9 Stuff You Need Before Goats Get Home
Before taking goats home, careful planning will enable the new animals to settle in and ease the transition from an empty field to a happy herd.
While we spent a lot of time doing research before introducing goats to our small farm, we knew we were unprepared the minute we pulled the six-month-old Boer/Kiko goat trio out of our hatchback and let them loose in the pasture. It took several trips to our local farm shop and visits to the veterinarian until we felt like we were properly set up. We had two Nigerian Dwarf goats added to our herd this season, and the process was much simpler because we had all the right equipment on hand.
Before taking home goats, here are the eight things I suggest having:
- Strong Fencing
To prevent our chickens from wandering away, we installed a fence and we figured the 4-by-4 posts, top rail and woven wire were enough to keep the goats enclosed, too. They began pressing their bodies against the wire within hours, twisting it until it broke free in a corner, providing them with an escape route to the backyard. Reinforcing the fence with an additional board gave them a place to scratch without breaking out (at the height where the animals were pressing their bulk against it).
Heed the warnings about the need for a solid fence: check for gaps-goats will push through the smallest spaces-and improve areas under insistent pushing that may not hold up. For a healthy goat, good fences are necessary. Electric wire keeps out predators and keeps the fences from being checked by goats.
Goats are in need of protection from the elements. A simple shelter that is wide enough to keep them out of the rain and wind, such as a three-sided shed or pole barn. Multiple goats, pregnant or lactating, will share one stall and their children will need their own room. We split the Boer/Kiko goats from the Dwarf Nigerians in order to eliminate scuffles over food and sleeping quarters.
- Bedding with bedding
Straw or wood shavings provide the night with a warm place to curl up (and also help soak up urine). Bedding also supplies warmth in cold climates. Note that it is important to remove and replace bedding so that the barn/shelter does not start smelling and attracting flies.
- Hay and a Feeder for Hay
Even goats that have access to lush pasture and a lot of brush, particularly during the winter, will probably need supplementary feed. All the time, you should make good quality hay available. A hay feeder is imperative. Before handing over the debit card to purchase a “real” hay feeder, we tried five-gallon buckets, an enormous plastic storage tub and a laundry basket, which stood up to goats standing on it and sometimes in it. A separate feeder would be required for animals that consume limited quantities of grain or treats.
- Buckets for Water
It is important to have access to safe, clean water. Get a dedicated bucket and hold it full, or many for different animals. Mount the bucket higher than the back of the tallest goat so that the goats do not poop inside it.
- About minerals
Loose minerals, free to choose from, are also essential for good health. Choose a goat recipe (there’s not enough copper in loose minerals for sheep). Goats don’t have rough tongues like cattle do, which could make it difficult to get minerals from a block; a better option might be loose minerals. Check for salted minerals (or supplement with a salt block). Free option should also be provided for baking soda; it helps goats preserve good digestive health, protects against bloat and assists with acid disturbance.
- Supplies for Grooming
Overgrown hooves can make walking with goats painful. Foot and leg disorders such as tendinitis and arthritis can also be caused by this. It is necessary to have hoof trimmers on hand. Specialized hoof trimmers are stored in farm shops, but a pair of straight-edged garden pruners works, too. For grooming, use a curry comb or bristle brush.
- A Cabinet for Mini Medication
Storing traditional medicines and supplies ensures that goats can be treated at home without an unnecessary trip to the farm store for minor illnesses. Stock a thermometer mini medicine cabinet; blood stop powder (to treat nicked hooves during trimming); ringworm and minor wound antifungal treatments; dewormer; Pepto Bismol to treat diarrhoea; dehydration electrolytes; Nutri-Drench to provide vitamins and nutrients to goats recovering from disease; and multi-sized oral and injectable syringes. Some hobby farmers even stock antibiotics, but resistance is a huge problem, so we leave our veterinarian to prescribe these types of medications.
- Structures to Play
Goats enjoy climbing. Providing play structures helps them to practise these instincts of nature. We set up a few strong platforms and converted the fallen tree’s big trunk into a series of platforms for them to climb, rest and play on.
Before bringing goats home, taking the time to plan will help the fresh additions settle in and ease the transition from an empty field to a happy herd.