Goats have been bred for centuries for their milk, hair, meat and skins. They are hardy animals who can survive on relatively poor vegetation and scrubland. However, the more nutritious food your goat has access to, the healthier and more productive they will be.
Goats are very friendly and curious animals, who are usually comfortable around people, and make great pets. They are herd animals, so keep them in groups of at least two.
A large garden or paddock is essential to provide enough room for them to roam and graze. It should be securely fenced, as goats are adept at exploring, and can be quite crafty when it comes to opening gates and undoing bolts!
They also have a tendency to nibble away at whatever takes their fancy, even if it is not good for them. Certain plants and trees are poisonous to goats, including rhododendron, yew, deadly nightshade, ivy, pine trees, and cherry trees. If you have any of these in your garden or field, they should be removed or fenced off.
Goats are nimble animals, and they might stand on their hindlegs to check out a tempting looking snack. Therefore, even if a tree looks tall enough to be out of reach, it’s best to securely fence it. They don’t always stop at vegetation either, so if you have any cables, netting, ropes, and so on within reach, remove them or fence them off too.
Unlike sheep who have natural waterproofing in their coats, goats get soaked to their skin in heavy rain. Therefore, they should have access to adequate shelter which is well ventilated, and keeps them dry in wet weather.
You can use straw or sawdust to provide a comfortable surface for them to lie down in the shelter if it has a concrete floor. However, most goats will nibble the straw, so either be prepared to top it up regularly, or use an alternative.
During the summer time, most breeds of goat will stay healthy through browsing vegetation. You can bring them non-poisonous hedge trimmings to include some variety in their diet, if they don’t have access to native hedgerows. They should always have access to clean fresh water.
In winter, goats should have their diet bulked out with good quality hay and straw. They will benefit from a goat mineral lick to ensure that they are getting a well-balanced diet, with all the essential substances they need to stay healthy.
You can also buy commercial pellet mixes, which contain barley, maize, oats, soya, and are supplemented with vitamins and minerals to maintain condition over the winter months.
These feeds provide a good balance of fibres and protein, which are easily digestible for goats. If you are introducing a new diet regimen, do it gradually over a few weeks, rather than all at once, as a sudden introduction of different foods can upset their digestive systems.
Keeping your goats topped up with vitamins and minerals will reduce the chances that they will seek out novelty nibbles elsewhere, reducing the risk of poisoning incidents. Happy well-fed goats are usually trouble-free goats!