What do I look for when buying a goat?

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Sindy and I have been talking about getting a couple of goats for awhile now. We had goats when I was a kid (pun intended) but I really didn't take care of 'em much, so I didn't learn much about 'em either.

Really would like to have a couple around to look at. I don't want to milk right now, but I think that may change after a while. Anyway, There are a lot of folks w/ goats around here and the Fair is coming up soon.

What should be the priorities I should look for?

-- John in S. IN (jsmengel@hotmail.com), June 04, 2001


Number one may be not to take Sindy. I don't know how many times I hear from women "I bought her because I felt sorry for her, or, she was spotted"!!! :)

Overall herd health is the biggy. Makes no sense to purchase a kid, even if it is healthy, robust and running around if the adult does are nasty, hooves untrimmed and living in filth. Remember the genetics of the doe you are buying is alive in the adult stock. That pendulous udder hanging down to the ground that is going to be scratched by briars, and stepped on when she gets up, is going to only be minorly fixed by the sire she is out of. You do not have to milk, let your first kids nurse, but do take care of the udder. You could also buy some dairy does, yet breed them meat, boer or pygmy, until your hooked by the Purebred/show bug ;) Not only because it is fun but because it is profitable. Nothing beats pets who make a profit. The sale should come with help with your worming program, feed for the animal when they leave, information, discussion of diseases like CAE and CL. Showing you test results. Even if you end up not buying most breeders want you to start out right and will give you information. Obviously don't waste their time though. But the biggy is tame. Simply don't buy a wild goat, and nothing with horns. Don't buy the first thing you see and ask for references. If you are going to do dairy goats, except oberhasli I know lots of folks in most breeds. If you are in Texas and are going to do Boer I could also help you. Know little to nothing about hair goats. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh (vickilonesomedoe@hotmail.com), June 04, 2001.

Another thought might be to get a wether to start learning things on. Health is still of paramount importance, but a wether really takes a lot less care than even a non milking doe does (dodos??:smile:) They are great at brush clearing and don't need much in shelter, but they would be good to work out hoof trimming and vaccinating, and all the general care issues on.

However, if it is a doe you are sure you want, then be *very* particular and I honestly wouldn't just buy one from someone at a fair. Not necessarily regarding purebred status, but you want to have an idea of the blood lines so you can see what you might be looking at down the road. A good grade doe is every bit as good as a good pedigree when you are looking in the milk pail. I'd want to see where they were coming from, how they were cared for, cleanliness, pens for ideas on how to or not to do your pens, etc. Also with a doe I would suggest that you are somewhat demanding about having the bloodwork done for CAE and CL, even on a grade. It's a hard way to start out...my story isn't uncommon either!

Above all have FUN!!! Goats are really neat animals and you might just fall in love.

-- Doreen (bisquit@here.com), June 05, 2001.

Thanks for the snappy answers! I'm really just thinking about it right now for maybe later this year or next spring. I would need tp set up the barn and improve the fencing first. I spent a lot of my interaction time w/ goats as a youngster trying to catch them! My Dad was not a great fence maker.

Figure I'll get to see a lot of goats w/ all the fairs coming up soon and wanted a little idea of what I should be looking at. Thanks!

-- John in S. IN (jsmengel@hotmail.com), June 05, 2001.

goats will let you know just how poor you are at fencing. I have had the best luck with electric fencing..with no horns. With horns cattle panel has done the best. However you kind of have to give gravity a little time to take effect as the younger rowdies bounced over cattle panel once they were big enough not to just climb through it. It was really incredible! I wish I had had a video camera. It was like some kind of Extreme Livestock show. They would run like a bunch of skaters bouncing off the shed, then flying off the washtub, hitting the cattle panel, getting hang time there and then back to do the rounds again. One of my goats is named Flea and one is named Skate Goat. She would do a rebound hop on the corners and just vault right over and look quite surprised and pleased with herself, but unsure of what to do next when she finally landed. However, just like with us, gravity always wins in the end.

-- Doreen (bisquit@here.com), June 05, 2001.

What to look for in a goat: well, first of all it helps to have a very clear picture of why you want a goat and what you expect to do with it. Otherwise it is very easy to end up with an animal and later wonder why you bought it. Clarify why you want it and what it will be expected to do or produce. Then after you have a clear picture of what you're looking for, learn as much as you can about them before going goat shopping. I would suggest the Dairy Goat Journal and United Caprine News. Visit a few herds, different breeds, and get a feel for what you do and do not like.

Buy the breed that you like, not the one that produces the most milk, etc. Because there are high and low producing individuals in all the breeds- Saanens that give very little milk, Alpines with 5.3 % butterfat, and Nubians milking 16 lbs a day! You are going to have to live with these goats and work with them day in and day out, so get the breed that suits you best and that you'll enjoy looking at and interacting with. I would far rather own an 8 lb a day milker that I love and enjoy watching than one that looks homely to me and irritates me at every turn, even if that doe gave twice as much milk.

As the other suggested, invest in a disease free animal, and do NOT take the seller's word for it. Ask to look at negative test results, and maybe even ask to get it in writing, that the animals are disease free at the time of sale. By far, one of the most important traits in any goat regardless of breed, is her personality. There are goats who continually climb and squeeze through and under just about any fence that can be erected, that kick continously with BOTH back legs, with the entire rear end moving around so violently that it's hard to even get ahold of the udder, much less milk it and get clean milk besides! If the doe is a milker, ask to milk it. If it is hard to milk or has very small teats, teats that are difficult to grab because they're cone shaped and blend into the udder, etc, don't buy it. Most dairy goats that are milking should be fairly lean and feminine looking. If they're meaty looking it's usually because they're putting the feed on their back, not the bucket. Especially with the swiss breeds(Alpine, Saanen, Toggenburg, Oberhasli), a hard working doe will often look a little on the thin side. Sometimes it's almost impossible to get a heavy milker to put any flesh on her, she just puts extra feed into the pail. They should look healthy however, with good healthy coats, not dull, scruffy and emaciated. After all this, I would look at the conformation and pick one with strong feet and legs, because bad feet and legs mean more hoof trimming and often a reduced lifespan.

-- Rebekah (daniel1@itss.net), June 11, 2001.

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