Success with City Goats

If you are considering buying goats, the first thing to do is to research the care of goats.  Before I purchased my goats, I joined this group and spent many hours reading through the archives there:
I highly recommend it as well as Deborah’s books which are very well researched and contain up-to-date information.  While you may be going to have your goats for pets, be aware they are not like dogs or cats and have very specific needs. In spite of being loving and sweet, they are still livestock.  They are not house pets but need to be outside in the company of other goats.  A goat always needs at least one goat friend or they will be unhappy and stressed which can cause health issues.

That brings us to a very important topic – before you buy your goats, be sure you have a good goat vet available to you.  Not all vets treat goats nor are they trained to so this is important.  You do not want your doe to be in labor and in trouble and not be able to find a vet.  You need to establish a relationship with a goat vet before you actually need one so he/she will be there when needed.

Research the laws and regulations in your city to ensure you can have goats.  In our city, the urban livestock codes was updated to include miniature livestock.  Miniature livestock is defined as being under 100 pounds at maturity.  For goats, that means the only breed would be Nigerian Dwarf goats.  Fortunately, they are incredible dairy goats.  Since milk was my goal, that was ideal.  Also, there is likely a limit on the number based on the property involved.  Our city does not allow bucks so I must use outside breeding which means taking my doe to a buck on a farm.  I choose only high quality registered bucks to continue good dairy lines.  You will need to have your does tested to show the buck’s owner they are disease-free; most breeders require a test less than six months before breeding.

Since you are limited as to how many you can have, it makes sense to buy the best quality you can afford.  That means registered from good dairy lines.  While a goat does not need to be registered to give milk, with registered goats you can research their genetic background regarding milk production.  Also, since you need to breed your does to have kids so they will produce milk, the kids produced will be easier to sell if they are registered.  Quite often, does from good dairy lines are able to have extended milking needing to be bred every two or three years depending on the individual goat.

Now that you have information about the goats that you might want and what is permitted in your city, you need to prepare for them to have a good home.  That means a good shelter and good fencing.  Fencing is critical so they do not leave your property.   It is also important to have it positioned so they cannot reach anything outside their fence to eat.  Very important:  NEVER stake or tie a goat.  Goats are prey animals and startle easily and can strangle themselves in an effort to escape an imagined or real threat.

Because I have dairy goats, I have a barn that is 12×12 feet, not large but large enough for the number I can have.  It is critical to have a warm dry shelter for goats but most critical if you are going to have kids.  Of course, the more space overall you can dedicate to your goats, the happier they will be. They are very smart and like to have things to explore and nibble.

Let’s talk about nibbling.  Goats will nibble on anything but many things are toxic.  You need to remove anything from their area, including what they can reach outside their fence, that might be toxic.

Regarding food, goats need browse which means at least hay, orchard grass hay is good for them.  Any brush or small trees they can munch on is much appreciated.  If they have adequate food, they will not usually eat grass below their knees because they instinctively know worm larvae live in the soil; that larvae crawls up the grass stems.  By about 4-6 inches, the larvae have fallen to the ground.  A goat will not generally eat from the ground which does make them huge hay wasters.  Knowing why helps you understand all the hay on the floor.

In addition to good quality hay, they need loose minerals, baking soda, and granulated sea kelp, all given free choice in separate containers.  The baking soda is important because they use it to balance their digestive system; they are very good at self-medicating.

Critical is a good supply of fresh water, this is especially important for your dairy goats (does).  Goats do not like dirty water.  Dirty to them means a leaf or a bug!  Fresh water twice a day is ideal.  Mine prefer warm water.

Goats need their hooves trimmed every few weeks with frequency depending on the individual goat.  Along the health lines, your goats need  CDT vaccinations.  If you are doing outside breeding, your breeder will want an annual bio-security test to ensure your doe is healthy.  Note:  Most cities do not allow bucks so you will be taking your does elsewhere for breeding.  Your goats need to have fecal tests done to ensure they do not develop an overload of worms.  The fecal test results will indicate if a wormer is needed and which one.  Do not give a deworming medication without have a fecal test though you might read it needs to be done routinely.  Many goats never need it done. Some lines are more resistant. Also there are natural foods that keep the worm load in check.  Among those are Douglas fir boughs and rosemary branches – the goats love them and they are good for them.  A clean environment is critical for health.  In their barn, you should be comfortable sitting on their bedding.  Their barn needs good ventilation – note there is a difference between ventilation and drafts.  You should never be able to smell ammonia in their barn – it you do, it must be cleaned immediately.  Pneumonia is serious health issue for goats with ammonia being a chief cause.

When you are ready to buy your goats, visit the farm where you intend to buy.  Listen for noisy goats.  I mention this because in town, if your goats are noisy, you will get complaints.  Usually a doe is only noisy during her heat cycle; some can be quite vocal then though not all are.  I highly recommend buying goats that are dam-raised versus bottle fed.  Bottle fed goats tend to look to humans for their food and will vocalize when they see you wanting to be fed.  This begins when they are kids wanting milk but will continue to adulthood.  Dam-raised goats are used to looking to mom for food and companionship.  Some people will tell you dam-raised goats are not friendly which is untrue.  Any goat that has been socialized from the beginning will be friendly.  The time that would be spent bottle feeding should be spent socializing with the kids.  All of my goats are dam-raised and all are quite friendly because they have been socialized from the beginning.  The only noisy goat I’ve ever had was one that was born extremely small and needed to be supplemented with the bottle.  Even though she was left with mom and ate from mom also, that bottle and the human holding it meant food.  Even after she was weaned, she still hollered for the attention.

The most important thing about buying goats is understanding this a total commitment to the animal for at least 10-15 years.  If you are ready to make that commitment, the key points are your investment, feed, maintenance, time, setup (shelter and fencing), and do you have the stomach for the more unpleasant things?  Once you have considered these things and are certain you still want goats, you will surely be delighted with these sweet animals.
Caution:  They will steal your heart and never return it but it will be worth it!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Dairy Goats in the City - The Thrifty Homesteader

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