Goats are herd animals and rarely do well without another a goat as a companion. Single goats will fret for the herd, will vocalise loudly and often try to escape in search of their herd. They will be sad, unhappy and a lonely goat is more prone depression. For this reason, responsible goat breeders will not sell single goats to people who do not have at least one other goat already.
Goats hate the rain and are susceptible to pneumonia. For this reason, waterproof housing is fundamental to their wellbeing. It also gives them shade on a hot sunny day and somewhere to escape in windy weather. Shelters don’t need to be huge or elaborate, just big enough for your goats to stand or lay comfortably when fully grown and provide shelter from the elements. Goats should be housed on dry ground, as wet sodden ground can cause great discomfort and also lead to hoof infections. Keep this in mind when planning your goat’s shelter.
For most goat owners it is impractical to allow goats to roam freely. A good-sized yard with adequate fencing is a must. Goats are notorious for testing fencing so starting out with strong fencing will get you and your goats off to a good start. Some goats are ‘jumpers’ so 1200mm high fences are ideal for miniature goats but 900mm high fencing will be sufficient for most herds. A strand of electric wire will control most jumpers and is a cost-effective option. Because goats like to rub, climb and lean on fences, woven wire is a better option than welded wire. Barb-wire fencing is not suitable for goats. Predators are another consideration when planning fencing. Domestic dogs have been known to pack with other domestic dogs and kill goats, so dog proof fencing is essential.
Each goat can drink up to 4 litres of water per day. An automatic water will ensure, fresh clean water is always on hand for your goats.
Most people believe goats can and will eat anything. This is simply not true. Goats are ruminants (meaning they have more than one stomach, goats actually have four stomachs) and have specific feed needs. In the wild, goats are browser, which means they will browse vegetation until they find the food that they need or want. When browsing is not available to them it is important they are fed food that will not upset their delicate rumen or make them unwell.
As a general rule, goats do well eating a simple diet of oaten chaff or pasture hay. They also enjoy kitchen scraps of carrots, apples, celery, capsicum, pumpkin, sweet potato but these foods should be given in moderation and only a few times per week. They also love sultanas and these make excellent treats and are great motivation when training.
Pregnant and lactating does have additional dietary requirements to whethers and bucks, as do growing kids.
If for any reason, you decide to change their diet, the new food needs to be introduced slowly over a few days. A sudden change in the diet can cause a digestive upset, resulting in scours, intense pain and potentially death.
IMPORTANT: Goats will rarely eat off the ground and if they do it increases their chances of getting worms, therefore a dedicated trough, or feed dish is recommended.
When bottle feeding kids, it is necessary feed the right amount. Too much will cause health problems in later life, as will too little. Bottle bloat is also an area of concern and is often the result of giving in to a ‘supposedly’ hungry kid. A good general guideline for bottle feeding is 10-12% of body weight daily, divided into 4 daily feeds.
Any feeder that holds hay off the ground, and allows easy access is appropriate for goats. See below for different and efficient designs.