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So you want to keep a goat?
THERE have been some interesting requests recently through the Smallholder online forum (www.smallholder.co.uk) in addition to emails and letters from those who would aspire to become goat keepers. I have interrupted my series on goat health to hopefully provide answers and look at the advantages and drawbacks of owning your own goat (or two!).
The one thing we must never forget when acquiring a new animal is to look at its natural state. Does it normally live in a herd or a flock? Is it an animal that would normally live in the UK? Is it likely to need shelter? Will it need winter feeding? How much care will it need on a day to day basis? Why do I want a goat?
Well the answer to the first question is that goats, in their natural state, live in herds. They need the company of others of their own kind. This does not necessarily mean that you must have two goats of the same breed. If space is at a premium you might consider a dairy goat to provide milk, etc, for the house and perhaps a pygmy goat as a companion. Maybe too an Angora goat as a companion which will give you Mohair to spin.
Whatever you do, please get more than one. A lone goat, although happy to attach itself to human company, is not a truly happy goat. All herd/flock animals take turns in being "lookout" within the herd, predatory animals being a serious concern for the goat in its natural state. A flock or herd animal alone may not look stressed, but usually is.
Clean water vital Goats did not originate in the UK. The temperatures here for much of the year are not ideally suited to the goat and neither is the degree of wet weather we have. Having said that, most goats have adapted well to our weather and providing they have adequate shelter from wind and rain, ie a good strong solid sided shelter which is light, airy and well bedded with dry straw or similar bedding or are brought in during the winter months and stall fed, they will be fine. Like most animals they are happy outside in cold dry conditions but not wet, windy, extreme cold or any combination of the three. In summer time there is a definite need to provide shade. Goats suffer from heat stoke and sunburn, from which there is usually no return.
A constantly clean water supply is vital. Goats would rather die (literally) than drink dirty water, so the water should be changed at least daily unless the goats are living out in optimum conditions and have access to natural running water.
With regard to food, goats are browsers and like to pick at all sorts of natural herbage and hedgerows. They will also demolish an orchard and ring bark mature deciduous trees so that is something you must consider when looking at an appropriate paddock.
Care must be taken to check paddocks for poisonous plants and trees. As a general rule evergreen trees vary from being fairly poisonous to lethal. Plants that are poisonous to sheep and horses will also poison a goat.
Garden prunings are also good for the goat to pick over but again, care should be exercised as to which plants you are offering.
Good hay or haylage but not sileage can be used as winter forage or a top up if summer supplies are short, as can good barley or oat straw. Wheat straw is useable but not ideal.
Goats are wasteful with hay so use a hayrack or haynet tied very high so that there is no risk of the goat catching its feet or horns (if it has them) in the net or hayrack.
A mineral lick intended for goat use is also a good option.
If feeding hay and concentrates, one goat will need approx 0.25 - 0.5 kgs of concentrated feed (Goat Mix) per day and approx. 2-3 Kgs of hay a day. If you are picking green food for the goat then give approx 7Kgs a day as this will of course contain a high water content.
Do I need a holding number (cph)? Yes you definitely do. Even if the goat/s are to be kept in the back garden. Even a pygmy goat is an agricultural animal as far as Defra is concerned and subject to all the same conditions as a sheep including ear tagging.
Can my goat "run the acre?" The old fashioned way of taking your goat out and about to graze is, I'm afraid, now out of the question. Animal movements now forbid this practise unless the "out and about" is on your own holding.
can i tether my goat? A lot of people still do but please don't it is an unsafe practise which is not to be encouraged. Many a goat has strangled itself or stripped its legs of flesh by becoming entangled in rope or chain both with and without a swivel. It is also an offence to tether any animal that is not checked several times a day.
Care and time taken? Depending on whether these are pet goats or working goats the time taken on a daily basis will vary from 30 mins to one hour. If you are milking one or both of them you will need to allow 15 minutes per goat for hand milking. Water will need to be changed daily. Stalls if used will need cleaning once a week or once a month if you are using deep litter. Leaving it longer than this can precipate a number of fungal, parasitic, bacterial or viral problems.
What's it for?
Feet will need trimming every six to eight weeks, summer and winter. Grooming, though not essential, is something that is enjoyed by all goats. Gathering food or filling hay racks will take from five minutes for the latter to 30 minutes or so, depending on how far you have to go.
Why do i want a goat? Perhaps after reading all this you don't anymore! But assuming you do, the only question you have to ask is what do I want the goat for? Is it for milk, dairy products, fibre or just a pet?
Having decided which of these it is, you will only now have to choose which breed suits your purpose.
All the goat breeds can be looked at on the British Goat Society website and also access to breeders of the different types available. I appreciate that not everyone has access to the internet, so in my next article I will outline the different breeds and their uses. How I would go about finding the right goat and how much I would expect to pay Sheep and goats together? Any advice?
Hi there, Just wondering if you could give me any advice on keeping a sheep and a goat together. E.g. what paper work do I need, whats the minimum pasture they should have, any other things I should be aware of?
Sheep and goats will quite happily live together, but there are a few considerations to take note of.
Goats are generally much more intelligent and inquisitive than sheep and are also browsers rather than grazers. They prefer hedge rows and low hanging branches rather than grass and will stand on wire fences and even jump over them, if not too high, to access tastier herbage on your neighbours land rather than stick with what is available your side!
They don't discriminate either, if it tastes nice they will eat it which means they are easily poisoned by plants such as Rhododendron and Foxglove. A must for all goat keepers is a list of poisonous plants and the ability to recognise them.
Apart from good fencing which needs to be higher for goats than sheep you will also need some form of shelter. Goats hate the rain and will bleat piteously to be taken in if left out. Both species are prone to the same foot problems and worm infestations.
Apart from the difference in grazing/browsing habits, both sheep & goats will eat similar supplementary feeds, e.g. hay, carrots, concentrates etc.
As for acreage, a sheep and a goat wouldn't need much. Half an acre would be very generous and would probably not keep the grass down if the land was very good. It's a better idea to adapt your management to the amount of land you have. At one time, I kept a couple of goats and 3 or 4 cade lambs on a quarter of an acre all of which did very well. When grazing became short we fed hay, Willow herb and other herbage gathered from roadsides.
As for paper work, all farm animals have to be traceable and both sheep and goats need to be tagged. This should have been done on the holding of their birth and will contain the registered flock/herd number.
A movement form will also need to be completed and sent to your local authority.
You will also have to register your land with the local authority and obtain a holding number even if you only keep one sheep or goat! The best thing to do is to download a copy of Defra's Guidance for Keepers in England - Rules for Identifying Sheep & Goats.
http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/tracing/sheep/index.htm Sue Kendrick Felicity Stockwell adds Well I do this thing myself and it works perfectly well. In many ways goats and sheep are very similar in their care. Neither like wet weather particularly and sheep will usually go for cover if its on offer in bad weather. Goats definitely need good draft free shelteer in inclement weather as their coats get saturated with water.
Healthwise it sounds like you are keeping/going to keep these two as pets and so there are fewer things to worry about.
It would be wise to vaccinate them annually with Heptavac P Plus, having first given an initial first course. With 2 animals you would only need a total of 12 mls for the prelimanary dose and so I would approach your vet or local goat/sheep keeper to see if you can buy a small quantity in syringes. In my experience most vets are happy to help out. The vaccine must be given subcutaneously(under the skin) If you do not feel competent to do this yourself ask your vet to visit.
Parasite control will be another issue, so treat both animals twice a year with a topical louse powder or use "Spot On" every 3 months.
Worming should be done twice a year if you have plenty of space and every 8 - 10 weeks if they are confined.
The amount of space required depends on your time availability and the sort of life you want your animals to lead. Personally, I would not keep this kind of livestock on less than 1/4 acre of ground, but there are plenty of people who do with perfect success. If you keep them in a confined space, make sure that they have adequate exercise and access to grass(especially the sheep) that you are prepared to gather "browsings" for the goat and that you can feed them consistently with the same or similar forage on a day to day basis to avoid digestive upsets. Remember that goats on the whole tend to be precocious and adventurous and enjoy climbing whereas sheep are less so and do not climb. A sheep can be easily contained behind electric sheep netting whereas the same fence can be lethal to a goat.
One final point to remember is that sheep and goats are flock/herd animals. There is nothing so depressing for them to be kept alone. In tests in Australia a few years ago it was discovered that a lone sheep emitted more stress hormones that a sheep waiting to be killed in an abbatoir! Food for thought.
I do hope this helps you in your quest for ovine/caprine harmony With regard to Animal Movements, the rules for goats are the same as sheep. For a small flock keeper there will be no requirement to double tag either species providing you keep an accurate and up to date record of movements and tag numbers in your Flock Record Book (obtainable from Trading Standards Animal Health) and fill in the movement form and return the appropriate documentation to Trading Standards as directed on the form. You must of course have a Holding Number(CPH) for you property even if it is only a back garden. Again this can be applied for via your Defra helpline and takes about ten days usually to acquire.
Felicity Stockwell Unexpected Foal I recently bought a mare who had been running with her yearling colt. The owner assured me she was not in foal yet she is growing larger and is getting an udder. Can she have a false pregnancy?
False pregnancy in equines is not common but mares becoming pregnant by their precocious colt foals is.
As with all grazing animals (and ewes left too long with uncastrated male lambs are a great example), they often mature sexually very quickly; indeed with equines, when the testicles have descended which can be before a year, they, in theory, can use them. You don't say exactly how old the colt was - a yearling can be anything from a few months to almost two years old - and a two year old is very definitely sexually active. You need to get your vet to check your mare over and confirm the pregnancy and then you need to prepare yourself for foaling, more difficult for you because you cannot be sure of the approximate date. There are usually distinct signs of an eminent foaling and bagging up is one of them but, as with all livestock, there are variations. Be prepared for a foal and if it is a colt be sure to separate him by six months old and castrate him if his testicles have dropped. In breeding is not recommended but many of these son, mother foals do seem to be quite OK.