Goats can make great pets, they can be very social animals, and being somewhat food motivated will bond with you, if you give them regular attention with some treats. The lifespan of a goat can range from 12 to 22 years; therefore you will need to be committed to their regular daily care and attention. It will depend on you to provide food, water, medical care, shelter and companionship.
Choosing your pet
There are various breeds of goats, and many crossbreeds. The meat breeds usually have a shorter more manageable coat, and the wool breeds such as angoras, will require you to maintain the coat. Goats also can grow very large horns, so you will need to think about safety of others in your house hold such as children and other livestock/goats around these.
Male or female?
Most goats are social animals and in their natural state live in groups, therefore it is good to at least have a pair of goats, to keep each other company. They do have a hierarchy system, so there may be a bit of jostling at first to establish the order. It is best to have your male goats neutered, as early as possible this means there will be no breeding between males and females, and will also prevent the development of aggressive behaviour and nasty Billy goat smells. A lot of the time there is no significant difference between the temperaments of neutered male or female goats, it really depends on the individual.
When you get them home
Make sure your goats have clean fresh water available, and if possible keep them housed for the first night, especially if you are going to worm them, to avoid the goats contaminating your new pasture with worm eggs and larvae. Offer some hay to goats of all ages, but avoid over-feeding.
Goats will instinctly seek shelter in wet weather, they do not like to get wet, and can easily get pneumonia if wet and cold. Shelters need good ventilation to avoid a moisture build-up in the winter, but you primarily need to protect the goat from the wind and rain. You will need to give them some bedding during the coldest months of the year, such as straw or hay; this will need to be changed every now and again as they will soil on it.
Goats are good at getting under and over fencing, if they really want to, so you need to make sure you have adequate escape proof fencing. Goats with horns can get stuck in fencing such as deer fencing, so must be checked daily.
Goats are graze feeders, so you need to make sure you have enough pasture for them. They need lots of roughage so prefer pasture with weeds and variety rather than just grass. They also love treats and this is a great way to bond with them, and for them to get to know you, it helps a lot when you need to catch them for any reason. Treats they like consist of multi-nuts which you can get from a farm stock feed store, apples, bread etc. Goats will eat anything, trees, flowers, (clothes off the washing line) and are prone to poisoning, so avoid known poisonous plants such as rhododendrons, camellias etc
Keep an eye on the general appearance and behaviour of your goat. Red eyes may indicate that your goat has conjunctivitis, or "pink eye." If your goat is rubbing its ears a lot, it may have an ear mite infection. A nasal discharge may be one of the first signs of a respiratory infection. Check your goat's stool to make sure it forms solid pellets or berries; diarrhoea in goats is about the consistency of dog stool.
Foot rot – This is a specific lameness of goats and sheep, it can be a problem in the North Island when you get damp/wet ground and they have no dry area to walk on. This means that their hoof will soften making it a lot easier for bacteria to get in. Foot rot is an infection which usually enters the hoof where the skin and horn meet and can cause inflammation, and spreads below the hoof causing severe pain and lameness. It usually stays in the pasture for about 12 days, so it is a good idea not to put any other goats onto the same area of pasture where the infection has occurred. You may notice a foul smell when looking at the hooves; this is usually a sure indication that it is foot rot. To treat this you will need to pare the hoof, to remove any excess hoof, and will need to apply antiseptic agents; you can talk to your local vet about this., also leave them on a dry hard surface for a day or two, remember to give them fresh water and feed.
Parasites-Your goat will need to be drenched or wormed regularly to control infestation of such things as roundworms and other internal parasites, you will also need to check the coat regularly and treat for any external parasites such as mites or lice.
It is ideal to have a dry surface for the goats to walk on for some of the time, this helps in the maintenance of their hooves, and they can be susceptible to a variety of foot problems, ranging from foot rot to arthritis, if their hooves are not properly trimmed. Hooves are made up of horn which grows continuously downwards until it comes into contact with the ground. The goat should bear its weight on the edge of the wall of horn which surrounds the hoof. Horn is also produced to cover the sole, but this should never come into contact with the ground. Because most goats in the North Island are unable to spend time on dry, abrasive surfaces you must cut or pare away any excess horn that develops. Please see enclosed instructions on how to pare away excess horn, or have a veterinarian or an experienced owner teach you how to trim your goat’s hooves.