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!