It finally happened.. Dave caved and let me get some goats for my birthday! Birthday goats. Wow, if that doesn’t scream “I live on a farm” then I don’t know what does. Anyway, I was on the search for two Nubian doelings within minutes. Nubians are known for their excellent milk production, they have a high butterfat percentage (good for making cheese, not good for dieters) and can produce about 1,800 pounds (225 gallons) of milk each year. Plus, they got these big ol’ floppy ears! We found a family farm that was wanting to downsize their herd and wanting to find a good home for their two twin Nubian/Alpine mixes. The Alpine goats are known for their high milk production. Our goats are 75% Nubian and 25% Alpine so basically, we will get the Nubian butterfat with the Alpine production. Awesome! After talking to “Ashley the Goat Lady” as she’s listed in my phone, I knew that this would be a perfect fit. I immediately began nesting and preparing for their arrival but I had no idea what to expect the first few days of owning a goat. Allow me to be your guide of what to expect when you’re expecting your first goat.
First, we had to set up their temporary pen. We’re converting an old pole barn to a goat barn but that’s gonna take a hot minute so while we’re working on that, we’re keeping them in a section of our barn. There will be a blog post coming up on building a goat barn too so keep your eyeballs peeled. Originally, the barn was used for cattle by the previous owners. The bays of the barn have a hay feeder, a dirt floor and gates that open up into a pasture. And because cows were there at one point, that pasture is SUPER lush. We took two bays at the end of the barn and boarded it off from the rest of the barn. I put down about 6″ of straw, stocked the hay feeder with hay and extra straw bales. Then I got the girls two hook over feeders for grain as well as a mineral block. I also have some baking soda available for free choice and of course their water. And that was it. We were ready!
Ashley the Goat Lady brought the girls to the farm on Saturday night, gave me some of their favorite treats (a bag of MannaPro Goat Treats) and an herbal cocci preventer. As soon as she took the girls out of the car they immediately began going to town on the grass.. they were some hungry girls! Before she left, she gave them a round of Cydectin injectable dewormer which I really appreciated. It’s one thing to have a seller say that they are up to date on their dewormer, but it’s another thing to deworm them right in front of you. Mega props to Ashley the Goat Lady.
Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli were home. Dave and I picked them up and carried them to the barn.
I had bought a regular ol’ goat/sheep grain ration at a feed store and had it waiting for them along with a mineral block and their water. I showed them where everything was and they went straight for the grain and started chowing down. After their bellies were full, I petted them, then I petted them again, then I petted them one more timeÂ told them goodnight and locked them in for the evening… not knowing what goat day one had in store for me.
The next morning I came out eager to see my girls. Judy was acting just fine, ready to start grazing and exploring. Her sister? Not so much. I could tell Liza looked really uncomfortable, her rumen (stomach) was still really full and she had scours (diarrhea). Great.. bloat AND scours on the first day. However, the scours were a watery green color which tells me that it’s just pasture adjustment. Apparently, they aren’t used to eating so much green grass, especially the really lush pasture they’re on now. Or maybe she got excited and overdid it on the grain. So lesson learned: when you get your first goats, don’t be surprised if they get scours while they adjust to the new pasture/feed.Â
Poor Liza Minnelli, she wasn’t grazing or really active, but she kept following Judy around the pasture so that was a good sign. I put some electrolyes in their water and showed her to the baking soda. Electrolyes (just like people) will keep them hydrated and help restore energy. The baking soda will relieve gasses in their rumen (stomach) and should always be kept out as a free choice, they’ll eat it if they get rumbly.Â Later in the day I gave them both a little bit of probiotic. I didn’t have any on hand but I did have some vanilla yogurt in the fridge. So the girls and I sat out in the pasture and shared some yogurt together. The live and active cultures in the yogurt will feed the good bacteria in the girls’ rumen and get their tummies back in shape after the change in feed. Second lesson learned: Keep electrolyes, probiotics and baking soda on hand their first few days.
The rest of the day, I just sat and stared at Liza Minnelli to see if she would poop. Yep… just sitting on a wood pile, eating yogurt and watching Liza Minnelli’s butt hole. But it paid off. By the morning of day three, Liza Minnelli was back to tip-top shape. They both had normal looking droppings (a.k.a. goat berries), they were both grazing, chewing their cud and exploring their new surroundings.
In addition to the change in pasture, they also had a change in grain and change in mineral. Ashley the Goat Lady gave me a grain mixture that she has her goats on so I took out the commercial grain feed and mixed up the custom blend. I figure that it’s for the best anyway… this way I know exactly what they’re eating and it’s something they’re used to eating. I started to make their grain mixture, which brings mean to lesson three. Lesson three: Never think you can outsmart a goat when mixing up their grain.Â
As soon as they heard me put the bags of grain on the ground, they ran from the furthest point of the pasture all the way up to the barn. I didn’t even hear them coming. Like little wacky eyed ninjas. They were all over me, trying to get to the bags of grain on the ground and in the grain bins. Judy would come up on my left side and while I moved her out of the way, Liza would come up on my right side while my back was turned. It was two against one! They were working against me! So I just gave up, took everything out of the barn and mixed it up elsewhere. But I can see why they were trying so hard to get to the feed… it looks delicious! Our custom mix is two parts alfalfa pellets, two parts crimped oats (oats rolled in molasses) and one part black oil sunflower seeds. Mmmmm…. goat candy.
Ok, so new grain. Next, it was time for a new mineral. They weren’t really interested in the mineral block and the mineral block was made for sheep and goats, meaning that it doesn’t have copper in it. Sheep can’t have copper, yet goats need it. In hindsight, I should have gone with my gut and just gotten the loose goat mineral and made the natural grain mix to begin with. Lesson learned: Go with your gut when deciding what would be good for your goats’ gut.Â
And lastly, don’t think for a second that the goats will NOT climb into the hay feeder, jump out of it, find their way out of the barn and start meandering down the road after you’ve put them in for the night… because they will.
But for real, they’re great additions to the farm. Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli have a wonderful new home here at Such and Such Farm and we can’t wait to keep you all updated on their new adventures and progress!