From Antivist

Where there is untillable grass land it is sensible to keep a milch goat or two than a cow or sheep. The animal is hardy and will largely shift for itself, except in winter when only the most ordinary shelter and feeding care is necessary. It's milk is highly nutritious and is specially noted for cheese making.


Basic Information

The goat is one of the smallest domesticated ruminants which has served mankind earlier and longer than cattle and sheep. It is managed for the production of milk, meat and wool, particularly in arid, semitropical or mountainous countries. In temperate zones, goats are kept often rather as supplementary animals by small holders, while commercially cows or buffaloes are kept for milk, cheese and meat, and sheep for wool and meat production. Cheese production from goat milk, even in France, Greece, Norway and Italy, is of economic importance.

Breeds of goats vary from as little as 20 lb mature female bodyweight and 18 inches female withers for dwarf goats for meat production up to 250 lb and 42 inches withers height for Indian Jamnapari, Swiss Saanen, Alpine and AngloNubian for milk production. Some Jamnapari males may be as tall as 50 inches at withers. Angora goats weigh between 70 to 110 lb for mature females and are approximately 25 inches tall. Birthweights of female singles are between 3 and 9 lb; twins being often a pound lighter and males 1/2 lb heavier.

Teeth in goats are a good guide to age. Six lower incisors are found at birth and a set of 20 milk teeth are complete at 4 weeks of age consisting of the eight incisors in the front of the lower jaw, and 12 molars, three on each side in each jaw. Instead of incisors in the upper jaw there is a hard dental pad against which the lower incisors bite and cut. Some goats have an undesirable inherited recessive condition of parrot (overshot upper jaw) or carp mouth (undershot upper jaw) which does not interfere with barn feeding conditions but handicaps the goat severely in pasturing and browsing, because the lower incisor teeth cannot cut correctly against the upper dental pad. With progressing age, the permanent teeth wear down from the rectangular crossectional shape and cores to the round stem which is a further distinguishing mark of age. Furthermore, there are pregnancy rings marking horns and telling age.


  • Goats are escapologists. They are never happier when venturing onto the chicken hut roof, indeed any roof.
  • Fences are for bouncing on. Goats regard it as their bounden duty to do their best to destroy any fence.
  • They find hedgerows especially attractive.
  • Your first goat should be a goatling - that is a female between one and two years that has not yet had any kids.
  • It could well be wise to buy one in kid. The kid or kids will be adequate company for the mother.
  • Twinning is normal in goats with a high percentage of triplets thus giving several breeds an average annual litter size above 2 per doe and more than 200 reproduction rate.
  • Females are called doe, young are kids, males are bucks; one speaks of buck and doe kids, and doelings, and of wethers or castrates.
  • Goats are very affectionate and especially during the summer, when they are too hot to be active, they like to just hang around people and get a good scratch.

Goat Statistics

  • Body Temperature: 102.5°F - 104°F
  • Pulse/heart rate: 60 to 80 beats per minute
  • Respiration rate: 15 to 30 breaths per minute
  • Puberty: 4 to 12 months
  • Estrus ("heat") cycle: 18 to 23 days
  • Length of each "heat": 12 to 36 hours
  • Gestation (length of pregnancy): 150 days
  • Breeding season: Pygmy goats may be bred any time of the year. Dairy goats usually go into heat between August and January in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Weight: An adult pygmy goat weighs between 50 and 75 pounds. An adult dairy goat doe weighs between 125 and 200 pounds. An adult dairy goat buck weighs between 200 and 300 pounds.

Dairy Goats

There are six types of dairy goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association. They are Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Togenburgs, and Saanens.

have very long, floppy ears and they can be any color. They have a convex nose and are one of the larger breeds of goats. Their milk tends to be higher in protein and butter fat than other breeds. They tend to be a little bit more stubborn than other dairy goats and make a distinctive sound. Even Nubian kids sound like they are complaining.
have ears that are so small that it looks like they don't have ears and they can also be any color. They have a straight nose and are a small breed. The LaMancha sound is typical of other goats. In our experience, they are more calm and gentle than other breeds. When you own a LaMancha, be prepared to answer the question What did you do to its ears?
can be almost any color except solid white and light brown with white markings (toggenburg color); their face should be dished or straight. They have erect ears and are a medium-large breed. They are popular with dairies due the amount of milk they produce.
have very specific color standards. They are a bay color, known as Chamoise, with a black dorsal strip, udder, belly, and black below the knees. They should also have a nearly black head. Another aceptable color would be all black but this is only acceptable for does. They have erect ears and are a medium-small breed.
also have very specific color requirements. They are light brown and have white ears and lower legs. The side of the tail and two stripes down the face must also be white. They have erect ears and have the smallest height requirments of all the breeds, but most of the toggenburgs I've seen are pretty big. They grow a shaggier coat than other dairy goat breeds. They also are popular with dairies. In our experience, they tend to be a little wilder and more high strung than other breeds.
are usually pure white. They usually have a large udder capacity and are popular with dairies due to the quantity of milk they produce.

Goat Milk

Goat milk is used for human consumption. In fact, more people in the world drink goat milk than cow milk, although in the US the opposite is true.

Goat milk casein and goat milk fat are more easily digested than from cow milk. Goat milk is valued for the elderly, sick, babies, children with cow milk allergies, patients with ulcers, and even preferred for raising orphan foals or puppies. Fat globules in goat milk are smaller than in cow milk and remain dispersed longer. Goat milk is higher in vitamin A, niacin, choline and inositol than cow milk, but it is lower in vitamin B6, B12, C and carotenoids. The shorter chain fatty acids (C6, C8, C10, C12) are characteristically higher in goat milk than in cow milk. Otherwise milk gross composition from goats or cows is similar except for differences due to breeds, climate, stage of lactation and feeds.

Goat milk is also used to feed many other animals. Usually, they are bottle feed, but goats will fairly easily adopt lambs.

Care & Feed

We provide automatic waterers in goat pens, and also leave a bucket of water. In some areas, of the country, its important to make sure the water doesn't freeze, but we don't have that problem.

Although many goat owners feel that a twice daily feeding is best, others feed only once a day and still have perfectly healthy goats. You will have to decide what is practical for your animal and your schedule. Try to keep both food and water where they cannot be soiled by the goat.

The basic food we feed is alfalfa hay. An adult dairy goat doe eats about 1/2 flake a day (about 5 pounds). This is supplemented with a grain mixture that contains 14-16% protein depending on the additional needs of the goat:

  • Dairy doe in milk: 2-3 pounds
  • Pygmy doe in milk: 1-2 pounds
  • Dry doe: 0-1 pounds
  • Pregnant doe: (last 1-2 months) 1-2 pounds
  • Wethers: Usually given no grain.

We also provide either a loose mineral mix or a mineral brick. Since alfalfa hay is high in calcium, we make sure the mineral mix is high in phosphorous and low in calcium to maintain the proper calcium-to-phosphorous ratio.

Although this diet works for us, we suggest you consult with a local goat breeder or veterinarian who is more familiar with the nutritional needs of your goats and the nutritional value of the feed in your area.

Goats crave variety. They do not eat everything and certainly not too much of anything. Left to their own devices, they wander about taking a little of this and something of that.

Their night accommodation will need hay and, of course, water. You will need specialised equipment, buckets will get knocked over.

Goats don't mix with hay nets too well either. You need a hay rack firmly fixed to the wall.

Milking goats will need some commercial food, in fact all goats will need some especially during periods of bad weather when they won't be foraging outside

A Healthy Goat

Goats are easy to care for. These are the signs of a healthy goat.

  • Eyes clear and bright. Tearing or cloudy eyes probably mean a pinkeye infection.
  • Coat smooth and shiny. A dull coat could indicate parasites. Fluffed up coat means the goat is not feeling well.
  • Appetite good. However, it is normal for a doe in labor to refuse to eat.
  • Attitude alert. Hunched back and droopy tail mean something is wrong.

Common Diseases

Among diseases, goats are not too different from cattle and sheep in the same regions. Goats tend to have more internal parasites than dairy cows, especially in confined management. They tend to have less tuberculosis, milk fever, post partum ketosis and brucellosis than dairy cows and their milk tends to be of lower bacteria counts than cow milk. They have more prepartum pregnancy toxemia than dairy cows, and are known to have laminitis, infectious arthritis, Johne's disease, listeriosis, pneumonia, coccidiosis, scours, scabies, pediculosis, liver fluke disease and mastitis.

Coccidia are tiny intestinal parasites, actually protozoans, that can cause foamy, bloody diarrhea or a dull, dry coat. Sometimes a goat with coccidiosis (coccidia infestation) has an on-again-off-again soft stool or no obvious symptoms at all. You might not suspect a problem until you notice that your kids are not growing as well as they should. Young kids up to four months of age are at highest risk and should be treated at least once with the medication Albon. Our veterinarian recommends that they receive Albon for one week beginning at about three or four weeks of age and again if they are very stressed, such as when separated from their mother. If in doubt, take a stool sample to a veterinarian who regularly treats goats.
Ketosis (also known as pregnancy toxemia) may occur in pregnant does late in their pregnancy. The doe may be depressed, weak, uninterested in food, and have poor muscle control and balance. If untreated, death follows within a few days. Early in the disease, many does will show a positive test for ketone bodies in the urine. Ketosis may occur when the doe is carrying two or more kids, or when the doe is very fat. This disease is caused by the sudden extra demand for energy by the fast-growing kids in the pregnant goat and the inability of the goat to eat enough of her normal diet to provide this energy (due to the kids taking up room in the body). The doe will rapidly metabolize fat from her body stores producing ketones (a toxic by-product) and the symptoms of the disease. Treatment with propylene glycol at two to three ounces twice a day will help. If the doe lies down and cannot stand, treatment is usually not successful unless she delivers at that time. As a preventive measure, do not let the doe get fat early in pregnancy and in the last month of pregnancy provide 1-2 pounds of grain in addition to hay.
Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Syndrome
CAE) is a viral disease. In young kids symptoms include a weakness in the rear legs, with no fever, or loss of appetite, However, the unused legs lose muscle strength and structure and the infected kids eventually die. In older goats, the same disease is seen as swollen joints, particularly the knees. The disease develops slowly, and after 2 or more years, the animal has difficulty using its legs properly. Infected goats have no fever, remain alert, and eat well. However, they do not recover from the arthritis. An inexpensive blood test can be used to diagnose CAE. The disease is spread from older infected goats to kids, perhaps by contact or through the milk from an infected doe to her kid. There are no corrective procedures or treatments. Isolating kids at birth and raising them on pasteurized goat milk is done to prevent the spread. It's a good idea to make sure a goat is CAE free before purchasing. However, the blood test only checks for antibodies, and it's possible that an animal is infected and not (yet) producing antibodies.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland (udder or milk-giving gland) of animals, usually caused by bacteria. The symptoms of mastitis are heat, pain, and swelling of the udder. Usually you will notice some discoloration of the tissue and abnormal milk. The infected udder will change in color from slightly more pink to a bright red, or to a black and cold udder. The milk from an infected udder will vary in color, texture, and thickness. The California Mastitis Test (CMT) is a good test for subclinical mastitis, but is not 100% accurate. Laboratory culture or growth of the bacteria causing the mastitis is the best way to determine the exact diagnosis. The causes of mastitis are most commonly rough treatment and unclean milking practices. Wash the goat's udder before milking, and dip (or spray) the teats after milking with a teat dip. Wash your hands before milking each goat to prevent the spread. The treatment consists of an intramammary infusion of antibiotics, sometimes accompanied by additional antibiotics. Consulting a vet is important for this disease since there are many different bacteria that cause mastitis and different antibiotics are best for each. If untreated the infection spreads and the goat may die or lose the udder.


A dairy goat should weigh at least 80 pounds and be at least 8 months old the first time she is bred. A pygmy goat should be between 9 and 18 months and a good size for her age. In order for the doe to conceive, she must be in estrus ("heat" or "season".) Signs of estrus include flagging (wagging her tail), mucous discharging from her rear, mounting other goats, and excited behavior if she is near a buck. At first, you'll probably breed your does to a buck of a local breeder, but eventually, you might want to consider owning your own buck or artificial insemination. A good indication that a doe is pregnant is that it does not come into heat on its next cycle, so check your goat carefully three weeks after breeding. It may be hard to determine if a dairy goat is pregnant if it was bred at the end of the breeding season.

Cost of raising a goat

Here are the approximate costs of items needed for raising a goat in Southern California. Costs will vary and are usually much less in more rural areas.

  • Purchase price: Expect to pay between $100 and $300 for a registered Dairy Goat kid and between $150 and $350 for a Pygmy Goat.
  • Feed: The cost of alfalfa hay in Southern California varies between $9 and $12 per bale, depending on the season and the feed store. Grain costs about $9 per 50 pound bag. One mature dairy goat eats approximately 1 bale of hay every 2 weeks.
  • Supplies:
    • Collar $6
    • Insecticide powder $7
    • Hoof trimmers $14
    • Milking bucket $20 - $30
    • Grooming brush $4
    • Kid nipples 60 cents
  • Medications:
    • Tetanus antitoxin $2 for vial for three kids
    • Worming medication $8 - $15 for 10 to 20 doses
  • Procedures:
    • Stud service $25 to $75
    • Disbudding $10 at Farm; $35 with a vet
    • CAE blood test $6
    • Stool sample $12 to $16 through a veterinarian


Goat Supplies

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