RAISING HEALTHY GOATS
There are many ways of management, and often the best way is the way that is going to work for you and your animals. Here are some tips of management that work for us. Living in Florida, the main hay available here locally is the Coastal Bermudagrass hay. We have found that for the most part the hay is a good filler and roughage, but most often lacks in protein, vitamins and minerals. We often buy it in rolls, and put the rolls out on their flat side. When we put the rolls out on the round side, the goats eat them into a "mushroom" shape. This "mushroom" shape is quite unstable and they have tipped over on goats sleeping underneith them, smothering them. So we put the hay rolls out on the flat side. We use approximately 8 steel stakes to hold the sides together. This method has worked well for us.
roll shown above is almost finished...
We have a number of homemade hay barrels in the fields for the coastal or alfalfa hay. They come in handy during the rainy season. The hay barrels are located near the fence, so we can easily fill them with hay from the other side of the fence. The tops flip off, and the nose holes are approximately 1" in diameter. Just enough room for the goat to get their noses in. Any wider, and the baby goats will get their heads stuck in them!
Alfalfa and Perennial Peanut Hay in Florida
Goats need a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1. The local Coastal bermudagrass hay typically has little calcuim. Grains are normally mostly of phosphorus content. The calcium that goats need is found through Legumes, such as alfalfa or perennial peanut hay. Legumes such as these are higher in protein, energy, vitamin A and calcium than grasses. Perennial peanut hay is a high quality multi-purpose forage and has a calcium and phosphorus content similar to alfalfa. These two hays provide the protein, vitamins, minerals and calcium that goats need. Lactating goats and growing kids especially benefit from them. Goats are just like people in this respect, the mothers require calcuim to produce milk, and the kids need calcium to grow!
If there is an area where a person is trying to save money in raising their animals, this is not it! Get them the calcium that they need. Some people feel that alfalfa or peanut hay may cause urinary calculi in the males. Again, goats need a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1. Most people in Florida have water with a high mineral content, consider checking the water content and put a filter on it if necessary. Provide the animals with fresh clean water at all times.
With native grown alfalfa in Florida, there is always the worry of the blister beetle contamination. We get our alfalfa hay off the train station. It comes off the train in 1,000-1,500lb blocks. The alfalfa is chopped & pressed, so there is very little waste. At most, the waste is a few crumbs on the ground. This is good news for goats, as they are notorious wasters of hay.
We fasten a board across the top of the hay bale to keep the rain from spoiling it. We fasten the boards with leftover hotwire wire. We also sometimes criscross the fastener wires over the tops of the board. The board needs to be checked very frequently. If a board of this size flips off, it can very well land on a kid who then becomes trapped under it while his friends play king of the mountain... resulting in unpleasant consequences.
On the left, alfalfa hay block put out in pasture.
On the right, winter grazing. Visible protein differences in a seeded pasture mix vs regular winter pasture.
Creep Pen for Kids
Below on left: Young kids in a creep pen. A creep pen for kids provides them with a small space in which they can go in and eat without adults being able to enter. On the right and below is the 12" hole by which they enter this pen.
Below, kid moving through creep pen entrance..
Mineral Feeders & Feeding Troughs
Left: Sidell loose mineral feeder. If a person has a small herd, it doesn't have to be this fancy! You can take an empty butter or cottage cheese dish and nail it inside the barn, this works just as well! Right: Homemade PVC feed trough, 12 feet long. The key with goats is getting them enough space at feeding so the more aggressive goats do not push the timid ones out. The 10-14 foot plastic rain gutters from Lowe's or Home Depot also work just fine, they are usually just a few dollars each.
Living in the south, we use simple three sided shelters for the goats. Goats can tolerate the cold just fine, but just like people, they cannot tolerate getting wet and chilled very well.