to have those animals as your own.

We are far from being goat “experts,” but we have raised & cared for our goats for two decades and have learned from others who have helped us greatly. We hope we have offered  you a clearer insight into the responsibilities involved in order to have a rewarding time with your goats as pets!

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