Content: Goats can provide you with meat, milk, skin, and manure. If you keep your goat healthy and happy, it will supply lots of milk. Give it nutritious feed, proper housing, and care when milking.
Goats are good browsers and like to eat grass, tree leaves, and hay. They’ll also eat garden wastes, root crops, and sweet potato vines. If you want to get lots of milk from your goat, it is important to make sure the goat gets a balanced diet. For example, as well as grass, leaves, and hay, you can also make a nutritious feed by mixing some rice or maize bran with copra meal or groundnut cake, and a bit of salt. Feed this to your goat twice a day. It can also be helpful to grow some special pasture or tree crops that are high in protein to feed your goat. Some examples of these crops are comfrey, crown vetch, alfalfa, and some nitrogen-fixing fodder trees such as leucaena or gliricidia.
If you want your goat to give lots of milk, give it plenty of clean water. Offer goats water twice a day or more often if possible. Goats also need salt to lick. Make sure they have a block of salt that they can lick. Remember that goats will not eat or drink anything that is spoiled or has touched their own urine or faeces.
Provide simple but good shelter for the goats to protect them from dampness, heat, wet weather, and wild animals. Goats should have a covered shelter at night so that they always have a dry bed for sleeping. A shelter will allow a goat to put more of its food into milk and less into trying to keep warm.
The shelter doesn’t have to be fancy. A three-sided shelter with a roof is all that is necessary. You can make a simple shelter with rock or mud brick walls, and a thatch or metal roof. Put extra dirt in the pen to raise the floor so that it never gets waterlogged or damp. Or make a raised floor out of slatted bamboo or wood. Put down some dry grass to give the goats a nice warm bed.
In the daytime, you can let the goats loose in the grazing area, but make sure that your goat doesn’t eat any crops or trees.
Milk your goat at the same time every morning and evening. Before you start milking, wash your hands well and make sure your hands are dry before you start to milk. Always milk with dry hands. Be gentle with your goat. A goat that is handled roughly will not give you as much milk.
Control of goats
The fact that goats will eat just about anything is one of the good things about them. They will eat tree leaves, bark, and bushes when left to forage around on their own. Unfortunately, when there are too many goats for the available food, this ability of the goat to eat almost anything can become a big problem. If there is a weak spot in your fence, a goat will probably find it. Also, any trees that you want to grow well, such as fruit trees will certainly be destroyed by goats unless they are adequately protected. This can also cause soil erosion if the goats are eating cover crops or trees which generally help to hold the soil in place.
So you may have to find a way to control your goats so they do not get into places that they are not wanted. Goats can be controlled by tying them to a pole, fencing them in, or keeping them in a small pen and bringing all their feed to them.
It is important to keep records of your goats even if these records are very basic. Record how much milk your goat gives every day. This is important because the first sign of illness in a goat is a decrease in milk production. A simple way to record the amount of milk given is to make marks on the milk container or bucket that show each 1/4 litre (1/4 quart) interval. Write down or remember how much each goat is giving.
Breeding records are also important. Keep records of the date the doe comes into heat, the date of breeding, and the due date of the kid. Carefully observe your goat for signs of sickness so that you can treat it before it becomes a serious problem. Remember, prevention is better than cure.
So there are lots of good things about goats. They provide milk and meat, skin, fur, and manure. They don’t need much space, are easy to feed, and are generally easy to take care of. Remember, anyone can keep a goat. Why not you?
- This script was researched and compiled by Theivendram Vigneswaran, former Farm Manager of the Jaffna College Agriculture Institute in Maruthanamadam, Sri Lanka, who is presently working as a volunteer with DCFRN in Toronto.
- Thedford, T.A., 1983. Goat health handbook. Winrock International. http://ps-survival.com/PS/Animal_Production/Goats/Goat_Health_Handbook_1983.pdf
Other DCFRN items which refer to raising goats are:
Milking your goat – Package 8, Item 6
Udder care for goats – Package 9, Item 9A