Goats are affectionate animals and can be raised for food, milk, textiles, or as an unusual pet. With the proper care and feeding, a person can raise a goat that will produce offspring of its own. There are a number of important elements to raising goats, including choosing the right animals, providing a comfortable place for them to sleep, feeding them the right food, and helping them to stay healthy. Raising goats can be a rewarding activity if they are cared for properly.
It's best to buy goats from 4-H clubs or breeders so the buyer can thoroughly check over the animal. Auctions are noisy, fast-paced affairs, and an inexperienced buyer may end up with a sub-par goat. When choosing a goat, the buyer should comb through for lice, check the eyes for clarity, and make sure the coat is smooth and shiny. The goat should appear well-fed, happy, and alert. The breeder should be able to provide immunization records and a medical history.
Although goats like to roam around during the day, they need a clean, dry place to sleep. A sturdy goat pen should be built out of good, solid wood. It should have a secure gate for the goat to go in and out, and to make cleaning the pen easier. The goat owner should construct a pen that is big enough to hold an extra goat or two, just in case he wants to add more.
The pen should include a roof to keep the goat dry; alternatively, the pen can be kept in a barn or shed. A layer of hay, straw, or grass should fill the pen, and be changed at least weekly. Larger goat farms should be fenced in with at least a 4 or 5 foot (1.2 to 1.5 m) wire fence. In cold climates, the pen should be well insulated and goats should be kept indoors in the winter.
In the wild, goats subsist on scrubby grass and small plants. Raising goats requires a more nutritious diet. Domestic goats enjoy alfalfa hay. Full-grown adults will consume about 5 pounds (2.26 kg) of hay every day. While doe goats are pregnant or nursing, it's a good idea to feed them a protein-rich grain mix as a supplement. The mixture should contain about 15% protein.
A mineral brick should be provided to keep goats in good health. Angora goats are finicky eaters, and need cottonseed cake and yellow corn as additional supplements. Food should be stored somewhere where the goat can't soil it; a raised hay manger is a good idea to keep the hay off the ground and make it easier to fill. Goats are grazers and will snack on grass, weeds, and other plants, too.
Buck goats can be temperamental and difficult to keep. When breeding season rolls around in September and October, a local stud can be hired to come service the doe goats for a few days. If the owner wants to raise a male goat himself, he should make sure to keep the buck in a separate pen.
In most cases, a local veterinarian can ensure a goat receives important vaccinations. Goats also need to have their hooves trimmed regularly. When raising goats, the most common health problems are parasites and pneumonia.
Worms can be treated with drugs, but parasites are becoming more resistant to medicines so it's best to focus on prevention. A balanced and nutritional diet is essential to keep a goat's immune system in tip-top condition — all the better to fight off parasites. Also, parasites are easily passed along, so goats should not be kept too crowded in their pen and grazing areas.