Caring for goats
Goats are highly intelligent, social and active animals. Before you decide to care for goats it is important to consider whether you have the time, resources, knowledge, and the right environment to care for your goats properly.
Goats are not ‘lawnmowers’, a varied diet is very important for their health. Goats are known as ‘browsers’ as they prefer to browse and eat a variety of plants, such as shrubs, bushes, trees (e.g. willows and tree lucerne), hedgerow plants and plant weeds.
A goats diet should consist of good quality hay (around 50%), browse or forage (25-50%), pasture and additional supplements (where necessary). Fresh clean water should be available at all times for your goats.
Enrichment ideas: Provide your goat with different foods and present them in creative ways (e.g. hanging from various heights).
- Your goats environment should be large enough so they an exercise, explore, play and climb
- Goats are very social, herd animals and therefore should never be housed alone.
- Goats need appropriate shelter from the sun, wind and rain.
- The shelter should be dry, well ventilated, free of drafts, and have appropriate bedding. Ensure that the shelter faces away from the prevailing wind. Raising the shelter above the ground will also help to keep it dry.
- Goats are incredibly inquisitive and active, and are well known for being excellent escape artists, therefore fencing must be appropriate.
- Goats must not be tethered. Doing so prevents them being able to express natural behaviours, and can put them at significant risk from entanglement, bad weather or potential dog attacks.
Enrichment ideas: Tree stumps, logs, sturdy huts, raised planks, large tyres and wooden benches are fantastic items for goats to jump and climb on. Remember that goats love to chew, so always check their environment to ensure items provided are suitable for use. Change your goats’ environment regularly so that there are always new things to investigate.
Please see here for more information on the right environment for goats.
Goats need regular health checks, such as foot care and worming, by your veterinarian.
Healthy goats have good appetites, glossy coats, clear, bright eyes, and are interested in everything around them. Goats tend to deteriorate rapidly when they become ill, therefore checking the herd daily for signs of injury, abnormal behaviour or ill health is recommended. If any abnormalities are seen in any of your goats, ensure you get immediate veterinary advice.
Goats can be very friendly, and by using positive handling behaviours (e.g. spending time with your goat, gentle handling, petting, scratches, and small numbers of treats) goats will actively seek out your company.
Never catch, lift or pull a goat by their legs, head, ears or tail. A goat should never be grabbed by its horns.
Please see here for more information about appropriate goat handling and goat behaviour.
Visit the SPCA Kids’ Education Portal (www.spca.nz/kids) for more information on caring for your companion goats, including enrichment and helpful videos!