Friday, January 11, 2008

Angora goat care

Angora goats are not that hard to take care of, if you pay attention to a few basic animal husbandry principles. Goats, like all living things, need a fresh water supply at all times, winter and summer. They won't stay healthy long if they can't reach good water. This means you must pay attention to your water source in freezing weather, either by putting a heater in a livestock tank for them, by using a heated watering bucket, or by placing water in a barn or shed where temperatures do not go below freezing.

Next, goats need good feed. The optimal situation is a pasture with lots of brush and leafy foliage and bushes. Goats are not like sheep when it comes to grazing. A group of sheep will eat and eat your pasture grass right down to the bare roots, if allowed. Goats prefer leafy shrubs. I once observed a goat to eat a thick poison ivy plant that was coiled around a tree. The goat spent many days working on the plant, till eventually it had eaten the entire vine, including the thick stalk, and all the leaves and shoots. It was remarkable. My own goats cleared a brushy hillside that had been so thick with foliage it was impossible to gauge the slope in order to mow it with a tractor. For years, the brush grew and grew. However, after two seasons, the goats had cleared away almost all of the brush and the ground was visible.

The odd thing is that goats don't care very much about grass. I thought my herd would be delighted when I let them loose in my green, grassy field. However, they spurned the grass and much preferred scouting the perimeter where shrubbery was still poking through the fence.

In the winter time, if you live in a cold and snowy place, you must plan to have hay and grain for your goats. Goats are not fussy, and will eat almost any grain put before them. But it is best to find grains that are most suitable particularly for them. Speak to goat breeders in your area, or your county extension agent. Read goat care books, or speak to a knowledgeable feed dealer, before making your decision about feed.

When I first started, I used to buy pelleted goat feed, but the kind carried by my feed dealer disintegrated easily--even before it left the bag, so it was very powdery, and the goats would sneeze and cough when they ate from the feed dust. Also, I once had the problem of a goat choking on the feed--This can happen! When a group of hungry goats descend upon the feed trough and start eating furiously, they can swallow too much at a time. If the feed is pelleted, but tends to get sticky when wet, the goat can get a glob stuck in its throat. You will see it tilt its head oddly, and run or thrash about making a choking sound, perhaps foaming at the mouth and turning blue around the eyes and mouth. When this happened to one of my goats, I actually tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Fortunately, the glob loosened, either with my manipulations, or from the goat's thrashing. But it was a tense moment, and I was frightened that the goat would choke to death.

After a while, I switched to mixing my own whole grains. In a clean metal trash can, I mix oats, wheat berries, shell corn and barley (when I can get it) and add a little soybean meal. I also recommend giving the goats a mineral block, with selenium, as it seems good for them. Some people highly recommend feeding goats and sheep a little bit of kelp too. My feed dealer does not carry kelp, so I haven't tried it, but you may want to research this. There are many types of mineral blocks for livestock. Get a livestock supply catalog and read about the various types to help you decide which is best. I usually buy one that is formulated for goats, or for sheep and goats. They absolutely love it.

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