Goats are trouble! We’ve had them for 6 months and I can tell you that we weren’t ready for them when we thought we were!
1. Goats don’t control where they poop. Seriously, this is an important fact because they just let it go whenever and wherever, unlike horses or dogs that tend to go to a specific area. So, that being said, here are some things you might not have thought about. Goats will poop in their water bucket if it’s too low, OR their mineral bin. I tried the small over the fence feeder for their minerals and no matter where I place it, it doesn’t work out. If it is too low, I’ve found droppings in it. If I place it a bit higher, it inevitably gets knocked off the wall and is sitting on the floor with droppings in it. One of the walls of their pen is made from pallets, so I have a lot of height options for where to hang the feeder. I didn’t want to use the type of feeder that was screwed into the wall, because I wanted to be able to remove it and wash it. So I ended up accepting the situation and just bought two of them. So when one is soiled or on the floor, I put it in queue for washing and replace it with the clean one.
2. Goats are terrific fence testers. They require a strong woven wire fence without any gaps along the bottom. We made the huge mistake of thinking we would enclose their paddock with electric wire running in between the existing three board fence. Um, nope. It wasn’t even 20 minutes until we had them jumping through the fence. When they felt the shock, they just kept going! So, that day we ran to the store and put up 2×4 wire fencing over the wooden fence. Even this fence, they managed to find a way out of. At one small section, the ground dipped a little bit, it was a drainage swale so that rain water could run out of the dry lot and not go towards the barn. But it was juuussst enough of a gap under the fence, about 4 inches, that one of our goats, Gronk, would push and bend the fence and squeeze out. I ended up installing a few more fence boards along the bottom of the fence. When I would see him out of the paddock, I would watch and see which section wasn’t goat proof yet, by waiting for him to slip back in or out that way. Then I’d grab another wooden board to install at that point. So, start off with the right type of fencing, installed correctly, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble!
3. Test your goats individually for internal parasites. I had been told that you can just take a random sample of the droppings and assume that if one goat had a parasite, they would likely all have it since they spend so much time near each other. This would save some money, because you are only paying for one fecal test. However, I highly recommend that you test each goat and only treat the goat that has the parasite. Our vet came out to trim their hooves and so I had them one at a time on a lead rope while she did that. Conveniently, two of the three pooped during the hoof trimning or right after, so the vet was able to gather those for the fecal test. When the tests came back, one goat had nothing, the second had a negligible amount that didn’t need treating and the third goat had a small amount of a different parasite! He was the only one who needed a dose of deworming medication. This all goes to say, that it is definitely worth it to test and treat on an individual basis. Of course, depending on how many goats you have this may not be feasible. But, reducing unnecessary use of the dewormer is better for their health and it reduces parasite resistance to the medication.
4. Goats are very playful. They love to run and jump around. If you can put something in their paddock that they can climb on they would be most grateful! Check out this fun dash around and up and over the pile of logs then up the mulch mountain! We thought we would get around to cutting firewood from this pile of logs, but even though we haven’t done that yet, the logs are being put to very good use! Most days they will hang out on top of the logs.
5. How will they change the dynamic amongst your animals? Every goat is different and will have a different personality. If the goats are going to be sharing paddock space with your other animals, you have to consider how they will all get along. We had a foster horse here briefly, who was quite scared of the goats and he would turn and kick out at them with both legs. The goats were not safe around him, one kick like that could cause serious harm. My mare, on the other hand, will give a warning nip or a little kick out with one leg as a warning when she wants them to move out of her space. This is okay, and the goats have learned to steer clear when she warns them. However, both mares will let the goats share a flake of hay with them while in the barn, and when they are in the pastures the goats truly enjoy grazing near the horses.
Now here is something that you probably have never heard about before. I googled this online and NO INFORMATION shows up. In fact most people think I’m crazy when I ask them. But, our goat attacks our poor dog! (Seriously, all google searches show dog attacking a goat, nothing about a goat attacking a dog!) It is very scary, because our dog is a very sweet, non-agressive, collie mix. When the mama goat came running at her with her head lowered and horns down, she just stood there and kind of wiggled – the type of thing she might do around a more agressive dog – just wait for them to back off. She didn’t know that the goat would charge into her. Also, keep in mind, I was playing with our dog in the front yard and mama goat escaped out of her paddock and came charging all the way over to us. We were not near her paddock or anything! So weird!! Luckily, Piper wasn’t hurt, but boy was I mad. Every time I tried to get our dog into the house to safety, the goat would come running back. I was a screaming, arm waving, lunatic that day (just in case you happened to be driving by, that’s what was going on). That’s when I realized that once again, there was a flaw in our fence. One of the wooden posts was loose and mama realized she could climb up the fence and jump over the top.
So, long story short, it’s important to think about the animals you currently have and what you might need to do to accommodate the addition of goats, which might include creating additional paddocks to separate your herd, if need be, and checking your existing fencing.