Goats are great animals. They leave a small footprint on the environment and yet they can provide meat, milk and fiber as well as safe clean-up of unwanted brush which helps prevent fires. They're aggravating, though, when they insist on beating each other up, or beating up equipment and housing and fences, or getting into everything they shouldn't be into, or taking off when you're trying to get them to do something.
Our goats are afraid of shadows. They don't like being asked to move into a dark place. They are easily excitable; the more they're chased the more they run (in the opposite direction from what you want). We've learned the hard way several things that make ours and their lives easier:
- Always approach them from the side - they don't have eyes in the back of their head and they see much better to the side than to the front.
- Honor their personal space - you can easily move through a group of even wild goats if you move slow, and avoid crowding them.
- Always move them towards the light and don't chase them. Their natural avoidance response will get them to move if you just walk slowly behind them. Speed up and they'll go every direction, over fences, through fences, and scatter as far as they can.
- If you're in an area where you have to supplement with feed, we've learned that it isn't a good idea to to feed with flashlights during power outages. Freaks them out. Now we set those battery powered lanterns near each pen as we get to it. Makes us all a lot happier.
They love climbing - on anything that is available, including you if you happen to get tripped (accidentally by them, of course). And, they are curious. Leave your cell phone sitting on the fence post and you just as well say goodbye to it. They can go through a gate you accidentally left open ten times faster than they will go through a gate you've propped open because you want them to go through it.
Manage Your SupportFind a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about ruminants, or who is knowledgeable and willing to work with and listen to you about healthcare needs of your goats. Treatment of goats often involves use of medications not really cleared for use in goats. This means you must show your veterinarian you can be trusted to practice proper dosage amounts and allow adequate withdrawal time. We always double the stated withdrawal time when we use medications and dewormers. It is always wise to err on the side of caution.
- The American Goat Federation maintains a website that has many articles and other helpful items for dairy, fiber and meat goats.
- The University of Illinois has been an excellent resource for small ruminants in our part of the country (Indiana and surrounding states).
- Langston University in Oklahoma is also a good source for information about goats.
- University of Maryland Extension Service Small Ruminant Web page is also a good source of information.
Manage Your MedicineMost everything used for goats is used off label because historically, there have not been enough numbers to make the drug companies or other researchers spend time and money to clear their products for use in goats.
- All drugs have either been cleared for use in meat producing animals or banned by federal law for use in meat producing animals.
- If you are shopping for medications, or a friend gives you something to use, check the label. If the following appears, do not use the product.
The Never-Ending Fight Against ParasitesEven if you have been fortunate enough to have goats resistant to parasites, or have worked hard to cull out your problem goats so you have a more resistant herd, don't forget that parasites can still attack, given the opportunity. Don't overgraze pastures. Keeping the grass and weeds at least 8 inches long helps prevent worm infestations. And remember, those pesky weeds you might want to dig up are often gourmet meals for the Boer goats. Just watch out for poisonious vegetation.
- Worm according to your goat's weight no matter what dewormer you use. If you don't, it won't be effective and you will build up resistance so that even if you do start doing it right, the dewormer won't work like it is supposed to.
- Many dewormers must have the dosage adjusted to a higher rate be effective for Boer goats. Check with your veterinarian for the latest information.
- Your best source of information on dewormers is a veterinarian who is fully qualified in ruminants, or an animal health supply store with knowledgeable staff, who can show and explain to you product information direct from the manufacturer.
- Control your manure to control your flies.
- Goats get lice - watch for signs and keep it under control.
- Goats can get the goat grungies - this is from mites an different from and needs to be treated different than lice.
- Coccidiosis is nasty, but can be prevented by adding a coccidiostat to the feed. If you prefer, there are also products to put in the water or use as a drench.
Manage Your VisitorsRemember that the people visiting your barns bring more then themselves. If they have livestock, they most likely will bring every mobile problem they have to your facilities and share them with your goats.
Manage Your PredatorsOver the years we have found llamas to be our best protection for livestock and have livestock broke many llamas that were later sold to other producers.
- They must be females or neutered males. They are effective against coyotes, wolves, dogs and stray humans. We bred and sold Great Pyrenees dogs for livestock guarding for many years and most of our information came from Kansas State University, which seemed to be the most reliable source.
- Guard dogs (like the Great Pyrenees) work well in lots of situations, but if you live in a populated area they can be socialized by your neighbors.
- Guard dogs work best in large areas. like in the Southwest and other areas where goats free range on private and public lands.