If you are just starting out in the goat-raising field, let us help you get prepared a bit. Think of this as a little goat for beginners crash course. We will cover picking the right breed for you, basic care and nutrition, and everyone’s favorite thing. Fencing. I might also add that when starting out in any new journey, it is wise to find what I like to call a mentor! They can be a great resource for you and your new family members.
Breeds to consider:
In the United States, there are 14 common goat breeds.
Main - Pygmy, Nubian, Nigerian Dwarf, Boer
Pygmy goats are small in stature, comical and densely found across the US. Pygmy goats are actually documented as a meat breed, although I do find they are sometimes crossed and used as a dairy breed. Traditionally, Pygmy goats are very good browsers and used often in a pasture rotation setting with other animals.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are similar in size to the Pygmy, maybe reaching on average 40lbs. They have a more slender appearance and are a very well known dairy goat breed. Widely popular on small farms and homesteads. With their small size, sought after butterfat percentage and amazing milk potential they make a great addition. Nigeria Dwarf goats hold a butterfat percentage that is on average 6-10%!
Butterfat is the fat content found in milk, and is particularly important when it comes to cheesemaking.
Nubian goats. Most often only used as a dairy breed, well known for their long ears and Roman noses, Nubians are quite social and incredible milk producers. Nubians have an on average 5% butterfat content in their milk. Nubians are known for being outgoing and a tad loud. They are the largest of the three breeds we are highlighting, and do require a bit more space.
Boer goats are bred to thrive under extensive livestock farming conditions in hot, arid environments where the quality of grazing is poor. The breed has the ability to convert poor-quality forage into meat at a very low cost, enabling livestock farmers in these arid areas to farm commercially.
Goats need a bare minimum of 20 square feet of inside space and 200 square feet of pasture space per goat.
They are browsers not grazers- the prefer bushes vs grass.
Nutrition needs – they are ruminants and have 4 stomach quadrants. They regurgitate their food and chew their cud.
The compartments are the reticulum, rumen, omasum and abomasum, or true stomach.
Monogastric or simple-stomached animals such as humans, dogs and cats consume food that
undergoes acidic breakdown in the stomach and enzymatic digestion in the small intestine, where most nutrients are absorbed.
In ruminants, feed first undergoes microbial digestion in the reticulum and rumen — together, often called the reticulo-rumen — prior to acidic digestion in the abomasum and enzymatic digestion and nutrient absorption in the small intestine. The microbial digestion in the reticulo-rumen allows ruminants to consume and utilize grass, hay, leaves and browse. – (Meat Goat Nutrition)
The bacteria in the rumen are capable of synthesizing all B vitamins needed!
Basic needs- hoof trim, vaccines, overall care.
Herd animals- they are very social and curious. Some even say intelligent.
What they eat DOES impact how the milk tastes.
They have many quirks. They move into pressure- not away.
They have a dental pad in the front top- and on top and bottom they have VERY sharp teeth ( in the back) and can actually break a finger. Or a tree limb etc
Lifespan- similar to a dog