9 supplies you should have BEFORE you bring your goats home
Updated: Jul 11
So you want to get started with goats? Or maybe you already have and you want to make sure that you are adequately prepared- good for you! Life is so much easier when you have what you need BEFORE you need it. This list is not a "one size fits all" kind of deal but it is a great start. This can seem daunting but I encourage you to DIY as much as you can! Also remember the power of bartering! I have included links to some things to make it easier. Some of these links are affiliate links, meaning that if you buy from these links it doesn't cost you any extra but it helps me make a commission from this blog post. So, thank you very much if you buy from any of these links! And keep in mind that 2nd hand things are amazing in this lifestyle! So, ask your friends if you can buy any extras they may have!
First off, you need shelter. Your goats need to be able to get out of the elements. This includes heat/cold, wind, rain, snow, etc. Some choose to build beautiful barns, some choose to repurpose sheds- it's really up to you! Whatever works to keep your goats dry, safe and warm (and/or cool) is excellent. There are SO many ideas online!
You will need some kind of fencing to keep them penned and safe. You want to keep the goats IN and predators OUT. This is going to require a fence- the type and strength depends on what you will be dealing with. We live in town, so we have dogs that get loose quite often. This means that our goats are behind a 6' wooden fence. We don't have a huge pasture, so this works for us. Keep in mind that if you are doing dairy goats, you will have kids at some point. Those little buggers can get our of the smallest spaces. They love to explore everything! Also keep in mind that goats are escape artists who are known to even know how to undo latches. They will watch you and learn! I have found carabiners to be the best way to keep them in their pens. I've yet to have one learn how to use one of these bad boys. ;) I would encourage you to use a fully enclosed fence- not a wire electric fence. Goats have a tendency to go through through that type of fencing.
Next you will need to figure out what you are going to feed them. This depends on what types of goats you have. I don't mean what breeds but whether or you have bucks, wethers, does in milk, pregnant does, growing goats or does who are not bred or in milk. This could be a post of its own but I will try to sum it up as best as I can. A good starting point is grass hay. Any goat can have grass hay and it is very good for their rumen to have access to hay, whether that be grass or alfalfa. The stems help their rumens. Then you can build from there. If you have a pregnant doe, lactating doe, or growing doeling you should add alfalfa hay and grain. If you have boys, you should keep them on grass (you need to watch
what they eat because of urinary calculi). There are also premixed feed options that some people prefer. I like to offer these to my pregnant, lactating and growing does alongside the hay and/or alfalfa.
4. Milk Stand:
There are SO many wonderful types of milk stands available. A stand is important even if you do not plan to milk your goat. You will use this to trim hooves, give medicine, treat an injury, etc. I suggest looking at a few types before deciding on which one is right for you. I talk about my own stand in this blog post. If you are a fan of Amazon, they do sell this one. I like the stands that open all the way for the goats head to go through. Many people decide that building their own stand works best!
You will need a good mineral source for all of your goats. You can buy a good loose mineral mix at almost any feed store (feed store, doesn’t have these in stock, they will oftentimes be happy to order for you.). I like to feed a mix made by manna pro that you can find by clicking on the link as well as at most feed stores. There are lots of other options out there! If your goats have not been offered a loose mineral 24/7, don’t be surprised if your herd thinks you’re offering a new candy to them when you first put it out. If they are missing something in their diet, they will eat what they need and then will stop until they need more. Be sure and offer fresh minerals on a regular basis. Most people recommend offering fresh minerals every day. Some minerals keep better than others in the mineral dish. You may have to experiment a little until you know what they like best. Mine prefer the manna pro minerals.
6. Baking Soda:
This is one that is a bit controversial. It is used to treat a common condition in goats called bloat. Some breeders will tell you to leave baking soda out at all times and others will tell you that doing so will train the goats system to stop producing its own bicarbonate. Since there is so much back and forth about this, I decided to trust my farm vets advice and leave it out at all times. I don't have eyes on my goats 24/7 and I would hate for them to suffer from bloat when I was not there to bring them baking soda. The reason you want to have baking soda on hand (or in their pen) is because of something called bloat. Bloat usually happens when the goat gets into something they shouldn't, like the grain, too much fresh vegetation, chicken food, etc. One of the by-products of grain digestion is lactic acid, which if eaten too much, can force the goats rumen to an un-naturally low ph (low ph=acidic). Eventually, the pH drops so low that the microbes in the rumen die and the rumen stops contracting. Rumen contractions normally move gas toward the esophagus so that it can be burped out. When contractions stop, gases get stuck and can fill up the rumen quickly causing grain bloat. To treat the bloat, you have to treat the acidosis. You can do this by releasing the gas through tubing or a trocar (this should only be done by a vet. It entails inserting a needle into the rumen to release the gas and is only done in dire circumstances) and giving a drench of baking soda. In my opinion, if the goats are used to having it out, they will only use it when they need it. I have had it out and then left the dish empty without any "withdraw" symptoms. So, if you want my advice, I think its best to leave some out for those times that your goats may need it when you are not around. You can find regular baking soda (as well as organic baking soda) right on Amazon.
There are many options for bedding- staw and shavings being the most common. I personally use a combination of both of these. I lay shavings down 1st and then straw on top. This allows the urine to go through the straw and get trapped in the shavings. I feel like this gives them a bit of a dryer surface to lay on. You will want to keep this bedding clean, especially when you have does in milk. Dirty bedding is one of the leading causes of mastitis since their teats are left "open" for a longer period of time.
8. Medicine Box:
Okay, so this is more than one thing. This is another one that could have a post of its own. There are SO many things that one could/should have in their medicine box. I will list the things that I feel are vital for having before you even have your goats. And if you already have goats, I suggest you get these things ASAP and learn when and how to use them. I am NOT going to go over detailed usage in this post. I will give you the quick reasoning behind each item so that you can decide if its something that you need.
Storage container (I like this one because it is sturdy enough to withstand the goats jumping on it- and they WILL)
Digital, rectal thermometer (x3, you WILL lose them or run out of batteries) I like this one because it can bend fot those times your goat jumps around, it will "give" a little. (goats temps are 101.5-103.5 F)
Stethoscope- you'll want this to listen to heartbeats as well as rumen sounds. The one I linked is inexpensive but still a good one.
Disposable gloves- trust me, you will want them for some jobs you will have to do
O.B. lubricant- for those times when you have to "go in" and check on things as well as for taking temps
Vet wrap- for injuries
Alcohol- for sterilizing
Scissors- you will need them at some point, I promise!
Pritchard Teat Nipples- For bottle babies. You don't want to realize you need one when you have a floppy kid born at 2am when the stores are closed. These are, by far, the best nipples I've found. Even if you plan to dam raise, you need these for those just-in-case moments.
Hoof Clippers- for hoof trimming
Tums- this is important if you have goats who will be kidding. This gives mama an extra boost of calcium if she gets low. Its also good incase your goat looks to have bloat. (not to replace baking soda)
Asprin or Children’s Liquid Advil or Motrin or Ibuprofen (do not use Tylenol)- pain reliever and fever reducer also anti- inflammatory
Banamine (Rx only) - pain reliever and fever reducer also anti-inflammatory
Children’s Liquid Benadryl- for allergic reactions
Dewormer (I do not advise routine worming- I suggest always testing 1st to see what you're dealing with)
Electrolytes- for dehydration
Fortified B Complex (injectable) (contains thiamine B1)- for strength and energy when your goat is ill, stressed, etc.
Red Cell (an iron and vitamin supplement found in the horse section of the store)- for anemia, usually due to parasites.
Milk of Magnesia- for constipation
Nutri-Drench- for when your goat needs a boost of nutrients
Kaolin Pectin- for diarrhea and other stomach/rumen issues. I use this when I have kids who get scours from too much milk.
CD antitoxin- for Bloat, overeating, Rumen shut down/ not chewing cud, Compromised Rumen, Enterotoxemia and Poisoning.
Essential Oils- I use oils often with my goats. This could be a post of it's own!
CD/T - This is a vaccine. Toxoids help prevent disease by offering long term protection. Usually given annually. CD/T is always a 2 cc dosage, no matter the weight or age of the goat.
1. Give to pregnant dam 30 days prior to kidding,
2. Give to her kids at 8 to 12 weeks of age
3. Boost 21 days later and
4. Give yearly
9. Goat Cams!
After 10 years of raising goats, I have finally realized how amazing it is to be able to check in on your goats while you're away from home. It has eased my anxiety so much to be able to pop into my camera system from my phone and see how everyone is doing. This is especially true when I have a goat close to kidding, when I have a new goat in the herd, or when storms are coming. I like to make sure everyone makes it into the barn!
So there you are! My idea of the fist 7 things that should be on your list. Please, please, please remember that these suggestions are come from my own experience and research. At the end of the day, you are responsible for treating your animals and seeking veterinarian advice. Soon you will be able to pass on your knowledge! And when this time comes, be sure to come back and comment with anything you think I should add to the list. And if you are having a hard time deciding what goat breed is right for you, check out this post where I talk about the 8 dairy-goat breeds that we have in the US.