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Goats As Pets
Although often characterized as farm or working animals, a small goat operation can be very rewarding for the owner and is relatively easy as long as some basic rules are followed. A small goat operation can be an excellent source of milk and meat for the owner and by raising goats yourself you can be sure that they have been raised in a healthy way. Goats can also keep your yard virtually weed-free.
Goats are social herd animals and you should plan to allow at least two goats to live together. The best breeds to keep vary depending on whether your primary reason for keeping them is milk, meat, or fiber, or whether you primarily want them as pets.
Billy goats are known as bucks and females. Young goats are called kids. Goats typically live 10 to 12 years, although there have been cases of goats living up to 15 years. There are over 300 distinct breeds of goats and they are most closely related to sheep, with which they can interbreed, although this is not recommended. The main products associated with goats are milk, cheese, meat, mohair and cashmere.
Goat’s milk is becoming increasingly popular, and a large dairy doe can produce 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of milk each year (2 to 3 liters per day). In most areas the milk will need to be pasteurized if you wish to sell it commercially, although you can drink untreated milk from your own goats. You should be aware that some research suggests health risks from drinking unpasteurized goat’s milk. As with milk, the demand for goat meat is increasing and it is claimed to have health benefits over other red meats and chicken. If you intend to sell the meat, you will need to follow the rules that a small commercial processor must follow. The rules are less strict if the meat is for your own consumption. Some goat owners find it more convenient to outsource slaughter to a licensed slaughterhouse. Goats were also valued for three types of fibers, mohair, cashmere and cashgora.
A building free of dry drafts is suggested, which will protect them from the elements and provide ample protection from rodents and other predators. Rodents could introduce disease as well as eat and dirty food and water supplies. As for dimensions, there must be enough space for goats to stand on their hind legs with their necks outstretched. If penned separately, each goat should be about 4 m². of ground surface. If goats are housed in groups in the same area, a minimum of 2 m². per goat should be provided, although more than this minimum is recommended if conflict is to be avoided. Horned and disbudded or polled goats must be penned separately.
Although they have a reputation for eating almost anything, they won’t thrive if they don’t get the right balances in their diet. Although they will eat weeds and other vegetation, including pasture, they will need access to good quality hay. Hays from legumes contain more minerals, vitamins and nutrients, although as with other hays, quality may vary depending on harvest, preparation and storage.
There are a number of diseases that can affect a goat both in a chronic and curable form. Some of these diseases can be transmitted to humans and other animals, while some diseases are specific to goats. Two diseases that can cause a goat to die suddenly are coccidiosis and pneumonia. Worms and parasites are of most concern to breeders and producers. A goat that is bred with parasites and worms and left untreated will most likely suffer a rapid decline in health, production and often lead to death.
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