Tips on buying goats

tips on buying goats

When people buy their first goats, they often have a lot of questions about the process. After all, you don’t just go into the local pet store and buy a couple of goats every day.

Should you put down a deposit?

Most experienced breeders require a deposit because unfortunately, there are some flakey people in the world who change their mind and don’t bother to let the seller know. I’ve heard of people even setting up an appointment to come get goats and then not showing up. But that usually only happen when there is no deposit. When a deposit is required, it means that the buyer is serious, not just thinking this sounds like a fun idea at the moment. Buyers tend to give more thought to saying they want to buy a goat if they’ve put down a deposit. If a buyer changes their mind at the last minute, then the seller has wasted weeks or months of advertising time when they could have sold the goat to someone else.

Sellers can set their own terms for refunding the deposit, but they should be in writing somewhere. For example, they’re on my website. If a doe does not have the gender reserved, then the buyer can choose a different kid, or I will give them a refund. Sometimes, the buyer says they want to wait until the next year, if they really wanted a specific sex from that doe, but that’s their decision. I left a deposit with a breeder for two years one time, waiting for that doe to have a buck, and she never did.

What’s a fair price for a goat?

This depends on a lot of things, such as whether the goat is registered and what the parents have accomplished. Unregistered kids usually sell for $50 to $150, depending upon your area. Wethers (castrated males) make the best pets and are usually on the lower end of that price range.

If you can register the kids, breeding animals would start at about $300, and without anything extra special about them, that’s about where the price would stay. The following items can affect the price of a goat:

  • How much milk does it produce per day? Or, if it’s a kid, how much milk does its mother and grandmother produce?
  • What are her teats like? Or, what are her dam’s teats like?
  • If it’s a milker, what’s her personality like on the milk stand?
  • Does the goat have any show wins? (assuming you want to show)
  • Does the goat have a milk star? Or, does it’s dam have a milk star?
  • If the farm is not on milk test, do they have written milking records (sometimes called barn records) so you can see how much the goats produce?
  • Does the farm have a history of negative test results for communicable diseases, such as CAE, Johne’s, and CL?

If you don’t want to show, there’s not much point in paying $1,000 for a pet or even for a family milker when you can get goats for far less who can be just as good as a pet or milker.

It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when I see a goat advertised as costing more simply because of its eye or coat color. As someone who raises goats for family milkers, I’d much rather pay more for great milking genetics. Blue eyes and spots don’t put more milk in the bucket, but I suppose sellers can charge whatever the market will bear.

Are there any sellers to avoid?

If a seller says a goat “carries” polled or blue-eyed genes, but that goat is not polled or blue-eyed himself, that means that the seller is either uninformed or dishonest. If a goat has the gene, they will express it because those genes are dominant in goats. So, there is no such thing as “carries” polled or blue eyes.

“Great for pet, milk, or show” is usually seen on ads for goats being sold by people who are either trying to get rid of pets they decided they don’t want, or they’re inexperienced breeders . Very few goats are great for all three of those things, and if they are, the seller should back up all those claims with facts. You can technically show or milk any goat, and you can keep any goat as a pet. That goat may or may not have decent production, and it may get dead last in the show ring. It might also be super shy or even aggressive. If someone is selling goats for milk or show, and they are not actually milking or showing their goats, then they really have no idea what the potential is for their offspring.

Are there goat rescues?

I’m glad you asked! Yes, because goats have grown in popularity in recent years, there are goats in rescue. One place you can find them is Sadly, you will also see goats being given away on Craigslist. If you want a family milker, I really do not recommend going this route, however, because there won’t usually be any type of milk records for those goats, and they could be carriers of disease. If you simply want a couple of pets or pasture ornaments, however, getting goats from a rescue can be a viable option, assuming the goats have been tested for diseases.

Ever thought about buying a goat from another country? Check out episode 74, Importing Goats on my For the Love of Goats podcast.

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9 thoughts on “Tips on buying goats”

  1. The Polled gene is not dominant. If it were, every one of my kids would be polled. I have a polled buck, and I still have to disbud several kids every year. The polled gene is recessive, which means that both parents have to have it to throw a polled kid. This year, four of my five does threw polled kids, which means at least four of my does carry the polled gene. My fifth doe has never (yet) thrown a polled kid, even though she is bred to a polled buck. I don’t know if she carries the polled gene or not, but I am beginning to suspect that she does not.

    • This is incorrect. If you have one polled parent that is heterozygous (meaning it has one polled gene and one horned gene) and one horned parent, then 50% of the kids will be polled because it will get a horned gene from the horned parent, and there is a 50% chance of getting a horned or a polled gene from the polled parent.

      A homozygous polled goat has two polled genes, but those are extremely rare in goats because the chances of hermaphrodites or intersex kids is higher when breeding polled to polled, and that’s the only way to get a homozygous polled goat. So, very few people will breed polled to polled. If you have a homozygous polled goat, then it can only give a polled gene to the kids, regardless of whether it is bred to a polled or a horned goat. Because the polled gene is dominant, if the goat has it, it will express it. So, a homozygous polled goat can only throw polled kids.

      As for your herd, your horned does do NOT carry a polled gene. They throw 50% polled kids because you’ve bred them to a polled buck. It’s just chance that the fifth doe has not thrown a polled kid. She will probably do it at some point. Last year, my polled buck did not throw a single polled kid out of NINE that he sired, which is really unusual when looking at odds, but he’s making up for it this year, as we have two sets of triplets from him that are all polled, as well as a lot of other kids that are polled, so he’s way over 50% this year.

      • A question then. (I googled it; AGS agrees with you.) If having horns takes two recessive genes, why are goats predominately horned? A dominant gene that is not evident must be relatively rare.

        And why would breeding polled to polled cause hermaphrodism? (I have heard this, and I won’t keep any of my polled doelings.) What does the gene for horns have to do with their sex?

        Personally, I love having polled kids. I really hate hurting them with the disbudding iron.

        • It’s a common misconception that dominant means that if a goat has a gene, their kids will have it. Dominant actually means that if a goat has a gene, they will express it. Recessive genes can be completely hidden, so that neither parents expresses the gene, although one of their offspring can express that trait. So, if polled was recessive, two horned goats could have a polled kid, which can’t happen. In fact, because horns are recessive, you can breed two heterozygous polled goats, and 25% of the offspring will be horned.

          The predominance of horned goats has nothing to do with the gene being dominant. It’s because there were several studies in the 1940s and 50s that showed that breeding polled to polled resulted in a higher rate of hermaphrodites or intersex goats. Some people got so freaked out by that and got so carried away that polled goats became highly undesirable. Some people misunderstood and thought polled goats threw more intersex kids regardless of who they were bred to. In fact, I’ve even met people who thought that today. Anyway, there were very few polled goats left by the 1970s. It is only in the last 10 years as goats have become more popular — and new people hate disbudding — that polled goats have become more popular. In fact, a lot of people are even starting to breed polled to polled, trying to create polled herds, but no one is making much headway.

          As far as why breeding polled to polled creates hermaphrodites, it’s because of the location of polled gene on the chromosome and its proximity to sex-determination genes. This is not an issue with sheep or cattle, and indeed there are completely polled breeds of sheep and cattle.

          • Thank you for the excellent explanation on polled goats. There are still discussions on this in various places on the Internet with inaccurate information.
            It is helpful to know of the difference in genetics in polled goats vs. sheep or cattle. A polled breed, or line within a breed, would have been wonderful.

          • I appreciate this explanation. My buck is polled. I have only one little buckling from him so far. He’s about 5 weeks old and right now his head feels about like Dad’s. How long before I know for sure? Side note: although none of this is related to the subject of this post, in my opinion from what I’ve observed, it is more beneficial to the goat to be horned. Polled seems just more convenient for the owner.

            • If a kid is horned, he would have pointy little horns about an inch long by the time he was 5 weeks old.

              Although horns may be beneficial for the goat that has them, they are not beneficial for the other goats in the herd — or the humans around them. I had two horned goats many years ago and got rid of them after only about 3 months because I was afraid they were going to kill my goats without horns. I’ve also communicated with a woman whose young daughter had her eyelid sliced open by a horned goat.

  2. Thank you for explaining that so well, Deborah. Most people do not understand the differences between recessive and dominant genes. In our family, we have a tooth defect that is a dominant gene but the nature of it is that if it is not passed on to the child, it is gone forever. Each of us who has the condition has a 50/50 chance with each child inheriting it. That does not mean that half of the children will not inherit it, only that each child has a 50 percent chance of inheriting it. Once it is not passed on, it does not re-emerge, ever. An odd aspect of it is that each child who does inherit it has slightly worse teeth than the older siblings who have it which points to the teeth with the condition being affected by the mother’s mineral balances which are depleted with subsequent pregnancies. Also, the children of mothers with well water (harder water) tend to have stronger teeth, as much as can be with the condition, which also points to a mineral issue.
    Genetics is not an easy issue and even less easy if there is minimal research behind it.

    • Fascinating, Glenna. I read of a study once showing that people who had naturally occurring strontium in their water had very few cavities. People take it as a supplement for stronger bones. Maybe it would help.


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