Bottle Raising

credit: Rachel Hoff - Dog Island Farms

New Goat Owner Information Packet

The Basics

  1. Always have at least two goats. Goats are a herd animal and don’t like being alone. An unhappy goat means an unhappy owner.

  2. Basic goat terms:

  • Kid – baby goat

  • Doe-female goat; doeling is a baby female goat

  • Buck – intact male goat; buckling is an intact baby male goat

  • Wether – castrated male goat

  • Kidding/freshening – giving birth

  • Junior doe – a mature doe that has never kidded

  • First freshener - a mature doe that has kidded only once

  • Senior doe – a mature doe that has kidded at least twice

  • Dam – the mother

  • Sire – the father

  • Disbudded– the removal of the horn buds of young kids – usually with a hot iron

  • Polled – kids born without horns

  • Udder – the mammary system

  1. Goats are ruminants. Like cows they have four stomachs – the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum (or true stomach).

  2. a. The rumen is located on their left side. Think of the rumen as a big fermentation vat. A healthy goat will have a large, but not hard, rumen. The microorganisms in the rumen break down fiber, synthesize B vitamins, and build protein. It also creates heat to keep the goat warm. The fermented product is regularly “burped up” and chewed on – this is the cud.

  • b. Once the particles are small enough they pass through to the reticulum. Any foreign objects settle in this stomach, which gives it the nickname “hardware stomach.”

  • c. The food then passes to the omasum where the water is absorbed along with more nutrients, including fatty acids. This is where the goats gets the most energy from its food.

  • d. The food is finally digested by the abomasum, which is similar to our stomach as it contains HCl (hydrochloric acid). It will then travel through the small intestine where the most of the nutrients are absorbed.

  • e. When kids are born the abomasum is the largest stomach and where they digest milk. As they start to ingest roughage the abomasums shrinks and the rumen expands.

  • 4. Goats are browsers rather than grazers. They prefer to eat food above their shoulder height. They are terrible for keeping weeds down unless that is all they are given to eat. They are very susceptible to parasites if they are forced to graze.

  • 5. Contrary to popular belief, goats are very picky eaters. If it hits the ground it is soiled and they won’t touch it. They are very curious animals and use their mouth like we use our hands – to feel things – which is where they got the reputation that they will eat anything.

  • 6. The Normal, Healthy Goat (from

  • a. Temperature = 101-103.5 - This varies depending on the temperature of the goat's surroundings.

  • b. Pulse rate = 70 - 80 beats per minute

  • c. Respiration =15 to 30 per minute

  • d. Rumen (stomach) movements = 1 - 1.5 per minute

  • e. Puberty = 7 weeks - 8 months (separate bucks from does at 2 month)

  • f. Estrus/Heat Cycle = 17 to 23 days

  • g. Gestation = 143 to 155 days

  • h. Life span:

  • i. Does = 11-12 years average age, but... usually the death in does is kidding related. Does that are "retired" from breeding around age 10 live longer: 16-18 years (and I just recently found a doe who was 24; she was retired from kidding at age 10).

  • ii. Wethers = 11-16 years average age

  • iii. Bucks = 8-10 average age - bucks usually live shorter lives than does and wethers due to the stresses of going into rut each year.

  • i. Full growth size: Most goats do not reach their full size until they are about three years of age. (They keep growing for about three years)

  • 7. Goats are smart. They are as smart or smarter than dogs but independent like cats. Makes for a dangerous combination. You really can only trick them once and then they are on to you.

Getting Your Goat

  • 1. What you need before purchasing goats

  • a. An area to keep them. You will want enough room for exercise and a shelter to keep them dry and out of the wind. Goats hate rain so their shelter needs to be adequate to keep them dry. Good ventilation is key. Have a separated stall for quarantine.

  • i. Full size goats: 20 sf per goat indoors and 200 sf per goat outdoors

  • ii. Dwarf goats: 10 sf per goat indoors and 100 sf per goat outdoors

  • b. Strong fencing. Goats will constantly challenge fencing. Barbwire stakes or 4x4 wood posts cemented in to hold fencing up. Hog panels are good if you have hornless goats. Horned goats can get stuck in the fencing leaving them at the mercy of the other goats. They can also break their necks while struggling to free themselves. Chainlink fencing is strong and bounces back easily. Welded wire fencing gets warps too easily. Chicken wire is inappropriate. You also want latches they can’t open – remember, they are really smart. They will respect electric fencing.

  • c. Hay Feeders. You can purchase different types of feeders at various feed stores or you can easily make them from metal conduit and scrap wood or out of old drop side cribs (you can usually find these for free on Craigslist). Make sure they are out of the rain and off the ground.

  • d. Waterer. Automatic waterers are the easiest. Goats drink a lot of water – 4-5 gallons a day – every day. They also prefer to drink out of white buckets. Water must be clean or they won’t drink it.

  • e. Enrichment. Goats love to jump and climb. Wire spools and straw bales offer the perfect climbing and jumping structures for them. Just make sure to cover holes in spools so they don’t break their legs.

  • 2. What gender to get?

  • a. Bucks are smelly, strong and can be aggressive. Even the nicest buck can become aggressive during rut. Not an appropriate animal to have in urban/suburban areas.

  • b. Wethers make great pets and brush clearers. Inexpensive to purchase.

  • c. Does will produce milk and also make great pets. They are also the most expensive so if you can only afford one doe get a doe and a wether for company.

  • 3. Horned vs. Hornless goats

  • a. Horns help cool goats down in hot weather and are their defense system. They are also easier to control when medicating as the horns serve as handles. Goats with horns are more destructive and can be more aggressive. They are dangerous around other goats and children. They can injure you even unintentionally. Horns make them more prone to getting hung up in other goats’ collars and also in fences.

  • b. Hornless goats are less likely to head butt. They are less dangerous around both people and other goats and are less destructive. Hornless goats are easier to sell and are the only ones you can show. They also are less likely to get stuck in fences and won’t get caught up on other goats’ collars.

  • c. Once a goat has horns you can’t safely remove them without risking the health of the goat. The decision to keep horns or remove them must be made within the first week of the goat’s life. If you must remove the horns from a mature animal consult a professional or veterinarian.

Basic Care

1. Feeding – when switching feeds do so very slowly so the rumen can get used to the change.

  • a. Hay – the type of hay you feed depends on several factors. Goats in milk should be fed more alfalfa which is higher in calcium and protein. Goats that are not producing should be fed grass hay with some alfalfa (alfalfa is optional). Wethers, which are at risk for developing urinary calculi need a balanced diet of grass and alfalfa. Pregnant goats should be fed a mix of alfalfa and grass hay. Hay MUST be free of mold. Never feed “cow hay” to goats even if the grower/feed store tells you it’s ok.

  • b. Grain/concentrates – Mostly for pregnant does and does in milk. Wethers should not be fed grain unless they are on a 100% alfalfa based diet.

  • c. Loose minerals – provide free choice loose minerals that contain salt. Make sure that the minerals are specific for goats and NOT for sheep and goats as it will not contain copper which goats require. Goats cannot ingest enough from a block mineral.

  • d. Baking soda – provide free choice baking soda. Goats use it as antacid to control acidosis and bloat.

  • e. Forage – Make sure to choose safe plants if you want to provide some extra forage. has a good list of safe and poisonous plants. If you aren’t sure the type of plant or whether it is safe, don’t feed it.

  • 2. Bedding –

  • a. Clean straw or wood shavings are good bedding. They generally waste enough feed to create their own bedding.

  • b. Deep litter – continually adding carbon (bedding) to the floor to compost waste in place. Provides warmth in the winter, keeps smell down, only needs to be cleaned out a few times a year.

  • 3. Hoof trimming – do every 6-8 weeks. Keep hoof walls trimmed to keep mud, feces and debris from getting trapped against frog.

Basic Health Care

  • 1. Start with a disease free herd and it will make your life a lot easier.

  • 2. Routine care a. Yearly vaccinations include CD/T and Pasteurella. CD/T is a combination vaccine for Clostridium perfringens types C & D and Tetanus (Clostridium tetani). Pasteurella is for a specific organism that causes pneumonia. With does we give them these vaccines 4-6 weeks prior to kidding.

  • b. Selenium supplementation

  • i. Oral gel – must be used every 30 days but isn’t as effective

  • ii. Bo-Se SubQ injection (Rx only) – given every 6 months usually prior to breeding season and then again 4-6 weeks prior to kidding. 1mL per 40lbs

  • c. Copper supplementation

  • i. Make sure mineral provides copper.

  • ii. Copper is easy to overdue and create toxicity in our area. We use Replamin Plus 2x a week and Sweetlix Meat Maker mixed 50/50 with Sweetlix Super Sheep (no copper) due to too much copper. We do not bolus.

  • d. Worming/parasites

  • i. Check eyelids for color using FAMACHA. Run a fecal to determine if there are worms and what type so you can use the appropriate wormer. A fecal costs about $25 through the vet or you can learn how to do them yourselves. Instructions on how to do your own fecal can be found here:

  • ii. Do not worm just to worm – always run a fecal first. This is how worms are building resistance to wormers. Panacur (also called Safeguard) no longer works in our area. Ivermectin is losing efficacy as well.

  • iii. External parasites are easy to see with the naked eye. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) works well against external parasites. Permethrin powder for livestock is more effective.

  • e. Probios

  • i. An oral probiotic gel used to help the rumen. Give to young kids to start their rumen off right. Also good for goats under stress.

  • f. California Mastitis Test (CMT)

  • i. A test kit to check your milking does for mastitis.

  • 3. Health Issues

  • a. Pneumonia is very serious in goats. They have a hard time recovering if they do. Symptoms include fever and coughing. A snotty nose and raspy breathing may also be observed. Requires a vet visit. Nuflor and Draxxin are the best antibiotics for pneumonia but are Rx only.

  • b. Coccidiosis is a protozoan that attacks the digestive tract. Damage in permanent and it can be fatal so it must be caught early. Symptoms include (sometimes bloody) diarrhea and a hunched stance. Most common in kids 3 weeks old to 5 months old.

  • c. Bloat – Rumen upset that results in excess gas buildup in rumen. *Emergency* Rumen is located on left side of goat. If left side is larger than right side making goat appear uneven and left side is hard like a drum. Get goat up and walking. Every few minutes elevate front end 8-12” higher than backend and massage rumen to stimulate burping. Continue until rumen reduces noticeably. Treatments can also include administering Therabloat or vegetable oil in the case of frothy bloat. If none of the above works, contact vet.

  • d. Hoof rot, scald and abscesses.

  • i. Caused by wet conditions and feet aren’t able to dry out. The frog begins to rot. Symptoms include horrible smell and lameness. Management including giving them a dry area and routine hoof trimming can prevent hoof rot, scald and abscesses.

  • e. Goat polio – a metabolic disease caused by a thiamine deficiency and mostly effects young goats. Can mimic listeriosis which is a brainstem disease. Symptoms include staggering, weaving, diarrhea, blindness, tremors, fever and eventually death.

  • f. Listeriosis – brainstem disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes and causes encephalitis. Is more common in adult goats and symptoms are similar to goat polio. Treated with high dosages of Procaine Penicillin (Rx).

  • g. Enterotoxemia – caused by Clostridium bacteria also called “overeating disease.” Usually caused by overeating of milk (for kids) or grain (adults). Symptoms include lower than normal body temperature, sometimes watery diarrhea, lethargy, arching it’s back, screaming, convulsions and eventually death. Can be prevented with vaccine. Illness is fast and must be treated aggressively. Treated with CD Antitoxin (not Toxoid). See label for dosages. Best prevented by vaccination.

  • h. Caprine arthritis and encephalitis (CAE) – a retrovirus that can cause encephalitis in kids and progressive arthritis, mastitis or pneumonia in adults. Passed mostly from dam to kids through colostrums and milk. Can also be passed through blood. Possibly passed through saliva, mucus and breeding. Blood testing is done to find positive animals. No treatment or vaccine available. Blood test only finds antibodies so a positive goat can test negative which makes yearly testing essential. A strict CAE prevention program can keep does from passing the virus to kids.

  • i. Johne’s – a wasting disease that is found in all species of ruminants and has been implicated as the cause for Crohn’s disease. Mostly transmitted through fecal material. Always fatal and there is no treatment or vaccine. Biosecurity is essential. Regular pasteurization does not kill the organism and has been found in commercial milk. A fecal test can determine if your herd has it. Goats can be infected for years before showing clinical symptoms. Symptoms only occur in the last stages of the disease and include weight loss with no changes in appetite.

  • j. Caseous lymphadenitis (CL) is a bacterial disease that causes abscesses mainly at the lymph nodes. It is highly contagious and is zoonotic. The abscess exudate can contaminate the ground for months. There is no cure or treatment.

  • 4. Health supplies to have on hand

  • a. Thermometer

  • i. Normal temp is 101-103.5.

  • 1. Fever = infection

  • 2. Subnormal = digestive problem or anemia

  • b. Antibiotics for use when goat has an infection (now only available with Rx).

  • i. Oxy tetracycline (LA 200, Biomycin, Maxim 200) is a broad spectrum antibiotic. I prefer Biomycin as it is a no-sting formula. Only available as Rx.

  • ii. Procaine Penicillin (Pro-Pen-G) should be used in cases of goat polio or listeriosis. Must be kept refrigerated. Only available as Rx.

  • iii. Neomycin should be used for E. coli outbreaks in young kids. Only available as Rx.

  • iv. Terramycin Eye Ointment for pink eye or eye injuries. Only available as Rx.

  • c. Coccidiostats used to treat coccidiosis.

  • i. Sulfa drugs are the most effective – Albon, Sulmet (both are Rx) the most common.

  • ii. Corid is not effective.

  • d. Antitoxins

  • i. Available to treat both tetanus and enterotoxemia. Antitoxins treat the disease while toxoids are the preventative vaccine.

  • ii. Very important to have on hand. When you need it there is no time to order it.

  • e. B- Complex for the treatment of goat polio, listeriosis and for a goat that is stressed or not eating. Acts as an appetite stimulant. Good for any goat that is feeling off. Check label for dosage information (use sheep dosage if goat is not listed). Given SubQ

  • f. Activated Charcoal if they eat something poisonous.

  • g. Milk of Magnesia for the use of accidental poisoning or overeating. Give at 15cc per 60lbs every 4-6 hours until feces go from normal to clumpy and back to normal. Keep animal hydrated with electrolytes when using.

  • h. Nutridrench is a quick absorbing energy supplement for weak animals and appetite stimulant. Use for any sick goat.

  • i. Kaolin Pectin suspension to stop diarrhea.

  • j. Electrolytes

  • k. Aspirin is used for pain relief when Banamine is not available, fever reduction and reducing inflammation. Can be given at the rate of 1 regular aspirin per 10lbs.

  • l. Selenium supplement – Bo-Se or oral Selenium/Vitamin E supplement

  • m. Vaccinations – CD/T Toxoid and Pasteurella Toxoid – I prefer Colorado Serum as it is less likely to leave injection site abscesses. n. Wormers

  • o. Probios for stress or illness. Helps keep the rumen going. They also really like Equerry’s Large Animal Probiotic.

  • p. Benadryl in case of an allergic reaction.

  • q. Iodine or rubbing alcohol for cleaning injection sites prior to giving injection.

  • r. Drenching Syringe

  • s. Heavy duty set of clippers

  • t. Stethoscope if you need to make sure rumen is working.

  • u. Vet Wrap

  • v. Alu-Shield or Betadine for wound care. BluKote is not to be used on Food Producing Animals.

  • w. Hoof shears

  • i. I also like to use a Dremel to get them real even.

  • ii. See youtube for hoof trimming videos.

  • x. Syringes and sharps container


  • Online goat information:

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  •  Goat Vet Corner on Facebook Local vets that treat goats

  •  Napa Equine

  •  UC Davis Large Animal Clinic

  •  Cotati Large Animal Online goat supplies:

  •    – best place to get items that need to stay cold.​

© 2016 by Old Washoe Ranch

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