Goat production is a livestock enterprise whose niche products have strong demand in the United States. The country currently imports goat meat i.e. chevon (meat from adult goats) and cabrito (meat from young goats) to supplement local supply that is typically limited, variable and inconsistent.
There is also a steadily growing demand for dairy goat milk and goat cheese that’s driven by an increasing awareness about these products higher protein and lower cholesterol levels.
There is also demand for fiber from goats, with the two most common types being mohair and cashmere. Mohair is produced by the Angora goat while cashmere can be clipped from just about every other species of goat.
The total number of goats and kids in the U.S. as of January 2017 is 2,640,000 head.
Goat production in the U.S. has increased by approximately ⅓ in the last decade for the following reasons:
- The appreciation of goats as efficient converters of low-quality forages into quality meat, milk and hides for specialty markets.
- The fact that most members of the ethnic groups that have settled in the country have a preference for goat meat, milk and cheese products.
- The desire for Americans to be self-sufficient
Considering the increasing demand for goat products and the inadequate supply of the same, starting a goat farming small business does feel like a viable entrepreneurial idea.
You’ll be in good company too.
Desmond Reid is a goat farmer in rural Maryland; his nickname is “The Goat Man”.
Sounds like something you can get into? Here’s what you must know:
1. There are many species of goat – here are some of them
Man and goat are well acquainted. Goats were probably the first animals that man domesticated circa 9000-7000 B.C.
As of 2014, the global goat population stood at an estimated 1 billion. More than 90% of these were located in Africa and Asia; just 1.8% of goats were located in Europe.
Understandably, there is a vast number of goat breeds; these can be placed in three categories i.e. local, foreign and cross-breeds.
Man rears goats for three main products i.e. meat, milk and fiber. For these products the following breeds of goat are the most popular:
Brief descriptions of well known breeds of goat:
- These were developed in South Africa in the early 1900s for meat production
- Their name ‘Boer’ is taken from the Dutch word for ‘farmer’
- A Boer goat’s lifespan can be as much as 7-8 years
- These are hardy animals that can thrive in difficult environments that offer much browse and shrubs but fewer foragers
- They muscle up faster than other goat breeds
- They spend lots of time grazing, whether this in hot daytime temperatures or out in the snow
- This goat originates from Switzerland’s Toggenburg Valley and is the oldest breed among dairy goats
- It’s of medium size and is hardy
- They have erect ears and have a solid color that varies from light fawn to dark chocolate
- They have distinct white markings on the ears, face, hind legs and tail
- In terms of milk production this goat does as well as the Alpine and Saanen breeds
- They have a long, steady lactation and the milk’s protein to fat ratio is close
- These are also from Switzerland
- They have large frames, erect ears, and are completely white or light cream in color
- They have good milk production levels and the milk has lower fat and protein levels
- They tolerate cold weather well
- These are a newly recognized breed with Saanen ancestry
- They come in a variety of colors, typically white with black or brown
- Production traits are similar to white Saanens
- These are from Switzerland
- They are chamoisee in color (a bay ranging from light to deep red bay)
- They have two black stripes down the face, a black dorsal stripe, black underbelly, and black from the knees down
- Their milk production averages have been increasing in the past few years
- They have pendulous ears that extend at least one inch beyond the muzzle
- They come in a variety of colors
- They produce less milk than other breeds; the milk is high in butterfat
- They are aka Alpine dairy goats
- They have a medium to large size, erect ears, and numerous color variations
- They are a hardy and very adaptable breed associated with good health and excellent production
- The kids tend to be aggressive eaters
- This breed originated in California
- They come in many different colors and will either have a gopher ear (max. length 1 inch) or elf ear (max. length 2 inches)
- This is a very hardy breed characterized by good milk production and milk with high butterfat content
2. You must be aware about the basics of goat rearing and some unique traits that goats possess
You, the aspiring goat farmer, must know and appreciate some of the unique traits and requirements that goats have, and which make them unique animals in their own right.
- Male goats are referred to as bucks, females are known as does, and the baby goats are called kids. Neutered (castrated) males are referred to as wethers
- Goats are very social and intelligent creatures that just don’t like being alone – when starting your herd you’ll need a minimum of two goats. This can be two does or a doe and a wether. If you wish to start a herd you can start with a buck and a doe.
- Goats hate wet environs
- Each goat has a distinct personality and some of these traits are more pronounced in certain species
- Dairy goats love routine and will endeavor to see to it that it doesn’t change
- Goats browse like deer; they prefer bushes, trees and hay to grass
- Goats eat lots of food and they don’t like their food soiled or contaminated
- Goats only have a lower set of teeth at the front of their mouths; only at the back of their mouths do they have upper and lower teeth
- Goats will nibble on everything; it’s therefore very prudent to ensure that you uproot any poisonous plants growing on your land
- Thanks to goats’ herd hierarchy, and pecking order, lesser goats, especially new members of the herd, tend to get picked on. It’s therefore a good idea to introduce new members in twos, and to keep goats of the same size together
- Bucks will be stinky (the odor comes from their urine and scent gland) for about six months in a year. You’ll therefore need to keep them separate from the milking goats lest the milk gets tainted
- Dairy goats will need to be milked at least every day until they dry off
- Goats are very susceptible to disease and they die very fast
- Goats need to be disbudded at a very young age
- Your location’s zoning regulations may or may not allow you to rear goats
Here are some other natural behaviors that goats have:
- A preference for moving towards light than darkness
- A preference to stay with the herd; separation can distress them
- They like to follow the leader
- If there’s a handler in the pen they tend to move in a circle around him/her
- They are easily distracted by noise
- When confined and stressed they can become aggressive towards each other
- A preference for moving in family groups
- They can jump over gates and find escape opportunities
- If you stand behind a goat’s shoulder it will generally be encouraged to move forward
Goat handling tips:
- Keep a goat upright when trimming its hooves
- Routinely handle your goats so that they don’t become stressed when you need to handle them
- When holding a goat by its horns, hold at the bases – not the tips of the horns
- When catching a goat by its legs hold above the hock to avoid damaging the leg
- When working with goats do so quietly and calmly
3. Keeping your herd of goats healthy
Much of the success of your goat farming small business will rest on your commitment to keeping your herd healthy.
The adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ holds true for this farming venture.
Healthy goats have a greater ability to resist diseases, i.e. immunity, and also recover quickly if they do fall sick. You can also appreciate the fact that providing early treatment for a sick goat will increase the probability for its recovery than would be the case if treatment is pursued when the disease is too far along.
The following are some of the things you should do to keep your goats healthy:
- Ensuring that they can access enough amounts of feed that is of high quality. If your goats are constantly hungry and malnourished their immune systems will have a hard time fighting off disease
- Ensuring they have access to clean water
- Vaccinating them against diseases that are common in your area
- Managing external and internal parasite attacks
- Keeping sick goats separate from the rest to prevent the spread of the disease
- Ensuring that all new herd members are disease-free
- Ensuring the goats are well sheltered during adverse weather (the housing must be well ventilated and regularly cleaned)
An unhealthy goat will show some general symptoms; always check for the following:
- Coat dullness
- Ruffled hair
- Loss of appetite
- Drooping ears
- Dull and pale eyes
- Difficulty in movement
- Drooping tail
- Going off feed
- A bottle of long-acting antibiotic
- A bottle of short-acting antibiotic
- A sulphur-based antibiotic for treating Coccidiosis
- Antibiotic powder
- Antibiotic eye powder
- Wound powder (100 g)
- Wound spray with fly repellent
- Healing oil
- Needles (20 gauge or 22 gauge, preferably 5/8” or 1” length)
- Iodine drops (100 ml) for newborn kids
- Iodine spray
- Syringes – Disposable syringes (5cc, 10cc), large drenching/dosing syringe (60cc), and a non disposable syringe
- Broad spectrum dosing remedy (100 ml)
- Dip – a conventional type that’s mixed with water
- Tick grease
- Injectable solution for mange
- Copper Sulphate for footbaths
In terms of equipment you will need the following:
- Cooler box
- Goat book
- Animal health book
- Ear tag applicator
- Hoof trimmers
- Tattoo applicator, ink and alphabet
- Knapsack sprayer
- Weigh scale or weight belt
- Cotton wool
- Digital thermometer – A goat’s normal temperature is 8-40.2°C. You will take readings by inserting the thermometer into a goat’s rectum and waiting for 2 minutes. Afterwards you’ll need to wipe the thermometer with antiseptic before storing it.
- Plastic gloves
- Surgical blades
- Gauze swabs
- Antiseptic handwash
4. A list of the most common diseases and conditions (and their causes) that affect goats
Heartwater – The organisms (blood parasites) responsible for Heartwater are transmitted by Bont ticks which are mainly found in hot, dry bush areas
Caseous lymphadenitis aka Pseudotuberculosis aka Abscesses – These are hot, red and painful swellings that result from a bacterial infection. The responsible bacteria (Corynebacterium ovis) are usually found in the dust or in manure.
Pinkeye aka infectious keratoconjunctivitis – This disease typically occurs in hot, dry weather, and is spread by close contact and flies. In goats it is believed that rickettsia and mycoplasma are also involved.
‘Malkop’ or ‘Draai Siekte’ – This refers to the presence of a tapeworm cyst in a goat’s brain resulting in permanent brain damage. This condition is also referred to as coenurosis or gid.
Scours or diarrhea – Diarrhea can be the symptom of a disease. Scours result from many different causes and each of these can result in a different kind of running stomach. The most severe diarrheal diseases are colibacillosis and salmonellosis. The primary source of infection is the feces of infected animals and transmission happens via ingestion.
Mange – This disease results in hair loss and skin irritation. Mange is essentially a severe dermatitis caused by an infestation of mites or lice.
Coccidiosis – This disease is caused by a single-celled organism referred to as ‘coccidia’ (one or more of approximately 12 different protozoa species referred to as Eimeria) that’s most commonly found in communal drinking water areas. The disease happens when the animals’ pens and sleeping areas are in dirty condition. This disease mostly affects kids and lambs; older animals are typically immune but being carriers they are the source of infection for the younger goats
Orf – This disease is caused by a virus in the soil; the virus gets into an animal via a cut on its skin. Orf results in wart-like sores on a goat’s lips and nose, around the mouths of kids, and on the teats of nursing does (the infection can happen when an infected kid suckles on its mother’s teats). You should wear gloves as this disease can spread to human hands.
Bloat – A goat’s stomach swells causing much discomfort for the animal. During bloating the goat may lie down and be unable to breathe which can result in death
Mastitis – This is an infection of a goat’s udder. The udder will look distended, and feel hard and hot to touch. The most common organism involved in this disease is Staphylococcus epidermitis which is commonly found on the skin of human hands and on goats’ udder skin.
Johne’s disease aka paratuberculosis – This is an infectious, contagious disease that primarily affects a goat’s digestive tract. Johne’s is caused by Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.
Pregnancy toxemia aka pregnancy disease aka ketosis aka twin lamb disease – This is a metabolic disease of goats and sheep in late pregnancy. Important factors in this disease’s development include the presence of two or more fetuses, undernourishment during late pregnancy, and addition of stress caused by severe weather, sudden feed changes, transportation, or another disease
Tetanus – This disease’s causative agent is Clostridium tetani, widely found in animal feces and soil. The disease causes stiffness that leads to paralysis and then death
Infectious pneumonia (Pasteurellosis) – This disease is caused by a bacteria and will typically occur if goats are under stress due to exposure to adverse weather and mostly when they have travelled long distances. Pneumonia symptoms include fever, appetite loss, rapid breathing, coughing, loss of condition and discharge from the goat’s nose
Parturient Hypocalcemia aka milk fever – This is a metabolic disease that affects does following kidding.
Calculosis aka urinary calculi urolithiasis or kidney/bladder stones or waterbelly – This metabolic disease affects male ruminants and results in the formation of concretions in their urinary tracts thereby obstructing the outflow of urine
Pulpy kidney (Enterotoxaemia) aka “Overeating Disease” – This is caused by bacteria (Clostridium perfringens type C or type D) that typically exist within a goat’s intestine (although this disease mostly affects sheep). The bacterium is aggravated by a sudden change of diet or when goats are stressed.
Black Quarter / Quarter Evil – This is an acute infectious disease that’s caused by Clostridium bacteria
Rift Valley Fever and Wesselbron diseases – These are extremely rare diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes. They only occur where there is standing water.
Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – This is a viral disease characterized by fever, mouth sores, diarrhea, pneumonia, and sometimes death
Foot and mouth disease – A goat will have lesions in the mouth and on its feet resulting in salivation and lameness
Footrot – This is a bacterial infection that typically affects goats kept on pastures or under intensive conditions. It spreads easily between goats
Overgrown hooves – This condition affects goats that are kept on pastures or in sandy areas where there are a few rocks
Limping associated with abscesses – This is typically caused by ticks or wounds from thorns that have gotten between the claws of the hoof. A foot swelling is hot, red and painful, and will sometimes burst open and ooze pus
5. A list of common internal and external parasites that affect goats
Your goats can be affected by internal parasites (these live inside the intestines and other organs) or external parasites (these stay outside of the animals).
These are generally worms and flukes. They cause harm by either by absorbing a goat’s food or feeding on its blood or tissue.
While a goat won’t fall sick, the presence of internal parasites will reduce its productivity. In the case of a heavy infestation a goat may become anemic (due to excessive blood loss), become listless, develop a ‘bottle-jaw’, suffer diarrhea, and probably die.
Some of these internal parasites include:
Tapeworms – These cause a ‘potbelly’ in young animals. Some tapeworms form cysts in goats’ brains resulting in the aforementioned fatal ‘Malkop or draai sekte’ i.e. coenurosis or gid.
Roundworms (including wireworms) – If not properly controlled these can cause considerable losses
Liverflukes – These live in goats’ liver and cause symptoms similar to roundworms
The most common external parasites include:
Ticks – In addition to physical damage ticks spread a number of diseases, among them the aforementioned Heartwater.
Mites – These are the small organisms that cause mange in goats, a disease that results in skin inflammation and hair loss.
Fleas – These are normally found on cats and dogs, from where they jump to goats and other domesticated livestock. The affected areas on your goats will be characterized by rubbing, scratching and hair loss.
Lice – Two varieties of these are recognized i.e. the biting (red) lice and the sucking (blue) lice; the former feed on dead skin while the latter suck the host’s blood. Both cause goats to itch and rub against objects.
Nasal worms – These aren’t proper worms but rather the bots or larvae of a fly. This fly lays its eggs around a goat’s nose, the eggs hatch into larvae, and these larvae then travel up the nose into the sinuses. Their presence causes irritation, inflammation, and mucus that will run out of the goat’s nose. After the goat coughs, sneezes and shakes its head the bots are ejected and they later turn into flies.
6. Routine health management practices for your herd of goats
To rid your goats of these parasites you should routinely carry out the following health management practices:
Dipping – This is an effective way to prevent diseases that are caused by external parasites. Dipping should be done once every week during the summer due to high tick burden and once a fortnight during winter due to low tick burden.
There are several dipping techniques as follows:
- Pour on – This involves pouring acaricides on a goat’s back from where it spreads all over the animal’s body as it sweats, finally killing all the parasites
- Greasing – This involves applying acaricides in the form of grease on a goat’s body parts, mostly under the tail, on the udder and the ears
- Spraying – This involves having the goats walk through a spray race where acaricides will be sprayed on their entire bodies. When using this method you should ensure that none of your sprayer’s nozzles are blocked. Alternatively, you can use a knapsack sprayer.
- Plunge dip – In this case your goats will swim through a plunge dip filled with acaricide. If you don’t have a dip tank you can dip goats in half drums.
Dosing/Drenching – For this technique (for the control of internal parasites) you will make your goats take liquid medicine orally. You will either use a dosing gun or a long-neck bottle for drenching.
Administering injections – This is done for purposes of vaccination or treating some diseases. Goat injections are administered in three ways:
- Intravenously – The injection is supplied directly into the animal’s bloodstream via a vein
- Intramuscularly – The injection is supplied deep into the muscle of the animal’s shoulder or black leg
- Subcutaneously – The injection is supplied under the skin, usually in the neck or behind the shoulder
Using a FAMACHA chart and the 5 point check system
The FAMACHA method, which was developed in South Africa, will only help you to control wireworms because it is based on assessing goats’ levels of anemia (by looking at the inner membranes of their eyes) and then dosing those that you deem to be anemic.
To use this system you’ll need to have a laminated card with illustrations of eyes of sheep at different levels of anemia. You’ll need to compare your goats’ eyes to these illustrations in order to determine where each animal is on the scale.
The said scale goes from 1 (mucous membranes are red) to 5 (mucous membranes are white).
All the goats should be regularly examined but you should only treat those adjudged to be anemic.
NB: Don’t treat all your goats on a regular basis.
You will also use the Five-Point Check to check if your goats are affected by one or more types of the major internal parasites.
There are five places you’ll need to look at on each animal i.e. the nose, eyes, jaw, tail and back.
Other ways to control internal parasites include:
- Practicing rotational grazing. This will help to prevent the build-up of the worms that goats pick up during grazing
- Ensuring that troughs don’t leak – the muddy ground that results in case troughs are leaking makes a good breeding ground for worms
- You can also select the goats that are particularly susceptible to worms and cull them
Hoof trimming – Your goats’ hooves will regularly become overgrown as a result of them walking on hard rough ground. You will need to trim such hooves to prevent injury. This can be done once annually before the onset of the rains.
For this you’ll need a sharp curved knife or a pair of foot shears – and you’ll then cut away the overgrown part of the hooves or heels, being careful not to cut off too much hoof thereby exposing the live tissue.
You should then dip the hooves in copper sulphate solution to make them hard and to prevent foot rot and cracking.
NB: You should also constantly be on the lookout and/or take preemptive measures to avoid incidences where your goats may eat plastic packets or poisonous plants (e.g. Deadly nightshade, Lantana, and Forage Sorghum), incidences that are typically fatal.
Condition scoring your goats
Condition scoring is the process of assessing the body condition of individual goats. This has to do with body fat content and how it can affect breeding.
Your does should not be too thin or too fat. In case of the former there is the risk of reproduction failure, low twinning rates, and low weaning rates. In case of the latter a doe can suffer pregnancy toxemia.
To conduct body conditioning you will assess an individual goat on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is ‘very thin’ and 5 is ‘obese’. Three different body parts will be assessed i.e. the backbone, rib cage, and loin eye area (either side of the backbone above the tail).
Determining the ages of your goats
To determine a goat’s age you need to look at its teeth as follows:
7. Housing and handling facilities for your goats
Ideas for housing at your meat goat farm
The buck’s facility
- Your buck can be housed at least 400m. from the rest of the herd in a 6 X 8 shed facing downwind from the does’ area in a south easterly direction
- The size of this shelter will depend on how many buck you intend to house there
- The shed should be of sturdy construction and you should also fence it off in order to provide the buck with a small pen or loafing yard (the open area around or next to a barn) for grazing and to limit its range
The does’ facility
- You should ensure that this facility is of sturdy construction as well considering that it will be housing the entire herd, a situation that typically leads to infighting if the space is overcrowded
- In this regard you can provide each confined doe with 20 to 30 square feet of space for eating and sleeping; if not confined then 10 to 15 square feet of space per animal will do
- For example, if your goats are confined, an 8 X 16 ft. three-sided shed will suffice for 4-6 mature goats; if they are not confined and therefore have access to pasture, the same facility will suffice for 8-12 adult goats
The kids’ facility
- This shelter is where your young goats will be housed after weaning
- If you decide to keep males beyond 4 months of age you will need to house them separate from the females
- Like the other facilities, this one should also be structurally sound and have adequate space
Characteristics of a good goat shelter
- A three-sided facility with a good roof will suffice to shelter your goats from strong winds, rain and cold thereby avoiding situations where some members of the herd can succumb to respiratory problems or hypothermia
- Such a facility will also provide adequate shelter from the summer heat
- In general your goats’ facilities should be draft-free, dry, facing away from prevailing winds, well ventilated, and well lit by natural light
- Your goats’ shelter need not be an expensive barn. Some varieties of these facilities include calf hutches, PolyDome, Quonset i.e. hoopshelter, portable sheds, existing farm structures or three-sided goat houses
- Typical flooring for a goat shelter will be a dirt floor; for bedding you can provide low quality hay or pine shavings. Installing a concrete floor will make light of your cleaning and disinfecting efforts and also maintain the goats’ trimmed hooves
- If the shelter is built high off the ground it will be a good idea to have slots on the floor through which manure can fall to the ground
Ideas for dairy goat housing
When you are planning for pen size you can do so with the following capacities in mind:
- 5 sq. ft / goat if the goat is <60 lbs
- 5 sq. ft / goat if the goat is >60 lbs
- 15 to 20 sq. ft / goat if the animal is an adult goat
Generally, the space provided per goat depends upon its size and pregnancy status. You ideally want to provide an exercise area or paddock for each group of goats.
To keep the pen sizes flexible you can use 7 bar pipe cattle gates; you’ll however have to contend with the fact that some of your goats will soon find a way to crawl out of the pens through the pipes. Stock panels are a good idea but small horned goats may get caught in the fence.
Grouping your goats
For purposes of optimizing bio-security you should house each group of goats in a separate shelter. In this regard, your dairy goat operation should therefore have:
- A milker barn
- A yearling barn
- A kid barn, and
- A buck barn
The pens within each of these barns should house goats that are of the same age and size. Goats that grow slower than others of the same group should be transferred to pens housing goats of their size.
Penning your milkers
This can be done in several ways.
- Pen yearling milkers separately from mature does
- If you decide to pen all of the does together you’ll need to have the yearling kid at 16-20 months of age so that they can compete with mature does
- Since social order will be reestablished when pen mates are changed, you should minimize such changes. When it must be done ensure that you add goats in groups.
Feeders and water troughs
There are several ways that you can provide feed for your goats including using:
- hog feeders
- feed troughs
- creep feeders
- key hole manager
- hay baskets
- hay racks
- hay mangers
- individual feeding stalls
Nevertheless, whatever form of feeder you decide to go with you should just ensure that it will keep food of the ground to prevent the goats from trampling and soiling it. Also, you’ll need to provide suitable containers for licks.
You should ensure that the water troughs are placed in such a way that the kids can reach them without being in danger of drowning.
Considering that refilling water troughs can be time-consuming you can invest in an automatic waterer.
Goat handling facilities
The goat handling facilities you have should allow for efficient handling of the animals without resulting in stress either to them or to the persons involved.
Your goat handling facilities should consist of the following:
- A crowding pen/gathering pen that feeds into the race
- The race/crush (a passage) where the goats will be vaccinated or dosed
- A footbath in the race where hooves will be dipped to control footrot or ticks
Additionally, you can also have the following:
- Sorting gates at the end of the ramp to help you cluster the herd into different groups
- A loading ramp over which the goats will walk to enter vehicles for transportation
- A weighing scale
- A head gate/clamp that’ll allow you to restrain a goat
8. The feeding and nutrition requirements for your herd of goats
To understand the feeding requirements of your goats you must first of all consider their digestive systems.
Goats regurgitate food and ruminate, i.e. they chew the cud, and therefore, like other ruminants, they have four stomachs i.e. rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum.
Maintenance requirement refers to the minimum quantity of feed that an animal which is not growing, pregnant or lactating needs in order to keep warm and maintain its body weight. Mature, dry does and mature castrates are examples of goats that only have maintenance requirements.
All the other goats will have different age, breed, size, sex and physiological (pregnant/lactating) statuses and these will determine the quantity of food they need. The weather will also have an impact on this i.e. goats will tend to eat more during cold weather.
- Goats consume approximately 3-5% of their own body weight in dry matter daily
- Young goats tend to consume relatively more food than mature goats
- Pregnant and lactating animals will need more feed to produce milk and enable fetus growth
The components of goat feed
Your goats will need you to supply them with water, protein, energy, and various vitamins and minerals.
Critical feeding times for your goats
- Before mating (does and bucks)
- Late pregnancy i.e. the last 6-8 weeks. Provide just enough food to avoid the birth of small, weak kids; giving too much food will likely bring kidding difficulties from large kids
- Early lactation – does must have enough milk for their kids
Types of feeds
- Compound feeds
- Straight feeds
Supplements are available in different forms including powder (licks), meal (e.g. HPC), and blocks.
It will be advisable for you to offer one of these to supplement food from the natural vegetation. This will ensure that your goats will be provided with the nutrients that are lacking in the pastures.
You’ll also need to protect supplements from the rain, more so those that contain urea. Urea dissolves in water and can therefore be lost. Goats that drink this water can be poisoned.
Problems encountered during feeding
After your goats eat certain foodstuffs a number of problems may occur:
- Bloat – This happens when goats feed on leguminous feeds which have high nitrogen content. If this happens you’ll need to attend to the goats urgently as this condition may cause their death
- Bladder stones
- Plant poisoning
- Enterotoxemia aka overeating disease
- You should introduce concentrates gradually thereby allowing the goats to adapt. You can start with 50g/day/goat and then increase the quantity gradually over a week
- When feeding does it’s important to remember that they don’t like fine particles in their feed. They will typically sort out their feed and reject the fines. To avoid this and ensure that they eat everything you should, wherever possible, give does a pelleted feed rather than a texturized feed i.e. whole grains mixed with oil or molasses to bind the fines.
Growing green feed for your goats
To ensure that you will always have enough feed for your goats you can decide to grow fodder crops. When ready you can feed them fresh and also conserve some.
Some of the green feed you can grow include:
- Perennial pastures – Napier grass, Lespedeza, Lucerne, Desmodium
- Annual pastures – Oats
- Those you can grow in summer e.g. cowpeas, Lucerne, soya or peanuts
- Root crops e.g. chicory, radish, fodder beet
You can also grow:
- Grasses – sorghum, millet, bana grass
- Legumes – cowpeas, dolichos bean, velvet bean
- Forage trees – Leucaena, Acacia
9. Pasture management
The carrying capacity of pasture is the amount of livestock it can carry, based on the amount of food it produces.
Naturally, an area that receives high rainfall, has good vegetation cover, and good types of grass, will have the most grass and be able to feed many animals.
Your pasture management strategy should take into account the following factors:
- Since your goats will graze and browse you’ll need to consider what quantity of grass and trees will be available to them. Generally, goats can reach leaves below 1.5 meters; anything above this height will have to be cut down for them.
- You’ll need to know how many goats you’ll keep on a given area of pasture; exceeding this count will result in damage to the pasture
- Sections of pasture will need a full season’s rest to allow the grass plants to replenish their root reserves
- When your goats excessively browse trees a browse line will be created, implying that no leaf matter will be available to them for consumption. You will therefore need to determine a correct stocking rate to prevent this from happening. You’ll also need to withdraw the goats until the situation is corrected.
- If you allow too many goats to feed continuously in a given area overgrazing will occur i.e. the grass will be grazed too short until it either dies (leaving bare patches) or is replaced by a species unpalatable to the animals. This situation will also affect small trees.
If you’ll be raising Boer goats for meat you can work with 6-8 goats per acre of grass field (plus a few extra). It will be advisable to practice control grazing i.e. shifting fences ten feet on a regular basis thereby moving the goats to a new feeding area after they’re done with the current field.
10. Breeding, reproduction and kidding in your herd
To maximize production in your goat farming small business you’ll need to develop a breeding protocol for the farm. Sticking to this protocol will enable you to properly manage your herd and keep the goats healthy and productive.
This breeding protocol will indicate when a doe will be bred based on number of days in milk and pounds of milk being produced. The criterion for selecting a buck and culling does will also be described.
You’ll also need to give thought to the maximum number of does that you’ll breed per month – knowing full well that five months later there will be newborn kids to take care of.
Breeding must also take into account your plan for milk production. If you intend to produce milk all year then your breeding protocol must ensure that there will be enough does to supply milk.
Protocol breeding i.e. assortive mating, results in high quality breeds and maintains the genetic base. However, it also has several drawbacks which have to do with:
- Unavailability of appropriate breeding stock
- Difficulty in implementing communal set-ups
- Lack of technical skills
In case you opt to not use a breeding protocol, i.e. a situation where mating and birth of kids will go on throughout the year, you’ll have to contend with a number of challenges as follows:
- Good management and recording will be impaired
- Strategic feeding of does will be impossible
- You’ll need to keep your buck in top shape all year round
- Births in late winter or spring will happen at a time when there may be a shortage of feed
Additionally, random mating, while being simple and cheap, brings about high risks of inbreeding and spread of diseases.
The reproduction efficiency of your flock will also be important to consider. You can establish this by considering:
- The interval between consecutive kiddings of a doe (preferably <250 days)
- Number of kids per doe
- Number of kids born and weaned in the flock
Types of breeding systems
Prior to choosing any breeding system you’ll have to decide if the bucks and does will be of the same breed or from different breeds.
This decision will have major consequences for your meat and/or milk production plans both in the short-term and long-term.
Your decision here will be about going for crossbreeding or pure breeding.
This will involve mating different breeds in order to combine the characteristics found in each and to make use of ‘hybrid vigor’ i.e. a situation where the offspring will perform better than either parent.
This should be done carefully though; you risk losing the existing genetic pool if it’s done wrong.
This is will be straight-forward. You’ll just need to run a buck and doe from the same species. The offspring will have the same traits (color, size, and meat and milk production) as its parents.
There are four primary breeding systems that you can consider as follows:
- Hand mating – Here you select the buck for the doe and mate them. This system will allow you to record the exact breeding date, plan for the mating, and actually confirm that it happened.
- Pen breeding – Here you will place the buck in a pen of does. The buck will identify and breed the does in heat. If there are 2 or 3 such does the buck may single out one and refuse to breed the others. Ultra sounding the does will help you to give due dates of pregnant does and identify open ones.
In case you’ll be using a yearling buck restrict the number of does to 10-25; for a mature buck you can provide 15-40 does. You can also have two bucks of different breeds in the same pen; at least one will breed.
- Artificial insemination (AI) – Here you will be taking the opportunity to introduce superior genetics that may not be readily available in your buck. This is a learned skill that is labor-intensive. To succeed in using it you must know the proper technique for doing it and also be sure about the right time to place the semen into the does
- Out of season breeding – You will need to do this to increase winter milk production. You can bring does to heat using the artificial light technique or by using hormones
How to choose a suitable buck for breeding
You’ll want to choose a buck that will bring desirable genes into your flock. The buck must have sound legs and feet to facilitate breeding work. You’ll need to keep him well fed and healthy.
You’ll have to confirm that your buck:
- has a sheath and penis that don’t have any abnormalities, swellings and wounds
- has two testicles that are roughly the same; they should be well formed and freely moving within the scrotum
- the testicles must feel firm and cool
- the scrotum’s circumference should be 34 cm from the age of 18 months
How to choose a suitable doe for breeding
You should only keep does that kid annually. You’ll need to confirm that your doe of choice:
- has a firm and well-shaped udder
- has teats that are clear of the ground
- has teats that are evenly sized with no signs of damage
- shows no signs of pain when you handle its udder
- has the same udder and belly temperature
- produces milk that is creamy and smooth, with no clots or blood
- has no abnormal discharges or swellings on its vulva
Management of the does before mating
You will need to ensure that the does have access to good browse or good nutrition during the three weeks before mating and for two weeks after mating. Supplementation may become necessary during winter.
You’ll need the does to have a body condition score of approximately 3. During the mating season and for the two weeks that follow you should restrict handling to a minimum.
Read about a doe’s heat cycle and how to take care of pregnant does, dry does and kidding does in this Guide for Dairy Goat Farmers.
Management of the does during pregnancy
- Goats have a gestation period of about 150 days i.e. 5 months
- You should provide does with enough feed during early pregnancy to prevent fetus re-absorption
- You should also supply enough feed during late pregnancy, i.e. last 6-8 weeks, when the fetus is growing fast; don’t overfeed the doe though as this may cause kidding difficulties
- At three weeks to kidding a doe should be vaccinated with tetanus and enterotoxaemia C & D bacterin injections to build immunity for the fetus.
Management practices at kidding
- You should avoid disturbing (moving or handling them) does during kidding
- Try to keep the does separate from the rest of the flock
- Earmark the kids with a number related to their mothers
- Provide sufficient feed to cater for increased requirements
After weaning the kids you should make a decision about the does you will retain for next season’s breeding and those that you’ll cull.
A doe that has mouth or udder problems must be culled as she’ll be unable to raise another kid properly.
Raising female goats as replacements
Provided that you have been suitably growing your young does and keeping them in good condition they should be able to reach puberty, i.e. sexual maturity, at 5-9 months of age. You should therefore:
- Ensure that these does don’t mate until they are 12 months old lest their growth be stunted
- This will mean keeping weaned does away from the bucks
- Does that show good characteristics should be maintained for replacement purposes; the others can be sold
- Generally, delay breeding until the does have attained 60-70% of their mature body weight
11. Rearing kids in your goat farming small business
Preparations for kidding
You should provide the pregnant doe with a clean kidding area with dry bedding (stover or hay will do) and the doe can be transferred to this area several days before kidding. Separation will help to foster the bond between doe and kid.
You will notice a number of signs indicating that she’s about to kid including restlessness, separating itself from the flock and mucus discharge.
After the kid is born
You will need to dip the navel cord in a solution of 7% tincture of iodine. Iodine won’t be necessary if you’ve provided clean bedding but it’s prudent to do it so as to prevent the kid from developing navel ill which can be fatal.
You should also place a drop of iodine on a kid’s tongue to prevent bacterial infections.
Soon after birth you should allow the doe some alone time with her kid, some two to four hours, to allow for bonding. During this time the doe should clean its kid and remove the membrane over its nostrils.
You should however intervene when you neither see the doe cleaning its kid nor attempting to bond with it. This will be the case when you notice that the kid isn’t bleating or breathing, and is still not looking presentable.
A doe should be healthy after giving birth and have enough good milk (no mastitis or retained placenta, etc.) for her kid. You should provide green fodder for the doe so that she can stimulate milk.
Housing the kid
For the first few weeks to about one month you should keep the kids at home, more so if the does need to travel considerable distances to browse and water. The kids will need to be kept in warm and dry conditions and be protected from heat, cold and the spread of diseases.
One of the ways to house a kid will be to keep it in a kid box made of wood or bamboo and measuring 50-60cm long, 40-50cm wide and 30-40cm deep. Inside the box you should provide clean and fresh bedding – which will also be advantageous because you’ll be able to detect whether or not the kid has diarrhea.
Alternatively you can line the bottom of a large plastic tote tub with shavings or shredded paper. The lining should be replaced once the kids are completely dry.
After keeping the kid in the box for three days you can transfer it.
Feeding the kids
Your kids should suckle their mothers’ first milk i.e. colostrum within the first six hours of birth. Colostrum is rich in antibodies which are useful in increasing the immunity of kids.
If you prefer to milk the doe immediately after parturition you should use a colostrum meter to determine whether or not the colostrum has a sufficient number of antibodies; if this isn’t the case it should not be used. If the colostrum is okay you should heat-treat it to 135-145°F before bottle-feeding it to the kid.
If you find out that a doe isn’t capable of producing enough milk for its kid it’s recommended that you start fostering or bottle feeding the kid. You should however avoid over-feeding the kids with milk as this will result in scours.
At the age of about 3 weeks the kids should start nibbling on grass and leaves i.e. creep feeding, an important step for the development of the rumen.
Ensuring that the kids have access to fresh clean water, as well as putting them on a vaccinating and deworming schedule will be important.
You should then allow them to start browsing and/or grazing at no later than 4 weeks after birth. This is also a good time to start them on supplemental feed in case the does have poor milk production and there are feed shortages.
At 6-7 weeks they should be browsing and grazing effectively.
Feeding orphan kids
You can give orphan kids colostrum from another doe.
Alternatively, you can prepare replacement colostrum using the following ingredients:
- A mixture of 500ml cow’s milk, 1 egg beaten in milk, and 1 teaspoon of cooking oil
- For the first three days you should give a kid 150-200mls of this mixture four times daily; the mixture will need to be at body heat
- After the three days you should start the kid on cow’s milk three times a day (400-750mm daily) for two weeks, and then reduce this to twice daily (200-400ml per session) for at least 6 weeks
- The cow’s milk should be Johnes-free.
Disbudding the kids
Methods of identification
The main purpose of placing identifiers on individual animals will be to facilitate your record keeping efforts. Identification is also a legal requirement in the exportation of livestock and livestock products as it facilitates traceability.
There are several techniques of doing this as follows:
Ear tagging – Here you will need to place tags (plastic or metal ones) on the ears of your goats, preferably on both ears considering that a tag can be torn out and which will make identifying the animal problematic more so if you have a large herd and only one ear was tagged.
The information on the tags should be logical. You can, for example, have a sequence of numbers that will include information about an animal’s year of birth, its sex, and its number in the flock.
Ear notching – Here you will cut V-shaped notches on an animal’s ear, the position of which will represent a certain number. Typically, notches on the right ear represent tens while those on the left represent units.
The downside of this technique is that animals on other farms can have the same type of notches and which will make identification tricky if the herds are grazed communally.
Tattooing – This technique involves permanently marking both ears of an animal with your farm’s tattoo, and which is on file with a goat registry. You should do this within 14 days of the kid’s birth. Steps:
- Clean the kid’s ear with alcohol
- Rub on the ink
- Tattoo the ear
- Roll on more ink
Work the ink into the tattoo using a toothbrush
Weaning the kids
You should wean the kids when they get to a hundred days old on average and having attained a weight of between 8 and 12 kilograms. This typically involves separating the kids and the does. Nevertheless, kids automatically stop drinking their mothers’ milk at about three months of age.
Just before weaning it will be critical for you to vaccinate both the kids and the does against pulpy kidney considering that weaning is usually a stressful time for animals.
Weaning will enable your does to be in good body condition before the next mating season.
Castrating the kids
Castration involves severing the spermatic cords of male kids thereby preventing them from mating with females. Doing this will also help to improve the quality of meat produced as the characteristic smell of the entire male will have been reduced.
You can perform castration using three techniques:
Castration rubber rings method – If you choose this technique you’ll need to complete the procedure within the first two weeks of a kid’s life. Steps:
- One person should hold the kid’s right legs in his right hand and the left ones in his left hand and also have the kid’s rump on his knee. This will make the scrotum accessible
- Another person should ensure that both testicles are drawn to the lower part of the scrotum
- The elastrator will then be used to stretch the rubber ring and apply it over the spermatic cords. A few weeks later the scrotum will have shriveled and will then fall on the ground.
This technique is quick, easy to use, and requires no disinfecting. However, a kid can get a screw worm infection after the rubber ring and testicles have dropped.
This technique is done between the age of three weeks and three months. You will need a sharp knife/razor that has been sterilized in boiling water or antiseptic solution. Steps:
- Get the animal into a sitting position
- Clean its scrotum with disinfectant
- With your blade, cut open the scrotum’s lower end
- Gently pull the testicles from the scrotum, then rub the scrotum’s top part to prevent over bleeding, and finally sever the spermatic cords
- You should then dip the whole scrotum in iodine solution or antiseptic solution and then apply wound powder on it
Using a burdizzo will involve squeezing the spermatic cords; a few days later the testicles will wither but the scrotum’s outer surface won’t be damaged. This is an effective technique for a kid that’s more than three months old. Steps:
- Draw one testicle down the scrotum
- Clamp that side of the scrotum above the testicle
- Crush the spermatic cord
- Repeat this for the other testicle but at a slightly different distance from the body to ensure that there will continued blood flow to the testicles.
- You shouldn’t crush the ‘false teats’
12. Setting up your meat goat farming small business
When getting into the Boer goat production business it is advisable to follow a number of steps as follows:
- Contacting knowledgeable people in your area before you make any purchase. Here you want to gather all the information you can that will help you to find success. The people to talk to may include local/regional goat association members, local vets, and persons with knowledge about the area’s geography, soils and climate.
- Set up shelters and have everything in place i.e. feeders, troughs, etc.
- Acquire several pregnant does and get first-hand experience about kidding, feeding, and other practices (that have been described in the previous sections)
- Once everything is in place buy a buck – before the breeding season to ensure that he’ll be ready in time for mating. (Use the buck-to-doe ratios previously explained)
Things to consider when buying your first goats
During your physical examination of goats you are looking to purchase you should:
- Check for body temperature to avoid buying a feverish animal (the normal temperature should be 100.5°F; if it’s a hot day, or the goats have been running, or are stressed, you can accept 103)
- Check for signs of poor health including: coughing and sneezing, discharge from eyes and nose, poor body condition, lack of energy, high respiratory rate, respiratory noise, limping, etc.
- Healthy goats should show some interest in you or friskily run away; unhealthy goats may remain lying on the ground, be reluctant to rise, or have difficulty getting up
- Look at the goat’s rear end, around the tail and hind legs. It should be clean and dry, not soiled/crusty – signs of diarrhea
- The mucus membranes, i.e. gums and inner parts of the eyelids, should be healthy, dark pink and moist
- Teeth must be in good shape; not broken or missing
- There shouldn’t be any round hard lumps under/behind the jaw, on the neck, and behind the elbows and hocks
- It will be advisable to buy goats from your geographic region
- It will be prudent to stay away from goats being marketed as “prize goats” as these are typically heavily fed on grain and will therefore be used to this costly diet; you want an animal that will thrive on cheap feed and forage
The typical costs of your meat goat business
You can expect to spend on the following:
- Animal costs
- Feed costs
- Land and shelters (leases, pasture fertilizing and treatments, fencing, guard dogs, etc.)
- Health costs
- Labor costs
- Transportation costs
- Miscellaneous costs
- Administrative expenses
- Marketing and selling costs
Herd composition and making the herd commercially viable
How you approach this will depend on your marketing goals i.e. what you intend to supply to the market. Knowing this you can then determine how many bucks, does, castrates, etc., that you will retain in the herd at every given time.
In as far as breeding females are concerned you should replace them after 4-5 years. This will mean retaining enough maiden does so that you can adequately replace the culled does.
Considerations for your business’ costs, income and profitability
You will need to answer the following questions:
- What number of kids will be born annually
- How may can survive until you sell them
- What price each will fetch
- What is the annual cost of keeping the herd
- What goats will you sell (age and gender)
Based on these questions you can estimate the amount of money you can earn.
Selling live goats
In terms of the marketplaces you can target, it’s important to note the following:
- Demand for goats normally spikes around certain religious holidays i.e. Ramadan, Easter and Christmas
- Goats tend to sell at lower prices at auctions
- They fetch higher prices when sold directly to other farmers or when sold as meat
- Boer goats or Boers cross-bred with other decent-quality species tend to be more desirable in the market
- Generally, goats are most marketable at 80 pounds live weight, rarely more than 100. At 80 pounds the animal is still young (6-7 months old) and will have tender flesh; overfeeding adds weight – not meat quality.
- Stud breeders are interested in goats with interesting colors
- In addition to live goats you can also consider selling some of their by-products including milk and milk products, leather, hair (for brushes), skins, offal, etc.
13. Managing the milking does in your dairy goat farming small business
There are various milking doe facts that you should be aware of when setting up your dairy goat farming small business:
- Each of your milking does should have two teats, each with a single orifice; an animal with more than two teats or a double orifice can develop into a problem animal and should be culled
- You should milk does on 12-hour intervals. As the udder constantly produces milk, only stopping when it’s completely full, you shouldn’t allow the udder to get full. Milking a doe three times a day during the first 45-90 days of its lactation may be beneficial
- A mature doe can produce one gallon of milk daily (about 8.6 lbs)
- Average annual dairy herd production is about 5 lbs daily
- Lactations can be 300 days or more; some family lines don’t hold production as long though
- You’ll ideally milk a doe for seven months, breed it back, dry it off after milking it for a total of ten months, and then have a two month dry period
- There are seven full-sized dairy goat breeds
- Dairy goats eat 4-6% of their body weight in dry matter
- Dairy goats drink at a ratio of 4:1 weight of water to dry matter intake at 60°F
Managing a dry doe
Your milking doe should have an eight week dry period; if the dry period is too short the quantity of milk produced during the next lactation will be reduced.
If the doe isn’t bred then you shouldn’t dry her off even if her milk production has substantially reduced; if you do dry her off you must realize that she’ll be out of production for at least six months.
Further, if you don’t dry her off when you should do so she won’t produce as much milk in her next lactation.
It’s important to note that the volume of milk produced isn’t necessarily an indicating factor of whether or not you should dry off a doe.
How to dry off a doe
To dry off your doe you should milk her every other milking for 3-4 days and then stop milking her. The purpose of dry treatment is to clear up any existing infections and prevent any new ones.
You may need to give the doe a shot of BOSE (selenium-Vitamin E supplementation) but it will be prudent to consult with your vet about whether or not this will be advisable and if so what quantity will be enough.
During the drying off period it is advisable to collect samples of the doe’s feces and have them evaluated for parasites. Only does that show signs of high infestation should be treated; routinely treating all the does for parasites will reduce the efficacy of the worming medication used on your farm.
Feeding your dry doe
In feeding such a doe you must realize that she’s unlike a milking doe in that she’s no longer producing milk but rather she has a rapidly growing fetus inside her womb.
- During this eight week period reduce her amount of grain
- Allow her free choice forage and ensure that she has an ample supply of clean fresh water
- 14-21 days before she kids switch her to a steam up ration; this will help transition her from the dry ration to the milker ration.
- The threat in taking her directly from the dry to the milker ration is that she may go off of feed.
- The transition ration will also help to avoid milk fever; a young doe will have little trouble extracting the required calcium from her bones but an aged doe will.
- The transition ration will also help to reduce the stress that would result from switching from one type of feed to the next.
Managing a fresh doe
Your doe must have the right body condition:
- She can’t be too thin because the kids will be small, have low vitality, and the doe herself will have low milk yield
- She can’t be carrying too much fat because she may have kidding difficulty, develop ketosis, and have low milk yield
Your newly fresh doe’s first milking will produce colostrum; evidence of colostrum will still be available in the second milking. Both milkings (and the third if you prefer) should therefore be withheld from the tank.
If however your doe was dry-treated, her milk should be tested for antibiotics before being put into the tank.
The doe’s milk production will peak around day 100. Note that a high producing doe won’t be able to feed enough to meet the demand for milk production; she’ll be using her body reserves to meet this extra need.
The transition from dry to fresh doe
- This will be a very stressful time for the doe
- She’ll come into milk in 2-3 days; you should observe her during this time
- If she’s running a temperature she may have a uterine infection
- A few days of vaginal drainage will be okay; if it lasts for more than a week this will indicate a problem
- Her going off feed will also indicate health problems
14. Milking systems and routines at your dairy goat farming small business
Your milk house will be the final on-farm site of quality control in your goat milk production process. The aim of your process should be to produce a clean, wholesome product and prevent injury and/or infection of your goats’ udders.
Assuming yours is a commercial-scale dairy goat farming venture, your investment will include:
- Feed bins
The cost per head will be higher if you are starting with a smaller herd as can be appreciated in the chart below:
Construction of the milk house and facilities
The following points will help you to come up with a facility that will help you to meet the objectives stated above:
- Whether you are planning on retrofitting a cow milk house or constructing an entirely new milk house, you should first select the dairy supply equipment company that you will deal with. You can also source for used equipment from cow dairies
- Since you will need the approval of a dairy inspector before your facility can start shipping milk, it will be a good idea to bring the inspector into the picture right from the start. This inspector will help you to identify the essential building, milk handling, and equipment handling requirements that must be part of your milk production setup
- The said dairy equipment company will need to draw up a plan for your milk handling system and milking parlor area, and then submit these to the state for approval before they can start working on your project
- Your milk house will strictly be for milk house operations. It must therefore have no direct openings to other facilities like a barn or animal shelter. If it does the opening must have a tight fitting, self-closing solid door
- The size of your milk house will be determined by the amount of equipment and size of operations; estimation can be done with the inspector’s help. General requirements will include:
- Aisles at least 30” wide, enough to provide work space and, if need be, disassembly and servicing of equipment
- A smooth floor made of impervious material (mostly concrete) and graded to drain sites
- Drains shouldn’t be located under bulk tanks or under the outlets of these tanks
- Walls and ceilings constructed of smooth material. They must be well painted and maintained
- To resist water penetration and facilitate cleaning these surfaces can either be epoxy painted or covered with glazed tile
- There must be sufficient natural and artificial lighting
- Windows will provide lighting and ventilation. You must however have screens on the windows and doors to keep pests away
- Enough ventilation must be provided in the facility. This will facilitate drying of surfaces and ensuring that there is a minimum of foul or musty air. It’ll therefore be advisable to think about mechanical sources of ventilation e.g. fans
- To prevent freezing of water and ensure that the pipes, drains and sinks can be used even in prolonged cold weather, you should think of insulating the facility
Your milk should only be handled in equipment made of materials that are non-toxic and readily cleanable e.g. stainless steel, approved plastics, rubber and approved rubber-like materials, and glass, etc. Aluminum and copper-bearing materials shouldn’t be used for milk handling.
Your wash and rinse sinks should be big enough to handle the largest pieces of equipment that’ll need to be washed. Note the following:
- The sanitizing of hand milking or bucket milking equipment or strainers can be done in the sinks prior to milking
- You must have storage racks on which this equipment will dry after rinsing
- Cleaning and sanitation of the pipeline must be done as recommended by the installer and manufacturer; don’t skip any steps
- You should provide a separate sink in which milkers will wash their hands
How to select a milking machine for goats – You will need to select a machine that can quickly remove milk from the teat end. The reason is simple: milk cannot be forced back into the teat end.
Cooling the milk quickly
Milk should be cooled quickly and held to under 40°F, preferably in a stainless steel farm bulk tank. You should invest in a tank capable of holding your farm’s maximum volume plus one milking; it is here that the milk will be stored before it is picked up.
Your bulk tank must be capable of holding the temperature below 50°F during milking and then cooling the blend milk to 45°F or below in one hour.
In choosing the tank to buy you must also consider the lowest volume of milk that can be produced. This is because for the tank to cool the milk correctly there must be just enough milk in it to cover ½ of the paddle after one milking.
Source of water
You’ll need a properly located and protected supply with enough water that is of a safe and sanitary quality. The supply must be periodically tested and precautions must be taken to ensure that it remains uncontaminated.
The legal interval for testing a well supply is two years.
Measures for proper sanitation
To effectively clean and sanitize your milking equipment and do so with minimal effort you will need to use the right type of brushes, water that is at proper temperature, and the right cleaning materials.
If equipment cleaning and sanitizing is done well, followed by rapid drying, you will manage to keep bacterial counts low.
- Soft water is best for cleaning. If your supply provides hard water you may think about installing a water softener or purchasing cleaners designed for hard water use
- A protein film may appear on your equipment (first as a bluish discoloration) if you are using too weak a cleaning solution or too low a cleaning temperature
- If you’ll be doing manual cleaning you’ll need both a cleaner and a sanitizer
- There are two types of cleaners. Alkaline cleaners are preferred as they can rid equipment of butterfat particles, soil and milk protein. Acid cleaners will emulsify and remove fatty deposits at the right water temperature.
The five steps of the proper milking procedure
To produce high quality milk you must learn and follow the proper goat milking procedure. Applying this procedure will allow you to:
- Reduce bacteria on the milk skin
- Reduce bacteria and SCC
- Detect early stages of mastitis
When milking you should always wear milker’s gloves, considering that your skin is a porous surface that harbors numerous bacteria.
The milking procedure is as follows:
Step 1: Pre-dip
- You should use a commercially-prepared high quality dip, say, 0.5% iodine or other approved product
- The goat’s teat must be debris-free
- The pre-dip should then cover the teat about ¾ of the way up the teat and remain on it for 30 seconds
- Research indicates that doing this can reduce the bacterial count in milk 5 to 6 fold and also reduce the risk of isolation of listeria by 4 times
Step 2: Forestripping
- You’ll need to milk into a strip cup; this is the only way to detect mild clinical mastitis, thereby increasing the probability of successfully treating it
- The highest bacteria and somatic cell counts are in the teat cistern
- Forestripping will therefore help you to detect mastitis and reduce bacteria and somatic cell count
Step 3: Adequate drying
- This is the most important step on pre-milking hygiene; moisture is a growth requirement for bacteria
- You can use cloth towels or paper towels to dry the teat
- Don’t use the same towel to dry several goats
Step 4: Attaching the milker
- After the initial milk let-down stimulus 20-60 seconds is required for oxytocin response, the influence of which will last for 5-6 minutes
- You should therefore not stimulate more does than you are ready to attach a machine to within a 2-3 minutes span
- Ensure that the machine fits the doe properly; it shouldn’t slip
- Don’t over milk – this may damage the teat end or udder
Step 5: Post dip
- This should also be a high quality commercially-prepared product that’s compatible with the pre-dip
- Post dip is used to reduce the bacteria found in the milk film on the teat skin
- This is also a vital step in the control of contagious mastitis
Tips for achieving high quality milk production
To produce high quality milk you will have to observe three requirements:
- The use of properly cleaned milking equipment
- Following proper milking procedures
- Ensuring that your goats have healthy udders
Standards required for raw goats’ milk:
- Bacteria count
Grade A 100,000 cfu/ml
Grade B 100,000 cfu/ml
Grade A is the milk that is sold for purposes of fluid milk bottling, yoghurt, ice cream, and other soft products while Grade B is the milk sold for cheese-making.
When your report comes back from the lab your milk’s bacteria count will be indicated as PC (plate count). You’ll then need to multiply the number shown by 1000 to get the cfu/ml.
2. Somatic cell count
Grade A: < 1,000,000
Grade B: < 1,500,000
This number will be listed as SCC and you’ll need to multiply it by 1000. For example, a SCC of 500 will be 500,000.
3. Zero antibiotics
Once you begin supplying milk to a plant a milk hauler will be fetching your milk and that of other farmers and delivering it to the plant.
The hauler will take a sample of your milk from the bulk tank and do the same for the other farmers.
Upon the hauler delivering the load to the plant the milk will be tested and if it turns up ‘hot’ all the individual samples will be tested for antibiotics. The owner of the sample with antibiotics will be required to pay for the complete truck load of milk; plants therefore require that all suppliers show proof of insurance before shipping starts.
4. Zero added water
5. No off flavors or smells
6. Temperature within two hours: Grade A <45°F and Grade B<50°F
Selling your dairy goat milk
The price you get for your milk should obviously earn you a suitable profit margin. However, the only way to know whether or not you are making a profit is to determine your costs of production.
Knowing what amount of money you spend in order to produce 100 lbs. of milk is a good place to start.
Also, it’s prudent to think about how best you can manage feed costs. In this regard, you should remember that grain is fed to goat does based on their output, age, and condition.
Probable dairy goat figures for your growing operation