If you are thinking about getting goats or planning to bring home a couple soon, here are seven things that you will want to make sure you have ready for them when they arrive!
Loose goat minerals
The minerals should say they are for goats and only goats! Minerals that are labeled for sheep and goats both will not have enough copper in them, and you will wind up with copper-deficient goats. You also want to be sure you get loose minerals, rather than a block or a tub because goats have very soft tongues, and if you live in an area where deficiencies are common, goats may not be able to get enough from a block or a poured tub. Some may give up while others may try to scrape off the minerals with their teeth, which could result in a chipped tooth.
Loose minerals are so named because they are loose like salt and pepper rather than solid like a sugar cube. That means you have to put the minerals in something. You can buy a plastic mineral feeder to screw onto the wall for about $5 from many online sources and farm supply stores. If you only have a couple of goats, just put about a cup of the minerals in there to avoid wasting too much if it gets soiled, and always make sure there are minerals available for the goats free choice. Some will eat more than others, and some will eat more at different times of the year.
Assuming you are bringing home kids, they will probably need goat feed (sometimes just called grain) for at least a few months while they are still growing fast. If you only have a couple of kids, you may only need to buy one 50-pound bag, and by the time they’re done with it, they shouldn’t have any more grain unless you have a problem getting good quality hay. Nigerian dwarfs and pygmies only need about 1/2 cup each per day while standard sized goats need about twice that much. Bucks and wethers should not have grain after about six months of age, and does only need grain at the very end of pregnancy and while in milk. When buying goat feed, check the ingredients and be sure it has at least 35 ppm copper.
This does not need to be very big. Remember, you are not feeding them very much grain. If you put a pan of grain on the ground, always remove it from the goat pen as soon as the grain is gone. If you leave it in there, the goats will walk through it, and you will have to wash it before every use. The alternative to a feed pan is a fenceline feeder, which is pictured above. It is attached to the wall, and goats are less likely to walk through it, getting the pan dirty, or to butt heads over the feed because they are all facing the same direction. If you use a feed pan, avoid putting it in the middle of the floor because goats may start to butt heads and then knock over the pan, spilling the grain.
The most important thing about hay is that it is green! Bucks, wethers, and dry does are fine with grass hay, but milkers need alfalfa. In some parts of the U.S. milkers eat peanut hay. Towards the end of pregnancy, you can transition the does from grass hay to a mix and then to all alfalfa while they are milking. Hay and alfalfa pellets are also nutritious but you can’t use them to substitute for long-stemmed hay entirely.
You do not want to feed hay on the ground because it will increase the goats’ chances of having problems with internal parasites, and you will wind up wasting a lot of hay because goats are not fond of eating hay off the ground. That means you will need a hay feeder. Beware of hay feeders made for horses as many of them are dangerous for goats. Be sure your hay feeder does not have any “V” shaped bars where kids can hang themselves. Kids like to jump on top of mom’s back, and if they slip off when their head is in the hay feeder, the result can be tragic.
2-gallon water bucket
Goats need 24/7 access to clean water. When we got started, we bought 5-gallon water buckets, but we have transitioned to 2-gallon buckets over the years for several reasons. They are easier to handle, and goats like fresh water, which means you will need to refill them twice a day whether or not they are empty. If you are young and strong and have more than four or five goats, you might prefer five-gallon buckets. Keep in mind, however, that it is a good idea to have at least two buckets available at all times so that if one buckets gets poop in it, the goats still have access to clean water.
Of course, there are a lot more things you can buy for your goats, but this is a good start!
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