Goat Husbandry

Goats are a small ruminant (we’ll talk more about that later) that have many uses worldwide. It seems that more and more goats are being owned not only by farmers in rural settings, but also by families in the suburbs. Goats can make terrific pets as they are social, smart, independent and certainly entertaining. It is important to know what makes a goat a goat before deciding if they are right for your household.There are a variety of different goat breeds and can vary drastically in size. They live an average of 8-12 years and require daily care just like a dog or a cat. Many people obtain goats as juveniles which are referred to as “kids”. Early veterinary exams are important to discuss diet, dehorning, castration, vaccines and common diseases.

Ruminants have four different stomach compartments that act as a giant fermentation vat to utilize plant material for energy. After weaning, goats need a diet composed of good quality hay. They are browsers and will graze and nibble on anything and everything. Goats can be offered some grain although precautions must be taken because high grain and low roughage diets can lead to urinary stones and obstruction, especially in castrated male goats.

Most goats need annual veterinary exams which typically include vaccinations such as Clostridium C, D and Tetanus. Intestinal parasites also play an important role in goat health and we can see severe anemia occur with heavy parasite burden. Regular fecal egg counts as well as deworming several times a year is crucial to goat health. Finally, goats hooves grow continuously and depending on their diet and wear, routine hoof trimming is required.

Goats are undeniably adorable and can make wonderful pets as long as they receive proper veterinary care and thorough research is done to adequately feed and care for them.

Author: Dr. Erika Sweigard