This page is dedicated to helping people who are new goat owners or are considering getting goats. It covers information that you should know prior to getting your goats, and gives you an overview of things to consider that will be beneficial as you embark on this new adventure. It is my sincere hope that this information will help you to make the change over to life with goats as stress free as possible. Keep in mind that there is always more than one way to do things, so take from this what you can use and will work for you.
I strongly encourage you to purchase these books and read them. Amazon had the best price when I checked, and the links will take you to their site.
- Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats by Jerry Belanger. I don't do everything according to the industry....like bottle feeding the babies-I let my babies stay with their dams and nurse...but this book covers all of the basics, gives you an education on goats, and is an invaluable reference. I refer to it more than any other source.
- Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. Another invaluable reference. I use it as much as the Storey's, but more for health care than general knowledge.
- SHELTER: Your goats need a barn, hut, shed or some other type of structure that they can take shelter in during inclement weather.
- PASTURE: A fenced area of grass, brush, trees, and vegetation that is large enough not to be turned into a dirt lot when the animals are out during the day is ideal. We have several paddocks that we rotate the goats around in. This helps to keep down the internal parasite load and allows the paddocks to rest and regrow. For internal parasite loads, it is best to move the animals every three months at minimum.
- HAY: Do you have a source of good quality, clean hay? I prefer alfalfa, but brome is fine. What will you feed the hay in? A hay manger is suggested.
There are many variations on the theme, but generally a hay feeder where the goats can step up and eat from above is preferred as it is a natural position for them to eat from, they waste less hay, and you need not worry about the hay being contaminated with urine and feces.
You will find instructions on building one in Storey's guide, or you can purchase them.
Sydell makes several different hay mangers of a variety of different sizes and applications that you can purchase.
- GRAIN: I do not feed grains. Goats have been bred to produce such a large amount of milk that for many years I fed a mixture of barley, oats, wheat bran, molasses, and black oil sunflower seeds to insure that they got enough caloric intake. I now feed a ration of dehydrated alfalfa pellets and black oil sunflower seeds to insure their caloric needs are met. By volume I combine four parts alfalfa pellets and one part sunflower seeds. This seems to be working very well for us, the goats are in good health, maintaining their weight, and making plenty of milk.
- WATER: Clean water is so important! Will you have an automatic, heated waterer? Will you use 5 gallon buckets? I have Nelson Automatic Waterers in the barn, but I also use buckets in the other areas. I like using muck buckets for water-especially during the hot weather. They hold about 15 gallons of water so I don't worry about them running out of water when it is hot, and they are a nice height-easy for the goats to drink from. Every week I scrub the water buckets and the metal pans from the automatic waterers with a clean hard bristle brush (a toilet brush from Target-one that has never been used for anything besides cleaning water buckets) and once a month I use distilled white vinegar when I scrub the buckets clean, then rinse them well. A solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water may also be used instead of the vinegar when cleaning the buckets and metal pans.
- INTERNAL PARASITE CONTROL:
- HERBAL DE-WORMER: I use a preventive herbal de-wormer that I purchase from Hoegger Goat Supply.
- HERBAL TONIC: I use the herbal tonic in conjunction with the de-wormer.
- SINGLE DOSE: Per goat, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of herbal de-wormer and 1 1/2 teaspoons of herbal tonic with enough water to form the mixture into balls. Feed as a treat once a week for 3 weeks and on the 4th week feed a loading dose.
- LOADING DOSE: Mix the treat as above, and feed morning and evening for 3 days for a total of six treats.
- Continue with one treat a week for 3 weeks, and a loading dose on the 4th week. I feed the herbal de-wormer this way year round.
- SODIUM ASCORBATE: Once a week I give each goat 1/2 teaspoon of sodium ascorbate that I purchase from Wholesale Nutrition. It can be fed as a top dressing on their grain, or mixed into the herbal de-wormer balls.
- APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Once a week I mix apple cider vinegar into the goats' water at a ratio of 1 cup of apple cider vinegar in a 5 gallon bucket of water. The apple cider vinegar is a health tonic that helps to keep the pH balance of the animal's intestinal tract proper and makes an unfavorable environment for internal parasites. I use the top quality, raw apple cider vinegar that has the "mother" in it.
- COPPER SULFATE: Every six months I give my goats a copper bolus. I use Copasure, a copper sulfate bolus, the month they are bred (October), and the month after kidding (April). I mix it in with the de-wormer treat to feed it to them. To mix it in with the de-wormer, break open the capsule and mix 1/2 of a capsule into each of the de-wormer treats for that week.
For more in-depth information read Natural Goat Care and check this website: SANNENDOAH.
- SELENIUM INJECTIONS: Can be given at the same time as the Copasure. Check with your veterinarian on getting the selenium injections and whether or not they are appropriate for your band of goats.
- SUPPLEMENTS: I have the following supplements out free choice for the goats all the time. I feed the supplements in a mineral feeder that I purchased. I have one mineral feeder for each of the following supplements.
- A balanced Mineral Supplement for goats.
- Thorvin Kelp (for iodine)
- Sea Salt (I buy a large bag of sea salt from the bulk bin section when I go to Whole Foods.) or a trace mineral salt block.
- Baking Soda I am not sure what the difference is between this and a box of Arm & Hammer at the local grocers, but this is very cost effective, and I've not found it cheaper. Now that I am not feeding grains to my goats, the baking soda is not needed. It is used to keep the rumen healthy when feeding grains to ruminants. The grain creates a different acidity than nature intended and the baking soda corrects this.
- I always brush the girls before they are milked. This loosens dirt, hair, dander, etc...from the coat to keep the milking as clean as possible. It also helps to keep the does healthy. A good firm bristle brush form any tack/feed store will work well.
- Hoof trimming is very important. We haven't got rocky mountainsides for them to live on and keep their feet neat and tidy so we get to trim their hooves for them. You can probably get hoof shears from about any tack/feed store as well, though I did get these hoof shears and I am very happy with them. If you have a copy of the Hoegger Goat Supply catalog you will find a page in the catalog that gives excellent instructions on how to trim a goat hoof. Also know that each individual goat will have their own need for the frequency of trimming. Some of my goats need trimmed every week; others can go 3 or 4 weeks between trimmings. I even have some goats whose hind feet grow faster than their front feet.
- MILKING STAND: You can milk without one, but I'd rather not. The best milking stand on the market is from Caprine Supply, and it is hand made by a local person too! They are in Desoto, so it's easy to run up there and get one. I also had a custom ramp made for my milk stand and a free standing seat that does not need to be bolted to the stand. My custom pieces were ready for me just 5 days after I ordered them!
- STRIP CUP: The strip cup is used to express the first few streams of milk from each teat. This allows you to see if there is any clotting, blood, or other abnormality that should alert you to the fact that something is amiss. It is also a good idea to express the first few streams of milk as they are very high in bacteria count and it cleans out the teat before milking. This was one of those things I learned the hard way and wish someone had told me about.
- MILK PAIL: When handling milk you always want to use Stainless Steel and glass. I love my milk pail with the strainer that fits snug on top so that I milk through the filter. Hoegger also sells the milk pail, strainer, and a box of filters as a kit at a discounted price.
- MILK STRAINER: This is the strainer that fits on my milk pail. I milk through the strainer into the pail and then when I bring the milk inside, I strain the milk a second time into the glass jars that it will be kept in. For this reason, I have 2 strainers.
- MILK FILTERS: These are the filters that fit the strainer. I didn't realize that you needed filters for the strainer until after I got and had started milking my first doe. Thankfully a neighbor had an extra box of filters that she gave me until mine got here. I've ordered filters from Caprine, Hoegger, and Lehman's. They are all about the same/same price.
- MILK TOTE: You will not need a milk tote if you are milking just one goat, but if you are milking more than one, it can be very handy for holding the milk until all the does have been milked. After each doe is milked, we transfer the milk to the tote and then place the tote into the freezer, right there in the milk parlor.
- QUART BOTTLE BRUSH: This is the brush that I use to clean all of my milking equipment. It is used only for cleaning the milking equipment and for no other purpose.
- FOOD GRADE HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: I use food grade hydrogen peroxide (35% solution) to sterilize all of the glass bottles that the milk will "live in". I sterilize the stainless steel milking equipment once a week. To use, it must be diluted to the proper concentration of 3% which is obtained by mixing 11 oz of sterile water with 1 oz of concentrate. I keep my diluted solution in a one quart spray bottle. After I thoroughly wash the equipment with warm soapy water and the bristle brush, I rinse it well under hot running water, and spray down the equipment with the food grade hydrogen peroxide. After it has been thoroughly sprayed down, I rinse again under hot running water and turn upside down to dry on a stainless steel drying rack.
WHERE WILL THE MILK LIVE?
The bottles/jugs that I use are purchased from Infinity Packaging.
Each Spring I try to get together with a large group of friends and place an order for a full pallet of one gallon, wide mouth, glass jars. This way we can get them at a very good price. There are 120 cases (4 jars to a case) and our cost is just $6.16 for a case of jars. To purchase in small quantity from the internet you pay over $15.00 a case.
If you want to purchase one gallon plastic milk jugs (never been used before) for freezing milk to have over the winter, they can be purchased through Louisburg Cider Mill. I don't know the current price, but I previously paid 50 cents each. I do not advise reuse of these jugs -- recycle them instead.
ITEMS TO PURCHASE CHECK LIST-GENERAL
I looked over all of the things that I have for my goats and milking, and I made up this "shopping list". Hopefully having the list organized this way will be straightforward and simple.
There are other ways to do things, and plenty of other choices out there, but these are the items I have and like. My criteria is to have the best quality equipment there is, it must be safe for myself and the animals, and it must work well. I will not sacrifice quality for price. However, when two or more companies carry the same exact thing, I always go for the one that saves me money.
- CAPRINE SUPPLY
- HOEGGER GOAT SUPPLY
- VALLEY VET SUPPLY
- Spectam Scour-Halt Scour halt is used if you have a goat that is scouring-usually due to stress. It is a good idea to check a fecal and rule out a heavy load of internal parasites. Scour halt can be a life saver, stopping the scouring and buying you some time to get to the root of the problem. Follow the directions on package. Yes, I know it is labelled for pigs only.
- Sydell hay manger - I like model #864
- INFINITY PACKAGING
- glass one gallon jars for keeping milk in
- PURE H2O2 FOR HEALTH
- This is where I purchase food grade hydrogen peroxide. I've not found a better price.
- YOUR LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE OR GROCER
- GSE: grapefruit seed extract. This is my first line of defense when I notice a goat has soft stools. Give 3 drops in the mouth right away and again 8 hours later. If you do not see improvement then switch to using Spectam Scour-Halt.
- peppermint essential oil - This is used to massage into an udder that is hard or hot. These are both an indication of possible mastitis.
- WHOLESALE NUTRITION
ITEMS TO PURCHASE FOR CHEESE MAKING
A personal note from Pamela
Running a small farm is a financial burden. Small producers must have a second income; be independently wealthy; own all of their property, equipment, and livestock outright; or have a significant other who works in order to survive. In my life, both my husband and I must work off the farm in order to survive. In the past we tried to keep enough livestock that we were able to sell the surplus product to help cover the cost of running the farm. I regret that we are no longer able to do so. We have kept our goat dairy running for several years now despite losing thousands of dollars each year. On paper, it made sense to sell milk at a price to cover the cost of feeding the animals, but that only worked if everything went perfectly. Well, perfection never happened. 2011 was our worst year yet, and we realize that we can no longer afford to run the dairy. I've been expanding my house cleaning business trying to make ends meet and it was depressing to learn that my earnings from house cleaning just barely covered our farm losses in 2011. We have sold all but enough goats to feed our family. We only hope that we've instituted these changes in time to save our home as the mortgage company has filed for foreclosure.
The food prices in our country are so artificially low, that the best a small producer can usually hope for is to cover the cost of feeding the animals. This does not cover the cost of the land, purchasing the animals, shelter, fencing, bedding, veterinary care, health care, minerals, supplements, de-wormers, equipment, electricity to run refrigerators, water (running a dairy requires unbelievable amounts of water), or any of the labor involved in running a dairy. I do this because it is a passion, my goal is to feed my family with whole, pure, raw food from the earth, and I love what I do.
Having dairy animals can be very limiting and restrictive.....there is a great deal of physical work, it takes a lot of time, and you must be there at the farm everyday, twice a day, at the same time of day. No exceptions!! If you can not be there, you must find someone to take your place. Most people can not even comprehend this amount of work or this restrictive a lifestyle. It requires undying dedication, determination, and a passion for what you are doing. I can not imagine not doing this, and instead of being frustrated that I work so hard for no pay (and in fact, work off the farm to support this habit) I see the benefits of my work. I have raw, farm fresh goat milk, goat's milk products (cheese, yogurt, etc...), goat meat, and goat hides, of unsurpassed quality that I can not buy from a store. I also have a close bond with highly intelligent, remarkably friendly creatures who are active, extremely agile, very curious, and who's antics can amuse me for hours. I do this because I want to know exactly where my food comes from, what is in my food, how my food was handled, and that the animals providing me with food are all individually cared for, loved, and looked after. I insist on there being a mutually beneficial relationship for each and every one of the members of this farm. I do not trust food that I buy from a store, and firmly believe that the only way to a healthy diet is to take responsibility and control over my own food supply. Thus, for me, the food I am able to produce here on my farm is priceless.