So you've finally decided that you want to fulfill your dream owning and raising goats. Congratulations! It's a wonderful world and you will love it. Now, the only question you have to answer is how to buy a goat.
That isn't exactly the only question. But it is the most important one to get you going in the process. Today we will look at everything you need to know to choose your goats and how to buy them.
Let's get started!
How To Buy A Goat
I know it's tempting to just dive right in and buy the first adorable baby goat you see. Try and restrain yourself just a little bit. You and your herd (...that's right, I said herd) will be better off in the long run.
How To Choose Your Goats
There are plenty of things to think about when choosing your goats. And you shouldn't base your decision soley on how much a goat costs. Here are a couple of things to think about when making your initial decisions.
Why do you need goats?
- Nigerian Dwarves
So, why are you getting a goat? Will it be a pet only? Will you want a product from your goat? Answering that question will help you narrow down your possible breed list.
What Size Goats Do You Want?
Goats come in all different sizes. Smaller (mini) breeds like Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf can have a height range of 17 - 23 inches. Bigger (normal/standard) breeds like Alpine and Kiko and have height ranges of anywhere from 30 - 40 inches.
So, if you have space constraints or just want a smaller goat, you may want to look at a mini breed like Pygmy or Nigerian Dwarf. There are also "mini" dairy goats that are a cross of Nigerian Dwarf and Alpine or Saneen that will result in smaller kids.
You will also want to remember that you can't just get one goat. Not because they are the Pringles of farm animals but because they are social animals. That means they require companionship and that means other goats. At the very least you will need two goats but they really thrive in groups.
But, you can't just buy any two goats and stick them together. Does can live with other does or wethers (fixed males). Wethers can also live with other wethers and bucks. Bucks, of course, can also live with other bucks. You just want to make sure that you NEVER leave a doe with a buck unattended. This can lead to unintended breeding which can be an unpleasant (and unexpected) surprise in the future.
The number of goats you can support will also depend on the amount of space you have available for them. If you have plenty of land and they will have easy access to plenty of brush and browse, you only need to worry about their shelter. They need about 10 to 15 square feet of shelter space per goat.
If you have limited land then you will want to give them around 20 square feet of shelter space and 30 of outdoor/grazing & exercise space.
Need some help to keep your goats healthy and maintained? The G.O.A.T Herd Management Binder has you covered from supplies to routine care reminders.
If you are getting a dairy goat, you will likely want to look at milk production to help make your decision. The standard size breeds can produce upwards of a gallon a day in milk while smaller breeds like Nigerian Dwarf average more like a quart a day.
However, keep in mind, Nigerian Dwarfs also usually have a much higher butterfat content which makes their milk taste more like cows milk. Similarly, if you are getting a meat goat, Pygmys being a miniature goat breed will obviously produce much less meat than that of a Kiko which is a standard sized goat.
What factors do you think are most important when choosing your first goats? Also, don't forget to be properly prepared for your new goats buy getting the right goat supplies.
How To Pick The Right Goat For You
There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to getting goats. Once you have decided on a goat type and breed, you must then decide on which specific goats you want. But how will you choose them?
Although we are writing this with Nigerian Dwarf goats specifically in mind, the following can also apply to just about any goat breed. Factors to consider to help you choose your first Nigerian Dwarf (other other breed) goats:
Registered Vs Unregistered
This should really start to narrow down your field of potential candidates. We suggest paying extra up front and getting registered goats. First, with registered goats, you have the potential to see their background and production records.
Second, if you are getting a dairy goat to keep in milk, you will have to breed and, in theory, sell kids each year. Unregistered goats will cut down on the number of buyers interested and also bring in less money. So, if you are looking into raising goats for profit, you probably want to get registered goats.
Appraisal & Production Records
If available, you should look at Linear Appraisal scores of the goat or its dam & sire. Linear Appraisal will tell you how several of the goats characteristics stack up.
Milk stars/production records of the specific goat or its dam and sires dam will give you an idea of the amount of milk you may get. If the goat is ADGA registered, you can find this information on the ADGA site.
Temperament & Personality
If you can, meet the goat and see if you "click". Some goats are really friendly while others can be standoffish and some can be unfriendly.
If you want a friendly goat, but the one you are looking at is standoffish, do you have the time to work with her and get her to like you?
Goat's can also be quite noisy. If you live in an urban area, maybe you should look for a goat that is not too vocal.
Disbudded Vs Horned
Most Nigerian Dwarf goats have horns. Many people will have their goats disbudded for safety reasons. Some Nigerian Dwarf goats are also polled (naturally hornless). You should think about if you want horns, disbudded or polled.
We highly recommend going with a hornless goat. It may seem mean to remove a goat's horns, but they truly are safer without them. Goat herds with horns can injure each other easily. They love to headbutt and can cause some serious damage. Not to mention, if you are on the wrong end of the horns, it can be quite painful.
Another thing to consider is goats suffer from a chronic case of "the grass is greener" syndrome. Meaning, no matter how lush the grass is in their paddock, they will almost always want to stick their head through the fence to eat that grass. Horn can get stuck in fencing and make them susceptible to predators.
Additional Features & Considerations
Once you decide what you need on the areas above, you should decide if you want anything "extra". Some people love blue eyed goats, goats with wattles, goats with moonspots or goats of a particular color. Look at some different goats and see what appeals most to you.
We would suggest letting areas 1 - 4 weigh most heavy, but if you look and do your due diligence it is very likely you can get goats that meet all 5 criteria.
How to find your goats
Now you have all the information you need to select the goat type and breed. Now you need to know how to actually find a quality goat.
The best way to start out with a nice goat is to buy them from a reputable breeder. You can find them through the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). Read through various goat pedigrees and decide what herd you want to base yours off of. Once you find herd names or even specific goat names you can search them online for contact information.
You can also ask around in Facebook groups, goat forums, or visit a goat show. If a herd is placing in goat show competitions, it is likely to have quality traits.
What to ask when buying a goat
Asking the right questions will save you from a ton of headaches in the future.
It is important to ask some good questions when buying a goat. You will, of course, want to know the basics like their name, age, and size/weight. You will likely already know the breed and sex, but if you do not, you should ask about those things as well.
Getting your hands on the goat is a great way to assess their body condition. You aren't likely to be able to perform a full exam, but it's good to get an accurate visual assessment. You want to make sure:
- their eyes pas a Famacha check
- they are not over or underweight
- their coat is shiny and looks healthy
- they do not have any obvious injuries, deformities, etc
The folks over at The Open Sanctuary Project have developed a full exam that you can take notes from when buying a new goat and assessing your own herd.
You will also want to know if the goat, and it's herd, have been tested for various goat diseases (CL, CAE, TB, Johne's, etc). As well as have they been vaccinated.
It's also important to know if the specific goat has a history of health issues. You can also ask about their parents and their health history. For example, some goats have a higher tolerance for parasites than others.
If you're getting an adult doe it's good to know if they have ever kidded before, how many times, and the average number of kids they produce. You will also want to know how much milk they produce, on average, if you are interested in dairy goats. Not only does this let you know their milk production and quality, but if you decide to breed them it will help you look for the specific goat kidding signs that they typically display.
Bucks are a little simpler. You can ask if they have any proven kids and how many breedings they have had. They may not keep track of the number of breedings but most herd keepers will have a record of kids.
If you are bringing home a new kid it's important to know if/when they were weaned. If they still require bottle feeding, if they are on a bottle now. You will also want to know their kidding date, parent's progeny, as well as if they have been treated for goat coccidiosis and/or selenium deficiency in goats.
What to do when you get it home
Once you pick out your goat and get them home you will want to quarantine the new goat for a bit. If these are your first goats, that won't be an issue. But if you are bringing a new goat home to your existing herd, they will need to be kept in a separate pen, 30+ feet away, for 30-90 days.
Quarantining new animals is essential for stopping the spread of any infectious disease that may cross over from herd to herd.
Getting goats is a truly rewarding experience. They can be a lot of work and frustrating at times but we have never regretted our decision to raise them. You are sure to love your new friends too!
If you need more help keeping your goats healthy and well taken care of, check out the G.O.A.T. Herd Management System - worksheets, calculators, supply management and more to keep your goats in tip top shape while cutting down on time.