On my little homestead near downtown Oakland, CA, I’ve dabbled in chickens, bees, turkeys, rabbits, and pigs (i.e. eggs, honey, meat, fur pelts, and wonderful manure for the garden). Recently the dabbling got a little more serious: two Nigerian Dwarf goats named Bilbo and Bebe (the one thing missing was milk; And I love milk. And goat cheese). Trouble was, I didn’t know anything about goats, what they eat, how they behave. Luckily, a goat herder told me about this guide published in Australia. It put my fears to rest.
With all of the other farm animals (including the pigs!), it’s mostly a matter of throwing down some food, making sure everyone has water and enough space, and we’re all good. Goats turned out to be way more complicated than any other animal on the farm. They have psychological needs. They have a rumen for digesting food. They can get sexually transmitted diseases. They have hooves that need to be trimmed. They are a long-term relationship, which — from day one — kept me up late at night worrying. With this guide, I’m far less worried. And now that Bebe is pregnant, in a few weeks we’ll have milk!
Bonus tip: I order all manner of goat-related items from Hoegger’s. Recently, I ordered a natural de-wormer, made with Worm Wood, Gentian, Fennel, Psyllium, & Quassia; buckets of goat minerals–calcium, phosphorus, salt and magnesium, selenium, and vitamin E; a kid bottle and some colostrum (in case Bebe has a million babies); and a bag of kelp in bulk (I’ve noticed the goats love wakame, but at $5 a bag, it was breaking me, so this should do the trick).
Cider vinegar maintains correct pH in the body, which is probably one of the reasons it is so useful. Because of its potassium content, it is invaluable for all animals coming up to breeding.
Mistletoe. This parasitic plant is a great tonic for goats, ell or ill. I pull it down from trees and feed it directly to my animals. Be warned, it turns the urine bright red for the next 24 hours–the goats have not developed bleeding kidneys.
The legs appear first and the kid’s nose will be level with its knees. If the head is turned back, it is a good idea to scrub up (short nails, clean hands and plastic gloves if the farmer’s hands are cut or scratched) and pull the head forward. The kid can be born with the head turned back, but it is not easy. Ease the kid out as the doe contracts and give it to her to wash and suckle or use whatever system of rearing has been planned. Each kid must have its ration of colostrum, the first thick milk that contains the antibodies for that kid.
All goats, particularly the older ones, should have names–ones that do not sound too similar. Goats soon learn to recognize their names hen called or reprimanded.