While goats vary widely in size, their basic care remains the same. The primary difference is in the proportions. In addition to daily basic care, give your goats a thorough inspection every day, running your hands over their bodies to feel for any cuts or bumps. You can attend to minor veterinary issues before they become major ones.
For most goats, pasture or hay can make up all of their feed. Pregnant or nursing does may benefit from some alfalfa mixed with grass hay, or a commercial goat feed. A goat should consume between 2 and 3 percent of his body weight daily in forage or other food. That's only 2 or 3 pounds of hay per day for a 100 pound goat, for example. Your goats always should have access to clean, fresh water, along with a salt block containing trace minerals sold specifically for their species.
Goats don't require elaborate housing, but they do need basic shelter. For a small breed goat or two, a large dog house may fill the bill, if you don't have a barn available. Run-in sheds also work well. If you keep your goats in stalls, provide bedding in the form of shavings or straw. Clean your goat's housing and pens daily. Provide your goats with places to climb -- that unused picnic table will work well -- but don't place these climbing areas near the fence. That's inviting disaster.
Perhaps the person who coined the term "good fences make good neighbors" had goats living next door. Caprine fencing serves two purposes. It keeps your goats in their pen or pasture, and it keeps predators, including local dogs, out. For best results, choose a wire fence with a maximum of 4 inch squares. Anything larger can entrap a hoof or horn, or allows a goat to try to push the fence -- and they will try to test the fence as often as possible. For added protection, consider electrifying the fence.
Goats require regular hoof trimming. If you have horses, ask your farrier if he also trims caprine feet. If you don't have horses, you can learn to trim the hooves yourself. Have someone familiar with trimming goat hooves show you how to trim hooves initially and, just as important, how to restrain a goat safely during the procedure. While hooves grow at different rates depending on wear and tear, figure on trimming your animals' feet at least semi-annually and possibly as often as every three months.
Vaccinations and Deworming
Goats should have annual vaccinations for rabies, as well as tetanus and enterotoxemia. Consider a yearly sore mouth vaccine if that's a risk in your region. If you breed your does, vaccinate them against diseases that can cause abortion, such as chlamydia.
Ask your vet about the best deworming protocol for your goats. It may include rotating different types of dewormers to delay parasite resistance to a particular class of drugs. Make sure to calculate your goat's weight before dispensing an oral dewormer. You don't want to overdose or underdose your animals.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.