banner ad

Keeping Pygmy Goats

Print Friendly

                         

 

Christine Fuller from Kent Smallholders Group passes on her experiences of keeping pygmy goats, describing her first encounters as well as giving some valuable dos and don’ts for anyone considering keeping them.

Our first goats were ‘pygoras’ – pygmy goats crossed with an angora goat. Their names were Lillie and Rosie, and they came from Hadlow College in Kent. They were shortly followed by Poppy, and her mum, Daisy: Saanen goats from St Piers Farm. My husband had built them a good goat shed on land that was full of brambles and nettles for them to enjoy. They quickly made short work of the very prickly brambles, and the local children kept their distance, mistaking them for billy goats due to their large horns. Despite our presence, and our reassurances, the morning after a very noisy Bonfire Night our lovely Rosie died. My husband will never forgive the neighbour.

NOTE

Contrary to popular belief, goats will not eat anything. They need roughage, fresh hay, concentrated feed, and fresh water at all times.

It was always harder to get the two Saanen goats to put on weight, and both proved to be rather fussy eaters. Lillie, on the other hand, needed to be fed individually; otherwise she would have hoovered up all the food in super-quick time. For this reason, all our goats ended up being fed their hard feed ration individually. However, contrary to popular belief, goats certainly will not eat anything. They need roughage, a fresh supply of hay, a small amount of concentrated feed, and fresh water at all times.

Like many smallholders, we were both busy working, so we thought it unfair to breed from the goats. To all intents and purposes they seemed to have a nice life, but we were proved wrong when Poppy had a false pregnancy, and ended up with mastitis. Realising that we had a lot more to learn about goat husbandry, we both signed up for a goat husbandry course at Buttercups Goat Sanctuary, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It gave us lots of practical tips and instruction on goat hoof trimming, and broader general husbandry.

Eventually, it was time to build our own house, so the ground was cleared of brambles and nettles for the construction to commence. Worried that the builders might feed the goats unsuitable food through misplaced kindness, we arranged for them to have a holiday in a lovely spot, just a short distance away, where our sheep graze. Another shed had already been erected, and a nice area fenced off from the sheep, with a hedge down one side for the goats to browse. There was certainly plenty of room for two goats – Daisy had eventually died of old age at 13 – so Lillie, the pygora, and Poppy, the Saanen, went off to their nice new paddock.

Sadly, our instincts were to be proven wrong once again, as we began to get regular phone calls from the nice lady who lived there, informing us that our goats had their horns stuck in the fence and were trapped. Then, as if by magic, Lillie and Poppy would invariably unhook their horns from the fence on our arrival, and happily run to greet us, probably wanting to know where we had been all day!

Finally, we had a very worrying call to say that the goats had eaten their way through the hedge, and were wandering around in the farmer’s field. Needless to say, we rushed over to get them, worried about how much they had eaten, as a goat’s stomach is really quite sensitive, unlike the all-too-common stereotype. Goats, and especially pygmy goats, are renowned escapologists, so we decided that the only course of action would be to bring them back home and put them in the back garden in their old goat shed, which had now been revamped.

Lillie and Poppy came home, and actually moved in even before we did! Whilst at that time they did not have such lovely land to graze, they at least had our attention, which seemed to be far more precious to them. With Lillie and Poppy both healthy and happy, we purchased our first-ever kid goat, a pygmy goat named Jasmine, who charmed her way in with Lillie and Poppy. We also did not want a repeat of Poppy’s false pregnancy, so we decided early on that when Jasmine was old enough we would find her a suitable billy goat.

When that day eventually arrived it proved to be very exciting, as Jasmine was taken to stay with Ghost, a pygmy billy goat. Jasmine could obviously smell and sense him, and pulled strongly to get into his paddock. Then, once there, she pranced about on her hind legs to impress him. Dancing and jumping about, she seemed really happy, and any qualms I thought I would have about leaving her were superseded by her obvious contentment. So, in time, we had a new addition to our herd from Jasmine – a new little boy kid we called Jazz.

 Goats have definitely grown on us. They really are great characters. Sadly, Poppy died before we moved to our own farm, next to where our sheep graze, but Lillie is still here – she is now 16 years old. Jasmine is here, too, with her son Jazz, and we now have Bambi and Pippa with her son Pip, and Minnie with her daughter, Nancy – eight pygmy goats in total. Should they ever escape, it will probably be to come and find us, and then, as we put them back in their enclosure, they will no doubt proudly show us exactly how they managed to escape. We know that Bambi can very gently unlock bolts and catches using her mouth, and would probably let all her friends out, or might gently lead Jazz back into his stable and lock him in if he was behaving too boisterously. If trained from an early age, goats can even be walked on a lead.

FENCING

As goats are renowned escapologists, you’re going to need some capable fencing, so start off with 1.5m chestnut stakes. Put a string line in where you want your fence to go, then cut a piece of batten 1.8m long to mark the spaces in between your stakes. Use a post-rammer to put the stakes into the ground, as a sledgehammer tends to split the tops. Then use stock netting. Staple this onto the side where the goats will be, so when they push against the stock netting, the posts take the strain. Make sure to tension the netting using a pair of fencing pliers, ideally by putting the fencing pliers through the netting and pulling against the posts – otherwise, pygmy goats will be able to push underneath the wire. Finish off by putting a strand of fencing wire about 10–15cm above the stock netting – you could even do two strands, but be careful not to over-tension the wire, which will make the stock fencing go baggy. Do not use barbed wire – this can cause some serious injuries.

With pygmy goat kids, we have sometimes put a gravel board on the inside bottom to stop them pushing under the stock fencing.

You will require a County Parish Holding number (CPH) to keep goats, which can be obtained from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). They really do need the company of their own kind and should never be kept alone. They also do not like the rain, or even stepping in water, and need a dry area. We always lock our goats up at night, so that they feel safe, and so that we can relax. They must also be identifiable by ear tags, and any goat movement between properties will automatically require a movement licence.

We trim our goats’ hooves every other month (every 6–8 weeks), and provide them with free access to a yellow mineral block. To my knowledge no medicines are licensed for goats, so you will need to take advice from your vet. We inject them with Lambivac twice a year for clostridium diseases, with one of these being timed 4–6 weeks pre-kidding, and young kids receive one injection from 3 weeks of age, and a further one 4–6 weeks later. Do take advice from your vet. The goats will need regular treatment for worms and parasites; our vet recommends Dectomax at double the strength specified for sheep.

You may wish to join a goat club, such as The Pygmy Goat Club, or a smallholders’ group, where a number of members are sure to keep goats. If you are looking to keep goats, we recommend that you learn from our mistakes and go on a goat husbandry course beforehand, as goats, like all animals, have very individual requirements, and understanding these can save considerable heartache (and cost) later on.

GOAT ESSENTIALS
  • A County Parish Holding number (CPH) and a Herd Number must be obtained from Defra.
  • Suitable housing and bedding is required – goats need to be able to access shelter at all times.
  • Secure stock fencing is essential.
  • Goats will require a paddock/area to browse that is free from poisonous plants, bushes and trees.
  • Fresh water is of prime importance for all livestock. Pygmy goat kids will need quite shallow bowls of water.
  • Ventilation in the housing is very important, even in cold weather. Whilst goats do not appreciate draughts or northerly winds, cross-ventilation is important to provide a good, fresh airflow.
  • An area of hardstanding outside the house is very useful, and a play area will amuse your goats – it is always a pleasure to watch their interaction.
  • A year-round supply of hay is needed – goats are ruminants and require a large amount of roughage.
  • If you use hayracks, they will need lids so that if the goats jump in them they will not get a leg stuck jumping back out. Hay nets are not advisable, as they could strangle the goats.
  • Try to locate a vet that is knowledgeable about goats – this is best done by asking around.
Top Tip!

If you intend to keep goats, we recommend that you learn from our mistakes and go on a goat husbandry course first.

Contrary to popular belief, goats will not eat anything. They need roughage, fresh hay, concentrated feed, and fresh water at all times.

 

Posted in: Goats

About the Author:

Ruth Tott is the publisher of Home Farmer Magazine, and together with her husband, Paul Melnyczuk, Editor,is founder of the company. But her background is far removed having specialised in Costume History with a Post-Grad diploma in Museum Studies to boot. A far cry from looking after chickens, growing veg and making bread!

Post a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Sign up to our newsletter and get a FREE copy of our e-book, Making Cakes and Bakes,

filled with over 100 of our best-loved recipes taken from Home Farmer 2008 - 2015.