Care of Dairy Goats

Shelter is one of the first considerations when contemplating the purchase of a doe. She cannot be expected to produce her best when she has to contend with Nature's elements. Without shelter and good food, it means she has to utilise more of what she eats to keep her warm.

Housing does not present a problem, as long as it is rain and draught-proof, as the simplest of shelters is much appreciated in cold, wet weather.
Shelter ranging from an oversized box to the most elaborate of barns can be within the scope of everyone. It is all a matter of taste, economy and/or pride.

When the doe or buck is tethered, and he or she has to be shifted frequently, a large box or a discarded water tank is the ideal shelter, as it is easily moved from place to place. Do not forget to place a layer of hay on the bottom of the box to keep her warm or dry. If using an old tank it is much better to make a slatted platform for sleeping on, as any moisture tends to run to the bottom and remain there. Place a block or log either side to prevent the tank from rolling.

Where the building of a barn is comtemplated, there are one or two points to remember. Ease of cleaning out is of main importance. There is nothing more tiring than having to walk and manoeuvre unnecessarily. Access to feeding racks when feeding out hay or greens is another point to bear in mind too. It is much easier to feed without having to go into the shed each time, especially when there are several does.

Flooring can be several kinds; concrete, wood, asphalt or earth. But whichever method is used, litter in some form must be provided. Sprinkling the floor with lime after each cleaning out will keep the shed smelling clean and sweet, and will discourage flies from breeding in the litter.

Where the area of shedding is available slatted platforms, or boxes with slatted tops, can be used for sleeping. In this way the droppings can be collected and used for the garden. We have found fence battens are a convenient size for making platforms.

A hayrack can be made from a wooden frame covered with large mesh netting, and hung on the wall within easy reach of the goats. Plastic buckets make ideal containers for grain feed and water, as they are easily kept clean. Salt licks are best placed in a wooden container because of the corrosive nature of the salt.
...reprinted from Household Dairy Goats for Beginners by Joyce Collins

Once you have purchased your first goat/goats one of the first things to think about is what to do if your goat is not well. It is important to have found a compassionate vet who is interested in goats before illness strikes.

A copy of a goat health book will become invaluable. Pat Coleby's Natural Goat Care is excellent.

The normal body temperature of a goat is 39.5 degrees so it pays to have a thermometer is your first aid kit.

The average life span for a doe is 8 years and a buck is 6 years, of course, many goats are not average at all!

The NZDGBA publication "Goat Notes" is available from the Registrar for $7.50.


There are a number of significant diseases that can affect goats in New Zealand, such as Johnes Disease and Caprine Arthritis Encephalytis (CAE).  If a goat displays signs of these diseases, it can be very distressing for the owner, especially as they may not show up for some time, but will affect the goat's general health and wellbeing, its capacity to breed and produce milk. 

When you are buying a goat, it is important to get a guarantee from the vendor that the goat has disease-free status.  If you can, you should get it vet checked before you buy.  A blood test can indicate whether or not the goat is free of disease or not.

Horns - Disbudding with an Electric Iron

To tell whether a kid has horns or not, feel the raised bumps between the ears on the top of the head. If they are pointed the kid will be horned or check for whorls of hair, this indicates horns. If in doubt leave the kid for a few days and investigate again. Make sure buck kids are done less than four days old otherwise there can be cases of scurs.

Step 1: Clip as much of the hair as you can from the top of the kid's head. The smell is terrible when it burns. It will grow back.

Step 2: Locate the horn buds. Skin will the tight over the site. Apply the iron to the horn bud and cut out a circle. Count the seconds; hold for 10 seconds for average hot iron. To keep the kid immobile during this operation, clamp the kid's neck between your knees, or use a dehorning box. It will help if someone can hold the legs especially if its a big kid. Be careful not to choke the kid. If you have to put your hand over its nose to hold it still remember to give him a breathing spell once in a while.

Step 3: If the horn buds are quite well grown (over 1/4 inch tall) they may be removed now quickly with a sharp knife, then the area cauterized with the iron. Rotate the iron to use the hottest spot. The whole circular area should be copper coloured.

Step 4: A cuddle and a drink of milk will restore the kid to its normal self. Apply charcoal powder.
...from NZDGBA publication - "Goat Notes"

Ice can be applied immediately to quickly cool the head.

Opinions on the best way to feed kids is varied. This is just one idea, we encourage your suggestions.

Birth to 18 hours Colostrum, 5 times a day - 120mls per feed
Day 1 to Day 3 Whole milk, 4 times a day - 225mls per feed
Day 4 to 1 week Whole milk, 4 times a day - 225ml increasing to 280mls
1 week to 3 weeks Whole milk, 3 times a day - 280mls increasing to 450mls per feed
Starter grain (free choice)
Lucerne hay
3 weeks to 2 months Whole milk 3 times a day - 450mls per feed
Starter ration - limit to 500g per day
2 months to 4 months Whole milk, twice a day - 675mls per feed
Starter grain
4 months onwards Growing ration - up to 500gms a day

It is important that kids receive colostrum at birth. Where possible leave the kid with doe for 8- 12 hours after birth. If doe colostrum is not available cow colostrum is a suitable subsitute. The utmost protection is received if colostrum is fed witint 15 minutes to one hour. From then on, the degree of protection decreases with each passing hour. After 24 hours, the kid's intestine has changed and can no longer absorb the antibodies. Always have some colostrum frozen, just in case.

From week 1 kids should be introduced to a high quality starter ration.

Water needs to be clean and fresh at all times.

Overgrown hooves can cause a lot of problems including stress on joints and bacterial and fungal infections. When your goat has sore feet, she/he will not eat properly and can lose vigour.

At six-weekly intervals, use shears and a sharp knife to trim the sidewalls of the claws and sole. The shaded area of illustration 2 has not been cut. Illustration 3 shows what to aim for. It may take many months to achieve the desired result.


Put a glove on the hand holding the foot, as protection in case the shears or knife slip.

Trim after rain or after goat has walked through wet grass, or after scrubbing hoof with nail brush and warm water; hoof will be softer to cut.

You can cut safely until pink starts to shine through the white of the trimmed part; this shows you are getting near the ‘quick’, which will bleed if you cut deeper.  This does not show as easily on black-hoofed goats, which usually have softer feet anyway, so go easily on them.

Start on a front foot, and then move on to the back ones; the goat is less likely to play up.

If the goat kicks very hard with her back foot, pick it up by putting your hand tightly round the hamstring above the hock, then run your other hand down to the foot, take up your usual grip, and get cutting; the hamstring grip immobilises the muscles of the lower leg long enough for you to get a firm grip without hurting the goat, and once she realises you have her, she will behave better.

Permanent identification of goats is by tattooing or microchipping.

Tattoo letters are applied to the goat's right ear (member's own allocated herd letters) and left ear (year letter plus goat's number in the herd). The year letter is chosen annually and announced in the first magazine of the year.

Microchips are inserted in the web of the tail, into the peak of the web at a point approximately in line with the goat's anus.

Refer to Rules and Regulations for more details.