Chopin Valse No.9

So You Want to Get a Goat

But You Don't Know Much About Them


Everyone has to start somewhere. You can be an effective breeder even if you don't come from a farm background or have much experience. But if you're going to try to raise an endangered breed, we ask that you try your best and learn fast.

This page does not contain all the know-how you'll need to raise goats—that's all written in other places. This page should, however, give you a very brief overview of what it entails to raise goats.

First of all, if you're hoping the goats will trim your lawn or clear a field, you're dreaming. They will keep some weeds in check, and may enjoy your fruit trees, but won't eat all the plants you want them to unless starved to it. But they love kudzu and honeysuckle and lots of other fast-growing weeds.

Goats pine alone. You'll need at least two.

Fencing
Your main expense will be fencing. For San Clemente Island goats, the fence needs to be 4 ft. high. Drive around and look at the different styles of fencing out there. . . 4-board, 3-board, stallion wire with top board, t-posts with wire, moveable cattle panels, you name it. I have 4-board with 1" x 2" wire mesh covering the bottom 2 feet. It can keep kids in, dogs out, and goats can stick their heads out without getting their horns stuck. If you use just 4" x 4" wire mesh, popular with cattle, your horned San Clemente Island adults may stick their heads through and get their horns stuck.
Simple electric fencing as used for horses will not keep a goat in. They will leave laughing. However, some other breeds use a very hot wire, and the kids are trained to it, and it does work.

You may want to be able to subdivide your pen and provide two shelters. Birthing mothers don't mix well with very inexperienced/uneducated bucks, as an unmannered buck may trample newborn kids in his rush to get to the doe—they like that post-delivery smell. . . best keep him away for a few days. A well brought-up buck who has herd experience should be fine with the whole birth process, and will politely look the other way until the doe is ready to properly mingle again. Keep the herd together as much as possible. Bucks are good parents and protectors, and constant breeding will help keep the breed from becoming extinct. Sure, it's physically stressful on the does who are nursing and pregnant, but with good feed and forage they'll be fine.

Remember that goats are homebodies, not golden retrievers. If they get out, they won't go too far, and will come home again. Think big. Your herd will expand. Give them as much space and interesting terrain as possible.

Shelter
Goats need shelter. The "barn" should have a dirt floor covered with enough waste hay to be clean and dry at all times. Goats like to be up, so a raised platform for sleeping is preferable. Make sure there's enough room for a growing herd. The shelter should be well-ventilated but draft-free. There needs to be enough room for all goats to sleep comfortably, and to hang out and eat hay in inclement weather. They should be able to handle rain, but an ice-storm definately falls under "inclement weather." But if you'd just like to provide a simple 3-sided run-in made of the cheapest materials on the market that offers wind and rain protection, that'll work fine.

Food
About a gallon of clean water per goat per day (keep it clean and checked).
About ¼ of a square bale of hay per day per goat. Orchard grass is best. Timothy is alright if you must. Alfalfa is too rich in protein and will have them bouncing off the barn.
Goat chow aka sweet feed aka maintenance ration (depending on age, sex, and condition of goat).
Free choice (all you can eat) baking soda to settle their stomachs and loose goat mineral salt (has to be loose, has to be made for goats. Horse salt blocks won't work, sheep minerals contain no copper, and goats need copper to survive on a farm).
And they're going to want to have access to weeds, too.

Medical
You need to find a goat vet in case of emergency. If you're stuck, call your local 4-H goat group and they can recommend someone. They can also probably recommend someone who can neuter a baby goat a lot cheaper then the vet can. In fact, it is very rare that you'll actually get to see the vet if you have a San Clemente Island goat.

Most medical needs are small:
Annual vaccination (and selenium shot if needed). You can do this yourself, or invite your nurse-friend over to do it for you.
Rabies shot (not required in some states, but it would be silly to needlessly endanger an endangered breed, wouldn't it?)
Oral deworming (same paste they use for horses, different dosage).
Hoof trimming (pretty easy once you get the hang of it).
Your local Extension Office for your state's Department of Agriculture can direct you to the local test lab. These labs are pretty fun. They're really cheap and they'll test anything or tell you who can. Milk testing, blood samples, fecal samples, you name it. And bringing in nannyberries in a candy can does have its entertainment value. This is probably the same place to where your vet would have mailed the samples if you had used the vet instead of your own car.

Goat Hardware
Do you know those clips that you can open and close on both ends? Kind of spring-loaded, the same mechanism as is used for dog leashes? But the whole clip is about 4 inches long? Good. Buy one. Get one of those instead of a stanchion (unless you have alot of space and alot of goats.) To hold your goat steady, clip its collar to the fence. Make sure the goat can move her head around well enough to lift it or sink it into that nice bowl of sweet feed you just brought. Now you can trim hooves, give a shot, milk her, or try to squirt messy dewormer into her mouth. She will love being there if it's a diner. Never leave a goat clipped and unattended for a second.
Goat collars are great, but they should be very loose (it isn't a golden retriever, remember?) and should slip off the head or break off if they get caught in something.
Leashes are handy for bringing them places. If you're walking along holding a leash with no goat attached, you'll know the collar was put on correctly. (Nice goats won't do this to you).

Demeanor
Goats will stray, but once they've munched on your neighbor's daisies, they'll return, unless your San Clementes are very, very feral. San Clementes don't eat garbage like other goats. They have strong herd bonding, and they'll let you in on it. They have very good goat manners, and will ignore you if you don't. They'll come when called, and learn simple commands quickly. They are nice to watch, nice to interact with, and both the does and bucks are very gentle. Mostly, they are beautiful.

So there you have it. We recommend a good book:
Your Goats—A Kid's Guide to Raising and Showing by Gail Damerow, published by Storey Books.
It is written for young teenagers, but it has all the information you need to get started with goats, and you can read it in an hour.

You may also want to visit: How to Buy a Goat—Novice Guide to Buying Your First San Clemente Island Goat.

Please call or contact us if you have any questions—we're here to help!


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San Clemente Island Goat Association
540–687–8871
scigoats@gmail.com