We’ve learned so much over the years concerning these goats. One of the first things you should do when getting goats is to flesh out the ideals and goals you have for getting them. This will help eliminate a lot of buying animals that don’t fit within your focus, trying to make animals fit what you want, and just general disappointment. You will still have some of this but to a much lesser degree as we can’t predict always how an animal will turn out because…well…genetics don’t always play out the way we want. Our own goals changed over time and so did our herd as we got more and more solidified in what we wanted for our herd. We all want well-conformed and high-producing animals, but what we don’t really think about are all the other very important traits that make a fantastic goat.

In our herd, several traits soon became very important to us. As we watched our herd and learned about and with our animals, we learned what makes a perfect goat for us. Which can be different for different people. We also learned that it is very important to cull (move on) very hard to get what we want. It takes a lot of time and effort to breed OUT the things you don’t like vs moving on those that don’t fit, and working with those that already have the desired traits. It made it more of a point that if/when we brought in new stock, they came from a herd with our same focus, or the animal itself fit our focus and goals. We reduce a lot of time, money, stress, and effort on our ends.

Some of these non-physical traits that became quickly important to us are below. We’re excited that we have made huge strides towards these over the years and have gotten our herd almost completely in line with almost all of these! It will only get better from here as we stick to these and cull hard and only keep those that adhere to our goals. 

Our goals:

Feet – While this is a physical trait, this is super important. Hoof trimming can be a big chore. After trimming various types of hooves, we found we really enjoy certain animals that we rarely have to trim and when we do, it’s very easy and they hold their shape well. They have nice deep heels which allows them to stand and move comfortably as well as gives them support. Wide and semi-tight toes, we do like a bit of room between the toes to allow airflow and less rocks and such getting stuck and it also allows them a bit more maneuverability when our foraging and standing/climbing on things.  Wide toes also give them more support to stand vs narrow toes, along with those deep heels. Feet that don’t succumb to hoof rot easily. We have a couple of long bouts of rainy weather here each year, and live in a humid climate so there tends to be some mud occasionally. In our herd there are some hooves here that do very well despite the mud. In addition to this, strong and straight legs as these animals are on the move a lot and need strength, especially when carrying the extra weight of babies or milk.

Minimal feed/maintenance – Another thing we found was the desire to have our animals hold condition as well as produce on minimal input. There are so many ways to feed a goat and so many products geared towards this or that and everyone says goats need XYZ to perform. We take a very simplistic approach to the care of our animals. Simple feeds, and minimal feeds. Our goal is to have them use forage as the majority of their energy. We provide quality grass hay in the form of round bales 24/7 and put them out to forage the majority of the day. Since they are dairy animals, we do provide alfalfa, but limit it (because face it, it’s expensive!). We are training and breeding our animals to thrive and produce off natural forage and hay. We do not feed any grains except on the stand. We’ve chosen to give whole foods and have chosen oats for carbs and black oil sunflower seed for fats, while their protein comes from the alfalfa. Over the years we mixed so many things into our feed. It got to be time-consuming and expensive. We slowly dropped one thing at a time and noticed no difference in production amounts or condition. Oats and BOSS are readily found in our area most everywhere, so we didn’t have to worry about being out and driving all over just to get one ingredient, or causing digestive upsets because we had to switch something quickly. We now ferment our oats and boss for even better nutrition absorption and gut health. We have had fantastic production off these minimal (and easier) feeds.

Adaptability – Something else that popped up over time was adapting to our environment and ways. We try to allow our animals to be as they were made, to function in their purpose. We try not to intervene too much with man made comforts. We provide ample shelter and clean water and feed. But we expect our animals to thrive as they should with what they have available to them. Survival of the fittest type thinking. No we don’t just throw them out and let them fend for themselves, but we also don’t want to give them what we feel are human comforts. We want them to be strong and hardy and live as they were intended to. Should the worst come to worst, we know our animals will thrive and live with minimal input.

Kidding ease and mothering instinct – This is a big one. Does that kid with no/very minimal intervention. We want does that we can rely on to not need us to constantly reposition kids, pull kids, hover over and watch every move come kidding time. Does that drop each kid with ease quickly and the afterbirth quickly behind. Does that clean their babies and nurse them and don’t rely on us to encourage them to do so.

We have adapted ourselves to sharing milk with the kids so we desire those that can raise kids while also supplying us with milk. We want dams that will raise their kids to weaning and have strong, fast growing kids. Our current girls feed their babies (usually our keeper kids) to approx 6-8 months. These kids have been super healthy, thrive and grow to maturity much better than those we have weaned early. We easily get enough milk for our uses holding over kids at night as well as milking any excess. We need dams that won’t give up on their kids, and that are always looking after them and protecting them as well as teaching them. This takes a burden off of us to be constantly checking and caring for kids all the time and giving more time for cuddling and socializing the kids.

Health – This goes along with maintenance but specifically towards parasites and health issues. We cull animals that we constantly have to worm as we like our animals that have had minimal worming and cocci treatments. We look at the kids that rarely need to have cocci treatments while growing that first year. Animals that don’t go down with a small load of parasites, and that can treat themselves in the brush pasture, and recover well with holistic ways. We also cull animals that we are having to constantly intervene in their health. If we are treating specific animals a lot whether for sickness, udder issues, or reproductive issues, they are culled. We do not want to breed that genetic disposition into our animals. We want to breed the strongest and healthiest animals and not coddle along the weakest ones, including them into the genetics of our herd. This is how you build a strong and healthy herd.

Temperament – Personality is one of our factors as well. Friendly and trusting animals that we are able to walk out into the pen and easily bring them to do what we need them to do. We refuse to have to chase down animals, or keep any that are mean to us or overly mean to the rest of the herd. Calm and peaceful!

Once we set these parameters and took a good look at each of our animals, we found much more success once we moved on those that didn’t fit. Really take time to think about your own goals and get in the mindset of culling heavily to achieve that perfect for you herd! It is well worth your time and sanity to keep within those guidelines you set!