Love on their mind

The girls are jostling for rank, hoping to make herd queen when the bucks come calling. The top ranking girl gets first mating in the wild, and our domestic girls still prepare for the season as their instincts guide them. You can expect a few horn clashes and even a reshuffling in hierarchy.

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Choosing a buck is important for you as well as for them, so well worth considering before the season starts in September. It’s important to consider the genes that the youngsters will carry, especially if they will go on to breed in the future. Choosing a male that is not related but also comes from a line that has adapted well to the environment, ensures offspring will be healthy and adaptable, as well as productive. You’ll want to look back several generations to make sure there are no shared ancestors, as inbreeding has become common in many breeds. Avoiding commercial breeds and focusing on local ones also helps to improve the gene-pool of your youngsters.

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Check for ticks

At this time of year I normally have to treat for ticks, especially when it’s warm and damp, as it is this summer. I’ve been fortunately not to have to, so far.

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Ticks prefer undersides of the body and creases that are hard for animals to get to. I check each goat under her chin, neck, brisket, belly, udders, and in the joins between body and inside leg. I start with a back and neck rub. Then when the goat is enjoying the interaction, I start checking for small lumps and abnormalities. If I find a tick, I use a special tool I bought from the pharmacie or vet’s to remove it, a “tire-tiques”. Don’t try and remove it any other way as the head may remain lodged in the flesh.

Your goats are probably moulting at the moment, so they love a good scratch, and help from you is much appreciated. Also check for lice, which can hide away in fluffy undercoat, if your goat has not yet shed this.

Rewarding good behaviour

Positive reinforcement of good behaviour has really worked wonders in resolving one of my goat’s undesirable habits (butting me for attention and cuddles, butting when I remove food bowls, repetitive bleating for attention).

Positive reinforcement is rewarding a goat when she behaves well and is coupled with negative punishment, which means removing rewards if she is naughty. Before I tried pushing her away if she started to butt, pointing my finger and saying “no”. It stopped her butting but she soon started up again. Now, instead of giving her any kind of attention when she butts, I just walk away calmly (removing cuddles and any interaction). Then I make a point of going up to her and giving her a good cuddle when she is quiet and calm. If she lets me stroke another goat at the same time, then she gets a longer and more thorough cuddle. If she chases the other goat away, I stop.

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Thinking about owning pet goats?

Goat ownership can be rewarding if we go into it with our eyes open and having done our research. Goats have their own specific needs. We need to be sure we can fulfill at least the five welfare needs defined by the RSPCA and UK Animal Welfare Act 2006.

  • appropriate nutrition (clean water, fibrous diet with correct nutrient balance);
  • suitable environment (safe, comfortable shelter and pasture or yard);
  • the ability to express normal species behaviour (browsing, socializing, scratching, climbing, foraging, resting, escaping, exercising, playing);
  • the right social environment (a herd of familiar goats);
  • protection from pain, sickness, injury, and suffering.

In this video, Sean Wensley, senior vice-president of the British Veterinary Association, explains how we need to consider life from our pets’ point of view in order to provide for their welfare. Great advice for any species and to consider before taking on any animal! The video is kindly brought to us by the University of Edinburgh copyright CC-BY-NC-ND.

Nettle hay

The time is right for cutting nettles and drying them out in the sun to make hay for winter feed. Goats don’t eat nettles at the moment, but once they are dried they make nutritious hay, so I cut them and save them for winter. Later in the year, in July, when they are tall and aging, the goats will eat the nettles in situ. Alternatively, you can cut them and leave them in the sun and the goats will eat them once wilted.

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“A Goat Called Happy” children’s story

One of my kids now stars in her own children’s story about the life of goats, keeping goats and understanding them. This Kindle e-book looks at how goat kids socialize and communicate, and how best to approach them. Culminating in a short story, this download features colour photographs of Happy as she grows up, with simple and more detailed pop-up texts to be read by an adult, or by an older child. My target age is 3 to 7, but I’m told it’s good for adults too!

Out to spring pasture

Spring is springing and so are the goats! They are at last finding grass interesting again. However, beware too much fresh grass may cause digestive upsets! Send out your goats on a stomach of hay to aid digestion of all that sweet, new grazing. Continual access to hay racks, water and a mineral lick is advisable to allow goats to balance their diet according to own their good senses. A tub of loose bicarbonate of soda is appreciated and helps the digestion of damp, sweet grass. I leave them one daily until they get used to the new growth.

SpringPasture