Goat keeping has become increasingly popular in Germany in recent years. This is not surprising, since goats themselves can be kept easily and without much effort. The animals are kept for milk production, landscape maintenance or as a hobby. What you should pay particular attention to when keeping goats, so that they remain healthy and happy, you will learn here in our guide to goat keeping.
Goat keeping: brief overview
Reasons to keep goats: Keeping goats is fun. In addition, you can obtain milk and maintain the landscape with them. Since goats are relatively undemanding, you can keep them without much effort.
Legal requirements: According to the Animal Welfare Act, you must keep goats in a manner appropriate to their species and needs. You do not need a permit.
Goat breeds: Goat breeds are divided into dairy goats and meat goats.
Husbandry specifics: As social animals, you should never keep goats alone. They absolutely need employment material, enough climbing possibilities and for each animal a feeding place. They love to lie elevated. Their outdoor area must be particularly well fenced. Nutrition: As ruminants, goats are pure herbivores. They get fresh green fodder in summer and hay to eat in winter. You can also feed silage. In case of increased demand, you can give them additional concentrated feed such as cereals. Care: You do not need to wash, brush or shear your goats. However, since the horn of the hooves grows back too much when they are kept indoors or outdoors, you need to trim it back regularly.
What breeds of goats are there?
The goat has been used for centuries by man as a supplier of meat, milk, wool (for example cashmere and mohair), fur and horn. Central Europeans especially take advantage of the goat’s milk yield, so the breeds used here are usually bred for high milk yield. If you are thinking about getting goats, you should get detailed information about the individual goat breeds. Each breed has its own characteristics, which you can use to select your animals. Some of the most common goat breeds in Germany are listed below with their breed-specific characteristics:
The White German Noble Goat is medium to large in size (70 to 100 cm in height at the withers). Their white coat is short and smooth. There are hornless and horned animals of this long-lived breed. The animals are hardy and give up to 1,000 kg of milk per year. The Variegated German Noble Goat differs from the White German Noble Goat only by the light brown to black-brown color and the black eel line on the back.
The Boer goat is medium to large in size (65 to 95 cm in height at withers) and carries horns. Their neck and head are reddish brown, while the rest of their body is white in color. Their nose is curved outward and their long and wide ears hang down to the sides. Because of their full muscling, Boer goats are used especially for meat production. They are also well suited for landscape maintenance.
The African Dwarf goat is horned and grows only 40 to 50 centimeters tall. Most animals are spotted in brown, gray, white or black. In the countries of origin, keeping dwarf goats for meat production is common. Their milk yield is only low. The Thuringian Forest goat has short smooth coat and is medium to large in size (65 to 90 cm height at withers). The color of the coat ranges from light to dark brown.
Occasionally there are even black goats of this breed. Characteristic of the Thuringian Forest goat are the white line on both sides from the upper eye region to the nose and the white-rimmed ears as well as the white-rimmed mouth. In addition, the coat is white around the anus as well as on the legs. This breed of goat is used for meat production as well as milk production. It is also well suited for landscape maintenance.
The Valais black-necked goat is a strong and medium-sized (70 to 85 cm height at withers) high mountain goat. It is not only long haired on the body, but the coat also grows long on the chest, cheeks and head. Typical of the breed, the front half of the body is black and the back half is white. It is kept for its milk yield and for landscape maintenance.
The Toggenburg goat is brown to mouse gray with short or long coat. Their height at withers is 70 to 90 centimeters. There are horned and hornless animals. Typical for this breed are light stripes running from the ears to the mouth. The coat on the lower legs and around the anus is also white. Also characteristic is a drooping flap of skin on the neck (“bell”) and the beard. This hardy and long-lived breed is kept especially for its milk yield.
The cashmere goat is a small to medium sized (50 to 70 cm height at withers) horned goat. The long coat is white, gray, black or brown in color. The cashmere goats are mainly kept for wool, but can also be used for landscape management.
What to consider when keeping goats?
Although there are many different breeds of goats, they all have similar traits. In order to keep the animals according to their species and their needs, it is important to know the characteristics of their nature. Goats are curious and intelligent and like to learn about their surroundings. Therefore, as a goat owner, you should definitely provide sufficient employment material in the barn such as fresh straw every day or permanently installed brushes for coat care. The original habitat of the domestic goat is the mountains.
Therefore, goats are enthusiastic and agile climbers. Be sure to provide your goats with climbing opportunities such as straw bales, wooden benches or even tables. Make sure your animals can’t reach electrical wires or lamps. Goats love to be elevated. Allow your animals to lie on shelves attached to the barn wall, where they can rest and observe their surroundings. Feed fences should separate the walking area from the feed table. Since goats are big feeders, scuffles tend to occur at the feeding area. Therefore, the animal to feeding area ratio should be 1:1. If all animals can eat at the same time, stress during feed intake is avoided.
In winter, it is important to keep goats indoors because they are more sensitive to cold weather than other grazing animals such as sheep. If your goats are allowed out in the pasture during mild temperatures, the outdoor area must be especially well fenced. Goats have a high jumping ability and are true escape artists. Electrifiable nets at least 1.1 meters high, knotted with small meshes, are particularly suitable for fencing. They should ideally consist of five live strands and be checked daily for damage. A goat feed rack is best for providing feed for goats in the pasture.
As social creatures, goats are used to living in a herd. Therefore, never keep a goat alone, but at least two animals together. By keeping the animals socially together, you prevent them from developing behavioral problems. The animals feel well and stay healthy. If goats live in a herd, a hierarchy is formed. Goats are assertive and persistent. Rank fights within the herd structure are therefore nothing special. In particular, scuffles occur when there are changes in the herd due to the purchase of new goats. A new ranking order must be re-established. It is more relaxed for the herd, if the stock is not supplemented by foreign animals, but the own offspring remains in the stock.
When planning your goat barn, make sure that the feeding areas and the pen are designed in such a way that lower-ranking animals can avoid higher-ranking animals. Dead ends should be avoided. Low-ranking goats must also be able to eat and withdraw in a relaxed manner. To avoid forgetting something important after the barn has been completed, it is advisable to look at other barns beforehand and get detailed advice.
Goat feed and bedding are important for the health of your goats.
To feed your goats properly, it’s important to know a few basic facts about goat feeding. Like cattle and sheep, goats belong to the ruminant group, making them pure herbivores. The gastric tract of ruminants consists of the rumen, reticulum, leafy stomach and abomasum, the glandular stomach proper.
The rumen is the largest of the forestomachs. It represents a large fermentation chamber in which organic matter such as cellulose is broken down by microorganisms to produce energy. The resulting compounds are absorbed by the rumen wall. Together with the reticulum, the rumen is responsible for regurgitating coarse feed particles back into the goat’s mouth for rumination. The reticulum also ensures that smaller feed particles are passed into the leafy stomach. In the leafy stomach, the feed slurry is compressed and the water is absorbed. The resulting firmer food mush then enters the abomasum, where its pH is lowered by hydrochloric acid and digestion by the body’s own enzymes begins.
If the goats are kept indoors and not on pasture, even in summer, you must always put fresh green fodder in front of them so that the fermentation of the food in the rumen works. You must never offer your goats spoiled or moldy feed. In winter, hay is the main feed. However, the animals can also be fed with perfect silage. Dairy goats have high nutritional needs. Therefore, feed them additional concentrate such as grain, molasses chips or oil meal. However, make sure that hay, silage or green fodder is fed in larger proportions than concentrate. Animals also enjoy beets and apples, as well as twigs and bark from coniferous trees.
To keep your animals adequately supplied with minerals such as sodium, it is best to provide them with mineral licks. For milk-producing goats, mixing three percent of a mineral feed into the concentrate is the best solution to prevent mineral deficiencies.
Goats are very picky eaters and like to leave stalks, for example. Feeding areas should therefore be cleaned daily. The water requirement of an adult goat is between three and ten liters, depending on the outside temperature and lactation.
Soft straw is the best bedding. The hard floor becomes more comfortable for the animals and the cold from below is mitigated. About half a kilogram of straw per animal should be bedded daily. You must remove contaminated straw regularly.
Care of the goat and behavior towards humans
If your goats are used to handling you from an early age, they can become very trusting and affectionate. You must be careful not to get jumped on, as goats behave the same way with humans as they do with their own kind. In general, when you are near the goats, you should not move frantically or make noise. This can frighten the animals and cause them to flee. You do not have to care for your goats properly in the sense of washing, brushing or shearing them. Only the claws need to be taken care of. In the wild, the growing horn of the hooves is trimmed by itself on rocky ground. In stable and pasture keeping, the growing horn of the claws must be removed regularly (about twice a year) with the claw shears or the so-called claw knife, just like in sheep. Before you cut the horn yourself for the first time, have an experienced goat keeper show you how. Injuries to the claws must be avoided at all costs.
Conclusion about keeping goats
It is not a science to keep goats yourself, as the animals are hardy and undemanding. They are mostly kept for milk production, landscape maintenance or as a hobby. Depending on the favored keeping purpose you decide for a certain breed. In terms of nature, all goat breeds are similar. They are intelligent, curious and assertive. In addition, goats are social herd animals and skilled climbers. As a pet owner, you must be careful to keep goats according to their species and needs. When the animals are not kept on pasture in the summer, they must be fed with fresh green fodder to avoid digestive problems. In winter, they are mainly fed with hay. As needed, dairy goats in particular are fed concentrates. Mineral feed or mineral licks can be offered additionally. When caring for goats, special attention should be paid to the hooves. They must be trimmed about twice a year.
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