THINKING ABOUT GETTING A PYGMY GOAT?
Goats are herd animals. They want and need to be with their own kind. If you want your new goat to grow, thrive and be happy, it needs to have a companion. Then it has someone to play with and keep it company.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?
If you want a loving pet, pick a goat that is willing to come up to you, be petted and scratched, and even picked up (if they are small enough). An animal that has not been handled since birth is not likely to change very easily. A wether (castrated male) is especially suited to be a pet, since its only interests are attention and food.
Keeping our little charges healthy is relatively easy. Along with bushes, grasses, and whatever else they find in their enclosures, we provide daily feedings of goat ration (for minerals), and add sweet feed during the winter months. Fresh hay, mineral/salt blocks and water are always available. We also worm every 8 weeks, if possible.
Shelter is equally important. This keeps them well protected from rain and wind, and gives extra protection when necessary. Mothers and babies are kept away from the rest, and the males are segregated, except at mating time.
Good fencing cannot be stressed enough. Besides keeping them contained you also want to keep out their worst enemy: dogs. Goats, by their very nature, are rough on their surroundings. They like to scratch themselves by rubbing against the fence as they walk, which will stretch and loosen the material.
It is our philosophy to only breed once a year, to give the does time to rest and enjoy their babies, which we time to be born in the spring. Only does that are at least 1 1/2 years old are selected for breeding. Handling all the babies & mothers daily helps them remain tame, and gives us a chance to do physical inspections. We give the new kids Probios within the first 3 days, to get their rumen off to a good start. The Probios will also help a kid (older than 3 months) when they go off-feed.
At the present time, we recommend all of our baby bucks be surgically castrated, in order to make the best pets (wethers). They remain sweet and lovable, instead of stinky and aloof. We have this done for the new owners, so we can monitor and ensure proper healing. That way, they are all ready for their new families when the time comes.
There seems to be some controversy regarding bottle raised kids. We have never found it necessary to remove them from their mothers to make good, loving pets of them. The closeness the kids develop to their mothers help make them well adjusted, and the young does stand a much better chance of being good mothers if they have had that relationship themselves. We will not bottle feed, unless it is a medical necessity. All of our babies are weaned before they are released to their new families.
We try to provide toys for our goats. What looks like a picnic table is part of their playground, with different levels to jump to and from. You can tell the herd hierarchy from who is on top. Watching the mothers and their kids bounce around their pens is some of the best and cheapest entertainment you can get. We also have large rocks and boulders they can climb and jump on, which also helps keep their hoofs trimmed.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL PESTS
Luckily, our goats’ coats contain some lanolin, although not as much as sheep. This natural lubricant helps to protect them from ticks, fleas and some flies. However, we must still be on the lookout for other infestations, such as lice and worms. Lice can be brought in with new animals, which has happened here once before. We now take extra measures to make sure that mistake doesn’t happen again. Worms, however, are another matter entirely. If a farm tells you they don’t need to treat for worms, don’t believe it for a second. They are an ongoing battle for every farmer, and only a well executed plan will keep them to a minimum. We follow a comprehensive plan that includes natural (non-chemical) compounds to minimize the effects of both internal and external pests. If a goat doesn’t have a shiny coat and pink gums, pass it up!
A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT FLOPPY KID SYNDROME
One of our few losses to date was due to what we later identified as Floppy Kid Syndrome. We had a 7 day-old male that would not feed, and was too weak to stand. Our vet gave him antibiotics, but we lost him 4 days later, even though we brought him inside, bottle fed him, and did everything in our power. It was a very tragic loss for us. Researching this later brought me to an obscure article about losses in very young goats. A seemingly healthy animal would suddenly go limp and die, for no good reason. It turns out, to put it in the simplest terms, the kid would develop an extremely acid stomach (only 1 of the 4 would be functional at this age), and would not be able to digest its milk. The answer: baking soda in solution with water. We have had the ‘fortune’ to prove this theory several times, when one of our kids can’t eat. In just a few hours after treatment (and warming in the house), they are as good as new. You can read more about this here. It is very important to administer treatment as soon as you notice lethargic behavior. Death can occur very suddenly, as new kids don’t have any energy reserves. The baking soda solution will not harm your kid at any age. If you want to share this information with your vet, please, do not hesitate.
CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
There is a great amount of good goat information on the Web. Some sources that have proven most useful to us are: Kinne’s Mini’s, Fias Co Farm, Amber Waves Pygmy Goats, Hoegger Goat Supply, and GoatWorld. As with any advice, take what you need, and leave the rest.