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i would love to get goats at the farm that i work at. the problem is though that i can't keep them out there during the winter. our high wisconsin snowfalls would keep me from being able to go out there everyday. i live in town but have a nice size lawn that is already fenced in.  was considering miniature goats mainly for convenience of their size. was hoping to get some feedback on city regulations and what not or where to start to get information. thank you!  :)

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I just found this post on barnyardsandbackyards.org I haven't read through all of it, it just fell in my lap. I figured there might be some good tips on there. I'll be sure and read up on it later. I hope it helps -off to bed.
Hi Kristin,

I also am planning on starting goats, so I've been reading up on the basics of goat care and such via google searches. At this point I've decided on finding two young female goats (as they're herd animals and don't like to be alone) with one pregnant to start with the milk. I plan on making dairy products so I've decided on Nubian milk goats which are supposed to be good natured and good for milk.

As far as how to get started, I figure I'm gonna need a barn before I can get the goats, so I'm beginning there. Goats require basic shelter, and there's many different versions of goat sheds out there. You can buy new and used manufactured goat sheds and barns of all different sizes depending on the size of your herd, or some folks just use standard 8x8 backyard sheds. I have a lot of nice scrap lumber and materials in the basement so I'm just going to make a barn myself using that and other reclaimed materials. Whether you decide to buy one or build one, you can just google to shop around and compare designs and styles to fit your space, size of herd, budget, and style. I've also been planning barn design around future needs, as I also plan on adding a few alpacas after the goats, and will need more space for this.

After the barn, then I'm going to make a corral, and from there, fence off the front part of my land which is almost an acre for pasture.

Then, after all that, then the goats move in.
I have two African Pygmy goats and I live in a city. You must have at least two goats. If you can find a class on raising goats I highly recommend taking it. Also, find a vet that knows a lot about goats (preferrably one that raises them as well) before getting them as they do need specialized care. You also have to consider what you want goats for. Are they just going to be pets? Are you going to milk them? What will you do with the offspring? What if you can't find anyone to buy them? Remember, a doe can give birth to up to 4 kids at once so you really need to have a good plan. If you do plan on selling them, get non-refundable deposits from people. I know someone that didn't do that and ended up having people back out on her at the last minute multiple times.

You will definitely need shelter, as goats HATE to get wet. A three walled shelter is fine though. You will need to provide them with good quality hay (only feed alfalfa to does, never to wethers or bucks), baking soda (helps with gas issues), a mineral block that contains copper and selenium (blocks are better than loose because they can OD on the loose stuff much easier), and plenty of space to run around and stuff for them to jump on (we use large wire spools for this).

Fencing is also important as they will constantly challenge it. We once had welded wire fencing, but it didn't hold up at all. We now use chainlink fencing and so far it's been holding up well. They don't try to climb it, but they rub themselves against it all the time. Because it gives and then returns to it's former position, it doesn't get misshapened like the welded wire did. Another thing that is important to note is that if they can get their head through it, their body can follow. I'm not exaggerating at all about this point.

When purchasing your first goats get them from a reputable breeder. Ask for their pedigrees, registration, and vet records. Make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and that they test negative for CAE and Johnes Disease.

Let me know if you have any other questions.
I read Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art... yesterday (couldn't put it down!) and I'm now convinced that goats are in my future. There are some practical tips in the book, and just a wonderful portrait of the connection between goats and their people.
Hi Kristin, wonderful idea. If you need some inspiration and a quality barn design, you might want to try this. Good luck!
First off: thanks for all the feedback so far!!

We actually have an area for the goats and a milking station...just needs to be built yet. All in good time. I figure that will give me something to do this winter since the garden will be resting. Such is the life of a homesteader..we don't know what rest is. Tee Hee. Much rather be doing this then working a 9-5 in a stuffy building with people I really don't care to be around. Animals are much easier to deal with then people sometimes. :)

I've also been reading as much information as I can get my hands on about raising goats. Read the great book: Living With Goats by Margaret Hathaway. And I found it very helpful in answering those basic questions and even some more extensive ones. One thing I loved that she wrote was that it's one thing to read and do all the research but it's another COMPLETELY different thing once you actually acquire them and start raising them yourself.

I too have read that it's best to get at least two. Well I wouldn't want to be alone in a barn either..hehe. Our future goal is to have a heard of at least 3-5. So far we've planned on 2 females so start that way we can start getting milk right away. But like Margaret did in her book, we're bound to keep our first kid even if it's male. Being a 26 year old, single female, I've often told my family I'd probably have a kid long before I had a marriage. I didn't specify the species. Mine as well be a goat kid!!!! :)

And with the goal of being completely self-sustaining someday the goats will not only be used for their milk, but the products made from the milk and the meat. From actual dairy products to soap. Another part about Margaret's book was that she actually put in a whole chapter on the meat topic. Which is another reason why I'm already sold on keeping our first kid, cause I just couldn't imagine eating it. :s But I know with the chance that more then one kid can be born, we've had to think of plans on what to do with them. And I loved that she put in there the way to "bless" the meat before slaughter. I believe (don't quote me, just cause it's been a few months since I've read it) it's a muslim blessing. Giving it back to the world and being thankful for it giving it's life to sustain ours. Because I do live by the philosophy that everything has a right to live. Ew even spiders! I've killed a lot less of them since I really started believing that way but it makes a lot more sense. However, when I do take a life I say my apologies to the creature and God, whether it be a spider or any other creepy crawly thing that makes it into my personal space.

Again my biggest concern with getting goats is none of that. I know it'll be a LOT of hard work and preparation at the farm to get them, and am excited to get started. But what am I to do in the winter?? The farm I work at is about 20 miles from my house, which sure doesn't seem that far, but in the rigid wisconsin winters can be BRUTAL!! And if a sudden blizzard snows me into my house (like it did a couple times last year) I will still need to take care of the goats daily. I can't just NOT milk them or feed them because I can't get to the farm. Especially when kidding time comes around. I've really been determined so far in my thinking that I'd really like to get Alpines. They just are the cutest, and most entertaining looking of all the breeds. And the fact that I'm only suppling for myself and my mentor right now we don't really need big producers such as Nubians. Besides I'm not a big fan of the droopy ears. They just look so sad all the time. I like the jolly, troublesome feel I get from the Alpines. Kinda sick if you think about it. Hehe. But like I stated in the beginning of the discussion I've been doing more thinking about miniature goats just for their size. Not that it would make any difference if I can't move them to my house in town during the winter. :(
Since Alpines are well, alpine breeds you probably won't be milking them in the winter because they only go into heat around October. You want the kids to be born in the Spring so it would be a good idea to dry the does up before breeding, which would be well before Winter came. So that's one less chore you will need to deal with in the winter. Also, they don't require all that much daily care. If you have an auto waterer and a hay trough they should be set for a few days at least.
The bigger the breed, the pushier the goat. I know this from experience. Personally, I wouldn't trade our Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats for anything. I love them. They are the PERFECT starter goat. They are also compact and VERY easy to handle.
While I agree that it's important to know where your goats are coming from, I disagree that they need to be registered. You need to know what exactly your purposes for your goats and their kids will be. For myself, I plan to breed for milk production only. My females will be registered, but I don't plan to register their kids. I plan to sell doelings and butcher wethers. Registration for goats is a lot like registration for dogs. A lot of dogs have a registered pedigree that should really not be adding to the breed's liniage. IMO it's much better to know your breeder well enough to trust that they can give you what you need. Just because you own a dairy BREED doesn't mean you'll end up with a great producer of goat milk. By the same token, just because you have a piece of paper saying your goat is registered doesn't mean it's parents SHOULD have been bred. Good milking goats get their good milking genes from their mother AND their father. There are a lot of unregistered animals out there that are great producers, and there are a lot of registered animals out there that aren't. Unless you know what you are looking for, and the person you are buying from, you won't be able to know with confidence that your product is what you need.


Kristin Eggerth said:
First off: thanks for all the feedback so far!!

We actually have an area for the goats and a milking station...just needs to be built yet. All in good time. I figure that will give me something to do this winter since the garden will be resting. Such is the life of a homesteader..we don't know what rest is. Tee Hee. Much rather be doing this then working a 9-5 in a stuffy building with people I really don't care to be around. Animals are much easier to deal with then people sometimes. :)

I've also been reading as much information as I can get my hands on about raising goats. Read the great book: Living With Goats by Margaret Hathaway. And I found it very helpful in answering those basic questions and even some more extensive ones. One thing I loved that she wrote was that it's one thing to read and do all the research but it's another COMPLETELY different thing once you actually acquire them and start raising them yourself.

I too have read that it's best to get at least two. Well I wouldn't want to be alone in a barn either..hehe. Our future goal is to have a heard of at least 3-5. So far we've planned on 2 females so start that way we can start getting milk right away. But like Margaret did in her book, we're bound to keep our first kid even if it's male. Being a 26 year old, single female, I've often told my family I'd probably have a kid long before I had a marriage. I didn't specify the species. Mine as well be a goat kid!!!! :)

And with the goal of being completely self-sustaining someday the goats will not only be used for their milk, but the products made from the milk and the meat. From actual dairy products to soap. Another part about Margaret's book was that she actually put in a whole chapter on the meat topic. Which is another reason why I'm already sold on keeping our first kid, cause I just couldn't imagine eating it. :s But I know with the chance that more then one kid can be born, we've had to think of plans on what to do with them. And I loved that she put in there the way to "bless" the meat before slaughter. I believe (don't quote me, just cause it's been a few months since I've read it) it's a muslim blessing. Giving it back to the world and being thankful for it giving it's life to sustain ours. Because I do live by the philosophy that everything has a right to live. Ew even spiders! I've killed a lot less of them since I really started believing that way but it makes a lot more sense. However, when I do take a life I say my apologies to the creature and God, whether it be a spider or any other creepy crawly thing that makes it into my personal space.

Again my biggest concern with getting goats is none of that. I know it'll be a LOT of hard work and preparation at the farm to get them, and am excited to get started. But what am I to do in the winter?? The farm I work at is about 20 miles from my house, which sure doesn't seem that far, but in the rigid wisconsin winters can be BRUTAL!! And if a sudden blizzard snows me into my house (like it did a couple times last year) I will still need to take care of the goats daily. I can't just NOT milk them or feed them because I can't get to the farm. Especially when kidding time comes around. I've really been determined so far in my thinking that I'd really like to get Alpines. They just are the cutest, and most entertaining looking of all the breeds. And the fact that I'm only suppling for myself and my mentor right now we don't really need big producers such as Nubians. Besides I'm not a big fan of the droopy ears. They just look so sad all the time. I like the jolly, troublesome feel I get from the Alpines. Kinda sick if you think about it. Hehe. But like I stated in the beginning of the discussion I've been doing more thinking about miniature goats just for their size. Not that it would make any difference if I can't move them to my house in town during the winter. :(
For those who are considering backyard dairy goats, especially Nigerian dwarfs or mini-goats, you might want to check out a couple of resources. To be honest, one I wrote, the other I edit, but both are very well respected throughout the country as great places to learn about keeping a family milk supply in goat form. Visitwww.smallfarmgoat.comto learn about Ruminations: Celebrating the Small Farm Goat, a quarterly magazine about Nigerian dwarfs and mini-dairy goats. The other is Personal Milkers: A Guide to Nigerian Dwarf Goat Keeping. I wrote that one after keeping goats for nearly 10 years, which was many years ago. You can learn about that at my farm site, www.hamesaxle.com/PersonalMilkers.html.

Your goats are still going to need to be grained daily in the winter time. And what about water? If you are house-bound for a couple days, what happens if the tank heater dies or the electric goes out at the same time and they have no water during that time?  They also need a good shelter. A wet goat is a sick goat.

 Also, from a nursing mom herself- it is downright cruel to go from regular milkings to suddenly stop. It HURTS and can damage your doe as well. It's also a sure-fire way to end up with mastitis in your doe. If they are dry when you go into winter then that's one less thing you need to worry about, but they can easily stay in milk up until the last two months of pregnancy so you'd be losing some milking time, if that matters to you. Rut starts in August and runs thru January....Usually. Though it's not uncommon to be on either side of that, particularly for the pygmies and nubians.

 

The single best sight for goats is www.fiascofarm.com and she is on facebook too.

 As far as the smaller breeds being easier to handle-my experience has been the complete opposite. My nubians, saanen and alpine have been much more agreeable than any of the pygmies or nigerians I've owned or known. My nubians have "adopted" me and even treat me as one of their kids-sometimes licking/cleaning me from the milk stand when milking. The standard breeds seem less apt to be escape artists or car jumpers or other bad habits.

 

As far as keeping your first kid. ...You are going to want to wether him if it's a buck. The little buggers are fertile as early as 8 weeks old, and he can and WILL impregnate every female they can. Including his mother or 8 week old sister. Bucks stink, they can be dangerous and are utterly obnoxious during rut. They are not for the beginner. Every bad thing you have heard about goats and their reputation came from somebody havng a buck and not knowing what they were doing. You would be much better off getting some experience under your belt before trying to house your own buck. That being said, the bucks are still my favorite-stink and all.

 

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