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Top 10 Tips for Raising Goats

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Goats.
Photo © Flickr user Jennifer Schwalm, used under a CCC license

Even if you understand the basics of raising goats, these tips will help you get up to speed quickly with your new herd.

And most of all, enjoy yourself. If you find that keeping goats is more stress than enjoyment, consider whether you want to continue. Remember that not every animal is a good fit for every farmer. Spend some time around goats on other farmers to see if you think they're right for you.

  1. Goats are social animals. They belong in a herd. They depend on this for their own safety. Never keep just one goat.

  2. Goats think like goats. Learn how to think like a goat to figure out how to keep them happy in their fencing and able to access water, food and shelter easily. If you think they're being "stubborn," look at things with a goat's eye view. They don't know how to walk down and around something to get to something on the other side of a fence, for example. They will just stand there looking at it, not sure how to solve the problem.

  3. Bucks are males with a mission. Respect them. When bucks are in rut, they have one thing on their minds. They can be dangerous when in rut so use care in handling them and respect that potential. Billy goats smell strongly when they are in rut. But, you don't have to keep billy goats on your farm. You can just keep does and avoid the smell by borrowing bucks when you need them - if you can find them.

  4. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Self-explanatory. You will want to have your fences strong and secure to combat this natural goat tendency. Goats can get out of any fence weakness. Your fencing must be kept secure and free of holes and weaknesses. Inspect it often and repair it promptly.

  5. A big rumen means healthy digestion, not necessarily a fat goat. Goats are supposed to be pot-bellied because they are ruminants.

  6. Goats are much more like deer than they are like cattle. It helps to understand goats if you think of them more as browsers, animals that eat shrubs and small trees, and roam and forage much more like deer than cows.

  7. Goats can't eat everything. They're not like their cartoon version, eating tin cans happily. Keeping their digestion functioning smoothly with good nutrition is harder than you think. Make sure you have a goat nutritionist review your herd's needs and formulate a feeding program just for you. Learn about how to feed goats properly.

  8. Goats are farm animals, not pets. These are herd animals that have a social pecking order and know how to maintain it. They are not meant to be fully domesticated like a dog or cat so don't treat them like pets.

  9. Don't try to do it all. Raising show goats, breeding stock, and slaughtering meat goats are three different goals for raising goats. Pick your main focus because the way you will manage your herd is different depending on it.

  10. Start small. Just like with any new species you add to your farm, it's best to start small and expand as you go - but make sure to get several goats, since they are herd animals.

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