Goat Lessons for Newbies

      27 Comments on Goat Lessons for Newbies


I’m a Goat Newbie

In fact, I brought my goats home less than two weeks ago! So what lessons can I teach you about goats? Admittedly, I have a ton of lessons yet to learn, so this list will undoubtedly get longer as time goes by. However, these past few days have taught me some valuable lessons I’d like to share.

This page contains affiliate links. You will not pay any extra iff you purchase products through these links, but I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting The Self Sufficient HomeAcre!

Goats Are, Shall We Say, ‘Headstrong’

Now this wasn’t a new concept. I’ve read about goats and their cantankerous nature. And I’ve had some pretty headstrong animals in the past. (Many thanks to our pony, Duncan, for teaching me the meaning of ‘headstrong’ at a young age.) But these goats test my patience at every turn. They push out of their stall to eat the chicken feed, they fight over their goat feed, if one is getting pets and the other isn’t…they butt heads over me. Their previous owner didn’t milk them and, although I’m making headway in training them to stand for it, they are sure to voice their opposition in more ways than one.

Goat Lessons for Newbies - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

They are Susceptible to Stress and Infection

Bringing home new goats seemed like a pretty straightforward operation. Bring goats home, feed them, make sure they are warm and dry…no sweat, right? Wrong! Moving goats to a new home is stressful for them. This makes them more susceptible to illness and parasites. Within days of bringing home two dairy does and their kids, I had one kid fall ill with pneumonia. A trip to the goat doctor and five days of antibiotics did the trick. However, I should have been more prepared for the possibility of sick goats before I even brought them to my homestead. Lesson humbly learned.

Don’t Change Their Feed Quickly

Ok, here’s another mistake I made right out of the starting gate. I didn’t have any hay available when I brought the goats home. This all happened so quickly because the goats were going to the slaughter house if I didn’t buy them. In the process, I had no source for good quality hay. And that is pretty much all that they were eating before I bought them. I was warned not to change their diet too quickly, but my search for hay has been slowed by the time of year and low availability. So I gave them a limited serving of alfalfa cubes and slowly added grains to their diet. They had lots of straw for roughage in their diets, but it provides few nutrients.


Goat Lessons for Newbies - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre


These changes in their diet caused some bloat (free choice baking soda is helping with that) and their urine started to smell ‘fruity,’ a sign of ketosis. This is a condition in late pregnancy (Pregnancy Toxemia) or after kidding caused by undernourishment. In an attempt to provide nutrition for their unborn kid or milk for their newborn, the doe’s body begins to break down her own body fat for energy. To combat this issue, I’ve been harvesting dried grasses from our property, added a small amount of hay that I was able to scrape together, and have allowed them as much alfalfa as they want. I’ve also given them a mineral block for cattle and goats (contains the needed copper) and have slowly increased their grain allowance. They have also had an herbal worming session and I’m adding molasses and corn syrup to their water to increase hydration. ‘Sweet pee’ smell is going away…disaster averted!

Goat Lessons for Newbies - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

The Land of Goat Milk and Honey

I grew up with cows…well, not literally. It’s not like I was raised in a barn.Β  But we had beef cattle when I was a kid. And although they don’t give as much milk as a dairy cow, they will provide enough for a family as well as their calf. So I used to milk the cows in the spring when they were still in the barn and the calves were little. You can get a LOT of milk from a cow.

At this point we are definitely not swimming in milk and honey on our homestead. The does are producing enough milk for their kids and that’s about it. Every day I go out in the morning and milk them. But it’s more of a training session than a true milking session. Since these does were undernourished and are now getting increased rations, slowly, they are not in great milking condition. When the kids are two weeks old I will be able to remove them from their dams for the night, milk the goats in the morning, then return the kids to their mothers’ side for the day. Hopefully our production will increase to fulfill our appetite for milk at that point.Β When the kids are weaned I will be able to keep all of the milk for our family.

Selling or Eating the Bucklings

At first I figured I would sell the young bucks when they are weaned. Now I’m not so sure about that. They sure are cute little blighters right now, but gosh, are they a pain in the hinter regions! They jump up on me like dogs, inevitably getting goat poo on my pants. (I’m doing a lot more laundry now!) Playful is an understatement. It’s hard not to get attached to cute, playful baby goats. However, the more I consider my options, the less I like the idea of selling baby goats to people I don’t know. How do I make sure they are kind, caring, and responsible? Unless you know someone, that’s a pretty tough call. I don’t want to sell these little guys if the new owners are going to neglect them (or worse).

I’ve decided that I would rather give these little guys the best life I can for the short time they will be here with us, then process them as humanely as possible. We want to be more self reliant and provide more of our own meat. It also seems pretty likely that these guys will be a real handful when they get older…not something I look forward to. So I’m not naming the goats or getting attached. Period. End of story! So far the names that come to mind all have cuss words in them anyway…so there ya’ go.

Before You Bring Home Goats…

Make sure you’re ready for them! Don’t do what I did. I made an emotional call and picked up these animals before I was really ready for them. I didn’t have hay, feed, or equipment on hand. The day I bought these goats, I ended up running to the feed store to get everything I had to have immediately. Now I’m still adding things to my list and pretty soon I’ll feel like I have it all under control, I think. But if you are planning to add goats to your homestead, there are some things you should get ready in advance.

  • Housing – draft free, well ventilated.
  • Pasture – with strong fencing.
  • Hay – high quality grass or alfalfa hay.
  • Water – clean water at all times.
  • Feed Β – try to find feed formulated specifically for goats.
  • Minerals – goats need calcium, phosphorous, copper, and selenium…as well as others.
  • Grooming tools – brush, hoof trimming and cleaning tools.
  • Halters and lead ropes – for ‘easy’ handling.
  • Probiotics – helpful for their digestion and making any dietary changes.
  • Thermometer – get the rectal kind that gives a reading in 60 seconds or less.

You might be interested in joining an Azure Standard buying club. Check to see if there is one in your area. They deliver livestock feed!

Goat feed

Azure Standard sells two different brands of goat feed. Check out their website!


This isn’t a complete list. If you are milking your goats you will probably want a milk stand and maybe one of those hand held milking machines. Hobbles will come in handy for preventing the doe from putting her foot in your milk bucket or kicking it over. If you think of your goats more as pets than livestock, you might want some toys and treats…just don’t overdo the treats.

A Few Handy Tips for Goat Newbies:

  • If you have your goats in a pen or stall together, tie them up for feeding. This will prevent one dominant goat from eating all of the grain.
  • Build a hay rack to prevent the goats from wasting their hay.
  • If they have horns, be careful around them.
  • This should go without saying, but don’t leave your children unattended around goats.
  • Change goat rations slowly and increase feed for lactating and pregnant goats.
  • Keep an eye on your goats for the first couple weeks after bringing them home. Watch for lack of appetite, heavy breathing or wheezing, coughing, loose stools, or standing off by themselves. Take their temperature if they seem to be acting sick and be ready to call the vet quickly, as a goat’s health may decline rapidly.
  • Many sites give conflicting information about a goat’s normal temperature. One site listed a normal temp as 104 -106, another 101-103, and yet another at 101.5 -102. The gentleman I bought the goats from said that 102 was a mild fever. From what I’ve read, it sounds like there is some variation between individuals and the time of day and conditions. So learn to take your goat’s temperature and find out what is normal for them, before they start symptoms of illness.
  • Don’t bring home just one goat. They are herd animals and I’ve read that they will die of loneliness if they don’t have a friend.
  • Try goat milk before you make the plunge. πŸ™‚

I Have Long Road Ahead of Me…

and I’m sure there will bumps and potholes that will test my patience and resolve to keep goats. Life is always like that. As I learn more about keeping goats, training them, and (sorry) butchering them, I will share my experiences with you. I hope you’ll share your stories and expertise with goats too!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. You will not pay any extra for these products and I’ll earn a small commission to help support this blog.


This site is a participant in the Azure Standard Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn store credit by linking to Azure Standard. You will not pay any extra for your products and I’ll earn a referral fee to help support this blog.

27 comments on “Goat Lessons for Newbies

  1. Sandra Morris

    Looks like you are getting a handle on it.
    As far as milking, just let them know who is boss, LOL!
    I have a Toggenburg who does great as long as she has grain in the feeder. I know she has run out of food because she flips the feeder off the stand-that is my sign the kicking will commence. She is a pain, but we understand each other, so that helps.
    They sell goat mineral at the farm stores. If you buy a sheep/goat mineral check the copper contents. Goats need more copper than sheep. If you can find a mineral specifac to goats, I would buy that.

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Thanks, Sandra. πŸ™‚ Yeah, they are much better behaved while they are eating. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tip…I found a mineral block for cattle and goats…with copper.

  2. Josie

    We just got our first Nubians too! We got 2 yearling does nearly 2 weeks ago, then 2 does in milk Friday (yesterday). And I agree with you … what an experience! We did manage an enclosure and some of the supplies beforehand. Along with the feed, we have a good pasture area for them and put them out on ropes tied to something heavy so they can go out and graze (until we get fencing in). Getting the 2 younger does first helped us get situated a little bit, and we thought we were ready for the ones in milk. These 2 goats have been milked in the past, but the new environment and inexperienced milkers (us!) made them very nervous and anxious. This morning went better than last night, but it’s been kinda wild so far. Looking forward to us all settling in over the next few days and weeks (hoping). πŸ™‚

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Josie,
      How exciting! Wow, you really grabbed the, uh, goat by the horns! Four new full grown goats is a lot to take on πŸ™‚ Kudos! and Best wishes with your new herd!

      I learned to milk cows as a kid, but goat are just a little bit different. And they can be very stubborn too! I hope it all smooths out for you all soon!

  3. shannon333

    I read the Ringing Cedars of Russia series, and learned how disconnected we’ve become from nature. We think nothing of breaking up families in the animal kingdom, and are oblivious to the trauma it causes them. We do not recognize the feelings of the animals. Breaks my heart.

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      I understand what you’re saying Shannon, but we eat meat and I can’t keep the bucks…even if they are whethered. Unfortunately they would have to either go to a new home, or we will eat them. In nature, the young bucks would not stay with their mothers forever either. They would have to fight for the right to lead their own herd, or they would be cast out to join a bachelor herd.

      1. shannon333

        Lisa, I appreciate again your explanation. You may recall I live a mostly vegan lifestyle, and my pets and I are our family. I’ve learned so much. That does make sense, and it sounds like you do the best you can for all. And that’s the best we can each do.

        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          Hi Shannon,
          I admire your lifestyle choice and I appreciate that you are open to other lifestyles too. If I hadn’t brought these goats home when I did, they would gone to a slaughterhouse and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can provide a much better life and end of life for these goats. But it sure isn’t easy to do. Thanks for sharing your views with us.

  4. Anonymous

    I wish you and your new family of goats all the best. Thank you for sharing such valuable information πŸ™‚

  5. a

    Goats are basically toddlers on crack. I’ve had them for awhile and my patience takes a severe beating every morning at milking time, even with hobbles and a stanchion. I have a few good girls, but most are not πŸ˜‰ Also, just be warned about mineral blocks for goats. Goats have smoother tongues and it can make it very hard to get what they need by licking the block. Therefore, some resort to biting the block and breaking teeth. A goat with bad teeth is as good as dead. Loose minerals work great (if you can keep them from pooping in them and/or dumping them out constantly).

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Lol! I guess I better batten down the hatches and prepare for a bumpy ride πŸ™‚ I think they peed on their mineral block and now they don’t want it…sigh. So I have to figure something else out. I’ll look into the loose minerals. I have a coop order coming in with Thorvin brand kelp with minerals and I have a bad of Redmond minerals…maybe those would help to give them the extra nutrients they need. I’ll have to do some research and make sure first.

      Thanks for the advice! It’s hard to find it all on line!

        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          Hi Matthew,
          Thanks for the info and the link! I can understand keeping them for pets, they are curious and smart. I know that I will have trouble with the butchering part…but there is no way I can keep the kids with the facilities I have here. I’ve never tried eating goat, so it will be quite an experience.

  6. Pingback: Goat Lessons for Newbies | Around The Cabin

  7. Lynn

    Goats are just a fun little creatures. They are humorous on every level; Nannies are usually sweet attention getters while the Billies are rascals and quite sweet too in their own mean a$$ kind of way. I’m sure they will lend to fun stories from you. Thanks for sharing you experience. Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Lynn,
      Lol…I’m hoping they start to be more fun soon πŸ™‚ Right now I’m not so sure! Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your comments!

  8. Takiko

    We have brought home our very first two Nigerian dwarf goats just recently so we are going through almost the same things you have been posting here.
    It took us about a year to set everything up for them (we had to start with fencing/goat proofing the part of the property) and we thought we were completely ready for them…well we are finding out there are still endless things we need to figure out!
    It’s been a fun ride for us and I’m enjoying reading your posts as always πŸ™‚

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Takiko,
      Oh boy! I didn’t start ahead of time at ALL! And I feel so unprepared. But I’ll figure it out eventually and I know you will too! Enjoy those little goats…the dwarf Nigerians are soooo cute! πŸ™‚ Maybe that’s really what I should have started with too. πŸ˜‰

      I hope you’ll stop by and share your adventures with us! I love to hear what other people are finding works for them.

  9. Nancee

    I do not have goats…in fact, I am a homesteader in my heart only. However, I have stumbled upon a wonderful author and animal expert on Naturally Rearing animals. Her name is Juliette de Bairacli Levy. She has really helped me with healthy dogs. Her book, The Complete Herbal Handbook For Farm And Stable, is a comprehensive guidebook for health and nutrition and has a great chapter on goats πŸ™‚
    This quote is from the jacket of the book. ” With the growing interest in organic farming and increasing concern about the diet of farm animals, this completely updated edition of Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s pioneering book will be welcomed by all farmers and smallholders who would like to increase their knowledge of proven herbal treatments.”
    Happy Homesteading! OH, and I really enjoy reading about your life. Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Nancee,
      Thanks so much for reading and for letting me know about this book…it sounds like a great read and I’ll have to look it up. I’m so glad to have you following along on my adventures! I’m honored to share all these stories.:)

  10. Kathi

    This is excellent information, Lisa. Goats have a very steep learning curve and I think we’ve all been surprised at how much is involved! Ummm yeah, headstrong is a good description. They’re worth it though!

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Kathi,
      Thanks! I sure hope that things calm down soon so I can see the good side of these goats. They are really giving my patience a test. πŸ˜‰
      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. staciw73

    I loved reading about this new goat adventure! Keep us posted it sounds like it is going to be a wild ride.

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Staci,
      Oh boy, it was pretty wild this morning! I decided to hobble the does to keep them from putting their feet in the milk bucket. Ummm…they did not appreciate that one bit and decided to just lay down on me. Oy! I sure hope they learn to stand still! Thanks for stopping by!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.