The “Do Not's” - What to Consider Before Getting Goats
Once you have made the decision to keep goats, if you’re like me, you might have the propensity to rush right in before being totally ready. I can get so excited and so caught up in the moment that I don’t always stop and think. I’m a whole lot better than I used to be, but I still have my moments. But I’m also still trainable. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, so maybe I’m not too … well … I’ll say it before you do … old!
In a previous article, Things to Consider Before Getting Dairy Goats, I wrote about things that you should do in preparation before bringing your goats home. In this article, I want to address some things that you might want to consider “not doing”.
My husband and I have been thinking about … wishing might actually be a better word … starting a goat dairy. He has showed more interest in the idea than I thought he would. Yesterday I saw on his computer screen that he was looking at a livestock auction website. And that leads me into the first “Don’t” that you might want to take into consideration.
Don't Buy Someone Else's Problems
Don’t buy goats to establish your herd from a sale barn if you can help it. Think of it this way – some of the goats (not all, maybe not even half) are there because their owners no longer want the problems that that goat causes. If an experienced goat herdsman doesn’t want them, neither do you!
In the article, Things to Consider Before Getting Dairy Goats, I advised that you should join one or more area dairy goat clubs. Talk to other members and visit their farms or facilities. This doesn’t just have to apply to dairy goats. This advice would be good for anyone purchasing any kind of livestock. By joining a goat club, you will learn about the people you are buying from and this will give you some kind of an idea of the quality of goat you will be receiving from them. And someone that you will have an ongoing relationship with, such as in a club, will be more likely to sell you a better goat. It is advisable to never buy a goat from a stranger, because you may be spending your money on something that you don’t really want.
Unless you are keeping more than 5 females it is probably better to avoid the hassle of owning a male goat. They can be a lot of trouble. You actually have a couple other options at your disposal. If your herd is small enough, you could find someone who would allow you to take your females to be bred in their pasture. Another option is artificial insemination.
Consider very carefully before buying a goat with horns. They can be very dangerous to you, to themselves and to other goats. If a goat were to stick its head through something such as the fencing, it is very easy for their head to get stuck causing injury while trying to dislodge it, or possibly death before you get to them. Horns are also dangerous when goats ram into each other.
Don't Get Caught Unprepared!
If you’ve joined a goat club and attended some meetings, and attended some stock shows, then you have had the opportunity to talk to other goat keepers. They can be a wealth of knowledge for you. Talk to someone who is keeping goats for the same reason you intend to and find out what you will need to properly care for your goats. Don’t wait until you have the goats and all the sudden come up short on supplies because you didn’t find out beforehand. Ask questions and have everything ready to go before getting the goats.
Ignorance is not Bliss
Before you get your goats, become as knowledgeable as you can. I’m going to say it again: go to goat club meetings, goat association meetings and stock shows. Visit local goat farms and dairies and ask lots of questions. The answers you get will make you a better goat keeper, but they could also help you decide who you might want to buy your future herd from. Read books, magazines and articles about goats and goat keeping. Get acquainted with the vet that you will be using for your herd. There are lots of ways that you can increase your knowledge base, therefore how quickly you do this is entirely up to you.
Dogs and Goats Don't Mix
There are lots of fencing options available. But fencing such as electric fencing that will keep goats in will not keep dogs out. A pack of even small dogs can bring a goat down. So install good tight woven wire fencing that is at least 4 ½ feet high.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you’ve never kept goats before, you might want to buy a younger animal and become accustomed to its care before taking on the milking of a goat also. Don’t buy a goat that needs milking the day she arrives. Give yourself time to adjust and to adapt. Give your animals a chance to adjust and adapt as you go through this learning process.
Quality Feed is Critical
Don’t skimp on the quality of feed or your goats’ health with suffer also. Then the money you saved on feed will be more than eaten up with the cost of vet bills. Talk to other goat owners in your area and find out what feeds are working for them. Talk to them about foraging, hay type feed, and grain formulated feeds. In dairy goats, the wrong feed will also drastically affect their milk production.
Preventative medicine is so much easier to practice, than treating an already sick animal. And by using good goat keeping practices, even if your animals do become sick, the sicknesses are generally less serious and less frequent. Concerning preventative measures, you will need to decide if you intend to use organic measures to care for your goats. If you don’t intend to go organic, talk to your veterinarian and discuss what vaccines and wormers they recommend. Talk to other goat herdsman and find out what vitamin and mineral supplementation they are using. Become familiar with each goat and their habits. This will allow you to notice changes in their behavior that may indicate an illness that can be treated more easily the earlier it is detected.
If you intend to go the organic route, talk to others who are raising their animals organically. Each generation of organically kept animals are healthier than the previous generation and are able to fight off disease easier. But it takes time and perseverance. It also takes some sacrifice. I know of organic breeders who will destroy a sick animal so that other animals will not get the disease, and so that the genetics that allowed the disease to manifest in the first place will not be passed on to the next generation.
Don't Experiment Without Experience
Until you have a very good idea of what you are doing and why it is working, don’t experiment with your goats’ feeding or management. Talk to others and learn from them. It is very easy to make mistakes that will cost your animals their lives, therefore, your livelihood.
After having read this list of “Don’ts”, and Things to Consider Before Getting Dairy Goats’ list of “Do’s” you are much more prepared for the wonderful journey ahead.
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