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  • Kendra R. Shatswell

New to Goats? Read This - a Few Simple Facts

First, let me clarify that I am not a veterinarian. I am not a nutritionist nor a scientist nor a formal researcher. I am just a girl that loves goats. I want to take care of them to the best of my ability, and so I strive to LEARN. At this time, if you haven't already, please check out my Goat Husbandry Resource page - lots of my favorite learning resources there. Now, all that being said - here are a few basics for those who are new to these amazing critters.

Goats are ruminant browsers. What does this mean? A browsing ruminant's diet consists more of forbs (broadleaf plants) and browse (woody-stemmed plants) than grasses. Think weedeater not lawnmower. Instead of a single stomach, the ruminant has four compartments - the rumen, reticululm, omasum, and abomasum (sometimes called the "true stomach"). A ruminant regurgitates wads of partially digested feedstuffs, called cud, rechews and swallows the cud. For more details check out Rumens are amazing!

Goats are herd animals.

Yes, folks do have a single goat. But goats by nature are herd animals. Goats often stress when alone. Goats without the company of other goats do not learn herd etiquette and may be more aggressive. Unfortunately, many people assume it is alright for a goat to "think it is a dog" and buddy-up to a canine. Too often, this leads to a goat that is attacked by a dog that is not livestock-friendly. For these reasons, I choose not to sell a single goat to a home or farm without other goats. Goats cannot eat just any old thing. You've probably seen the old cartoons of goats eating tins cans. Goats absolutely taste and nibble and sometimes eat things they should not, but are typically picky eaters. They do not like soiled hay or feed. Goats can eat forages that other ruminants find unpalatable, using their nimble lips to select just the right bite. While goats can tolerate certain plants that harm other animals, such as oak, there are plants that are extremely toxic to goats - two common ones are azaleas and rhododendrons.

Goats are athletes.

I say this to point out that goats will test your fences. Goats can climb, jump, belly-crawl, and squeeze through impossibly small spaces. Some might even flat-out destroy your fence. I've watched one of my does climb a nearly-vertical cedar fence post and perch with all four hooves on the top before she hopped over. If given the chance, they will likely jump on your vehicles, too...possibly even your house or barn roof. Seriously, they like to be on top of things. Consider this before purchasing.


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