18 things I didn’t know about goats… before it was too late!
Bucks pee on their own faces during rut season. The dank stank can be smelled 1/2-mile away and is impossible to clean off your hand if you pet them. Several washes later it’s still detected. Their penises are surprisingly long with a little noodle on the end that directs the urine onto their front legs, chest and face. I’ve even seen ours get it in his nose and ears then shake his ears and blow a snort out of urine spray which reminded me of a whale. A goat whale. Yes I’m an odd one.
They have a love-hate relationship with hay. If a blade hits the floor it’s no good. No 10-second rules for goats. There are huge differences in hay. In Maine with the short growing season 2nd cut is king. I would rather pay $5.75 a square bail for high quality, heavy bails than $3.50 for lighter, coarse bails. We have found this out the hard way. It’s good that the poor hay can be doubled as soft, thick wintertime bedding and in chicken nesting boxes.
Goats are capable of following many commands, even learning each others’ names. They will stand in line, in the same order, every day for milking time. It takes a lot of trust building, handling, and repetition but it is all worth it to have them listen, understand and follow simple 1-5 word directions. “No goats in the house” is not uncommon to hear upon my entering the house with a herd on my heels.
They LOVE to be milked. Just during milking time they follow a handful of commands—many accompanied by touch like when I say the name of the doe I want and touch the noses of the other who think about sneaking out too while saying “you wait”. After a week of this a new doe learns quickly. With accompanying the touch with a command, they will then recognize and follow without words quickly. This makes milking time MUCH easier on all involved. [Update: For does who struggle to escape after saying and touch the “you wait” command I pinch will their nose shut. They will automatically back up, then snort and sneeze funny. Some just take off upon opening the gate an inch. I have to chase them down out them back and do it over and over, all worth it!]
They HATE rain, if fact my girls told me they melt. I have found them crammed into an open chicken coop and once the boys were in a doghouse when I didn’t get to the barnyard fast enough. May I remind you, we have full-size Nubians. Yup.
Mud is bad for their hooves and they hate to step in it for even a second. They are clean animals.
Goats don’t know better than eat some plants they shouldn’t. Namely rhododendron, hemlock, and cherry because they contain cyanide. Luckily, goats are browsers and don’t stay to chomp on any one tree or spot long.
They sound like human babies so you can’t put them down after bottle feeding.
A hot iron is used to ‘disbud’ the kids before horns develop. Again, they cry like babies. I’ve butchered adorable rabbits and enjoyed a fluffy silkie chicken dinner, but I will never disbud a goat.
They can get sick and bloat, have mastitis, or twist an ankle and quickly need care. A traveling vet, contact with experienced goat breeders, and a well rounded first aid kit is key to herd health.
When the inevitable happens, it’s devastating to have to make the hard choice and take their life that you so carefully planned, helped birth and bottle-fed. This is not what I expected. I was fine with rabbits and chickens—but I’m not sure I could eat a goat. It will come down to it someday.
It’s nearly impossible to sell a buckling in spring—price low and hope they go. Doelings sell like mad—keep the price high and firm.
After the first kidding season it becomes very difficult to let the very kids you helped come into the world go to a new farm home. I do background checks. Speeding ticket 23 years ago? Pffft, nope.
There is a herd boss. It’s not always the largest or oldest or most ornery one. It’s the one who has spunk, knows she can hold her own, and is willing to butt anyone who says otherwise. She’s the boss. Any questions?
Their hooves can grow at different rates.
Did I mention the bucks pee on their faces?
You can’t have one goat. They will scream endlessly for a companion until they lose their delicate little voices.
Intact bucks and does must be separated. Unplanned pregnancies make for poor long-term husbandry, less chance of kid survival, and stress on the dam. This means separate housing for them.