Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goat Week Continues.......How Do Ya Hem In a Goat?

So now that we know what to look for in a goat, and how to handle kidding and milk, and all that good stuff, what the heck does a goat eat and how do you keep them in??  The burning and consuming question........HOW DO YOU KEEP THEM IN????

Patience my child, it isn't hard and it isn't rocket science.  Want me to tell you the single most important thing you will ever know about raising goats??  Do you??  Really??  

Don't keep more goats than your land can handle.  Yup, it's that easy.  If you have two acres and you have 14 goats, 2 horses, a cow, 6 rabbits, and 47 chickens you are going to have problems keeping them contained as well as keeping them healthy. Did you hear me?  It's as simple as that.  Know how folks in third world countries have health problems from over-crowding?  Well you'll have that and more if you try to cram more animals on your land than your land can sustain.

But Goodwife, can't I just buy hay??  Sure you can, but having enough stuff to feed those critters isn't the issue.  It's like if you had an unlimited supply of carrots to eat but nothing else.  You aren't going to starve, and you aren't even necessarily going to be hungry but I can bet you when the neighbor starts grilling pork chops, you are gonna be tempted to go say hi, and you are going to develop some diet related health issues.

 But Goodwife, can't I scoop poop every single day??  Sure, but you won't get rid of the parasites and other creepy crawlies that thrive in the ground in over-crowded barnyards. 

Keeping goats in and healthy isn't hard as long as you don't over-crowd.

Goats are browsers.....

They like to eat like a deer does and even if they have all the hay they can eat, if they can't browse, they will go awandering until they find some.  Goats don't want to stand in a dirt lot in front of a rack of alfalfa hay.  Do they like alfalfa?  Of course, but they'd rather be eating tender shoots and dead leaves, buds from trees, and tender bark, poison ivy, and multiflora rose.

  Now I'm not tellin' you ya can't have as many goats as you want.  I don't care if you have 75 goats on an acre and a half, it's none of my business.  I'm just telling you that your life as well as the lives of your goats/animals/land will be lots easier if you don't overload your land. 

That said, I wouldn't want to raise goats without hot wire.  Hot wire is your friend, wether (hehe) you are hemming in horses, pigs, dogs, or goats.  When our goatlets are very little we get on the opposite side of the hot wire fence and coax them over.  They get popped on the end of their little noses and that's that, they are broke to it for life.  I'm sure if they were hungry, they might challenge it, but here they have plenty of room so they don't.  Three strands of hot wire are the only thing between my goats and my garden and it's never been an issue.  In the picture below, the far side is the garden, orchard area, and the front side is where the goats can be.  That hotwire fence keeps them out of my garden.  They will graze right up next to it, but won't touch it.

  It did take a bit to get Tommy broke as he was an adult when he came here, but he's broke to it now and doesn't go anywhere.  He also has really long hair, so when he would touch it it wouldn't get him very good.  He got popped on the horns once and the nose once and that was all it took.

You also need to be good friends with your goats.  If they see you as herd boss, even if they do get out they will likely come to the house looking for you.  Tommy has been out about 3 times since he came here and all three times he came to the house or the shop.  I saw him out the window, went outside and he followed me back to where he belonged.  That said, I would NEVER expect any type of fence to keep a buck away from a doe in heat.

Now where does my goat need to live?  Goats aren't too picky about their house.  As a matter of fact, at our old place the goat house was old wooden stock racks, set on the ground, covered with tin on the sides and top.  They don't care as long as they don't have to get wet.  Goats HATE to get wet!  They don't want to get rained on and they don't want to get their feet wet!  I'm very blessed to now have a nice barn (thanks Dads) to house my goats in, but it isn't necessary. 

Because my goats live in around 4 acres of pasture with lots of varied terrain, I don't have to trim hooves too often.  This depends on the goat though.  Like people, some goats' hooves grow super fast and some don't.  Trimming isn't hard.  I use pruning shears and put them on the milk stand and lock their head in with a bait of grain in front of them.  That usually keeps mine happy while I do their feet.  This is also something I start at a young age, handling their feet.

What about deworming? This is something else I take a bit of a different approach to.  I don't deworm all that often because I don't need to.  With my goats having such a large living area, parasites aren't that big of an issue.  When I need to, I give ivomec orally, usually only a couple times a year.  This is very contrary to what lot's of goat folk do, so remember it's just the way I do things, not for sure the way you should! 

Now back to feeding.........I feed "grain" on an as needed basis as well.  When my girls are in milk, they get fed a custom grain mix that the elevator mixes up for me.  It looks like this....

Does only get this when they are in milk and bucks never get it.  How much I feed depends on the doe, her body condition and such.  In the summer nobody gets grain of any kind (except does in milk).  Since I've got plenty of browse and such for my goats to eat, they just don't need it.  It isn't natural food to them, so I promise if you've got enough land, they don't need anything else in late spring, summer, and fall.  This past winter I didn't have anybody in milk but my hay wasn't the best so since around mid December this is what my girls have been eating.....

This is alfalfa cubes, shredded beet pulp, and 1 cup of sweet feed, soaked in warm water.  After soaking, I break it all up until it looks like this........

Then I take this much out.......

And that's what Tommy gets to eat.  Now that it's warming up, I'm weaning everybody down from this. The girls will continue to get it until about 2 weeks before kidding when I'll start introducing the milking mix to them.  They have fresh, clean, unfrozen water at all times and they have free choice loose mineral.  Goats are picky so you have to be sure their water is clean or they won't want to drink it.  They will if they are thirsty, but they won't like it!  ;0)

Well lets see..........did I forget anything?

Thanks for reading and commenting on how we do things here at Goodwife Farm.  Differences are what make the world go 'round, so remember, if you do things differently that's wonderful as long as it works for you!  I'm a firm believer in there is no one "right" way to do something.  You must adapt your program to your situation and then tweak until you get things right!

One last thing about housing/pasturing your goats........goats are "mouthy" like a baby or a puppy.  They are very picky eaters, but they like to taste stuff.  They also like to climb and jump on stuff.  If you keep your spare pickup/tractor/trailer in the goat pasture you will probably find you have no wiring left and no seat, among other things.  Then you'll be mad at that "stupid dumb goat" when you should be mad at the "stupid dumb human" who parked where the goat had access!  My bedroom window looks out over the pasture and the barn.  For months I'd be getting into bed and see that the barn light was on when I KNEW I'd shut it off, or most times not even turned it on.  Well turns out Little Miss Tulip Udders was putting her front feet on the cabinet by the light switch and then using her lips to turn it on!  I guess she was scared of the dark!

To all of you who commented yesterday, please know how much your comments meant!  Everything is fine and I'll blog about it soon.  You've all become my family and I love everyone of you and am so thankful that God has brought us together through blogging!

God Bless.............


  1. Sounds like very good common sense advice .

  2. Loving your goat series, and prayers for you and your family. I hope all is well. Thanks for the goat posts, many ideas are very applicable to meat goats as well.

  3. Hotwire is one of the greatest inventions on the face of the earth. I probably could live without it, but I sure wouldn't want to. :)

  4. As a new goat keeper your goat posts are very helpful! Thank you for writing this series, I will be following along. I have 2 nigerian dwarf does on 1 acre. We are planning alternating pens/pasture areas. I am currently trying to get the right amount of sweet feed worked out. Your alternative mixture with feed/alfalfa cubes/ beets seems like a good method. I walk the goats to the hedges on ours & neighboring properties to get some browse in. Their favorite stop is the wild rose bush where they eat the rose hips.

  5. ah, you called it deworming, my ag science professor in college would have given you an A :)

  6. It's very interesting to read about how you care for your goats around your farm. They look so happy and healthy. I'm going to try some electric fencing out in my bigger pasture to get some of mine out a little more on their own.

    I enjoy stopping by to visit ... you're like family to me too. It was so much fun to meet Terri and her family last week when they came by the farm. It would be great to meet you and your family too. Blogging is such a great way to get to know some very special people! Take care and have a blessed day!

  7. I think your information about not overcrowding animals can be of great use to a lot of folks out there. It was so well put. Overcrowded conditions are so hard on the land and the critters, and it makes so much sense to keep to a resonable capacity for your land.

    I also read your previous post and I hope the familly situation heals as much as possible at this point. I think your choice to keep your distance from relatives with mixed up morals is a wise one, and admirable. I hope they will come to respect you, your sister, and your mom for it and leave you be.

  8. Hi fernvalley! Thanks for commenting. Common sense goes a long way doesn't it? ;0)

    @Amy, yup I think it could apply to any sort of animal really! Thanks for commenting!

    @Rae....oh yeah baby! I totally agree!!

    Hi Michelle! Thanks for stopping by and have lots of fun with your Nigies!

    Hi Nicole, don't pat me on the back too much, I said "worming" for years! LOL

    @ Brenda, I just love blogging and it really has been a blessing to me to have "met" so many wonderful folks.

    @Lara, thanks for commenting and thanks for the well wishes for my family! ;0)

  9. As in raisin' most animals ya have to consider the land and not overcrowd your critters or your gonna have trouble!!!

    A great write on goat raisin' girl. We are strictly a beef operation with some donkey's on the side. (just because they amuse Farm Boy). We also raise crops. 'Lots of acres here.

    God bless ya and have a most amazin' day sweetie!!!

    I always love your pictures! :o)

  10. That last picture is too cute! Love this post too, I'm learnin so much through your post. I should be good to go when I get goats one day. Heres a question can chickens, ducks, guineas, goats & a pot belly pig all live together and graze together? So far its workin for me but I havent added the goats in yet, lol.

  11. Hang in there momma - I totally understand your family situation. Your family relations sound a lot like mine. It's good that you're able to stay distanced, I keep getting dragged into mine. . .

    Great post on the goats too. I think a lot more like you when it comes to raising critters.
    Like you said - there's no wrong or right way to do things, you just gotta adapt to your situation. I try to apply the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy and if simple works, then don't get fancy.
    I wish a lot more people understood the Don't Overcrowd rule. I know all those babies are so cute, but the more animals you have, the more work you have! (realized this after thinning my chicken flock down from 50 to 14!)

  12. Great post again!!!!! I learn so much about goats here! And I even have goats myself! lol

  13. how 'bout disbudding? how do you feel about that?? thanks, mm


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