Tag Archives: goats

  • What Do Goats Really Eat?

    Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School

    Volumes can be written about this subject alone. This article will cover basic information on feeding and minerals.
    A few years ago we lost a beautiful doe in her last few weeks of pregnancy. Opting for a necropsy was one of the wisest decisions we have ever made. The necropsy gave us “inside” information on how a goat makes and distributes fat throughout their body. The outward appearance of a goat is not always informative on the inside condition.

    This was a large doe, though not one that would be considered “fat”. As it turns out, her problem was the internal fat storage she had developed throughout her life. We had only owned her for about six months, so, we were not privy as to how she had been fed in her early life. This fat, which packed her internal body cavity, was a major contributing factor to her demise. Her liver had caramelized and her systems had shut down.

    It is difficult when those big, beautiful caprine eyes are looking at you with the “please feed me, I’m melting away to nothing” look.  Don’t give in to it!  Over feeding can eventually kill your goat. Under feeding will do the same thing.  So how do you reach a happy medium?

    Hay, hay, hay, lots of good quality hay is a major component to raising healthy, happy goats. A goat needs four percent of its body weight in dry matter per day. That’s what they will actually eat; it does not include the other two or three pounds that they spilled on the ground trying to get to that little choice morsel that they see in the very center of the pile. Of course, once it’s on the ground, it has gotten stepped on, peed on, and pooped on, so don’t expect to ever see your goats bend down and eat it!

    Now, let’s talk water.  It doesn’t matter what kind of container you use, but you have to KEEP IT CLEAN! Goats will not drink dirty water. With the bucks, you can run into problems with urinary calculi from not drinking enough water to balance the phosphorous and calcium they ingest. Angora goats are even fussier than meat or dairy goats are! One little piece of poop and they will avoid that water like the plague.


    If your water containers start building up algae, you are doing a poor job in your management program. Washing with a little bleach, swished around with a brush and rinsed with water will keep your containers clean. Goats are not dirty animals, don’t treat them that way. If you wouldn’t drink out of it what makes you think your goats will?
    Salt blocks are a necessity!  Our motto has been “keep your goats thirsty”, especially your boys, so that they will drink plenty. Just like humans, the more water they drink; the healthier they will be! A red salt block, also known as mineral blocks or brown blocks is a good choice because they contain not only salt, but also trace minerals such as iron, manganese, copper and iodine.

    Now you get my “feed sermon”, sheep feed is for sheep, goat feed is for goats, cattle feed is for cattle, and etc.
    If you buy a bag of feed that says it is for sheep or goats, you are buying health problems for your goats.
    There are so many great goat grains on the market, why jeopardize your goat with a grain formulated for another type of animal?

    Having the tags from several different brands of grains and comparing them, I noticed that one of them specifically says “Do not feed to sheep, product contains copper”, another states “this feed contains supplemental copper, do not feed to sheep” and still another says it’s a Sheep and Goat Feed and it’s for “growing, breeding and lactating sheep and goats”. What do you see wrong with the third one?  Could it be that there is something missing in it that goats need but could poison sheep? Your right, it’s copper. GOATS NEED COPPER. Excess copper will kill sheep.

    An interesting disclaimer that one of the brands listed was: “Results from use of this product may vary based upon differences in customers’ management, health and sanitation, breeding, genetics and feeding”. Even the grain dealers understand about health, sanitation and feeding!

    Copper is necessary for the absorption and utilization of iron in all goat breeds.

    Copper deficiency in a goat is an ugly thing! It causes the goats bones to become brittle  just like a human’s bones when they have rickets.

    Without iron the goat will rapidly develop anemia.  Iron also helps oxidize other vitamins for muscle growth, formation of red blood cells and bone structure. It is stored in the liver and is supplied through the intestinal walls.

    The daily ration should be approximately one pound per doe and one to two pounds per buck (depending on size).
    Another factor in keeping a healthy goat is plenty of “outside” time. Remember vitamin D comes from sunshine and it helps utilize other vitamins in the system properly. You need to get those “barn potatoes” outside! A good indication of lack of vitamin D is “ring around the eyes”. Sometimes the hair actually falls out in this area.

    Kids need proper nutrition too!

    Creep feeding is a means of providing feed for your kids. If you notice your kids at feeding time, they try desperately to get to the feed and keep getting knocked to the side by the bigger stronger goats!

    Adult meat goats are very possessive about their feed and will not let kids other than their own near the feed. Angoras on the other hand are much more laid back and share the feed. Of course, your dairy goats are being fed at milking times, so they will always get the feed they need.

    A separate area that adult goats cannot access will help grow the kids really quickly. They will be in and out of the creep feeder almost constantly snatching little snacks throughout the day.

    Why creep feed?
    It will increase weight gain, kids will reach a target market weight and can be marketed at a younger age. Creep fed kids will have a greater weight per day of age. The conversion of creep feed to body weight gain is a very efficient process.
    Kids begin to nibble hay and feed at a very early age. Some kids may have a functional rumen and be chewing their cud by two weeks of age.

    A creep feeding areas should be located near water, in the shade if possible and near the place where the kids like to loaf. Make sure the feed in the creep is dry and fresh. Never let it run out of feed completely. Clean it out in a timely fashion.  Remember, kids are incredibly fussy and will pick through the grain to find what they are interested in eating.

    Lastly, and, most importantly, for peace of mind, is a good mineral supplement. If you are feeding your goats anything but a well formulated goat feed please make sure you are adding a good supplement to the feed, otherwise you are doing a great disservice to your goats.

    If your goats are on a browse based nutrition program, please remember that a supplement becomes a critical component to their well-being. While the nutritional value of browse often reaches its peak in mid-summer; other times of the year it may not contain enough nutrients to provide your goats with a balanced diet to meet all of their needs.

  • Goats: Meat, Fiber and Dairy

    Written By Janice Spaulding, founder of Goat School

    It is a thrill and an honor to be able to write and share my goat knowledge with the subscribers of the Omega Fields Newsletters! Having raised goats for 25 years, and suffered through all the trial and errors, my husband, Ken and I, have accumulated a vast knowledge of the nuances of raising several varieties of goats including dairy, meat, and fiber.

    In 2004 I came up with an idea to answer all of the questions we were continually getting, not only from new goat owners, but also from seasoned breeders. Goat School® was born. We started on a cold November afternoon, lasted for about 3 hours, and included 12 people. It has now grown into a three day event and peaked at 112 attendees.
    Over the past eight years the most often asked question has been: “What type of goat would you recommend for us”?   There are so many things to take into consideration. This article will touch on the different types of goats, and, can help you decide in what direction you would like to take your goat raising experience.

    First things first; what are the types of goats? There are three; meat, fiber, and of course the dairy breeds.
    Goats in general, are friendly, inquisitive, nosy, loving, charming creatures that will return to you as much love as you give to them. A goat that is well socialized, well nourished, and well cared for, will be a friend for life. They love to help with chores, (try changing a light bulb on a ladder with 4 or 5 goats around and you’ll see what I mean!) and, if given a chance, they will happily clean out your garden or flower beds!  

    MEAT GOATS:  All goats have goat meat but not all goats are meat goats. You can harvest meat from all of the different breeds of goats, but there are some breeds that have been raised specifically for meat. Meat breeds are bigger and more muscled. They tend to be very large, statuesque animals. Some breed names include Boer, Kiko, Spanish, Savanahs, Myotonic, and Arapawa.

    Because of their size, Boer bucks have been crossed with other breeds to inject “hybrid vigor”. Hybrid vigor presents the possibility of obtaining a genetically superior offspring by combining the primal virtues of its parents.   We used our Boer Buck “Rocky” to breed some of our Angora does. The offspring were growing at a rate of ¾ of a pound per day!  It took no time at all for the kids of these matings to outgrow their moms. It was quite comical to see these very large 2 month old kids trying to get under their small statured dams to nurse.

    Meat goats because of their mature size and rapid growth might give the impression that they require large amounts of feed, nothing could be further from the truth!  We found that one pound of a balanced goat grain per full grown doe was sufficient! By providing your meat goat with a good healthy diet of browse, hay, clean water, minerals, vitamins, and a small amount of grain guarantees they will thrive, produce great offspring, develop healthy muscling, and become a good foundation stock for your growing herd!

    FIBER GOATS:  Fiber breeds require more hands on work than meat breeds. As we raised Angora goats for over 20 years, I will do a little “ruminating” on that subject.  Angoras are the only goats who produce hair.


    Because they grow about an inch of hair a month, Angoras need to be sheared twice a year. We always sheared in the spring right before kidding season, (this worked out great because it alleviated messy, ruined fleece because of kidding fluids) and again in the fall, just before breeding time.  As male goats in rut tend to be a little smelly, shearing before breeding kept the fleeces clean and odor free.

    Angoras need plenty of protein to grow all of that beautiful mohair fleece. A lack of protein in their diet causes lack-luster, thin, unattractive coats. As the mohair is the end product for these goats, you must feed them properly. Keep in mind that the extra protein also causes fast growing hoofs which may need to be trimmed more often than most other types of goats.
    DAIRY GOATS:  Milk producing goats are certainly the most work intensive of all breeds but continue to be my favorites. I love the twice a day interaction with them. They are friendly, happy go lucky animals that can start each and every day with a smile. Dairy goats need to be milked at least once a day, and more commonly twice a day, so be prepared for that commitment!

    Over the years, we’ve had Oberhaslies, Nubians, Sables, Toggenburgs, Saanans, and Alpines. There are other great milk breeds out there besides the ones I mentioned.  My recommendation before you purchase any type of milker is that you taste their milk. All of the milks are great, but some taste different than others. For instance a lot of folks dislike Oberhaslie milk and others simply love it!


    Another caveat when you are purchasing milkers for hand milking; try milking the goat! Make sure your hands fit their teats. Some goats have big teats and others really small ones, so this is important. We always recommended that newbies buy their first two goats as milking adults.  Get a feel for it with a “seasoned professional” doe, and go from there.
    And of course I have to mention “pet goats”.  These come in many sizes and shapes. Two neutered males (wethers) make great buddies and can be taught to pull carts or go packing with you! Nigerian Dwarf goats are the cutest, most comical little characters that can keep you well entertained.

    Along with all the love, fun, and enjoyment you can receive from your goats, comes one problem that is not often discussed; what to do when you have a goat in your herd, of any breed, that is churlish, difficult to deal with, mean, nasty, or a general pain in the neck? These goats need to go where they will best be served, an appointment with the processor, or as we have come to call it “freezer camp”! I realize that folks can have considerable sums of money tied up in a goat and have a hard time justifying sending them to the processor, but, owning animals is a responsibility and part of that responsibility is to not pass your problems on to an unsuspecting individual. Please do not pass an unwieldy goat on to an unsuspecting new owner! I can’t say this strong enough, a difficult goat needs to go in the freezer. How will you feel if you sell one of these unpredictable animals to someone and the new owner gets hurt?

    Why do some goats, especially bucks, develop these problems? Usually it is because the buck was kept by himself. Goats are herd animals and need the companionship of other goats to keep their healthy attitudes. A buck who has a buddy, either another buck (it doesn’t matter what breed) or a neutered male (wether) will keep the buck occupied, exercised, and most of all friendly.

    When kept alone, a buck will be constantly seeking out a play mate. When you go into his pen, you automatically become his play mate! A game of head butt with a full grown buck will be memorable to say the least.

    Want to know more about goats, come to Goat School®! Goat School® is a comprehensive learning experience! You will not only learn about goats, but you will also make invaluable new friends, meet like-minded folks, and build networking opportunities.

    Visit our web site www.goatschool.com and see when and where the next Goat School is!

    We have a great book available with lots of information about raising goats. The “Goat School® Manual” is a compilation of some of the  information from our Goat School® classes. For more information click on the Goat School Shop tab at www.goatschool.com

  • The Big Snow

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this but I live not more than five miles from the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. Her life story is taught in the local schools and I drive by her family’s historic log cabin site every time I head down to Pepin to the little grocery store or the school.

    When I whiz past the tiny cabin at 60 miles an hour I rarely think about what life must have been like for Ma and Pa and little Laura, Mary, Caroline, and Grace. But yesterday as I fought through eight foot snow drifts and the wind bit into my face and tried to freeze my eyelashes together, I thought about it.

    Everyone in the region had been warned about the big snow. The weatherman predicted a snownami, a snowmaggedon, and a snowpocalypse. And, just as it does when he warns us about tornados, it went in one ear and out the other.  They are exaggerating, we Midwesterners say. 20-24 inches of snow? It can’t be that bad. They always say things like that. It will never happen. Life threatening wind chills of -25 to -35 below? We’re tough. We can take it.

    And then we act like we had never even heard the weather guy. Even as the snow started coming down and it snowed for 18 hours straight people continued to try and go about their business. At least the big city and town people did.

    Out here with our mile long driveways and dirt roads that amble and curve up and down the valleys, nobody is going anywhere. At least until the plows come. Our township roadman, Mr. Robert Stein, does a great job of plowing snow. But on days like this we understand that he has to keep the big roads open. And when there are 22 inches of snow and sustained 40 mile per hour winds it makes it a lot harder to get the job done. We are content to sit back and ride out the big storms.

    Living on a farm and knowing that the snow was coming we prepped as best we could. Snow began falling late Friday night. By Saturday morning as we did chores we already had at least six new inches of snow on the ground. We were still able get the tractor out (thank you, John Deere), and we made sure that we fed twice as much hay as we normally feed to the horses so they could eat enough calories to keep warm. We put the older, more vulnerable horses in stalls thickly bedded with shavings and extra hay so they could handle the storm without being harassed by the younger, more dominant ones.

    The sheep and chickens who normally bound joyfully out of the barn each morning, greeted me warily as I opened the door. The lead sheep ran out and, repelled by the blowing horizontal snow, immediately reversed himself and headed back. A few brave chickens who normally don’t mind the snow, stepped gingerly out, and quickly turned tail and fled inside. I put extra feed and hay in the sheep pen and filled the chicken feeders and told them they were on their own. With the door shut, the barn stays pretty warm from the heat generated by the nine sheep, three goats, and the 40+ chickens. Chores took longer than usual as we fought the wind and wet snow. We were happy to finish and go back inside to warm up.

    The rest of the day felt like the snow days we had as kids. My younger boys were disappointed that it wasn’t a real snow day (it was a Saturday) but enjoyed having everyone home together. Even my oldest son, Wes, was home from college for a few days.

    Because I own an animal actors agency and I am also a professional animal lifestyle photographer, I stay pretty focused and try to squeeze the work into every moment I have. But the big snow that had been falling for hours made me want to slow down and just appreciate the beauty of it from the warmth of my cozy farmhouse.

    I didn’t edit any images, and the dishes and the laundry could wait as we watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Wes did his best to imitate Jimmy Stewart, changing the dialogue just enough to make us laugh, and the other boys said the all of the familiar lines with the actors.

    As it grew dark, Wes and Warren started preparing dinner. This was a treat for me, as I am usually the chief cook around here. I smiled as I looked back on the relaxing day.

    But being a farmer and an animal lover and responsible for our animals’ welfare, I knew it was time to go out and check on the animals one more time and feed our two recently rescued Morgans their second helping of grain for the day.

    My two youngest sons, William and Walker, and I bundled up in fleece-lined hoodies, our Carhartt bibs and jackets, and double thickness rag wool gloves. Walker wore snow goggles, vestiges of Wes’s army service. William wore a Russian ushanka hat that ties under the chin to keep the wind out.

    We headed out into the storm. The wind and snow hit my face and eyes like a frozen hurricane as I paused for a moment to survey the scene. Over 20 inches had accumulated throughout the day and the wind had whipped up drifts higher than the shed’s rooflines.

    I sloughed through the drifts, making my way to the new barn to check on the mares first.  They seemed surprised to see me; all four were tucked into the shed. Beauty the Morgan, and the two ponies raised their heads and looked at me as if to say, “What are you doing here? It’s snowing out, Dummy. Go back inside!” And Jenny my rescue Morgan mare, snorted impatiently as if to say, “It’s about time you gave me my grain.”

    I fed Jenny in her stall and broke the ice out of her bucket and refilled it so she would have enough to drink during the long night. I turned off their lights, and told them I’d be back in the morning. I didn’t need to climb over the wood fence as I normally do because the snow had drifted over it and most of it was hidden. I waded through the drifts and made my way over to the granary where the geldings can get out of the wind.

    Although they had plenty of hay inside the barn to eat, most of them chose to continue to chew on the round bale I had placed by the granary wall that serves as a wind block. They looked like the bison you sometimes see in National Geographic. They were covered in chunks of snow and frost lined their delicate eyes and nostrils. The geldings don’t seem to mind the cold. As long as they had hay to eat and could keep out of the wind they would be okay. I checked on Jack, my other rescue Morgan, and made sure he was happy in his stall with his new buddy Louis, one of my elderly horses, nearby. I gave them fresh water also.

    I made my way to the chicken coop, which is actually a small gabled barn that houses the chickens, sheep, and goats. It was surprisingly warm inside; their water had not even froze.  I gathered the two eggs that the laying hens had decided to give to me today and closed them up for the night.

    Knowing that everyone was safe and warm, I started walking the 200 yards back to the house. In the distance, the house appeared to be smiling at me, as all the lights were on and I could see that William and Walker had gone in before me.

    It was just me and the three dogs outside in the storm now. As I forced my way through the drifts it occurred to me how lucky I am that I could see where I was going. I glanced up at the powerful yard light that illuminated the farmyard and wondered about the people who owned this farm before electric power came in the 1940s. I remembered tales of farmers dying in their own yards by becoming disoriented in the blizzard and unable to reach the safety of the house.  They weren’t kidding when it was said that farmers would have to tie rope between the barn and the house so as not to lose their way.

    About halfway up a particularly deep drift I got stuck. After working myself out of it by leaning forward and crawling out, I decided to rest for a moment. I began to wonder what it would be like to freeze to death.

    I lay there on my stomach with my face cradled in my arm in an effort to block the wind. I wondered how quickly the cold that was just beginning to seep through my heavy clothes would chill me to the point of hypothermia. The wind howled and raged around me and blasts of snow came off neighboring drifts and hit me square in the face whenever I looked up. I wondered if anybody missed me yet and what would happen if I were truly unable to move for some reason.

    It was the dogs that discovered me. Hawkeye the Border Collie, Apple the Aussie mix, and Lisle the German Shepherd all descended upon me with a flurry of kisses and much jumping back and forth over my prone body as they tried to get me to respond. When I didn’t move, Hawkeye and Apple gave up. But Lisle lay quietly down beside me as if protecting my head and face from the wind. So it is true that dogs will do their best to protect their masters, I thought to myself as I pulled myself up and told Lisle that she was very good girl.

    I caught my breath and made it the rest of the way to the house. Inside, the warm air was a welcome change from the bitter winds outside. I looked around at the comforts of modern life: heat that pours off the radiators, music coming from the iPod® in the kitchen, food in the fridge, the world at our fingertips through our computers, and I smiled, gratefully. I’m glad I’m not Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family in that little log cabin with no electricity. I am happy sitting in my warm house and just imagining what life would have been like five miles and 140 years from here. Where’s my copy of Little House in the Big Woods?

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