Are you thinking about getting yourself some goats? We started with two Nigerian Dwarf goats and this is everything that we had built and the lessons we learned along the way. If you intend to breed goats, kidding supplies is not included in this post but that is on my list for the future.
We hired a company to build a 22x24 ft. pole barn. I had hoped for a turnkey homestead but on the other hand, it’s great to be able to build everything exactly how you want it. At the bare minimum, goats need shelter from the wind. I have seen a lot of successful set-ups of simple 3-wall structures or animal igloos. I would encourage to get a guardian dog if the barn does not close up to keep your goats safe from predators.
Since our goats moved to WRC in the winter, at the bare minimum, we needed the sacrifice area fenced in. The sacrifice area is not where any animals are killed, it is called that because we sacrifice the grass in that area. Our sacrifice area is a 36x36 ft. area and the fence is 5 ft. tall. We used 4x4 posts 8 feet apart and drilled in 16 ft. 1x6 boards horizontally along the top and about 12-18 inches from the ground. The boards close to the ground are the perfect height for Nigerian Dwarfs, as they will lean on that board to scratch their backs. Then, horse fencing (2x4 in. mesh) was stapled from the inside. Because goats are happy foraging pasture, we built them a 1-acre pasture later in the summer months. The pasture is similar to the sacrifice area but to save money, we did a 4 1/2 ft. tall fence and we used sheep fencing (4x4 in. mesh). We close the gates in the summer months to protect specifically from coyotes that can easily jump a 4 1/2 ft. fence.
You may have heard that goats are escape artists - we have never had an issue with them wanting out. Perhaps out of the nine goats we have owned so far, maybe we haven’t had the personality to want to escape. We are very attentive to the goats, they have free-choice hay and they seem happy and content staying in the area we built for them. Keeping them in is not a challenge for us, however we do what we can to keep predators out.
Living in Minnesota, we needed to stock up on hay for the first two goats that moved in to WRC in December, 2017. We picked up 20 2-string square bales, they were out of hay in April. Because our winter lasted longer than usual, we had to pick up a couple month’s supply from Tractor Supply Co. which is about 5 times the cost as getting it from our local farmer.
Supplements, Medications and Supplies
It didn’t take long to have to stock up on supplements and medications since our two goats were pregnant. At the bare minimum, I would suggest always keeping these items on-hand.
Hoof clippers - goats need their hooves trimmed every couple months
Apple cider vinegar - great for adding probiotics to their water
Probiotics - when goats move and are stressed, always give them probiotics to boost their immune system
Thermometer - if a goat seems ill, start with taking their temperature, rectal temp works best.
Black oil sunflower seeds - not necessary but helpful with providing Vitamin E and keeping the goats fur looking healthy
Free-choice minerals - we use Manna Pro Goat Minerals. We are constantly re-filling their tray. Goats will consume minerals when they need to.
Free-choice baking soda - goats can get bloated easily, especially if they are fed grain. Having baking soda out for them helps them with bloat.
Copper Bolus - Goats will show a copper deficiency in their coats, most goats are deficient so it is important to regularly bolus (copper is also in the loose minerals). Instead of using a bolus gun, we opt to pouring the capsule in an apple sauce pouch. The goats usually suck it right down and if they don’t, it’s easy to squeeze it in their mouths.
We created a PDF downloadable guide to caring for goats - this guide breaks down common supplements, medications and dosages to have on-hand.
How much work are they?
A question I get asked a lot! Goats are pretty low maintenance unless there is a health issue, and unfortunately, it happens. I highly suggest joining the Nigerian Dwarfs Group on facebook. If something out of the ordinary comes up, it is easy to search the group and find what worked and didn’t work for other people. It is also important to educate yourself on parasites and checking a goat’s famacha score regularly. Goats are great at hiding symptoms so when there are signs of them being ill, I have found that it is often close to being too late to help them.