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Things To Consider Before Starting Your Herd

Things To Consider Before Starting Your Herd

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When people first think of getting goats, the first thought is usually, “how hard can a GOAT be?”. Many people (myself included) jump in with both feet without doing the proper research, or being lucky enough to find that special breeder that takes you under their wing and shows you the ropes. I am not going to lie, I have made my fair amount of mistakes with goats, but each “problem” I encountered I learned and grew from. Some of these have been hard lessons so I hope by sharing them, others won’t have to learn them the hard way.

 

1.) Where to start- Have a purpose- Why do you want goats? Do you want a small pet? Show? Dairy? Meat? Fiber? The last thing you want to do is have to change out animals because you did not sit down and discuss your goals in the beginning.

 

2.) Health Matters- Read up on diseases. Do you know what CAE and CL are? Would you be able to recognize signs of either disease? What if you go to a farm and fall in love with that kid that happened to nurse off of a CAE positive dam? Be informed before you go to a breeder. KNOW what you want in your herd. If you want a clean herd- then do it! Do not be swayed by cute kids (heck they’re all cute as kids!) There are always more kids where those came from and it is not worth a risk to your herd and goals. Always remember- when it comes to things like CAE, which are easily tested for, don’t just take the breeder’s word on herd health. Ask to see the tests. If a breeder has a problem showing you their herd tests, that is a warning sign. It is also a warning sign if the breeder says they do not bother testing or if they use run around statements like “Oh I just treat them all like they have CAE.” or “We just practice CAE prevention here.” You never want to inherit someone else’s problems.

 

To me, this is especially important with diseases like CL that are zoonotic (meaning that they can be passed to humans).

 

3.) Know about breeds/registries- Once you have decided what you want from your goats, now you can get more specific! If you want meat; do you want a boer or perhaps a pygmy? If you want milk; do you want a nubian or a lamancha? Each breed has different pros and cons. Talk to other breeders, hit the Internet, and never be afraid to ask for opinions. Just remember- everyone has their favorite and everyone has an opinion. Do not get swayed by one convincing person- balance what they say with what YOU want from your animals! Knowing the breed standard can also help you make informed decisions. Yes that spotted baby is adorable, but is it correct? The purpose of breeding is to constantly improve on the breeds so that they stay true.

 

4.) Health Checks- When you go to get your goat, be sure to look at all animals in the herd. Why are those off in a separate pen way away? Get hands on and not just with the animal you are considering purchasing, but others in the herd. It is not hard for things like CL to hide in a long winter coat. Hair can also hide bad conformation or other issues. When you are examining your goat to purchase always check:

 

Coat- Is it rough like the animal has been wormy? Is it shiny or dull like the animal has had a heavy parasite load?

 

Feet- Are the hooves trimmed and in good shape? If the breeder can’t be bothered to trim feet on a goat they’re showing to a potential buyer,  then you have to wonder about their management practices. Eyelids/Gums- Are they red, pink or grey? Read up on these colors, and if it helps, print off the chart that shows what color eyelids and gums a healthy animal should have.

 

Weight- Know what an animal of that age/sex/breed should weigh. Is it too small? Small kids can be a sign of heavy parasite load or improper feeding. Both of these can spell issues for you later on with growth and health issues. Also, look at the weight of other animals in the herd.

 

Papers- Look at the papers. Check the number for the registration with the registry. People can put anything online, so make sure to check papers. At this time, also check for negative test results if you are going to have a clean herd.

 

Sickly- Is the goat coughing a lot? Is the goat snotty or is therer discharge from the nose or eyes? Ask Questions- What is your worming schedule? Do you run fecals? What vaccinations has the animal had? What feed/minerals is the animal on? Do you practice CAE prevention? How do you feed the kids? Etc.

 

5.) Milkers- If you are buying a goat that is already in milk do not be afraid to get hands on! This kind of goes hand in hand with health, but actually milk that doe! Be sure to feel the udder to check for any problems. Don’t be scared to ask to milk her out. Some goats milk like a dream and some are hard to milk, do not produce well, or are total terrors on the milk stand. As a buyer- you have the right to ask to do this!

 

6.) Get a mentor- Talk to 5 different breeders, you will get 5 different answers. Go to 5 different websites, you will get 5 different types of information. It is good to hear all, but choose a specific person to act as a mentor. Do not just choose a mentor because you like their personality, or even because they have the breed of goats you want (although that is always a bonus!)  Choose your mentor by the health of their herd. Even an untrained eye can usually recognize sick, underweight or unthrifty animals. This goes back to one of the first points. Know obvious diseases, look for them. A lot about goats is subjective or dependent on your specific area (things like worming doses, minerals etc) but some things are proven by reputable sources (universities, etc.) If the breeder can’t back up their opinion with facts, then that’s a sign to look elsewhere for a mentor.

 

7.) Take steps in the right direction- This goes along with knowing your breed standards and breeding responsibly. Every animal you purchase should be at least even with the quality of your current animals. Ideally, every purchased animal should be an improvement over your current animals in some way. The point of registries and breeding is to protect the breeds and maintain their integrity. Something else to lean about is linear appraisals. Ask if the breeder you’re purchasing your animal from participates in this program. If they do, then it shows that they’re striving to improve their herd.

 

**Always remember, it costs as much to feed a poor or sick animal as it does a healthy one.**

 

Hoegger Farmyard Contributor

 

Alexis Griffee, Roamin’ Roan Acres, Milton FL

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  1. by trish13
    Comment made on: March 22 2012

    I live in the high dessert and a friend of mine called me about fleas on her goats. I’ve never had any so I didn’t know what to tell her. How do you get rid of fleas?



  2. by goatherdess
    Comment made on: March 22 2012

    It should go without saying, but somehow doesn’t:
    First you build the fence, then you bring home the goats. More than half of all the newbies who come to our farm to buy a goat have no fence at all put up. Their plan is, “We’ll just keep her tied out until we can put up the fence.” I don’t sell goats to these people. A good fence is made out of goat or horse wire and touches the ground at the bottom. Cattle or barbed wire can sometimes be dangerous to your goat. This can take time and money. A fence may take several weekends to build, even if busyness with life in general doesn’t slow you down. A goat also needs some kind of shelter to get out of the rain and sun. So do those things first. Then bring home the new goats.


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