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How to tell the body condition and weight of your dairy goat

How to tell the body condition and weight of your dairy goat

Body condition and weight are important measurements for assessing the health of your goats. Knowing your goat’s approximate weight is necessary for proper dosing of medications and supplements. Body condition is a good way to tell if you are on the right track with the care and management of your herd.


Body condition is based on the amount of excess fat your dairy goat is carrying. Dairy goats tend to be deceptively thin looking depending on the amount of ‘dairy character‘ your goat has. I define dairy character as sharp hip bones, a well-defined spine, and a large barrel belly. A high production dairy goat should have a large barrel belly that hangs off of the spine and hip bones. The size of a goat’s barrel directly relates to the size of their digestive system. A bigger digestive system means that the goat is an efficient converter of feed and forage into milk.




Above is a picture of my 9 year old goat, Gloria. Even with her full winter coat on, you can clearly see her hip bones and spine but you can also see her large barrel belly. Her huge digestive capacity allowed her to produce well over 2 gallons of milk a day!


So how do you tell the body condition of a dairy goat? First, place your hand on their spine, just in front of the hip bones. Put your thumb on one side of the spine and your other fingers on the other side. Second, feel up and down on both sides of the spine in this area. If you feel no squishy flesh on either sides of the spine and you can feel each vertebra, then the goat is too thin. If you feel a lot of squishy padding and you can’t feel the spine bones, then your goat is too fat. Good body condition is when you can feel some squishy flesh around the spine and you can feel the spine bones but they do not feel sharp or pointy. Ideally you do not want that is too fat because this can cause problems with reproduction and health. You also don’t want a goat that is too thin because they will be using all the feed and forage you give them to stay alive and not have any left over to produce milk.


Now that you have assessed the body condition of your goat, how do you measure its weight? There are several ways to weigh your goat. First, you can use a scale. I have a cheap dial scale in my barn for weighing kids. I weigh my kids once a week until they are too big to pick up. This gives me accurate information about if my kids are gaining weight properly or not. For small kids, I put them in a tote bin and put the bin on the scale. For the bigger kids, I hold them and get on the scale. I then subtract my weight from the total and get their weight. This works great until the kids are too big and too heavy to pick up. For larger goats, a veterinary scale is ideal. Unfortunately most goat farmers do not have the money available for a professional scale. Alternatively, you can use a weight tape, but be sure it is accurate for your type of goat – meat, large breed, small breed. The next best thing is to calculate the weight of the goat based on measurements.


Using a soft, pliable tape measurer, measure the heart girth and the length of the goat. Heart girth is measured by wrapping the tape around the goat starting just behind the withers on top and just behind the elbow on the bottom. Length is measured from the point of the shoulder to the pinbone on one side of the goat. Using Gloria as my model, you can see where to place the tape measurer.




Using these measurements in inches, put them into this calculation:


(Heart girth X Hearth girth X Length) / 300 = Weight (lbs)


Keep in mind that if your goat is on the extreme ends of the body condition scale (too fat or too thin), then this weight calculation will not be accurate. This weight calculation does work on miniature goats, bucks, does, and kids. It works best for dairy goats and may not be accurate for meat goats.


Hopefully with these tools you will be able to assess the health of your herd and keep them healthy.


Need to put some weight on your goats? Check out how here.


Rose has been raising goats near Vermontville, New York, for 10 years. She has raised dairy goats, meat goats, and fiber goats. Over the years, she has learned a lot of information and tips for raising happy and healthy goats. Rose loves to share the information she has learned to help goat owners and aspiring goat owners to take good care of their animals. Goats are intelligent, resourceful, funny, useful animals that have unique needs when compared to other farm livestock.
In 2011, Rose stared the Adirondack Goat Club to bring together goat owners and enthusiasts all over the area. The mission of the club is to create a network of people who can rely on each other for help with their goats, for the sharing of information and equipment, and for the sale and trade of quality animals.
Rose lives on her farm with her husband and 3 year-old daughter. Currently the animal count is up to three Alpine dairy goats, one Saanen dairy goat, two Boer meat goats, one Angora fiber goat, 28 chickens, one rabbit, one barn cat, and two dogs. The extra milk on the farm goes into goat milk soap that Rose sells locally.
Contact Rose Bartiss at or follow her blog at Her soap can be found on Facebook at Rose’s Goats.

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  1. by
    Comment made on: December 31 2013

    A little confused about the math formula. You tell how to get heart girth and length but not hearth girth. (Heart girth X Hearth girth X Length) / 300 = Weight (lbs)

    • by admin
      Comment made on: January 2 2014

      If A is heart girth and B is length, you will do the following calculation: (A x A x B) / 300. This will give you the weight.

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