- Caring for Goats on Your Family Farm
Most people think goats are unruly and can be, but they're also quite playful! Watching them goof off and frolic is a joy, especially when they start chasing one another around the pen. You can teach them to do something in around twelve tries, and not only do they love eye contact--but smiles, too!
They're emotive animals with a surprising level of intuitiveness. Suppose a goat is having trouble figuring out how to do a task, and there's a human around. In that case, it will often look a person in the eyes out of frustration, perhaps silently signaling to us to help them.
According to researchers from the UK's Royal Society, it has been documented extensively how much these companion farm grazers attempt to cohabitate and communicate with their owners.
In many ways, they're much like dogs (These we also assist with!), displaying a general, crafty intelligence and knack for close human companionship. This article here has it more in-depth if you're curious.
But speaking of bonds and cohabitation, you mustn't just have one goat idly grazing alone in your fields. Much like us, they need another buddy if they're going to have a happy life because they get lonely quickly. It's less of a suggestion and more of a requirement. But it's not the worst thing in the world! Getting a male and a female means baby goats and lots of goat's milk, cheese, and soap!
We've all seen goats in cartoons chewing on tin cans or eating everything in sight without discernment, but that's not accurate. Goats have a hugely varied diet, unlike cows, sheep, or grazing animals. They are instead known as something completely separate: 'browsers.' This is due to their foraging nature, making them more like deer than any of the farm critters mentioned above.
Many people make the mistake of treating them as living lawnmowers. If you want them to clear any land, make sure it's the overgrown, rough variety--they'll love it! Still, in all actuality, a diet of fresh grass and grass alone is very unhealthy for a goat.
While it can be cheaper and easy to lay out for your animals to graze on, grain feed should be relatively balanced, as it can cause them to become overweight, sick, or even die. Instead, it should be used as a supplement for feeding mothers or your general goat population during the winter when foraging opportunity is scarce. Good quality grain feed has many vitamins, proteins, and minerals mixed in, so it's instrumental in helping to ensure (as a supplement!) that your goats stay well-fed and healthy during poor weather conditions or agriculturally sparse months.
Variant 1) Hay
This one is important. It's where goats get most of the nutrition that doesn't come from their foraging. Secondly, it's vital for the healthy function of their rumen. If you're unaware, this is the first compartment of the goat's 4-compartment stomach, usually rich in beneficial gut bacteria. You can use either clover or alfalfa hay, with alfalfa hay being the most popular. It packs more vitamins, proteins, and minerals than grass hay.
Variant 2) Minerals
You might wonder why you even need to bother when goats can't exactly get mineral powders in the wild, but there's a reason for that; wild goats have a much more comprehensive range to forage in than fenced-in ones. Even if you have everything they need right in their pasture, it will be eaten faster than it can be reproduced. Don't just think you can get a mineral block or sprinkle the powder on top of their food; they need loose, free-choice minerals to eat: copper, zinc, calcium, selenium, and much more. You'll be able to find powders that have all of them included and balanced for you.
Variant 3) Chaffhaye
This stuff is an absolute powerhouse. It's made by harvesting alfalfa or grass early, then mixing it with bacillus subtilis and molasses. From there, it is vacuum sealed so the hay can ferment and build up good beneficial bacteria, which is essential for a goat's rumen. This can be fed instead of as an additive to hay to vary your goat's diet.
Variant 4) Kitchen and Garden Scraps
Goats love eating your leftovers. Use them as treats; they'll gobble up most of what you give them, but be careful not to feed them too many carbs. It might make them gain some weight! Watch out for eggshells too, but anything else you'd throw in your compost will do fine.
Variant 5) Plants / Shrubs / Grass
Small shrubs and even wood are just some things your goat will forage for. They love ragweed, pigweed, turnip greens, briars, and more. Most of their diet is indeed based around foraging for these plants. Remember, for any animal, imitating its habitat in the wild is the best way to keep them happy.
In your pasture, you need a small structure for your goats to stay in during bad weather. It must remain dry and block out the wind, with bedding on the floor and perhaps a stall built for an injured, sick, or near-labor goat. You can use straw, wood shavings, or waste hay; ensure it remains clean and dry.
As stated before, having more than one goat for their mental well-being is essential and can't be stressed enough. A large foraging area and a varied diet are also just as important. You might even need to rotate them into different pastures because parasites will build up in their manure, making them sick if left in messy areas.
Finally, and most importantly, if you want to keep your goats in their pens, it is imperative to ensure you have a good, solid fence. It must be strong enough to withstand their kicks, tall enough to keep them from knocking down, and sturdy enough to keep your little monster from chewing through.
Goats are crafty and have an easy time opening a simple gate. Some goats can hop up to four feet in the air, and most are fantastic climbers, so it's best to go as tall as you can! And make to leave that lock on your latch.
Now that you've gotten your goat crash course, we at Happy Paws hope you can use this information to your companion's benefit. Or, if you haven't added a pair to your farm yet, this may be the push you need to take the plunge!
If you're looking for fantastic pet care services for your goats or other animals, don't hesitate to get in touch with us! We'd love to hear from you.