When purchasing a Goat, you can never ask too many questions. However, you can ask too little. The whole point of asking the seller questions is 1) to gain a better understanding of the type of care this goat has been receiving; get a snap-shot of its health, 2) give yourself the opportunity to observe the animal and examine it before you bring it home, and 3) determine if this is the animal you want to bring home and add to your herd.
Here is my list of Questions, you may choose to add or omit at your discretion:
1-Do you deworm your goats? If so, How often and with what medication? If not, why?
It’s important to note that not all breeders make any effort to control internal parasites (simply called ‘worms’) in their goats for various reasons. And amongst those that do choose to control them, some people use chemical de-worming medications while others elect for herbal remedies. ‘De-wormers’ are used to control the worm population in the goats, not eradicate them, and are usually administered 1-2x a year. Worm resistance to chemical de-wormers is becoming a growing concern in the US. In many states some medications are entirely useless. As a buyer, you need to know if there is any resistance to chemical de-worming medications in the sellers herd, and if there is.. you should know which medication is currently being used for the control of parasites.
-It is important to note that worm bio-loads can reach dangerous levels if not treated properly resulting in anemia, lower milk production, weight loss, compaction of the digestive tract, fluid build-up in the lungs, and even death. A regular deworming schedule should be well established in your herd. A veterinarian with extensive knowledge and experience with goats should be consulted.
2-Do you vaccinate your goats regularly? If so, against what? And if not, why?
Just as it is with de-worming your goats for the control of parasites, vaccinations help control/prevent more commonly contracted diseases. And again, some people may opt to vaccinate against all possible disease as a part of their efforts to keep their herd healthy, while others may choose to vaccinate only against the most common diseases in their area, or not at all. Before you buy a goat, it pays to make sure that the sellers protocols are in line with your husbandry practices.
3- How often do you trim your goats’ feet? When was the last time this goats’ feet were trimmed?
Feet are seemingly the most neglected aspect of goat health. If the seller doesn’t have time to trim their goat’s feet, than what else have they been neglecting? Feet are as important to care for as providing feed and water. Poor hooves that look like elf-shoes/rocking horse rails, or are blackened with hoof rot are indicative that this person not only doesn’t have the time to care for their livestock, but out-right doesn’t care about the long term health of their animals. Over grown hooves, diseased hooves, lead to a variety of skeletal issues including, but not limited to, very painful arthritis.
4- Do you test for CAE, CL, BRUCELLOSIS, and JHONES? If so, can I see your current test results. If Not, why?
CAE has got to be the most misunderstood disease in the goat world. So many opinions and different paths of information surround this disease that even the ‘experts’ are befuddled. Goats that have antibodies are said to be positive for the disease, Negative goats can be carriers, and to complicate matters worse—there is a ‘vaccine’ on the market that gives your goat the antibody.. and now your negative goat tests Positive. So why ask about testing?! Even though there is a lot of confusion surrounding this particular subject, you still want to see if the herd you are purchasing from is healthy, and has a long standing record of being disease free. Especially for CL, Johnes, and Brucellosis which are a death sentence to any animal contracting these diseases.
Sadly many people are not aware of these diseases. They were so excited about purchasing a goat that they didn’t even think to look into any potential health risks. And when it came time to sell their goats offspring, because they were never made aware, never looked into further researching goat health, they neglect to inform buyers who further perpetuate the cycle. Testing is not expensive. BioTracking offers testing for $6-$10 per animal…arguably much cheaper than your dogs’ vaccinations at the vet!
Worse yet! Some people will willfully breed animals that they know to be carriers or currently infected with the above diseases, and SELL their animals without first notifying buyers. Remember, as a buyer--its YOUR job to protect your herd, not the person you are purchasing from. If their herd management/ husbandry practice is not in alignment with yours-- do not buy their goat.
5- What are your goats currently being fed, and how often?
Goats being ruminants need to eat on a regular time schedule. They also do not adapt well to sudden dietary changes. Knowing what the animals are being fed on the sellers property will let you know what you need to do to help your new goat switch (if need be) onto your feed of choice.
6- Do your goats get loose minerals? If so, what are you currently using?
Like people, goats need minerals. Goats in the southwest are almost always deficient in copper and selenium. Providing a high quality loose mineral helps aid their dietary requirements, and shows you as the buyer that the sellers’ goats health is at least being considered.
7- (lactating doe) What type, and How much grain supplement is this doe receiving?
Grain provides extra fat and protein to a doe in lactation, and greatly helps her maintain her body condition during heavy lactation.
8- (lactating doe) How often is this doe being milked every day?
High production does, and breeders pushing for higher production in their herd often milk 2x daily. Milking twice a day helps ensure that the doe is not getting congested with milk, and will improve her milk ability for next season.
9- (lactating doe) How much is she currently producing?
Knowing how much milk your doe is currently producing will give you a more accurate measure of how much milk you will have available for use. If you plan on making cheese, yogurt, cream, or any other product where high volumes of milk are required, you want to purchase a doe that is going to aid in the production of the milk you will need. On the other hand, if you only want enough milk for your coffee on occasion this may not be something you would be concerned with.
10-(lactating doe) Do you drink the milk? What does this goats’ milk taste like?
What use is there in purchasing a dairy goat from someone who doesn’t milk their goat, and/or doesn’t use the milk? Believe it or not, not all goats are made equal. For example, two does of the same breed eating the same feed, and living together in the same enclosure... One doe’s milk may taste super goaty ... probably okay if you are making cheese; while Doe number two has milk that tastes almost like cow’s milk and is very palatable to drink raw. Which doe do you prefer? There is a lot of wisdom in the saying: ‘try the milk before you buy the cow’.. or goat in this situation.
11-(lactating doe) How long has the doe been in milk?
Does who remain in milk longer will naturally be able to supply you with milk for a longer period of time than a doe that dries up if she blinks wrong. Purchasing goats with long lactations is most beneficial to folks looking to drink their milk on a regular basis, and make other dairy products.
12-(buck, or young doe) Do you have/ can I see this goat’s Dam (mother) and/or grand-dams (grandmothers) udder? If not, do you have pictures of the udders for either the dam or grand dam?
Goats can inherit some very good things, and some not so good things from their parents and grandparents. Make sure you look down the line to see if there are any issues that you may not want bred into your herd (small teat size, small udder, hanging udder, arched backs, crooked toes for example).
13-(buck, and only if he is old enough) Do you have any of this bucks’ current offspring?
If you are purchasing a proven buck, don’t forget to look at his offspring. See what improvements he made (if any) on the does he was bred to. This will give you an idea of what you can expect from your offspring, and if his daughters will also be good milkers.
14- How often do you have to clean your pens and water containers?
For me, probably not everyone else, this is my biggest issue with breeders. If your pens have piles of feces so high the babies are playing on it, or it is so deep on the ground that your animals have it around their ankles, and your water containers are developing into their own eco-systems; there is no way I want to buy a goat from you.
Feces are the number ONE cause of Johnes Disease, spread of parasites, and sign of sloth. If you have the time to take my money, take the time to provide your animals with a clean place to live free of feces and hazardous debris with clean water to drink. Clean enclosures to me means that the breeder must love their goats enough to at least, clean their pens and water buckets weekly.
In the winter this can be difficult (especially with the mud we have on our own property!), but you can tell the difference between a pen that hasn't been cleaned this week due to bad weather, and a pen has never been cleaned since the fence went up!
Other questions may include:
1-How long have you been breeding goats?
2-Do you show your goats?
3-What registry (s) do you have your goats registered with?
4-(If the goat is found to have an injury/infection) Looks like this goat is hurt/ has an infected (fill in the blank)____, are you currently treating this with anything?
5-Do you give your goats BoSe? How often?
6-(if not already known) How old is this goat?
For New Goat owners you may want to ask:
1-How do you give an injection?
2- Can you show me how to trim my goat’s feet?
3- What would be the best type of shelter for our area to keep my goat warm and dry in the winter?
4- What vet do you recommend?
5-When my doe is pregnant do you recommend any special care/housing?
6- Is it alright if I contact you with any questions I might have about this goat in the future?
As a new goat owner you should already be researching and studying what it’s going to take for you to be successful in your new adventure. Most breeders expect however, that you have not prepared yourself as well as you could have and kind of already expect that you will be sending them emails the following day... There is nothing wrong with getting the help and support of an experienced mind when you run into trouble, but it is always best to ask first; some people just don’t have the time or patience to help teach.
ALSO, if you are asking for help, DO NOT get offended with the answer! If you are a beginner, and are being told you are doing something wrong, or potentially dangerous to the health of the animal you purchased. You are simply in NO POSITION to argue with someone who has a good reputation and years of experience under their belt! Understand also, that not every experienced breeder will have the same answer to every problem, everyone manages their livestock a little bit differently, so if you are not happy with the response you receive just do some more research; which is why the internet was invented to help folks find the answers they need (....with a pinch of salt of course..).
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