Goats for Show, Milk, Homestead and Pets?
A very popular question that I get is, how do you choose your goats, and depending on who is asking I tell them something very different. Goats are an incredibly versatile animal which is one of my favorite things about them. The first question I ask people is why they want goats? Is it to have milk on your homestead? Or are you looking for a simple pet for your kids to grow up with and learn farm chores and responsibility? Do you want to make cheese, or drink exclusively the milk from your goats? All of these things are important to consider when beginning your search for a goat. Once you have decided that you want a goat for a particular purpose it is essential to find a breeder, that specializes in that type of goat. Essentially, finding someone who has already gathered a significant amount of similar animals together in one herd will yield you the most luck in shopping for a goat.
So you want to raise show goats?! When trying to begin a goat showing and breeding program there are a few things that you can look at in order to try to find a goat that fits the bill. The first thing is lineage, looking back at the goat's parents and grand parent's lineage is a very useful tool. It is more likely that a goat will look and have trait and similarities of its close relatives, so understanding the pedigree and what that goat comes from is key. Another tool is looking at the history of milk production records,known as DHIR. Linear Appraisal scores of the parents and other relatives are key in helping to understand what traits the goat you are going to be purchasing will likely display.
What if you only want to raise goats as pets? I would ask yourself, do you want this pet goat for mere companionship, or do you hope that it will function on your homestead and provide you with milk to consume or to make cheese? If you simply want a goat for a companion a few wethers make great buddies. Not only will you get the added benefit of all their goaty glory but you will not have to deal with the hormonal fluctuations that come with intact bucks or does. One word of caution when looking to own wethers, make sure that you keep them at a strict 2:1 Calcium to Phosphorus ratio in their diet at all times. Wethers do best with good quality grass hay, pasture, lots of clean water and a free choice goat mineral. What if you want your pet goat to also provide you with a kid or two every so often and enough milk to keep you busy making and enjoying goat products? It is essential to fit a doe that fits your management style. Many of the heavy milking show does require intensive management from a feed, mineral, milking and deworming perspective. This may be more time or energy than you are willing to commit . I would look for a doe or doe kid that has easy kidding histories, high disease ans parasite resistance and one that maintains their condition relatively easily through kidding and lactation.
One other very important point to mention, when starting your goat herd, I believe it is imperative to ensure that all the animals you are bringing onto your farm are free from CAE, CL and Jones. The reason I feel so strongly about this, is there are not good control mechanisms for any of these diseases, and once they are on your farm they are incredibly difficult to remove. I require all parents of kids I purchase be negative for all of these diseases and if I am buying an older doe I require test results within the last six months be negative for all of the above mentioned diseases. Having a healthy goat, no matter what the purpose
of it will make goat ownership that much more enjoyable. Have fun shopping for your new herd mates and Happy Goating!