10 Things To Know Before You Decide To Raise Goats
Interested in trying your hand at raising small livestock? Requiring less land than their bovine counterparts, goats are a great option for the aspiring livestock owner. Rob French of S&R Meat Goats in Cumberland, VA shares his top ten things you need to know before raising goats.
Murphy's Law - Anything that can go wrong will go wrong when starting your goat farm. "Brace yourself for the unexpected," shares French. "If something goes wrong with a goat, it always seems to affect your best goat."
Start Small - When starting a farm don't get in over your head. French suggests starting with five inexpensive goats. "In six months if these five are alive, healthy and doing well that's your cue to start increasing your stocking rate," suggests French. Having a smaller herd will allow you to become familiar with each goat on an individual basis and not be overwhelmed by many mouths to feed and care for.
Befriend Fellow Goat Herders - There are very few small ruminant vets around that are well versed in goats. Goat herders who work with goats everyday are more likely to be able to help you treat common health problems and give you advice when you have a sick goat. "Vets call me on a regular basis to consult and ask my opinion about various treatment options for goats as I run into issues more often than they do," explains French.
Healthy, good stock - When possible, buy your stock from a reputable breeder. You want to buy your goats from someone who knows where they came from and their background.
Fencing Requirements - Goats love to test their boundaries. Make sure your fence is designed specifically for goats. If goats can fit their heads through the fence, their body will follow and end up on the other side. Fencing options include: reinforced chicken wire, high tensile electric wire and five strand barbed wired.
Space Requirements - Generally speaking, one acre of land can handle seven or eight does with hay supplementation.
Shelter - Goats do not require elaborate barns to be comfortable. Provide them with a place to get out of the elements. Carports and lean-tos are good shelter options.
Nutrition - Contrary to popular belief, goats aren't tin can and garbage eating animals. In fact, being small ruminants they have very complex digestive systems. Consult your local Southern States team who can recommend a feed that has the correct balance of protein, vitamins and minerals for your herd.
Parasites - One of the biggest obstacles to goat health is parasites. Feed your goats off the ground and away from manure to help prevent worms. Contact your local goat herders and veterinarians to help determine what deworming program is right for your herd.
Hoof Care - Goats need their hooves trimmed twice a year. Your hoof kit should include hoof trimmers and grinding equipment. It's important to stay on top of hoof care as foot rot is prevalent.