#1 Worms! Especially Haemonchus contortus (barberpole worm), know which dewormers are effective in your herd, McMaster's Fecal Egg Count, FAMACHA scoring (www.wormx.info is a great starting point)
Coccidia prevention and treatment (VERY important in kids!!!)
Vaccinating for overeating disease and tetanus (CD/T)
Proper diet based on clean, quality forage
Appropriate fencing and shelter
Protection from predators (livestock guardian dogs, secure area, most vulnerable at night)
Signs of illness to watch for (sometimes subtle)
Hoof trimming, proper technique and angle, hoof rot
Urinary calculi in bucks and wethers (Ca:P ratio 2:1, ammonium chloride)
Signs of copper deficiency, copper bolusing, and benefits in helping control H. contortu
Fencing: Fencing should be strong and secure to both keep your goats in and predators out. Both goats and predators will find a weak spot along the ground to slip under the fence. Cattle panels are a popular fencing choice as they are sturdy and don't require stretching like regular fence wire. They can be fastened to t-posts and come with a variety of size openings. Generally the smaller openings (4" x 4" or 2" x 4") are more secure and a definite necessity for keeping kids contained. There is a diverse selection of wire fencing. No matter which fencing material you choose, adding a couple strands of electric to your fence will keep the goats from rubbing on and putting their feet on the fence thus ultimately destroying it. Don't forget to secure gates as well.
Shelter: Goats don't like to get wet. They need a good shelter that will keep them dry and warm. A shelter that is enclosed on three sides is perfect. Study the way the weather comes from at your farm and leave the open side facing the direction where the least amount of wind and weather comes from. If you decide to fully enclose your shelter make sure there is still adequate ventilation.
Feed:There are many choices for goat feed.My personal preference is that the feed be non-medicated, pelleted vs textured, and appropriate for the goat(s) in question. Research what will be the best choice for your herd based on what you have readily available in your area.
Hay:Goats need fresh, clean hay with NO MOLD!It is important to offer it out of a hay feeder that prevents the goats from stepping on or soiling the hay.The hay feeder should also be as safe as possible so the goats do not put their head/legs through and get stuck/injured.Alfalfa of any variety (pellets, chopped, baled, Chaffhaye) should be added to the diet for the entire herd accordingly especially for pregnant/lactating does (yes, even bucks can eat alfalfa if you balance the diet properly!).
Minerals:Goats should be offered free choice LOOSE minerals at all times.The red “mineral” block sold is actually still 97% salt and will not satisfy their mineral needs.Also a mineral for sheep or generic stock animals is not appropriately balanced for goats.A readily available acceptable product is Sweetlix Meat Maker 16:8 WITHOUT Rumensin/monensin (again non-medicated is my preference).Even with access to free choice minerals goats need to have copper bolus administered generally every 4-6 months. The copper bolus will not only correct the deficiency but also help with control of barberpole worm and benefit fertility of bucks and does and the health of kids .Carefully and selectively bolus Pygmy or Angora goats as they are copper sensitive!
Dewormers:Do not deworm on a set schedule rather when needed based on FAMACHA scoring and McMaster's fecal egg count.Do not automatically rotate dewormers.Use one until it will not work in your herd anymore.BEWARE that ivermectin (Ivomec, Noromectin, etc) and fenbendazole (Panacur, Safe-Guard) are largely INEFFECTIVE in this area.Use moxidectin (Cydectin sheep/goat drench, Quest horse gel), Valbazen, and/or Ivomec as long as it is effective in your herd.Move to Levimasole (Prohibit) only when moxidectin is no longer effective against barberpole worms and DO NOT OVERDOSE!Dewormers should be given ORALLY (yes, even injectables) for maximum effectiveness against intestinal parasites.NEVER use pour-on Cydectin as a pour-on or orally as the carrier is a harsh chemical -- Cydectin drench or Quest horse gel are safer alternatives. Also remember that not all dewormers are effective in all herds!Monitor your goats closely and ensure that the dewormer you are using is in fact reducing the worm burden!If the goat is not improving and a fecal still shows eggs it is time to go to a stronger dewormer.
Coccidia Prevention & Treatment:Coccidia are microscopic, protozoal parasites of the intestine.Usually affects young stock causing diarrhea and poor growth rates.Coccidiosis can be acute or chronic.The most common age to be affected is 4 weeks to 5 months.Coccidia can cause lethargy, anemia, fever, diarrhea (sometimes bloody or intermittent), “pot-bellied” appearance, poor growth rate, and/or thrifty appearance.It is very important for the future health of your kids to use a coccidiocide (such as Baycox/Toltrazuril) or coccidiastat (such as DiMethox) to control coccidiosis and prevent lasting effects due to the damage caused by the parasite. The recommended prevention protocol is to begin at 3 weeks of age and continue dosing every 21 days until the kid is 5-6 months of age, then treat as needed based on fecal analysis. The product that we use here on the farm is Baycox/Toltrazuril which is super easy as it is only one dose every 21 days and does not have a bad taste like DiMethox does, however, DiMethox is an acceptable alternative as long as it is dosed properly.
Coming soon!!! Must-Have Supplies: A list of essentials every goat owner needs to have on hand at all times.
Tips for Bottle Feeding Your Kid
Disclaimer: I’m not saying it’s “my way or the highway.” These are merely methods of bottle feeding that have worked well for us over the years. Please don’t hesitate to call with any questions or concerns.
***If your kid refuses the bottle, seems depressed/painful, and/or has diarrhea, seek advice immediately!***
MILK – First and foremost! Real goat’s milk is always best, but a totally suitable second is Vitamin D whole milk from the grocery store. Please DO NOT use a milk replacer. The replacers are notorious for causing floppy kid syndrome, bloat, diarrhea, and even death. Just Google if you’d like more information on this topic. Colostrum should never be microwaved, but the whole milk can be microwaved with no issue. Always be sure to test the temperature (~102*F desired) and make sure to stir the milk after warming to eliminate any hot spots created by the microwave.
NIPPLES/BOTTLES – There are many different types of nipples/bottles. I start my kids out on a Pritchard teat on a plastic soda bottle, then transition to a Lambar bucket feeding system.
CONSISTENCY – Set a schedule and stick to it the best you can. Obviously stuff happens sometimes and a reasonable deviation from the schedule is not a big deal. Just try not to be all over the place with feeding times on a regular basis. Keep up the same routine from warming the milk to feeding the kid to cleaning the bottles well immediately after use.
AMOUNT/FREQUENCY – The amount of milk your kid will need and the frequency of feedings depends on his or her age, weight, and breed. This is a guideline. If you feel that your kid is receiving too much or too little milk when following this guideline, please reach out to someone with experience raising bottle kids for advice. Overfeeding is not a good thing but you also want to make sure your kid is getting the nutrition needed to grow and be healthy. The kid might still seem hungry but resist the temptation to allow him or her to drink too much milk! . 1st week – Plenty of colostrum for the first 24 hours! Then 4 feedings per day, 2-4oz per feeding for small breed goats and 4-6 oz for large breed goats.
2 weeks to 8 weeks - 3 feedings per day, 5-16 oz per feeding for small breed goats and 6-24 oz for large breed goats. You will be gradually building up to the higher amounts. *Begin offering hay, pelleted feed, and water free choice during this time.
8+ weeks - 1 or 2 feedings per day, 10-12 oz per feeding for small breed goats and 15-20 oz for large breed goats. Gradually reduce the amount in the bottle until weaning is complete. I like to wean doelings at 4 months and bucklings at 3 months.
*Check your kid for a full tummy by first making sure the kid is standing, then place your fingers on either side of the tummy just in front of the back legs. The kid’s tummy should feel firm but not hard and not deflated. Adjust the amount of milk accordingly. A kid doesn’t know how much milk is too much, so it’s up to you to act like the dam would and regulate the amount of milk the kid is allowed. Also you must ensure enough time passes between feedings for the milk to be digested.
How to tell if a kid is horned or polled:
If the kid is horned the hair will swirl around the horn bud and there will be a hairless spot where the horn will grow. If the kid is polled the hair lays flat.
Also feel for the bumps on the head.Rough polled kids have hard bumps but there is no horn bud there.Smooth polled kids have a smooth, flatter feel.Rough polled kids sometimes mistakenly get disbudded.
If you place your finger on the bump and the skin slides around that is an indication the kid is polled, whereas a developing horn bud will not move.
Typically if a kid is horned you can feel the horn tips emerging within a few days.Sometimes it takes a little longer on small doelings, but in that case you’re ok to wait anyway.I’d rather wait than unnecessarily disbud.
The polled gene is dominant. If both parents are horned there is no way they can produce a polled offspring, but it is possible for a horned kid to result from polled parents.The polled gene does not skip generations so if your buckling’s grandsire was polled but his sire and dam were not then he won’t be either.
Here’s a breakdown of the genetics ofpolled vs. horned: