Caring for goats year-round takes a lot of planning. And if you’re new to the goat world, there are a lot of unexpected challenges ahead.
But when you know what’s coming down the road, you can plan and pivot when your beloved goats decide to through you a curveball (and they will)!
This article gives an overview of some of the most important things to consider throughout the year.
Grab a cup of coffee, take some notes, and get ready to enter the wonderful world of goat ownership!
What Time of Year is the Best Time to Get a Goat?
Determining what time of the year to get a goat depends on many things. Especially where you live.
There’s no wrong time of year to add a goat to your farm. But if I’m being honest, winter (especially if you live in the colder regions) is a somewhat tricky time to buy a goat.
And it’s not just because it’s a little colder. It’s because goats need a lot of extra nutrition to keep their healthy weight through the in-climate weather.
That’s not to say goats don’t need top-notch nutrition year-round, but they’ll need more when it gets cold and damp out to stay healthy and happy.
Fields are often bare or snowcovered, so bailing your hay or having a go-to farm to purchase quality hay from is a high priority for all goat owners.
For a new goat parent, seeing the feed, a goat goes through for the first time during winter may be enough to put one off goats forever.
But rest assured, they genuinely are hardy animals, and as long as you’re providing plenty of hay, your goats will do just fine.
Goat Health Throughout the Year
Goats aren’t like other farm pets. They’re not like horses, pigs, or chickens. Goats are ruminants, which means they have a four-chambered stomach and must regurgitate their feed to digest it properly (aka chew their cud).
They’re like sheep and cows, but their metabolism is much faster!
Because goats are ruminants, they can be a bit of a puzzle to the rest of us one-tummies mammals.
Their rumens can become irritable, off-balance, and you must take special care to ensure they get the right balance of roughage and grains to avoid disastrous consequences.
Aside from the attractive digestive traits, there are a few standard protocols to follow to keep your goat in perfect health.
Standard Protocol for Healthy Goats Year-Round Cheatsheet:
Necessary goat Vaccines (Maybe)
What you decide to vaccinate your goat for is 100% up to you when it comes down to it. With that being said, the few vaccines are pretty vital if you want to protect your goat from common illnesses and diseases.
- CDT: A vaccine protects goats from Clostridium perfringens type C + D and tetanus. It’s essential to vaccinate your goats yearly with CDT (usually in the Spring before kidding)
- Pneumonia Vaccine: A vaccine that protects goats from pneumonia
- CL Vaccine: A vaccine that helps lessen the frequency of Causeaous lymphadenitis symptoms and outbreaks in your herd. However, if your pack is free from this disease, you should not vaccinate them as they will only test positive on any tests performed after vaccination. as of the writing of this post, there are only a handful of states that have approved the use of the CL vaccine in goats)
I’ll further detail these diseases further down the article, but always do your research and make your own decisions regarding vaccinations for goats.
Additionally, find and befriend a veterinarian who knows how to treat goats. Hey, are far and few between.
2. Goats Need Certain Supplements
Some goats are native to Northern America, but even those goats live in a much different setting than a farm.
Typically, wild goats live in mountainous areas, and some prominent breeds in the US are initially from the desert.
This means our soil may not be rich enough in the minerals goats need to thrive.
For example, I live in an area of the country where we are very low on copper and selenium. Without these two minerals, our goats will not thrive, and some may die.
You can check local maps to learn more about the nutrients in your local soil, but always be sure you know the symptoms of a mineral deficiency and consult a vet before providing supplements.
Here are a few minerals goats are often deficient in:
Specific goat feeds are formulated with this in mind. The good ones have a higher copper content because they know that goats need copper in their diet to survive.
3. Goat Diseases to Know About
Incurable (but preventable) Diseases
- CAE: Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis: A highly contagious disease and deadly to goats. It can affect their brains, joints and cause chronic pneumonia.
- Johne’s Disease: Another highly contagious goat disease that attacks the digestive system and eventually turns fatal.
- Caseous Lymphadenitis: An infection of the lymph system that creates puss-filled cysts that burst and spread infection. This is not necessarily a deadly disease like the other two on this list, but there are certain situations where it can be. It is also a zoonotic virus that can spread from one species to another (though this is rare).
Common Goat Curable Illnesses
- Pneumonia: Goats are plagued by their susceptibility to both bacterial and viral pneumonia. It’s some of the top killers in goats. Protecting your goat from damp, breezy, environments is extremely important when shielding your herd from a pneumonia outbreak. Some choose to vaccinate against the virus to avoid the illness (and lots of unpleasant antibiotic injections)
- Anemia: Goats often become anemic when they contract roundworms (more specifically, barber pole worms). Anemia can cause weakness, dehydration, failure to thrive, and eventually death. By checking your goat’s FAMACHA scores regularly (more on this shortly) you can stay ahead of worms and anemia.
- Coccidia: Another parasite-like critter that can show up in a goat herd is coccidia (protozoa and not a worm). According to The Merck Veterinary Manual, “Signs include diarrhea or pasty feces, loss of condition, general frailness, and failure to grow. n peracute cases, kids may die without clinical signs.”
Sulfer treatments can help rid your goats of coccidia, but the gentlest forms are only available with a vet’s prescription.
4. Deworming Goats
Like other farm animals, goats can become infected with intestinal parasites year-round. The truth is, however, most goats will always have a worm load.
With that being said, when that worm load gets to a certain point, dewormers must be used to kill the parasites and prevent anemia.
Unfortunately, deworming on a regular basis, or when unnecessary, can cause the parasites in the herd to become resistant to the dewormer.
What this means is, the dewormer will no longer be effective and your goat may die from a worm overload that caused anemia or other illnesses.
To prevent resistance on your farm, it’s important to only deworm when a goat has a worm load that is making them ill.
Never worm on a schedule and never worm the entire herd just because one goat has worms. Doing so only accelerates dewormer resistance.
So how do you know if you should deworm your goats?
A man by the name of Dr. Francois Malan came up with a system to determine when to worm, and when to wait. It’s called the FAMACHA scoring system.
In short, it teaches you to examine your goat’s inner eyelids and score the color from white to pink all the way to red (the best).
If you’re interested in learning more about FAMACHA, head over to the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control. This is a must-learn procedure for anyone who wants to raise goats successfully.
Goats in the Winter
Winter is a time for goats to settle in and set up camp. You may have a few questions about how to keep your goats comfortable in extremely cold climates.
So let’s go ahead and answer these questions:
Do Goats Need Heat in the Winter?
Your goats are strong animals that grow fluffy winter coats to help shield them from the cold.
You do not need to provide a heat source for your goats unless they are ill, newborns or the temperatures are dangerously low (subzero).
Because goats must be kept with other goats (or similar herd animals), your herd members will lay together to keep warm.
Their body heat is usually enough to help them get through even the coldest temps.
Do Goats Need Blankets?
There are four situations in which your goat may need a coat
- If they’ve been shaved for show or medical procedures
- TThey’rebrand new babies
- Your goat is sick
- IIt’sextremely cold outside.
Other than that, the winter PJs your goat has grown is sufficient enough to keep warm.
Do Goats Need a Shelter in Winter?
Yes, your goats need shelter from the elements in the winter (year-round, really). Remember what I said about pneumonia?
Goats that aren’t sheltered from the cold, wind, or dampness can easily contract pneumonia.
Plus, it’s just nice to let your goats in and out of the cold (most aren’t big fans of the snow).
What About When it Rains?
Yup, they’ll need shelter. Like horses and other farm critters, goats will flee to the barn as soon as they feel a drop of water. They’re just not big fans of the rain.
A Few More Things to Consider During the Winter
Winter might seem like a quiet time when it comes to goat care, but there are a few things that may throw a wrench in the gears from time to time.
HHere’swhat you gotta know:
Mites: Because goats are often in close quarters and tend to snuggle up with one another, mites and lice can become a huge problem.
If you see your goat itching, losing fur, or looking a little frail, they may need to be treated for mites or lice. no worries, they aren’t contagious to humans).
Frozen water: Goats need access to freshwater 24/7, so water heaters may come in handy if you trust your goats not to mess with the cords.
Otherwise, I recommend rubber buckets because they’re easy to smash the ice out of and refill quickly.
Hoof trimming: Trimming your goat’s hooves is a regular chore depending on how fast your goat’s hooves grow.
But during the winter, it may need to be done more often because goats aren’t as active (i.e. grazing, playing outside, or running in the yard).
Roughage and grains: Goats need roughage to keep their rumens regulated. o while it’s tempting to overfeed grain to your goats, never forget that hay is even more important.
Goats in The Spring
Springtime is exciting for both farmers and goats. Frolicking on the first few warm days of Spring is definitely on your goat’s to-do list.
During the damp season of Spring, roundworms tend to take over and thrive. These nasty parasites love blooming in the springtime so it’s extremely important to keep an eye on your ggoats’FAMACHA scores.
You’d be surprised how fast things can change when a goat gets worms.
Spring is also the perfect time to vaccinate your goats with the CDT vaccine. f you have does that are preparing to kid, you can vaccinate them 30 days before her due date.
Doing so passes the vaccine to her unborn kids. hen, they’ll only need two booster shots rather than three shots. rust me, vaccinating kids is not a fun project.
They become quite vocal about their feelings on the matter.
(Does, bucks, and wethers, who have been vaccinated before only need a yearly booster).
Goats in the Summer
In the winter, goats need a way to get out of the elements. The same goes for the Summer season.
Extreme heat will dehydrate your goats quickly. They must always have fresh water and shade to retreat to during the hot and humid days of late spring and summer.
What About Fall?
Before the snow and rain begin to fall, it’s the perfect time to re-bed your goats, trim their hooves, and ensure their shelter is clean and ready for a long winter’s nap.
Some goatherds prefer to use the deep litter method of bedding their goats in the winter.
Deep litter is a term used to describe adding layers to bedding over time to allow it to accumulate and provide insulation during the winter months.
In the Spring, the waste is removed and the space is cleaned thoroughly.
After winter, goat bedding should be changed regularly because that’s when parasites thrive and spread throughout the herd (through accidental manure consumption).
Caring for Goat’s Year-Round Final Thoughts
Goats are wonderful animals to have. They’re fun to play with, watch, and can provide you with everything from companionship to milk, soap, and cheese.
With that being said, there’s a lot that goes into caring for these interesting animals, and knowing what to expect will keep you ahead of the game when your goats thorough you a curveball.