Tips for grooming your goat
What does a goat need?
Goats are herd animals that enjoy doing things together. They need a large meadow and a goat shed.
Goats are social animals. You should always keep several animals, and not a single goat. There is a stable hierarchy in a goat herd. Certain animals are dominant, which can be a problem if there is a shortage of food or sleeping space, for example. Animals low in the ranking often do not get enough food, but the dominant animals also get noticeably more stressed. To avoid competition (and aggression) in the goat shed, provide plenty of space for lying, drinking and feeding, etc.
Meadow & fence
A bare meadow with grass alone is not suitable; goats need shelter from shrubs or trees. In the cold months, goats will seek the sun to warm up. When it gets too hot, they will seek shade to get away from the bright sun. Do protect the trees, otherwise they will almost certainly be peeled and die. A good solid soil is important for claw health.
Goats were originally mountain animals and therefore have a great need to move and clamber. Set up old logs, boulders or a series of wooden platforms in the pasture for the animals to climb onto.
Due to the clambering and natural curiosity of goats, your fence will need to be very strong. You can use sheep mesh, but a fence with smaller mesh is better for smaller breeds. In all cases, it is best to count on the fence being at least one metre high. Some larger goats can still manage to jump over this. The goats will often put their front legs against the fence, so choose sturdy posts. A power cord on the inside can be helpful. The fence is also very important to keep out predators such as dogs. An electrical wire can be stretched along the top for this.
Goats hate being wet: providing shelter from the wind and rain is therefore necessary. Depending on the breed, goats can tolerate temperatures between 6 and 27 °C. Young animals in particular can succumb to the cold quickly. A spacious goat shed that can simultaneously accommodate the whole herd is therefore indispensable.
To limit stress and aggression, it is better to make sure the shed is not just an open space. The smaller the shed, the more important it is to provide weaker animals somewhere to retreat and hide from dominant animals. A few dividing walls, plateaus, or the like are normally sufficient for this. A well-placed hay rack is also helpful. Of course, make sure there is no way for a goat to become trapped.
Provide raised beds for the goats to rest on. Goats that get along well will rest close to each other (or even against each other). They prefer to keep other animals at a distance. If possible, they will lie against a wall, not in the middle of the shed. Provide them with plenty of room when walking by to avoid stress. Count on 1 to 2 m² per animal.
When feeding, all the goats will want to come and eat at the same time. Therefore provide each animal with an eating place that is about 0.5 m wide. This may need to be increased for the larger breeds. Competition is fierce at feeding time so partitions between the feeding places is very beneficial, but make sure the goats can leave the eating area quickly if necessary. This is especially true if you keep a lot of goats; you should also provide several places in the goat shed for feeding. After all, the minimum distance between two goats strongly depends on the relationship between the two. Between some animals this is barely 0.5 m, but it can go up to 4 m.
While giving birth, goats must be able to separate themselves away from the herd without being completely isolated. A separate room in the goat shed is a good option. This can also create a good bond between mother and kid.
Goats’ hooves are made for hard, dry soil. This is not only important outside, but in the shed as well. A solid, dry floor in the goat shed is therefore important. A clean goat shed, with sufficient dry litter will support healthy hooves. A good floor also ensures the animals do not slip when they scratch and rub themselves. Goats also hate humidity indoors, so ensure there is good ventilation without drafts.