Care of your Pygmy Goats
Goats are herd animals and must live in company with other goats, but will be happy living with other livestock as well, including sheep and alpacas. If grazed with horses, they must have a safe area that they can retreat to if they are being chased.
Modest; 4×4 shed, furnished with benches and hay rack, being suitable for two pets. Electric light if provided well out of reach of the goats. If planning to breed, it is as well to be aware of the captivating qualities of these very special animals and to provide housing in excess of that initially required. Pygmy goats should not be kept as house pets and do not need to wear coats. Access from the shed to a well-fenced area will provide space for exercise and fresh air, both essential for the fun loving Pygmy Goat. Tethering is not a suitable means of restraint.
Pygmy goats will happily live out at grass all year round providing they have a shelter to escape the rain and the wind. An adequate field shelter is essential, as they cannot tolerate wet weather as they are not waterproof like sheep. They will also require a stock proof fenced paddock which is of the utmost importance as goats can be good escape artists. It is a good idea to ensure there are no large objects near the fence lines as goats are also notorious for jumping and playing on things which may allow them to jump the fence and escape. Enriching their enclosure with benches and logs to play on will make them far happier.
A basic diet of hay and clean drinking water should be supplemented by 2-8 oz of concentrates a day, depending on age and condition. Pygmy goats are “browsers” not grazers – they should not be considered as lawnmowers. Vegetables and fruit can be added to their diet only in moderation. Twigs, leaves, bark and some ‘weeds’ are the natural food of the goat and will be welcomed as a great treat. Care must be taken not to allow access to poisonous plants such as alder, yew, rhododendron, laurel, privet, laburnum, honeysuckle, walnut, evergreen shrubs, green-stuff from flowers including delphiniums, hellebores or any bulbous plants such as daffodils or tulips. New foods should be introduced gradually. All food must be clean and untainted.
If living out in winter, hay should be readily available as the grass quality is poor. This should be fed in a hay rack (not a hay-net, as they can get caught up in it) as they are very wasteful with hay if fed on the floor. A small amount of feed daily is recommended. Many people do still feed small amounts through the summer months to keep them friendly but if plenty of grass is around and they are keeping at a healthy weight, it shouldn’t be required. Hay should be fed all year round in their enclosure if the there is little grass or the grass quality remains poor. Fresh water should be available to them at all times and they should have access to a mineral lick to ensure they get a balanced diet.
Worming – Worming is required three to four times yearly depending on the land they are kept on and the stocking density. Wormers are available from vets or farm retail outlets. Some vets now recommend taking a faeces sample and having a worm count done to determine whether they actually need worming. This is to avoid unnecessary worming hence avoiding resistance to the wormer. Your vet would be happy to advise you further.
Foot Trimming – Feet need to be done every 8 weeks. The excess hoof then needs trimming and is best done with foot trimmers. Checking the feet regularly is essential as overgrown feet or mud stuck between the toes can make them lame. It is also an ideal time to check for any signs of foot rot. Keeping them in good shape reduces further problems.
Vaccination – Goats are vaccinated yearly for cloistral diseases (Most vets use Heptavac or Lambivac for goats – please consult your vet). Contact a large animal/farm vet for this as small animal practices may not stock it. This can be started a few weeks after they arrive at their new home, once they have settled.
De-lousing – Goats can sometimes get lice, particularly in the spring and autumn when they are changing their coats. It is important to keep a look out for lice all year round so that they can be treated promptly to avoid any discomfort. Common symptoms of lice are having a coarse coat, rubbing on fences and stamping feet. They are easily seen to the naked eye and although can be anywhere on the body, they are usually found in the wither area at the base of the neck, down the shoulders towards the top of the front legs and on the rump.
It is now thought best to leave goats until 14-18 months of age before having them served. The gestation period is approximately 5 months. As matings earlier than this age are possible but undesirable, entire male kids should be separated from females at 10 weeks of age. Kiddings are usually uncomplicated, but it is advisable for owners to be present. Kids may be weaned at 12-14 weeks if they are taking a good ration of concentrates, but left with their mothers they may continue to suckle for seven months or more.
All goat-keepers are required by law to register a holding number and a herd number. This applies even if only 2 goats are kept in the back garden. To register, contact your local DEFRA office (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) All goats must now be identified by two forms of identification. One must be an ear tag but the second may be either a tag OR a tattoo. The numbers on both must be identical. Any goat movement between properties must be accompanied by an official movement licence. The breeder will advise you and comply with these regulations.
We are happy to advise on anymore information on husbandry.