Keeping Dairy Goats
Keeping a couple of dairy goats is an inexpensive way to have your own milk, cheese, soap, and even meat. The sale of their offspring and byproducts can help keep the savvy homesteader from feeling the pinch at the feed store and even help pay off debts.
If you have land, keeping goats is even cheaper, it could even be free.
Housing for Goats
Goats are exceedingly simple to house. The main thing you are looking for is a place that is well-drained. Goats do not do well in sodden areas. They are from dry climates naturally and this is where they thrive.
Goat sheds can be as simple as a lean-to or elaborate as a fancy barn. Ensure they have plenty of ventilation but the area isn't prone to constant gusts of damp, cold wind.
Deep, dry bedding of straw, leaves, or even pine straw works well with goats. Because their droppings are so dry, the deep litter method is excellent for goats.
See my Hub on tying goats out.
Feeding Dairy Goats
A feed ration of 18% protein is excellent for nursing does. You can make your own or buy it at the feed store. Many people use 18% dairy cow ration successfully.
How much grain you feed depends entirely on the goat. See here for judging your goats weight.
Good grazing and browse is essential for the overall health of your goats. It is also free, after the initial seeding of your fields.
Our goats do well on Timothy, crown vetch, clover, and a whole range of non-toxic weeds.
Fence off your fruit trees and other plants that you do not want the goats eating. They will kill them, especially in winter.
Hay for Dairy Goats
Your goats should have free-choice hay at all times. We started making our own out of Timothy and a mix of specially selected weeds/herbs. This is by far the best way to keep a goat in excellent condition. The hay will keep your goats' rumen in good working order. Goats love hay and unless you have a hundred goats, hay is cheap to feed them!
Minerals for Goats
Give your goats free-choice goat minerals. At this time, we are using Purina Goat Minerals. Also, include a dish of pure baking soda they can eat at will.
Worming your Goats
What you use will depend on your area and how well your goats respond to a treatment individually. A lot of people use Ivomec that is designed for cattle. Have fecal samples checked once or twice a year to see what type of worms your goats have. An inexpensive microscope will allow you to see for yourself. This saves a lot of money in the short run.
Trimming your goats feet deserves a Hub all in itself. Soon I will add my own way of doing it with a Dremmel tool. It works great and is so quick to use.
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Goat Keeping Books
Buy and read as many good quality goat keeping books as you can find. Try looking on Ebay and Amazon. Amazon usually has very good deals on both print and Kindle books.
Purchase a microscope on Ebay.com or Amazon.com to check your goats fecals for worm infestation.