Buying Goats: Mistakes to Avoid (and more!)

Episode 70
For the Love of Goats

Buying Goats Mistakes to Avoid (and more!) featured image

How do you avoid scams when buying goats? Should you buy registered goats? How do you know you’re buying healthy goats?

If you are getting started with goats or still building your herd, you probably have a few questions. In this episode, I’m answering all of the above questions and more.

I also talk about why you should not buy goats from the sale barn, and what questions to ask a breeder when goat shopping.

Since I teach college, I can spot plagiarism a mile away. I share some of my secrets with you, so you can figure out if a website is legitimate or if it’s a bunch of photos stolen from Instagram and Facebook along with paragraphs of text that have been copied from the websites of legitimate goat breeders.

If you are not sure if you want to buy goats, check out episode 11, Thinking About Getting Goats.

And if you want to sell goats, check out episode 69, Tips on Selling Goats.

Ever thought about buying a goat from another country? Check out episode 74, Importing Goats.

If you raise Nigerian Dwarf goats or are considering them, check out my online forum at

Interested in ADGA Genetics? It’s a comprehensive database for dairy goat information created by Gene Dershewitz. In a podcast episode, we discuss how to use the site for goat shopping, as well as how you can use it for goats you already own.

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Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:19
Hello, everyone, and welcome. Today’s episode is brought to you by Goats 365, my online membership for people living with, learning about, and loving goats365 days a year. For more information, visit And of course, we’ll also put a link in the show notes for you.

Deborah Niemann 0:39
If you are thinking about buying goats, today’s episode is for you. One of the questions that I’ve been getting a lot more lately is, “How do I avoid scams when buying goats?” And so, I’m definitely going to be covering that. In fact, that was the thing that really pushed me over the edge. I’ve been thinking about doing this episode for about a year, and just the fact that I’m getting more questions about this, I realized I really have to do it now. So, if you’re on the selling side, I did that episode last week, and this week, I’m talking about buying goats.

Deborah Niemann 1:14
If you’re still just thinking about getting goats, be sure to check out Episode 11, which is “Thinking of Getting Goats?” And it includes a lot of things that you should consider before you do bring goats into your life.

Deborah Niemann 1:26
Now, the first thing that a lot of people wonder about when they’re going to get goats is whether or not they should get goats that are registered. And, unless you’re just getting pets, my answer to that question would be, “Yes.” If you have a goal for your goats, especially if you want goats for milk production, that’s a really hard “Yes.” Behind every unregistered goat is a goat that a reputable breeder decided not to register. In my herd, I am not going to register a goat if it has got a super disappointing milk production, for example. I’ve been raising goats for 20 years, so we don’t see that very much anymore. But, for the first five years, I sold quite a lot of goats without papers, because I did not want my herd name associated with them. And so, usually the story behind unregistered goats is that you can get lucky, sure, but your odds are going to be much better if you get a registered goat.

Deborah Niemann 2:32
And also, if you’re going to be milking them, buy from somebody who milks them. You can’t buy from somebody who just says, you know, “Oh, I’m sure she would be a good milk goat.” Unfortunately—especially Nigerian Dwarfs. They have become so popular in the last 5 to 10 years that there’s a lot of crap being sold as “family milkers.” And that’s really sad, because when these goats are well-bred, they’re excellent little milkers. But, you know, like I said, behind every unregistered goat is a goat somewhere that somebody said, “I’m not going to breed this goat anymore. And I don’t want my herd name associated with it.”

Deborah Niemann 3:14
Now, when I say that they should be registered, I’m not saying that they need to be a $1,000 show goat or anything like that. They don’t need to have champion parents. In fact, if your goal is just milk, then you should buy goats from somebody whose number one goal is milk. Because, you’re just going to be paying for something you don’t need if you go get a goat that’s a finished champion and has a milk star and, you know, is just way more accomplished than what you actually need. In fact, when I started my herd, one of the goats that I bought was a yearling that was being sold from a herd that was really into showing; they were also into milk testing. So, all of their goats were great milkers, and basically, their culls were better than what a lot of people, you know, had in their whole herd. And so, I was looking at this goat’s pedigree, and it was just amazing. All of the goats in her pedigree had been really great milkers. I was looking at their milk records and everything. And I bought her, and my daughters got into showing—and that poor doe. Every single time she went into the show ring, she was always last. But, what she did for us is that she gave birth to does that were absolutely spectacular milkers, and she was a great milker herself. So, all of those really wonderful milking genetics came through beautifully. And she just wasn’t a very pretty goat herself, but some of her daughters obviously looked a lot better. And the important thing to us is that the milking genetics came through. I have so many of her, you know, daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters, great-great-great-great-great-granddaughters… And I just love that line, because they are really excellent milkers.

Deborah Niemann 5:11
There have been times when I was so incredibly glad that my goats were registered, because I always say, “It costs just as much to feed and care for an unregistered goat as a registered goat.” So, whether you paid $50 for a goat, or $500 for a goat, if that goat gets sick, the vet bill is going to be the same. And it is a lot easier to justify spending money on a vet when it’s a goat that is more valuable. And I don’t just mean more valuable as in, “Oh, I paid a lot of money for this pretty goat.” But, every time our goats have ever had problems in labor and I needed to call a vet, there was no question about calling the vet, because I knew that the kids she’s carrying are probably worth a couple thousand dollars. Unless it’s all boys, and she’s a first freshener, in which case that would be wethers, so they would only be a couple hundred dollars. But I mean, in the future, she’s going to produce kids that are going to be worth hundreds of dollars each. So, the idea of calling a vet is, like… Financially, it’s a no-brainer. Whereas if you have a goat that you didn’t pay very much for her, her kids are not going to be registered, so you’re only gonna be able to sell her kids for $100 to $200—that’s a lot harder decision to make, just from a financial perspective.

Deborah Niemann 6:31
Obviously, if you just want a few goats to raise your own goat meat, you also would not necessarily need to have registered goats, either. Really, registered is important if you want dairy goats, just so that you know you’re getting, you know, better genetics than what you’re going to get at a sale barn. And then, the other thing is, if you know you’re buying from a reputable breeder, you know that you’re not buying somebody’s cull, or the offspring of a cull a couple generations back that a reputable breeder chose not to register because it did not meet their standards.

Deborah Niemann 7:08
Now, I said “sale barn” a second ago. There’s actually a couple reasons why you don’t want to buy goats from the sale barn. And, one of those is because of disease. Again, the sale barn is someplace that people go to sell their problems, unfortunately. You know, 20 years ago, this was the place where lots of animals were bought and sold. But it really is not a great place anymore to buy them, because there’s just too much disease that goes through—especially with sheep and goats. The thing about sheep and goats is that diseases like CAE and CL and Johne’s can all be asymptomatic. And if you know a goat has it, that’s a great time to take them to the sale barn, when they have no symptoms. So, they look perfectly fine. And you can’t do that testing at the sale barn, and those are not tests that are required by anybody. It’s just a “buyer beware” situation. So ideally, you’re going to buy from a herd that has been around for a few years, and also has had all of their animals tested negative.

Deborah Niemann 8:20
So now, we’re getting into the, you know, closed-herd idea. If somebody has only had goats for two or three years, if you’re going to buy goats from them, you want to make sure that they are testing those animals annually for those three diseases I just mentioned: CAE, CL, and Johne’s. You want to make sure they’re testing for those annually. People need to do that for at least the five or six years after they start their herd, to make sure that they don’t have any asymptomatic animals that are suddenly going to zero convert and start testing positive—like, especially Johne’s. Because if they have Johne’s, they’re going to be out there dropping their infected fecal matter all over your pasture. This disease is contagious to all ruminants. So sheep, goats, and cattle. And so, the standard advice is that—if you have animals positive for Johne’s—is that you shouldn’t have any more ruminants on that pasture for about five years.

Deborah Niemann 9:15
Young animals are the ones most likely to get infected. So, you might actually bring home one of these goats and not even know you have a problem until you have kids that start getting sick. And then, if you do testing, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, they have Johne’s. Where did that come from?” Because the older animals are not showing any symptoms. So, that’s the other reason, too, that for the first five or six years, things may look okay even though they’re not, because your older animals may be asymptomatic carriers—basically Typhoid Marys—that are, you know, giving it to the other animals, and you don’t know who the goat is that has it.

Deborah Niemann 9:53
If your goal is to breed goats, then you want to get your stock from a herd that has some really good combination of disease-testing and/or being a closed herd. So, if you’re gonna buy goats from a show herd that is taking their goats out every weekend, all summer long, being exposed to other goats, you really want them to be testing every single year. A closed herd, according to the USDA, is a herd where there have been no new does brought in for at least five years. And they do recognize that you need to bring in a new buck every now and then, but if you haven’t brought in any new does, it’s considered closed. However, like I said, if somebody is exposing their goats every weekend to other goats, when they’re at a show, they’re walking through other goats manure and things like that. So, they are being exposed to something that is a biosecurity risk, because manure is where Johne’s is transmitted. Some of these other diseases, like CL, would be transmitted through pus—which would be pretty obvious. Nobody’s gonna bring a goat to a show that’s got pus. But, CAE is transmitted through milk.

Deborah Niemann 11:07
And, I do know someone who had a goat that was the champion at the American Dairy Goat Association national show. She was the breed champion one year. And, they were always testing their goats, because they showed very heavily; they had never had any animals test positive. And a year after that goat won the national championship, she tested positive. And the owner really believes that somebody infected the goat at a show, and probably through infected milk. Because, some people feed their goats’ milk back to them, and that was something that this herd did. And so, he felt that that’s probably how they did it, is when they’re at the shows, they milk out the goats, and then they just put the buckets of milk in there, and the goats can drink it. And so, they think somebody probably just dumped milk into that bucket from a CAE-positive goat, and then that goat and some others tested positive. So, I mean, that’s super rare. But, it’s just an example of how things can happen when your goats are out and about.

Deborah Niemann 12:31
Now, I want to start talking about how to protect yourself from scammers. And this used to be so easy. You know, five years ago, I would tell people: “Just buy all your goats from people who have a website, because if somebody is just a fly-by-night breeder, they’re not going to take the time to create a website, because they don’t have anything special to say about their goats. But if people are serious breeders, they’re going to have a website. They’re going to have a page that gives you all the details on every single one of their goats. So you know if you’re buying from somebody who has a website, that they are at least a step above somebody that’s on Craigslist or at the sale barn.”

Deborah Niemann 13:12
And this is not entirely true anymore. A year ago is the first time I saw somebody with a website who jumped out at me immediately as a scammer, because they didn’t know what they were doing. Like, it was obvious. They had no clue what they were doing. They were grabbing bits and pieces from different goat breeders’ websites. And I have a group for Nigerian Dwarf goats. And it’s on the Ning Network—N-I-N-G. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, too, in case any of you Nigerian Dwarf goat people want to join. So, we have to approve all members on there. And somebody came on there, and one of the questions is, “If you have a website, what’s the URL?” And I looked at their website, and nothing added up. Like, yeah, there were some pictures of Nigerian Dwarf goats for sale on there, but when you read the information about them, they were talking about national champion Saanens and things like that. Now, I have a bit of an advantage, because I teach college. And so, I’m very good at recognizing plagiarism. And so, I copied and pasted a sentence into Google, and put quotes around it so that Google was looking for that specific sentence. And, a national champion Saanen herd popped up. So it’s like, “Aha! They stole this paragraph from this national champion Saanen herd.” And then, I looked at the pictures of the Nigerian Dwarf kids and copied a couple of those. And when I did the image search for those kid photos, I found them on Instagram and Facebook, where the legitimate owners of those goats had shared those pictures of those kids. So this was, to me, it was super obvious that this was a scammer’s website.

Deborah Niemann 15:14
The thing that first made me suspicious, also, is the fact that there was absolutely nothing about the parents. So, if somebody is a legitimate breeder, they’re not going to have a website where they are just posting all the pictures of their kids for sale like a commercial, like an ecommerce website. That’s not what this is. They’re gonna have a page. You know, a whole section on each of their breeding animals. Because, like, a lot of my goats—and a lot of goats for people who are serious breeders—they are reserved before they’re even born. And they’re based upon the breeding. And when we do have kids for sale, we provide links to their parents so that you can go look at their parents’ pages, I have a page for every goat. Some people will just have a really long page for all of their yearlings or all their senior does. So, they may have ten goats on a page, but it’s a lot. They’re gonna give you the goat’s birthday, their registered name, their pedigree, so you can see who their ancestors are. And then, you can always look up those ancestors on ADGA Genetics if it’s a dairy goat. Basically, they give you a lot of information about the goats. It’s not like they’re trying to sell you a pair of shoes, like “Oh, look how pretty this cute little kid is! Doesn’t it have lovely spots? What pretty blue eyes,” that kind of thing.

Deborah Niemann 16:37
Another thing, too, that I wanted to mention: If you have any doubts about a person, also ask them if they’re a member of a breed association. So, if this is a dairy goat that you’re looking at, are they a member of the American Dairy Goat Association, or the American Goat Society? If it’s a Kiko, are they a member of the Kiko Goat Association, or if it’s an Angora and it’s the Angora Association? Most goat breeds have an association, and that’s where the goats are registered. And so, if they are claiming to sell registered goats, then they need to be a member of that registry. With the American Dairy Goat Association, non-members can register goats, but it costs twice as much. So, after you’ve registered two or three goats, you’ve paid for your membership. So, it’s just not logical that somebody would be a serious breeder raising goats and registering goats and not be a member of that breed association. So, definitely ask them about that.

Deborah Niemann 17:38
And also, just feel free to ask them, you know, any other questions about herd care and things like that. Because, if they really love their goats, and they want to make sure they go to good homes, they will be happy to answer any questions that you have about housing or fencing, and they’re not going to be shy about telling you what they do in terms of health and feeding and all that kind of stuff.

Deborah Niemann 18:01
Another thing, too, that somebody contacted me last year with a question when she was buying goats. It was really super weird, and I had never heard this before. But, if one person is saying it, why not more? So, I’m going to go ahead and throw this out there, too: There is no such thing as a Pygmy Nigerian Dwarf Goat registry, and there’s not going to be. That’s just a mutt. That is just a crossbred goat. Somebody got charged way more money than she should have for some crossbred goats, because the seller told her that “the Nigerian-Pygmy cross was getting to be so popular, they were going to be starting a registry soon.” Well, what’s the point? That’s a cross between a goat that’s primarily used for pets now, and a goat that’s primarily used for milk; there is no reason to be crossing those goats. There is a Miniature Dairy Goat Association that registers crosses between standard-sized dairy goats and Nigerian Dwarf goats. And that has a very obvious purpose. That’s for, you know, if somebody wants to get a goat that’s bigger than a Nigerian Dwarf but smaller than a standard goat and possibly has some of the characteristics of a larger goat. You know, two of the really popular minis are mini-Nubians and mini-LaManchas because they have different ears. Most dairy goats have erect ears, just like Nigerian Dwarfs. And so, if you want a smaller goat with those pretty floppy ears that the Nubians have, or the cute little elf ears or gopher ears that the LaManchas have, the only way you’re going to get that in a smaller goat is to cross it with a Nigerian buck. And there is a registry for that; there’s a Miniature Dairy Goat Association. And so, those goats can be registered, and they’ve got a whole process for going through the experimental stage to the purebred stage—because that’s their ultimate goal, is to have purebred mini dairy goats after multiple generations.

Deborah Niemann 19:58
So, be very careful when somebody tells you something like that. Don’t buy a goat based on what somebody tells you is going to happen in the future, because they don’t have a crystal ball. And when they’re doing that, they’re probably just flying by the seat of their pants trying to sell a goat or two.

Deborah Niemann 20:15
If you are just getting started with your goat breeding journey, and this is something that you would love to talk about, check out our Goats 365 membership, because our premium members have two meetings every month on Zoom. And this is exactly the kind of thing that we can talk about if you are having trouble trying to decide, you know, what you want in terms of picking a breed or trying to decide which breeder to go with and things like that.

Deborah Niemann 20:41
So, I really hope that you have found this episode helpful, and that it helps you to avoid buying goats from questionable sellers, and also helps you buy goats that are better quality so that you don’t wind up turning around in a few years and saying, “Oh, I wish I had started with better quality goats.”

Deborah Niemann 21:00
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit, and you can follow us on Facebook at See you again next time. Bye for now!

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