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Got Goats? Goat Questions Answered


Tuesday, November 30, 1999


Irvine Mesa Charros 4-H Club
Irvine, California


We raise two different types of goats.

  • Dairy Goats are raised for goat milk. They also make good companions, go to petting zoos, and we show them at fairs.
  • Pygmy Goats are raised primarily for show. Like dairy goats, they are good companions, and they go to shows, fairs, and petting zoos.


Female goats are called does. Male goats are called bucks. We primarily raise does because they are easier to manage, they don't have an offensive odor (unlike bucks), and there are more shows for does. A male goat that has been neutered is known as a wether. We usually don't keep dairy goat wethers, but some kids raise and show pygmy wethers. Other domesticated goats include Boer Goats that are starting to be raised for meat, Cashmere Goats that are raised for cashmere and Nigerian Dwarf Goats. Domesticated goats differ from wild goats such as Mountain Goats.


Why raising goats is fun

Goats are fun because they all have different personalities and have different little habits that can be amusing or interesting. Goats are very affectionate and especially during the summer, when they are too hot to be active, they like to just hang around people and get a good scratch. Most goats' favorite scratchy spot is around their shoulder but some even liked to be scratched in between their toes. It is very rewarding to see a goat you have raised from a baby grow up and have kids and grandkids of her own. With goats that doesn't have too take too long, maybe about 3 or 4 years at most, because they are able to breed when they are just a year old. It's also neat to learn how to milk or trim hooves and other things that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to do.

A healthy goat

Goats are easy to care for. These are the signs of a healthy goat.

  • Eyes clear and bright. Tearing or cloudy eyes probably mean a pinkeye infection.
  • Coat smooth and shiny. A dull coat could indicate parasites. Fluffed up coat means the goat is not feeling well.
  • Appetite good. However, it is normal for a doe in labor to refuse to eat.
  • Attitude alert. Hunched back and droopy tail mean something is wrong.


Goat Statistics

  • Body Temperature: 102.5° F-104° F
  • Pulse/heart rate: 60 to 80 beats per minute
  • Respiration rate: 15 to 30 breaths per minute
  • Puberty: 4 to 12 months
  • Estrus ("heat") cycle: 18 to 23 days
  • Length of each "heat": 12 to 36 hours
  • Gestation (length of pregnancy): 150 days
  • Breeding season: Pygmy goats may be bred any time of the year. Dairy goats usually go into heat between August and January in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Weight: An adult pygmy goat weighs between 50 and 75 pounds. An adult dairy goat doe weighs between 125 and 200 pounds. An adult dairy goat buck weighs between 200 and 300 pounds.

Basic care

We provide automatic waterers in goat pens, and also leave a bucket of water. In some areas, of the country, its important to make sure the water doesn't freeze, but we don't have that problem.

Although many goat owners feel that a twice daily feeding is best, others feed only once a day and still have perfectly healthy goats. You will have to decide what is practical for your animal and your schedule. Try to keep both food and water where they cannot be soiled by the goat.

The basic food we feed is alfalfa hay. An adult dairy goat doe eats about 1/2 flake a day (about 5 pounds). This is supplemented with a grain mixture that contains 14-16% protein depending on the additional needs of the goat:

  • Dairy doe in milk: 2-3 pounds
  • Pygmy doe in milk: 1-2 pounds
  • Dry doe: 0-1 pounds
  • Pregnant doe: (last 1-2 months) 1-2 pounds
  • Wethers: Usually given no grain.

We also provide either a loose mineral mix or a mineral brick. Since alfalfa hay is high in calcium, we make sure the mineral mix is high in phosphorous and low in calcium to maintain the proper calcium-to-phosphorous ratio.

Although this diet works for us, we suggest you consult with a local goat breeder or veterinarian who is more familiar with the nutritional needs of your goats and the nutritional value of the feed in your area. 


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