FIVE BASICS OF RAISING GOATS
If you think goats are hardy animals that will eat anything and require little to no care, do not attempt to raise goats. This belief is 180 degrees out of sync with reality.
Goats are the most difficult livestock to raise. Learning how to work with them can be a confusing and expensive experience. Once you learn to "think like a goat" (to understand how they live, see, and interact with the world around them), you will begin to recognize problems as they occur and even learn to anticipate them. Your life will be easier and the life your goats will be better.
Goat health revolves around controlling the blood-sucking, anemia-causing barberpole stomach worm (Haemonchus contortus) that kills goats. An established deworming program that involves random monthly fecal counts using a gridded McMaster slide is critical to the health of your goats.
Do fecal counts before you deworm. Find out the number of eggs per gram. Choose a dewormer and give it orally at the goat-appropriate dosage. Seven (7) days after you dewormed, do fecal counts again. If you didn't get a 95% reduction in the number of eggs ("kill rate"), then your dewormer didn't work. All it did was kill the susceptible worms while the resistant worms survived. You have to start all over with a new class of dewormer. In most parts of the USA, the "white-colored" dewormers (Safeguard, Panacur, and Valbazen) don't kill stomach worms anymore.
Just because you dewormed does NOT mean that it worked. Only fecal counts will provide that vital information. THE DEWORMER TO USE IS THE ONE THAT YOU DETERMINE WORKS WITH YOUR GOATS ON YOUR PROPERTY. Use this dewormer until it quits working. Do not rotate dewormers. When it quits working, change to a different class of dewormer and continue random monthly fecal counts as well as fecal counts before and 7 days after deworming.
You can use FAMACHA eye membrane checks as a guideline to your goats' health, but only fecal counts tell you what is really going on inside the goat. Go to the Articles page on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and read the article entitled HOW TO DO YOUR OWN FECALS. Buy the MSK-01 microscope, fecal floatation solution, gridded McMaster slides, pipettes, tubes/containers and other supplies and learn to do your own fecals. It isn't rocket science.
At 2022 prices, you can probably buy all of these items for $300 on Amazon.com. It doesn't take long to spend $300 having a vet do fecal counts or lose $300 when a goat dies. By performing your own fecals, you will have firsthand knowledge of wormloads in your goats in the timeframe in which you need this information.
You cannot feed-lot goats. Sufficient acreage is critical so the goats aren't in constant contact with worms, both in pasture and in feces. They can't handle the stress and disease induced by crowding and they can't overcome the worm load that occurs with constant exposure to fecal material in overcrowded conditions.
Stocking rates for goats are not based upon what there is for them to eat on the property. Stocking rates are all about reducing exposure to worms and fecal pellets which contain worm larva so that the wormload can be controlled. If your goats are wormy, you are overcrowded.
Think of goats as DEER. They need space to roam over. They stress easily. They need to eat "from the top down" (leaves and weeds) to avoid microscopic stomach worms that live at ground level and on grass blades as tall as eight (8) inches above ground level. Worms can go into hypobiosis (hibernation) in pregnant does; when the doe goes into labor, the worms "wake up," re-start their life cycle, and are waiting on the ground for her kids to ingest them when they take their first bite.
Worms always out-adapt goats, so you have to provide conditions in which the goats can thrive and prevail. This means lots of area over which they can forage-browse. Many people don't have enough land upon which to raise goats. WET equals WORMS. Much of the USA is too wet to raise goats successfully. Goats as a species are dry-land animals. If you insist on raising goats in wet environments, you must keep your stocking rates super low and put extra focus on fecal counts.
The worm to concentrate on is Haemonchus contortus, the barberpole stomach worm, which sucks blood, causes anemia, and kills goats. The protozoan that you need to monitor and control is Coccidia. Detailed articles on worms, coccicidia, stocking rates, nutrition, shelter, illnesses, and many other things goat related are available on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
Shelter & Weather
Goats need protection from wind and rain. They also need shade, especially darker colored goats. Goats expel heat from their bodies through their horns. If you disbud or dehorn, they can overheat, mouth breathe, and die. Goats, especially kids, have trouble maintaining internal body temperature during wide swings in outside temperature. Pneumonia is often the result and is second only to worms in killing goats.
If your goats aren't properly fed, you will still have problems. Proper goat nutrition is difficult to get right. Most people either overfeed or underfeed. You have to know what you are feeding nutrition-wise. If you mix your own feed or buy it from someone who does and isn't a trained goat nutritionist, then you have no idea what amount of protein, fat, fiber, energy, vitamins, and minerals you are feeding.
You can't "starve the profit" out of a goat. That dead grass in winter is literally not digestible by goats. Goats as a species have a very fast rumen passage rate (11 to 15 hours). Whatever the goat eats, it must be palatable, easy to digest and highly nutritious or the goat's digestive system won't have time to extract nutrients from it. Cattle can survive on dead grasses in poor pastures because their rumens take two to three days to digest them. Cattle are the ruminant species that can "eat anything" -- not so of goats.
Develop a relationship with a goat nutritionist at the plant that produces your feed and have that professional analyze your particular needs. There is usually no charge for this valuable service if you are buying their feed. I am a believer in feeding pelleted feed. Textured (horse & mule-type) feed has a molasses base that molds easily. Mold sickens and kills goats in multiple ways, including but not limited to Listeriosis. You don't want to go there. I developed the protocol for treating Listeriosis years ago. It works, but it is time consuming, tedious, expensive, and exhausting. Avoid such problems by not feeding sacked or bulk feed that can easily mold. Keep the feed room securely locked and located away from the goats.
When buying hay, never tell the sellers that you raise goats. Tell them you want to buy horse-quality hay. Never feed hay with mold on it. This includes sileage, baleage, haylage, and alfalfa that has been packaged with high moisture content.
Test your hay. Dairy One Lab in New York can provide a basic analysis via their postage-paid mail-in sampler for $24 (2022 prices). You cannot look at hay and determine if it is of good quality. Find a hay supplier and buy everything you need from him so you know that you have nutritional consistency. You or your goat nutritionist can take samples of plant materials in your pastures for nutritional analysis too.
Spend the money necessary to buy good quality feed and hay for your goats. Proper nutrition helps prevent health problems with goats.
Get these five basics of raising goats right and managing your goats becomes much easier when you approach their world from the goats' point of view.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 4.1.22
Important! Please Read This Notice!
All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
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