My Breeding Program - the Preamble:
Since you asked:
I keep most of my kids to freshen as yearlings or two year olds so I can see the results of my breeding program first hand. I do not breed does just so I can unload the kids at 8 weeks. I don't need the milk. Why do the breeding if you don't care/know how the kids turn out?
In order to see the results of my breeding program I need to keep most of the offspring until after they have freshened. This means I have a lot of milking does and usually several who "might" be for sale. I do sell doe kids often but usually because there are multiple does in the same litter. I will also keep entire litters because I know (that darn "diversity" thing, again) that only one out of that litter may be the one worth keeping.
After several years of this I think I am beginning to get predictable results with my lines. The only way to accomplish reliability and consistency in your breeding program is to work with animals you know and linebreed those animals to set type. With the Miniature Dairy Goat breeds, this is much more difficult than with standard breeds, because of the genetic differences in the original Standard/Nigerian crosses.
I do experiment with outcrosses. I keep those offspring here, too, to prove them before I cross them back into my own lines. I breed my own herdsires usually, rather than buying them, because they are more genetically reliable for me.
Those of you who have asked know how difficult it is to get a buck from me. I have a horror of sending a buck out with the Creamcup name on it that does not live up to my standards.
I do not care about percentages, I do not care about "generations". I care about production and type. That's what I breed for.
For those who DO care about those things, a summary of some of that data on my herd can be downloaded Here.
Milking Goats - A Lifestyle Commitment
I require that people who have not milked before practice milking here before I will sell them a milker because I want to make sure they are happy with each other and that the buyer can actually successfully milk the doe. It does take a little getting used to and a little practice to develop technique if you've never done it before.
You also need to know that goats need to be in a herd of at least two. A single goat by herself will be a very unhappy goat and probably end up driving you crazy. It doesn't matter if the other goat is a wether or a doe, but they are herd animals and are not happy alone. You also need adequate fencing and shelter to keep them safe.
Before you get seriously into the idea of milking goats you should take a look at this website: Fiasco Farm.
For the Record -
Goats (and all other ruminants) have ONE udder not "udders".
It consists of an even number of TEATS, which drain each compartment in the UDDER.
Cows have 4 (usually) QUARTERS, with one teat each.
Goats have 2 (usually) HALVES, with one teat each.
Goats and cows sometimes have extra, or supernumary, teats. These teats may or may not be connected to a functional teat cistern, which collects the milk from the glands in that section of the udder.
MEAT goat and beef cow producers generally don't care how many teats an animal has, as long as it can feed it's babies. Some do, some don't.
DAIRY cow and goat breeders do NOT want extra teats. They interfere with the use of milking machines, cause sanitary leakage problems if they are functional, and make it difficult to hand milk if they are on goats. For these reasons, DAIRY producers select against extra teats in breeding. All of the dairy goat registry organizations' breed standards consider extra teats a serious fault, as do all serious dairy goat breeders. In dairy goats extra teats are a DEFECT.
Ethical dairy goat breeders I know would never use an animal with extra teats for breeding stock.
Pet Goats and Weed Eaters -
First, if you are only interested in pets, there is really no difference between a doe and a wether (neutered male) in temperament or any other thing. Wethers will sometimes get a little larger than does but not necessarily. They are equally sweet, trainable, and personable, and eat just as many weeds ;-) .
Goats will definitely clean up your weeds, also your trees, rose bushes, lilacs, vegetables, etc. You must have decent fencing to keep them in the areas you want browsed, and out of the areas where the "good things" are.
They are also usually smart enough NOT to eat most weeds that are toxic, such as nightshade, or taste really bad, such as Indian tobacco and Buffalo bur. They do like sage, bitterbrush, willow, and desert peach. Red maples are toxic to all animals, as are the stone fruits, particularly cherries, when the leaves are wilted. Oleanders are very toxic if goats are hungry enough to eat them.
Your best investment might be a trip to the library to take a look at some of the books available there on goat care. They will include things like foot trimming and certain types of feeders you can build which will limit wasted hay.
Goats need dry shelter: - shade in the summer and a dry place to get out of the wind and precipitation in the winter. They can take the cold, but cannot stand to be damp or wet.
Some people with only a couple of mini's can use one of those big plastic dog houses from Walmart. Bigger is better though, since you need to be able to clean it out in the spring. Goat bedding makes the best compost you can get! A simple 3 sided (or 4 sided with a door) shed you can stand up in will suit you the best and be easy to clean.
Goats are generally very healthy animals. There are a couple of routine maintenance items that goats need.
I used to vaccinate yearly with CDT vaccine (feedstore) and biannually with BOSE (vet). Goats are very susceptible to tetanus especially around horse manure. I have since discontinued CDT vaccination as I have not found it to be useful in my herd. BOSE is an injectible selenium and vitamin E supplement and antioxidant. In our area (and most everywhere else, these days), feeds are deficient in selenium and it must be added as a supplement or by injection. For just a few goats, there is an oral form of selenium available.
We are also deficient in copper here, so I add copper via Copasure copper rod particles twice a year or when I see signs of deficiency.
Bio Security issues are a big concern nowadays. CL abcesses and CAE (look them up) are ugly diseases that can be picked up at auctions and from breeders that don't test their animals for them. You do NOT want them in your herd.
We do not have many worm issues here, because we started with clean ground and quarantine and treat any incoming animals for 60 days. However, some types of worms can kill your goats if you do not worm them effectively. Here in arid NV worms are not the problem they are in other areas, but if your goats are on pasture you need to be aware of the possibility of a worm burden and treat accordingly.
Goats will eat a lot of weeds but they need decent hay as well. Wethers and dry does don't need anything else but alfalfa/grass hay (I prefer a mix). You can feed it once a day or leave it out free choice in a feeder off the ground. Goats are very wasteful of hay and will not eat it if it has been pee'd or pooped on. Feeding in a feeder will also save a lot that would otherwise be pulled onto the ground and wasted.
They need fresh water all the time. The water must be clean or they won't drink it. In winter it must be free of ice so a heated bucket is a good investment.
Non breeding/non milking goats do not need grain, and in fact shouldn't be allowed to get too fat. They do love treats, though, but you should limit grain treats to a handful a day at the most. No limit on greens, leaves, squash, carrots, raisins, apples, corn chips, etc. Well, on the corn chips, maybe!
All goats also need a free choice goat mineral mix, in a little feeder out of the weather. Milkers should have baking soda available as well, and I also give kelp once or twice a week.
My milkers are fed free choice alfalfa hay. The milking does get a limited amount of grain on the milkstand consisting of a 50/50 mix of whole organic barley and oats, with a little BOSS or flax seed added. They also get kelp weekly and baking soda ad lib.
FYI - as a general rule your animals should eat about one flake of hay each per day. The general rule is 3-4% of body weight in dry matter per day. If your goat weighs 100 pounds, that translates into 3-4 pounds of hay per day. Put your hay on a scale so you know how much it weighs.
Generally, a fence that will keep goats in and dogs out will also keep coyotes out. You can put an electric fence line above the fence on the four foot field fence just to be safe. Most of my fences are 38" field fence with electric on the top and an electric rope at goat rib height on the inside to keep them from rubbing on it and weakening it.
The 16 foot rigid hog and cattle panels also make excellent fencing for goats, especially around the barns and corrals. They are pretty much dog/goat proof.
Remember, if it won't contain a mosquito, it probably won't contain a goat.
Dogs and Horses -
One of the main issues with goats is dogs. Even your own dog is not usually safe around goats, again because of the predator/prey relationship. A dog WILL chase one if it runs, and a goat will ALWAYS run, sooner or later. The only way the dog can get the goat to stop running is with it's teeth. This frequently results in a dead goat, or worse, a not-quite-dead goat. Even if the dog was "only" playing. Even if the dog is "your dog".
Goats are not good companions for horses, in spite of the "race horse" stories and the person you know who has a goat with a horse. What you don't know or hear about is how many goats end up being killed or injured by a playful horse, or a horse protecting it's food from the goat. The horse picks the goat up with it's teeth and breaks it's neck. It kicks or stomps the goat and the goat dies from internal injuries and broken bones.
I will NOT sell a goat as a horse companion. Period.
Goat kids are adorable, and almost always grow up to be just like a (goatie sort of) dog as long as they are treated right and not frightened or mis-handled. Adult animals will behave exactly as they have been raised. If they were treated like "livestock" they might never be really friendly or trusting towards humans.
Remember, they are prey animals....fool me once shame on you....fool me twice, shame on me...... and in that case I might be dead! Doesn't pay to trust something that you think might eat you ;-).
That said, adult goats that have been treated right are quite friendly as well, and about any goat that is not thoroughly afraid of humans cannot resist feed treats and scritches, so in that sense they are usually easily convinced that you are the best vending machine around. And goats LOVE vending machines! That kind of goat always wants to know what is going on and will even go on hikes with you (the herd).
I hope people that buy animals from me understand that these animals are not 'just goats'. They are not disposable toys that you can simply 'throw away' when you become tired of them. Please do not ask me to sell you an animal unless you are prepared to do the work, pay the bills, and commit the time necessary to treat them right. We are always here to answer questions and help our clients get the best out of their animals. We are also here to help the goats get the best out of their people.
The Goat and the Well
or - What happens when you don't treat your animals Well -
A Film by Benjamin Cady