Intro to Goats: Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill’s “Goats 101”

If chickens are the “gateway drug” to the farm life, goats are the first taste of “the hard stuff.” Goats take an additional commitment in time and energy and will generously reward conscientious owners in milk, meat, and amusement.  Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill is invested in ensuring the success of your goat-keeping experience.  From nutritionally balanced feed formulations to a solid knowledge base, we’re here to help!


Evaluate the Realities

Goats are great but they represent a significant jump in responsibility and commitment.  They’re a 24/7/365 commitment which can and will interfere with vacations, family time, work, holiday plans, etc.  Have you spent much time with goats?  Do you like being around them?  You’ll be working with them two or three times a day for several years.  We don’t want to rain on your parade, but the decision to raise goats is one which should be approached with a sober and serious attitude.


Choose Your Breed

Like cows, goats are separated by dairy and meat breeds.  Depending on your needs, you’ve got a decision to make.  Goats come in different sizes and temperaments, and it’s best to choose the one which will be the best match for you.

Dairy Goats

While there are many varieties of dairy goats, there are three characteristics you should consider when choosing a dairy goat: size, milk production, and temperament.  Dairy goats’ size and milk production are related: Saanens are large animals with high milk production quantities.  Nigerian dwarves are a miniature goat which are much easier to keep and require less food and space.  For the hobbyist, temperament can be the most important characteristic: after all this is an animal you’ll be handling several times a day, multiple times a day.  Do your research and consider your options carefully!  Don’t be tempted by a “good deal” or a cheap price.

Check out the American Dairy Goat Association’s website for much more information. http://www.adga.org

Meat Goats

With a growing hispanic and muslim population in the United States, the demand for goat meat is on the rise.  Goats offer the promise of a high-quality lean meat that’s high in protein and low in cholesterol.  There are half a dozen varieties of goats commonly raised for meat today: Boer, Myotonic, Spanish, Kiko, pygmy, and Savannah.  By far the most popular goat grown for meat is the Boer, a variety from South Africa developed for size and rapid weight gain – their live weight at maturity is frequently over two hundred pounds!  They may be a bit too big for some, and can have higher maintenance costs.  Myotonic, or Tennessee fainting goats are indigenous to the United States and have the amusing characteristic of freezing and falling over when


Enclosures and housing

While kept for different purposes, dairy and meat goats have the same feed, care, and housing requirements.  A goat carries a bigger investment in time, energy, and money than birds do, and the work you put in at the start is critically important.  Best to take your time and get it right the first time.

Fencing

The old saying about goats goes a little something like this: If you can build a fence that can hold water, then it will be able to keep in a goat.  One strategy in keeping goats is to use a bit of reverse psychology and try to convince them you don’t want them to stay within their enclosure.

Goats require a secure fence, both to keep the goats in and to keep predators out.  There are several materials in use today for goat fencing: chain link (cyclone) fence, welded or woven wire cattle fence, barbed wire, and electric fence.  Since goats are natural-born jumpers and climbers, we do not recommend the use of barbed wire for goat fencing.  In addition to a strand of electric wire atop the fence, we recommend another at a height of 18” to dissuade the animals from leaning or pushing against the fence.  That said, the above anecdote does ring true: if a goat wants out, it’s likely going to get out.  Build your fence with solid posts and keep the wires tight.  Regular fence inspection and maintenance is critically important.

Housing

Goats don’t require an elaborate housing setup, just a place that is protected from wind and damp conditions.  Dirt floors covered with three or four inches of wood chips or straw will absorb urine and also keep the animals warm.  You’ll want to build your shelter with your use in mind, too.  Access to fresh water, tool storage, areas for milking or kidding, and a design for easy clean-out are all elements worth considering.


Feeding, Watering, and Care

Goats have been long revered as a meat and dairy source that can produce from very little. Though this much is true, optimal growth, health, and performance is largely related to their diet. Coyote Creek Organic Goat Feed is optimally balanced for peak performance.  Our feed is a complete and balanced feed ration for growing goats.  Feed 2 pounds of goat feed per 100 pounds of body weight and 2 to 4 pounds of good quality hay per 100 pounds of body weight daily.  Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water.

In addition to a regular ration of feed, goats enjoy browsing for forage.  They do not graze the same way a cow does, that is, they don’t plant themselves in one spot and eat everything nearby before moving on.  Goats like to pick and choose.  Goats generally eschew “good” grasses for any number of seemingly unpalatable plants: blackberry bramble, poison ivy, ragweed, willow, nearly any leafy plant.

Finally, while accidents are rare, things happen and it’s a good idea to find a good large animal vet before something goes wrong.

Congratulations! Enjoy your goats!