This is a guest post by Millie in KY and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.
Goats are fun, quirky and are great pets! But we Pack Members are interested in with them for an “off the grid” homestead or SHTF situation. That being the case, the previous qualities only enhance the fun of having them. They are a great homestead and often dual purpose animal to raise and enjoy.
And they are fun in spite of what some will say! Perhaps you have heard that “billies” are stinky, mean, hard to handle. That goat milk smells funny or tastes funny. That goats butt people and are unsafe around adults or children. Or that they will eat your plants and jump on your vehicle, damaging it.
The answer to most of the above questions is “could be”, but only if you realize that most of these problems are from poor management. Because people tend to treat goats as you would dogs, they often are frustrated at the results that they achieve.
Bucks are only stinky during “the rut” which is the time when they start to feel amorous. This will bring the does into season. They do disgusting things such as pee on their beards or mount each other. In other words, they sometimes act like the teenaged version of Jackass… but it is normal. Once the rut is over, they quit smelling and return to their normal selves and become my buddies again. I do go and pet and scratch them but make sure I have on an old jacket and gloves. They can’t help being Jackasses.
And one of the best things you can do when choosing a buck for your herd is to choose one that has been reared on a bottle. They are much tamer, friendlier and easier to handle. Now and then one of my boys will refuse to do something during the rut (I want them to go here or there) but when they figure out that sometimes they got to visit the does when I am trying to move them, they become much more compliant when I ask them to do something. The rut for my breed lasts from about August thru December. The rut is what causes them to smell bad, and you must keep your does that are milking away from the bucks in rut or it will cause a flavor to the milk
Milk must also be keep extremely clean, the udders/teats cleaned before and after each milking, the milk that is produced gotten into a refrigerator as quickly as possible. If cared for correctly, you will not be able to tell the difference between goat’s milk and cow’s milk.
Goats are very safe for the most part around people. The secret is to bottle raise your babies. I let my babies have a few sips for colostrum after birth and then they are started on the bottle. Bottle raised babies see you as part of the herd and someone to be trusted. This is when you can teach them to not jump up (push them down and be not so nice about it) and say NO. It will take a few times. NEVER encourage a goat to jump up on you with a treat, you have just taught them how to do it!
Goats are BRIGHT. They can be taught tricks, or to carry a pack if you are hiking. There is quite a community of goat packers out there. They can pull carts and help with farm chores. They can get into trash cans to eat grain and yes, they can get very sick from too much grain just as a horse can. My goats get very little grain. It’s bad for the bucks because it causes urinary blockages that CANNOT be fixed and the goat will die. The girls just get fat on it. So grain is used to lure them from here to there or as a special treat a few times a year and on Christmas. Mine also like animal crackers, most any kind of fruit, raisins and bread. When I pass by the day old bread store, I get a few loaves for the goats and the horses.
Goats are FUN. They are very much like a big dog. I enjoy walking our property with my herd following, munching on everything, finding the oak leaves and acorns that they adore.
Goats will eat almost any plant including poison ivy. This causes problems for the humans because if they are wading through Poison Ivy, it’s getting all over them. It doesn’t bother them because they have hair but woebegone to the human who grasps the collar to lead that goat somewhere or hugs that goat! The Goat Manual states that if the goat gets loose, it will eat your most expensive plants first.
Goats are walking fertilizers. They make little pellets like a bunny does. But they are harder and take a while to break down. This is actually good because it’s a slow release into the soil of the beneficial things that poop gives to our gardens. Mine walk about the field and actually, since we have been here for three years now, the field has never looked better!
Now that I have convinced you to try out your hand at goat farming, let’s talk about some practical things.
There are three different kinds of goats and you can sometimes use one goat for two or all of these purposes.
The first is for fiber. Angora goats produce a fabulous fiber that is wonderful for spinning, knitting and weaving. They are an ancient breed, going back several thousand years. If you are looking for a post SHTF business and like to create things, this may be the choice of goat for you. Currently, Angora yarn goes for $ 5.00 to $20.00 an ounce when it is ready to knit. Angoras are not a meat goat because the focus on breeding them is to produce the fiber.
Angora goats should not get wet because the water goes through to the skin rather than rolling off as would happen with another breed of goat. Angora/cashmere is highly sought after for the non felting qualities that this particular type of wool has. In addition, it is the softest of the wools that are produced. The finest and softest yarns come from the youngest animals. Goats are shorn twice a year and produce about 10 lbs of fiber on average, a year.
Angoras generally produce one kid, occasionally there may be twins. Kids are very delicate as newborns and must be kept dry and watched the first couple of weeks of life. The low birth numbers mean that your flock will be built slowly. However, since both sexes produce wool, bucks (males) are as valuable when born as a doe (female) is. And yes, let us use the correct terms for the sexes. They are not billies and nannies, the correct terms are bucks and does (or bucklings and doelings when they are young). They are a medium size goat, from 70-100 lbs for a doe to 180-225 lbs for a buck.
You can butcher a hair producing goat but there is not as much meat on them. You could attempt some breedings to get more meat on your goats by crossing with a meat goat but the wool production would go down or be of less quality, so probably better to just raise fiber goats on their own for what they are bred to produce.
Meat goats are very popular with many farmers, and excess kids can be raised and fattened for many ethnic groups for their holidays, mostly in the spring. Goat meat is much like venison, it has a little different taste than beef. It is a low fat meat and very healthy. You must add a little fat for cooking or if you are making sausage. I have had hamburgers with goat meat, they are a little dry but if I had cooked them, I would have done so in a little bacon fat which would have greatly enhanced the meat. I have also had it as kielbasa which was excellent!
Although you can butcher any goat, the most common meat goat here is the Boer goat. They are very large and beautiful goats, some have a traditional pattern of a white goat with a red or black head and neck. Some breeders are producing Boers with splash or “moonspot” patterns. These are big goats, indeed! Boers average 200 to 300 lbs. They were developed in the early 20th century from indigenous goats in South Africa along with a sprinkling of some other breeds. The focus was on meat production, and does may be bred 3 times in 2 years, five months carrying her kids, 3 months raising them, bred again, 5 months/3 months and then again. They are able to be bred year round with their cycles. For production of meat, medium sized does are best for raising of meat, they cost less to feed yet produce the same number of kids. After the first kidding, usually one kid, they generally produce twins.
Boers can also be milked although their milk production will not be as much as dairy goats.
You can buy Boers in lower percentages, 50% Boer/50% other breed, etc. These are usually much less costly in terms of getting started in meat goats. Then you buy a better buck and breed your way back up to a higher percentage of Boer blood. The higher the percentage of Boer blood, the more muscular and heavy that goat will generally be, which is what you want, more meat.
The last kind of goat is the dairy style. Think about a Guernsey cow. Delicate looking, big wide hips that stick up high, more weight in the abdomen than anywhere else and this describes a good milk goat, too. There are dozens of breeds of milk goats but I will focus on Nubians for the purpose of this article. The biggest reason is because Nubians are a good sized goat, and have been bred specifically for milking for many years. One of the things besides the milk production of the dam of the goat you may wish to purchase and the genetics of the sire (his dam and any sisters he may have, as well as what he has produced in terms of milking does), is to look carefully at the udder. If you are purchasing a doeling, this will be hard to determine, that is why you look at the dam and any other goats that are related through the sire. There are two critical things to examine. One is the length of the teat itself. Short teats, say 1-2 inches long, are difficult to hand milk. Long teats are better, 3-4 inches. This is hard to determine in a young doeling. Compare her to any other youngsters that the herd owner may have in his flock. The other thing in a milking goat to consider is the “attachments”. Look at the goat’s udder from the rear. The udder is shaped like a “U”. If the “U” is flatter and attached further down the sides of the goat when viewed from the rear, this is considered good attachment. If it is a longer, saggy “U” (and the doe is not in the process of drying up), that is not good attachment. This is important because it will affect the animal’s life as well as milk production. Less attachment means saggier udders. Eventually you will run into the problem of a doe getting up from lying down and stepping on and damaging her own teat/udder, or another goat doing so.
Shelter: Goats need a sturdy shelter. It should be dry and draft free. If you are in the North, make it four sided but make the door big enough that you can get a wheelbarrow in and out. Add a door if you wish, it may be necessary in the most cold climates. I live in southern Kentucky and our door stays open year round and they stay quite comfy if they are dry. Make sure the floor stays dry for them. If you put straw in, they will bed on it but are just as likely to eat it.
Food: Goats require good pasture/brush to eat. There is very little that they cannot eat other than the odd poisonous plants and they seem to stay away from those. What they cannot eat is wilted cherry leaves. So be sure that this is not on your land, or that they cannot get to it. If you feed hay, good horse grass hay with little or no alfalfa in it is good. No mold, not old, not crappy hay, which a lot of people will tell you is “fine” for goats because they believe goats will eat anything. I look for hay that has some greenness when you open it up but smells sweet and pleasant. A little alfalfa is ok for the does to eat but can also cause urinary blockages in bucks and wethers (a wether is a neutered male goat).
Goats can waste a lot of hay. The best way to feed it is in a feeder with small holes so they can only pull out a few strands at a time, or in a hay bag with small holes. These can be found if you type in “slow feeder hay bags” into your search engine. Another thing I have seen that works well is to put in a section of hog panel as part of your fence. Concrete the length of this area, about 2-3 feet wide. You can spread your hay there and they can stick their heads through the holes in the panel (consider this carefully if your goats do have horns, this may not be practical for them) and eat without walking or pooping on their food. At the next feeding, what is not wanted can be raked up and burned or used as bedding.
Goats prefer to eat brush and branches rather than grazing. They can and will graze but would much rather be turned out to do the bush hogging chores. You can teach them to be on a strong line with a collar but be aware that many goats get into trouble this way, with a rope wrapped the wrong way around the neck or the leg. They jump and get the rope hung over things. Collars can and do break or twist into a death trap for a goat. Be very careful in thinking about tying out. This might be attempted with an older wiser goat but I would never do it with a youngster. As a matter of fact, I never tie mine out. I do have a friend who ties hers out to keep the brush down on a steep bank and the girls have mastered just lying down if they are unable to turn around or get out of a tangle of branches. She uses heavy cable to tie them with and it works great for her to do it this way.
Fencing: I have mini Nubians which are not as tall as the standard Nubians. I have a 4 foot fence around the goat barn, one side for the does, one side for the bucks. Make sure that the fence between is very sturdy and preferably solid and can take some hits. When the does are ready for breeding, the bucks will do everything they can think of to get to them. We do hope in the future to move the boys up the hill to give some space between them for a little more peace.
Goats will walk right through barbed wire. I prefer smaller mesh field fencing, 4 x 4 inches or 6 x 6 inches. Garden fencing can often be broken down as it is welded. You can also use goat or cow panels which run about $20.00 a 16 foot section but that is very sturdy. If you have babies, though, they may get through the fence to explore. If there are no predators, it’s probably fine. I also put a hot wire on top, then out about 6 inches on the outside, and then again, a few inches from the bottom on the outside. This is to keep predators out of the goat yard when I am not around.
If your fencing is poor, if the goats can escape, then your car will get jumped on and your roses will look like they have been run over by elephants…and trust me, they will eat the most expensive plants you have first. There goes the $50 gorgeous day lily that you just had to have because the color was so rare!
Water: It must be clean and changed daily. In the summer they will need more water, in the winter, they LOVE it if you take down warm water for them to drink or put their water in a heated bucket. They will drink more then.
Salt/minerals: This is a biggie. Goats cannot eat or lick enough off of the commercial salt blocks for what they need. Further, they require more copper than most animals. I will write about that more in a bit. They must have a loose salt feeder, they make plastic “double” ones that you can get at Tractor Supply. Mount this higher on the wall and put a step so that they must put their feet on the step in order to reach over and get the salt. This keeps them from pooping in the holder. I don’t know why they do this but every goat owner I have ever talked to says the same thing, they poop in it. There is sweetening in the salt and minerals to encourage them to take more in. Check this daily, especially in the summer.
Vet Care: Your goats must have a CD & T shot each year. These are given subcutaneously and are easy to do if you have someone to hold the goat for you. Tetanus is a terrible disease and one of mine died from it this year. There are pneumonia and other vaccinations available but I have not used them. Any goat coming into your flock must have one CD & T shot and then a second one in 4 weeks. Thereafter, it is a yearly vaccination.
Kids are vaccinated for CD & T at four weeks and again at 8 weeks of age. You must do the same for adults that have never gotten their CD & T shots, wait 4 weeks and give a second one to be sure there is full immunity.
If you choose to get the pneumonia vaccination, the same schedule applies as for the CD & T vaccination. You can order CD & T and pneumonia vaccines on line or get them at TSC.
Most vets know very little about goats so I would suggest calling around to other goat people to see who you can find. It is sometimes worth it to toss a goat in the back of your van and drive an hour or two. There are some excellent veterinary goat books for purchase, Mary Smith’s Goat Medicine, Second Edition is pricy but invaluable. Most of us have learned to be our own vets for our goats.
As with all animals, it’s good to have the basics on hand. Goats can bloat, so some baking soda mixed in water and given with a syringe (no needle) into their mouth is helpful. Some people put in a second salt feeder just to keep baking soda in so they can eat it if they are feeling not so good. It’s a excellent idea. Worming medication, you can use goat or horse products. For MOST horse products you will use three times the weight advised, in other words, your goat weighs 100 lbs and you give a dose for three hundred pounds. Do some research into the products that you can do this with.
First aid items, vet wrap, blue kote, Vetrimycin, some oral banamine for pain or aspirin. A pill baller is a good item, put the pill in, get down the back of the throat and administer. If you have babies, a couple of nipples that can be attached to a 20 oz soda pop bottle is a good idea, and always have spares because sometimes they bite them off!
Worming: Goats are very susceptible to worms. Worms kill a lot of goats. It has been discovered that a goat that is wormy often does not have enough copper in their systems. Copper helps to keep the worm load down. It is a natural way for goats to fight them off. You can buy capsules with copper rods in them. Down the throat, the capsule dissolves in the digestive juices in the stomach and they move on to the intestines where most worms reside. The rods tend to get stuck there and then there is the slow oxidation of the copper and it’s absorbed into the blood stream. Something about the copper getting into the goat’s system helps them to naturally fight off worm and keep the numbers down.
You can use Quest Plus (horse paste wormer) or Cydectin (orally) for barberpole worms. This does not have to be 3 times the dosage. For Quest Plus, follow the weight instructions; for Cydectin, you will use 1 mL per 5 lbs.
For other worms, Ivermectin (horse paste wormer) will be used at 3 times the recommended dosage. Or you can use the 1% injectable ORALLY at 1 mL per 50 lbs.
Tapeworms: Valbezan can be used according to the bottle directions, orally. Do NOT use Valbezan on pregnant goats.
When you worm, you must not use the milk for consumption for about 2 weeks afterwards, freeze and mark that for when you want to make goat’s milk soap.
A large load of worms will cause anemia, they attach within the organs of the animal and feed themselves by sucking blood. Anemia can be checked by holding the goat’s head and rolling back the lower eyelid. You want to see a nice healthy pink. Go look at your dog’s gums to get an idea of the color. If it is white, whitish, very light pink or just a little pink…you have an anemic goat. It will need to be wormed, to have plenty of copper, both in mineral eating form and in the way of the copper boluses. It is a good idea to take in a stool sample and have the vet see what kinds of worms you are dealing with so the right wormer can be used. I wait for the worst looking goat to poop with a plastic bag nearby and take that one in. Worms can also cause “fish tail” where the tail is partly short and partly long, looking like a fish’s tail, redness to a black coat, a rough coat or a coat that has hair that curves back somewhat like a fish hook.
The anemic goat may also benefit from a B12 shot and some Red Cell, a supplement that is readily available. Red Cell can be given 1 cc orally per 20 lbs, twice a day for a week and then 1 time a day for a week.
Hoof care: You will need to learn about hoof care. This is EASY. I was surprised by just how stunningly easy it is to do. You need a pair of trimmers or pruners and someone to show you. And a third person to hold the goat while this is done. If you get a milking stanchion that is raised, it will be doubly easy. I had to do them several times a year when we had sandy soil, now that we have rocks on the land, I do them maybe once a year.
I usually keep collars on my goats all the time, it makes a handle so that you can have some control. Because I have dairy goats, I do disbud (remove the horn buds) when they are around 3 days old. If you have meat goats, traditionally they are left on. However, do remember this is a weapon for the goat and can be very dangerous.
If there is interest, I will do a second article on breeding, what to think about, kidding and care of the kids. Let me know and I hope you enjoyed this article!
Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – A Volcano Grill courtesy of LPC Survival a $134.99 value, a $150 gift certificate for Remington ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner, a 60 serving bucket of Wise Freeze Dried Food courtesy of EmergencyFoodWarehouse.com and a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain meal a $219.95 value courtesy of Kitchen Neads and a USB Portable VPN courtesy of unspyable a $275 value. Total prize value of $899.99.
- Second place winner will receive – A Sopakco Sure – Pak MRE – 12 Meals courtesy of Campingsurvival.com, a $98.95 value, a Tatsu360 Tenkara Rod a $72.00 value courtesy of Dragontail Tenkara and a one year subscription to Personal VPN service, a $100 value, courtesy of unspyable. Total prize value of $270.95.
- Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.
Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on November 10 2013