Dairy goats on pasture
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Dairy Goat – Essential Supplies

You’ve done the research and you found your goats. What set-up and dairy goat essentials should you have on hand before bringing your goats home? The following is our essential, bare-minimum that you’ll want to have on-hand. It is guaranteed that you will be adding to this list, however, if you have all this on hand, you will be off to a successful start.

Goat Shelter

No matter what the climate, a three-sided shelter large enough to house all your goats is imperative.  This shelter should give them enough shade to get out of the sun in summer heat and on a frigid day, out of the cold wind. This is not just a dairy goat essesential, but a

Our storms typically move in from the southwest of us. Therefore, we face the door of our shelter north. This also keeps sun from ever really being able to reach inside the structure. You’ll want to think through the orientation of your structure before you set it up.

In the bitter cold, you can easily make your structure warmer with things like blankets to cover the open side as doors and such. (For the 2022 Artic Blast, we were creative with our buck hut. You can find the story of what we did here to prepare our buck, and the rest of the animals, for the history making cold.)

If the doe is expectant, you should have a stall area that keeps other goats out and newborns in during labor. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be done in such a way that mother and babies will have privacy for at least the first week. Moms of newborns may get stressed out with the rest of the herd too close. Stressed moms of newborn kids will easily flip into a parasite bloom (overload of parasites). No one wants that!

Goat Food

Hay Now

It should go without saying that goats need hay. You will need hay even if you have pasture for your goats. Hay is a staple in a goat’s diet.

If you are keeping your goat in a “dry lot” (no grass or pasture available), then you know you will be needing quite a bit of hay as it is their main food source.

With or without pasture, over the winter, expect to use quite a bit of hay. You are going to look for hay that has a variety of forage in it and should include bulky, “woody” plants that keep the ruminant stomachs healthy.

In the spring, especially when going out on to green for the first while, their body doesn’t do great right away with pasture. It is best to always have hay available to them. Also, spring brings a lot of rain. Goats don’t like to go out into the rain, so have their hay accessible to them in a dry place on those days.

Remember, goats need their hay up off the ground. They will not eat it from the ground unless they have no other option and are “starving”. Even then, it’s highly unlikely they’ll eat it.

There are a variety of ways on the internet that will allow you different options to hold and feed hay for goats. No matter which way you choose, you will need something to keep hay off the ground.

Grazing and Browsing Area

The ideal situation would be to keep goats and rotational pasture them in areas with woods. However, not many of us have that option.

In this circumstance, you need to be aware that you can overgraze your area where you keep your goats. This leads to a breeding ground for parasites and can easily overwhelm your goats. We learned this the hard way. So, we are trying Bioworma (available through Premier 1 only) this year. Come back in a couple of months to read the review when we get results.

The next best thing would be letting your goats have access to fenced-in pasture or woodlands with shrubs. When a goat eats grass off the ground, it’s grazing. Grazing isn’t a goat’s first preference. Actually browsing (eating off of shrubs and trees) is their favorite way to eat. So as much as you can, allow them that opportunity if you have it available to you.

Grains

Contrary to popular belief, grain isn’t 100% necessary with goats not in milk. For pregnant does and does in milk, you will need grains to make sure they stay a healthy weight. Bucks and goats not pregnant or in milk can exist on forage and hay. With that being said, you will need grain with feed bucket/trough, a storage bucket, and a measuring scoop.

Don’t overlook the importance of a good storage bucket/bin. Make sure it’s goat proof. If your goat can get into it, they can literally overeat and die from it.

Water Accessibility

Goats, like any livestock, need a steady and accessible supply of water. You must have LARGE water buckets or a trough of some kind. We use a plastic, food grade barrel as our watering trough. It cost us $12 to make 2 of them and have worked very well. Does in milk, especially, need lots of water. Make sure you have a way to always give them clean, plentiful water.

Cut into thirds, this barrel turned into two watering troughs. Water is definitely an essential to dairy goats.

Maintenance Supplies

Minerals must be readily accessible at all times. If you try to skimp on minerals, you will wind up paying for it in the long run because your goats will be overrun with parasites and become sickly. They are an important part of keeping your goats healthy. We actually even added a cobalt lick block for our herd in addition to the loose minerals. They use it often. If your dairy goat has sufficient minerals, your milk will be delicious.

Hoof clippers are another maintenance must-have. You should clip your goats hooves at least once a month. If you don’t it can cause problems for your goat. Sometimes, if you wait too long, it can actually malform the hoof. So, don’t wait too long!

Health Care

Parasite Management

Parasite management is just a part of owning any grass-eating livestock. Anti-parasitic medications with syringes and needles should be kept on-hand at all times. With this being said, you should also have access to a good dosing chart with withdrawal times on hand. You can find the chart that we use from Cornell University here.

OR if treating herbally, see The Giving Goat Blog for the basic herbals and essential oils you’ll need to have on hand. You can also find a link here for more information on what to order and how to administer for maintenance and treatment. We, personally, use Fir Meadows DWA and GI Soother for parasite maintenance and treatment. However, in cases that are life-threatening (i.e. bottle jaw), we have reverted to Safeguard and Ivermectin or other chemical dewormers. They are always a last resort for us.

Essentials for Sick Goats

A dollar store digital thermometer is a must. Try to keep at least two on hand. When your goat is looking or acting off, the first thing to do is check their temperature.

A drenching gun is also a necessity. This device is used to get oral medications and/or things like activated charcoal into your goat.

Sometimes goats will eat things they shouldn’t. If you have enough forage for them and hay, they will more than likely avoid these things. However, there is always that ONE goat…. And if it does eat something poisonous, you will need activated charcoal. This will be a drenchable item when mixed with water. Better to have it on hand, always.

Unless you plan on buying a livestock scale, you will need a tape measure to weigh your goat. Yes, you heard that correctly. You can get close enough to the actual weight of the goat using the following method: (Measure the heart girth X body length)/300 = weight in pounds. This is imperative to know before administering any antibiotic, Vitamin B complex, iron, etc.

You will also need Vitamin B Complex (injectable) for any goat who is recovering from any illness or parasite overload. Make sure you have syringes and 20 or 22 gauge needles on hand as well to administer the Vitamin B complex subcutaneously.

When a goat is severely anemic, you will need to supplement it with iron. You can do this one of two ways: orally or subcutaneously. We use Red Cell for oral or you can use pig iron for injectable. Injectable iron is thick and we would recommend an 18 or 20-gauge needle for injection.

Help Them Stay Healthy

Probiotics should also be kept on hand to help digestive issues. When recovering from parasite overload, you can give your goat probiotics to help their system get back on track from those abnormal stools.

Garlic is also something common that you have that you can give a clove to every day for an immunity boost. Just toss it in with their grain. Some may actually eat it out of your hand. It all depends on the goat.

Human tablets of Vitamin C are recommended to be given with the iron so the goat can absorb and metabolize the iron more efficiently. It’s not necessary, but since it is relatively inexpensive and something you may already have on hand, just add it to your goat kit!

Human zinc tablets can also be kept on hand to give to them. You will also need copper because it has to be given to them once or twice a year. This is because the soil deficiencies we have.

Get Certified for Free

A Famacha scorecard is an invaluable tool. It helps you to determine how your goats are handling certain types of parasites. Not all parasites create anemia, but knowing how to do a Famacha and having a scorecard to eliminate “guessing” what their score is would be highly recommended. You can get one by taking a free Famacha training course here. It is actually a certification course and where you can get your Famacha scorecard.

from the URI website.  Famacha certification.   A dairy goat essentials.

This may seem elementary… but always keep a notebook and pen in your barn to record all that you think you will remember when dealing with your goat. (hoof care, wormings, Famacha, etc) Chances are, you won’t. Also, if and when you sell your goat, it’s just good business to be able to send a health record with them.

Lastly, if they are in milk, you will need other things. That’s for the next article. However, these things above are the essentials in the care and keeping of your dairy goat.

NOW, you got these things on hand, you are ready to bring home your goats. Want to know what you should expect those first few days and weeks? You can find that out in this article on bringing your goats home.

Did this answer your question? Please feel free to let us know!

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