Goats brim over with their fun and inquisitive personalities and are a delight to have on the smallholding. They are renowned for being hardy and tough but that doesn’t mean they don’t need the right kind of care from you.

Goats are considered to be farm animals in legislative terms and as such must be registered with your local DEFRA animal health and veterinary laboratories agency (AHVLA) office. Your goat must have identification such an ear tag and you will be given a holding (CPPH) number.

The Animal Welfare Act has five main tenets which are true for every animal and below we outline ways to meet these needs when it comes to goats.

1. The need for a suitable environment.

2. The need for a suitable diet.

3. The need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns.

4. The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (as applicable).

5. The need to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease.

Happy home

Good ventilation is important in their building, albeit without draughts, and they need space to move and dry bedding to lie on. Natural light is important but don’t forget that they will need to be inspected when it’s dark, too. Be careful where the light switches are fitted since they have a stretch of 2 metres high! Goats are classic escapologists so check all fixtures, fittings, latches, gates and fencing regularly. It sounds obvious but do check that the plants and trees in their area are not harmful to them and they really appreciate shelter as they dislike getting wet.

Food for all

More than 60% of a goat’s daily ration should be made up of forage such as hay, straw or silage. Forage can be balanced with a commercial compound like pellets, a coarse mix or cereal grain such as wheat, barley or oats. If you use pellets the goats can feed together as the pellets regulate the food but if it is a mix ensure that the dominant goats do not choose the best bits so leaving the shyer goats with the poorer quality feed.

Goats being goats

Goats are social and curious so do not isolate them – even if they are unwell while they may need to be protected physically from proximity to the others, they need to be within sight and sound of them. They love to climb and investigate so straw bales and hiding holes are excellent stimulation for them when they’re housed.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed

Since goats are ruminants they share many of the health problems that sheep and cattle do. They can be slightly more at risk in some ways, however, since they browse hedges, weeds and bark rather than graze only on grass.

A healthy goat is alert and curious with bright eyes, clean nose and a coat in good condition with a temperature of between 38.60C to 40.60C.

Signs of illness are a cough, weight loss, going off feed, diarrhoea and a rise in temperature. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, call your vet.

For more info about keeping goats visit the British Goat Society website: allgoats.com