March 23, 2009

The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Goats

The first question to answer when buying goats is "Why do I want goats?" This is an important question to answer because it is how you know what to look for, what breed to buy and who to buy your goats from. Do you want a couple pets or a 4H project? Maybe you want to have fresh, healthy milk for your family or you want to raise your own goat meat. It could be your dream is to start a business selling commercial meat goats, breeding stock or to win recognition at shows. If you want to buy goats as a business endeavor it will pay to find out what markets and avenues of selling your goats is available in your area before you jump in with closed eyes and an open wallet.

A successful start to buying goats actually starts before you buy any goats. Research the different breeds, buy a few goat books and find out the ins and outs of goat ownership beforehand. Locate goat breeders in your area and ask if you can visit their farm. The other questions you need to ask yourself before going on that goat buying trip is, "Do I have good fences, shelters and protection from predators in place for my new goats?" "Is my home zoned for farm animals?" "Do I have hay, grain, water buckets, bedding and the other supplies I will need?" It is a very good idea to have these things in place and be well prepared before actually bringing home any goats.

Now that you have decided what type of goats you want to buy and they have a safe, well prepared home waiting for them it is time to go goat shopping! Here are some Do's & Don'ts and tips for buying goats.

Don't buy just one goat.
Goats are herd animals that need the company of their own kind. A lone goat is an unhappy goat and may become a noisy or hard to keep fenced in goat. Make sure your goat has a buddy and you both will be happier.

Do start slow.
It is wise to start small and grow your herd gradually as you learn how to properly care for your goats. More is not always better, look for quality over quantity when starting your goat herd.

Do shop around.
Don't buy the very first goat you see, visit several farms to see what is available and to learn how different farms manage their goats.

Don’t buy breeding stock from sale barns,
especially if you are new to buying goats. Sale barns are always buyer beware. This is where many people dispose of their cull goats and you may be buying another person's problem. Sometimes the reason a goat is at the sale barn is not immediately noticeable. That pretty doe could be a bad mother or infertile. That buck that caught your eye might have earned a one way ticket to the sale barn for being a fence jumper or maybe he is just plain mean. That goat you are bidding on might have a disease the previous owner wanted out of his herd. One must also consider the fact that even the goats that stepped off of their trailer as good, healthy stock just spent the entire evening being exposed to many other animals from many different farms at the auction. There is always a good chance of them picking up an illness from this exposure. That $25 sale barn goat is no bargain if he ends up costing you money in vet bills later or brings home a disease to the rest of your goats and your land.

Do ask the breeder questions
. Honest breeders don’t mind questions, in fact most love talking about their goats and are only too happy to answer them. Below is an example of questions I have asked breeders when buying goats.

Why is this goat for sell?
How old is the goat?
Is this goat registered and if so what bloodlines /breeding does he have?
Has she kidded before?
Has she ever had any kidding problems and is she a good mother?
Is he aggressive to people or destructive to fences?

Is she easy to catch and handle?

Has she ever had any abscesses? Is there any history of CL, CAE or Johne's disease in the herd?
Will you have goats tested for buyers? (I offer to pay for this of course)
Is there any history of abortions or other health problems in the herd?
Has this particular goat ever had any health problems or been sick?
Has she been vaccinated and if so with what and when?
What kind of wormer do you use and when was she last dewormed?
What kind of hay and/or grain has she been eating and how much? If you will be feeding the goat a different feed, do get or buy some of the feed she is used too so you can gradually switch her over. Changing feed abruptly is not a good idea and can cause health problems in goats.

Do carefully examine any goat you are buying.
Watch her walk to make sure she is not lame in any way. (Sometimes a goat that has just been vaccinated may limp a little for a day or so). Pick up her hooves, to make sure they are healthy looking and don’t have any distinctive bad odor that could be hoof rot. Her eyes should be bright and alert; her coat healthy looking, not dull or rough. Gently pull down her lower eyelid, it should be pink or red, not pale or white. Look at her teeth to help determine her age and to make sure she has a good bite. If she is registered check to make sure her tattoo matches her papers. Be cautious of goats that are thin, have scours, big knees or abscesses, especially under the ears, and in front of the shoulder as these could be symptoms of disease.

If buying a doe, pay attention to what her udder looks like, make sure it is well attached and her teats can be nursed by kids. Examine her udder for hardness or lumps as this is often a sign of mastitis. If buying a dairy doe, ask to milk her before you buy, it is a good way to find out if her udder is suitable for milking and if she is well behaved on the milk stand. If you are buying breeding stock ask if the sire, dam or any offspring of the goat you are buying is on the farm you can look at. Pay attention to what the other goats on the farm look like. It is not uncommon for a farm to have a particular animal that might be having a problem at a particular time. That doe you noticed that is on the thin side might be a 12 year old that has been nursing triplets for example, but the herd in general should look healthy and well cared for.

Do quarantine your new goats.
It is a very good idea to keep any new goats separate from your existing herd for a month to make sure they are healthy and are not going to bring any health problems into your goat herd. Also deworm and treat for any external parasites if need be at that time. Any necessary vaccines should be administered when a new goat arrives on the farm.

Most of all, DO have fun and enjoy your new goats!


Anonymous said...

This is a good post Jennifer, we try and tell these same questions to new owners of goats, I get e-mails all the time asking what to do about this and that which they have bought goats from us but some things I have never had to deal with raising goats!

ChristyACB said...

Excellent primer on purchasing and food for thought. While I'm still a few years off from buying goats, I'm already doing the reading and the best thing I read said this,

If you're having a hard time ensuring you get all that should be done for pets, cats and dogs, then you shouldn't have a goat."

Esther Garvi said...

Oh, I love coming to your blog and learning first hand experience about goats. Do you have any trouble with your bucks? We couldn't keep ours as a pet as he grew too big and violent. We humans were fine actually (except for my niece who was three) but it was the way he abused his doe that made us sent him back to the market again. Not wanting to keep Esmeralda by herself, we borrowed another goat until Esmeralda's offspring Allis was big enough - and today, the two of them have a lot of fun! Esmeralda has been a good milk doe though, so we might give her some male company in a month because it was nice to have a milk producing animal in the yard! :-) It'll be hard not to keep all the babies though... :-D

Alix said...


I feel like I just earned a bachelor's degree in Goat-ology!! Thanks for the awesome instruction on the do's and don'ts of goat procurement. Now if only I didn't live in a deed-restricted community.

To b-a-a-a-a-a-d for me. Eh?

Hot Belly Mama said...

What a great post! I just read an article yesterday that said that about 35,000 horses in our area are owned by people who cannot afford them (for reasons from foreclosure to job losses). It also gave some really good tips on how to decide if getting animals is for you. Many people don't REALLY know the costs that go with it.

Jason Crowson said...

I especially like the list of questions for asking goat sellers. It helps a newbie like me to not look like a rube and just buy the first animal that catches my eye. Thanks for the good info!

Lea of Farmhouse Blessings said...

Happy Spring, Jennifer! Thank you so much for this fabulous information. We're in the process of creating a place for two girls and your primer is certainly going to be helpful to us.

Blessings, Lea

Lanny said...

Ah that first question is the big one isn't it, Why do I want a Goat!?! But really, I did enjoy our goat owning years, I sorta miss them every once in a while.

KathyB. said...

Everything you wrote is so true! I wanted goats because I WANTED them! Then , the type of goats I fell in love with, Nubians, determined what I would use them for. I still love Nubians and if I ever get more goats I believe that unless I want milk, I will go for Nubians and breed them to Boers to produce multi-purpose offspring, that in nursing their moms will take away the necessity for me to milk, but allow me the joy of baby goats.

I did learn many aspects of goat keeping the hard way, and fortunately the goats survived...I hope your post is used by many future goat keepers.....thanks !

Becky said...

Good post!

DayPhoto said...

This is an outstanding post! You did a great job of clearly explaining how and what to do.


Jennifer said...

Amy- Thank you.

Christy- That is very true!

Esther- I love Esmeralda & Allis! You should post more pictures of them on your blog. We have never had any problems like that with our bucks. They have actually been pretty nice gentlemen to their ladies and not aggressive towards us. They don't however like seeing other bucks with does and will butt the gates if only separated by one fence during breeding season.

Alix - Thank you! That is so lame you can't keep a small goat where you live!

HBM- Sounds like a very good article, things don't look good for horses.

Jason- Thank you.

Lea- I can't wait to read about your new goats.

Lanny- I know I would miss my goats if I did not have them.

Kathy- I have been real happy with our Boer/Nubian cross goats. I love both breeds!

Becky- Thank you!

Jennifer said...

Thank you Linda!

d/iowa said...

oh no, you mean i can't get just ONE goat? one little fainting goat? do dogs count as goat buddies?

Anonymous said...

LOL .. wish i'd read this when we first moved here to montana... we were babes in the woods when it came to animals, but by the grace of G-d and good neighbors.. we lucked out.

Awesome advice... a keeper thanx

Linda Hughes said...

Hi Jennifer! I found your site via Oz Girl and SITS. DH and I have always loved goats and have often thought of having some. We go to the Citrus Fair in Cloverdale, CA to see the Pygmy Goat Competion every year. Since we live part-time in two places it would be impossible to have them...still I enjoyed reading your textbook so much.

Sarahlcc♥ said...

Hi, welcome to SITS girls! I'm happy to find your site, as I hope to (one day in the far off future) have some goats.

Heather said...

I like goats. They seem nice, but a little pushy.

Lisa T. said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for all the nice comments on my blog! This is a great post. I actually went to Goat School this past October to learn all the wheres and whys of Goats. Two days of learnin' and eatin'. The farm that puts this on does it twice a year and the weekend is always full (I think 20 attendees) and at $150.00 a shot maybe it's something you could do. That'll buy a few bags of animal crackers! Again, so nice to meet you and I'll be peeking in often!


Oz Girl said...

LOL... I miss pizza delivery too!! ;-)

Nancy M. said...

This has been a very helpful post. I did see some goats at the auction a few weeks ago that I thought about getting, after reading this, I am glad I didn't get them.

Mountain Woman said...

That post was so helpful to me as I start thinking about bringing home goats. I know I just want them for pets so all your advice helped me clarify my goals and what to look for when buying a goat. I was also glad you pointed out I need two. That made me very happy :)

Dianne said...

I know this is an older post but I'm glad I found it...especially since we are starting the search for our FIRST herd! Thanks for all the good tips!