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by Catherine Carney-Feldman
This past April my husband David and I spent a week volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Kanab, Utah.
Best Friends is the largest no-kill animal shelter in the United States with close to 1,700 diverse animals on over 3,500 acres.
They are known for starting the ‘No-kill Animal Shelter’ movement in 1984. Much of the following information is from Chris Ratches, the coordinator and program manager for horses, pigs, sheep and goats.
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It is because of her knowledge, generosity of time given to me, and especially her love of goats, that I was able to write this article.
Where does one start? Being well prepared will give you a better chance at being a successful and responsible owner, having a rewarding experience and ensuring your animal does not end up being surrendered to an animal shelter.
Here is some basic information you will find helpful. Goats are ruminantshooved, herbivorous, mammals with a specialized stomach called the rumen.
The rumen helps in digesting plant-based foods. They are hollow-horned mammals, (females produce milk), belonging to the genus Capra.
They have horns that arch backwards, short tails and straight hair. Male goats are called bucks or billys and females, does or nannys. Immature goats are called kids.
Goats make wonderful pets. They are highly intelligent, fun loving and curious. They love to go for walks and learn new tricks.
They do eat grass and weeds but should not be purchased or adopted exclusively for this purpose. As a highly active and sentient being, they require much care including regular grooming and attention.
Before buying a goat talk to a veterinarian and people that have goats.
Goats are amazing climbers. They need an enclosure with a 4-5′ tall fence that is secure and predator proof.
Fencing serves to both keep the goats in and wild animals out. It can be made of wire or electrified but make sure that your goats can’t squeeze under an opening near the bottom.
In the enclosure you need a shed where the goats can sleep at night and also get out of harsh weather. The shed, if made from wood, needs to have metal applied to its edges so the goats can’t chew through it. (Note: check the internet for Tuff Sheds).
Make sure you place many different types of toys and enrichment objects in the enclosure. These objects will mentally stimulate and entertain the goats, give them exercise and keep them from getting bored.
Some simple objects that you can obtain easily are: large tractor tires, picnic tables, old small boats, dog igloos, tree stumps, logs, ramps, rock walls and piles of rocks.
Will climb Christmas trees
Goats also love Christmas trees and will use them to scratch themselves as well as eat the bark. Make sure all these objects are placed far away from the fencing to keep them from escaping their enclosure.
Goat manure should be picked up at least once a week to keep the enclosure clean. You can use a standard horse rake to do this chore. Goat manure is a good addition to your compost pile.
Both male and female goats need to be fed 1/2 a flake of timothy gold grass hay twice a day. Females can also have alfalfa.
Both males and females will need regular access to mineral supplements that you can buy at your local feed store.
Goat mineral supplements contain copper and should not be fed to any other barnyard animal. Goats will also eat leaves, bark from trees, twigs, vines and shrubs.
For an occasional treat you can give them celery, carrots, grapes, bananas, apples, pears, zucchini, black oiled sunflower seeds and watermelon. Make sure to supply your goats with lots of clean water.
Goats have different individual personalities and males and females equally make good pets. Male goats will have a distinctive musky smell unless neutered. Wait until the goat is at least six months to do so.
There are many breeds of goats including cross breeds and just like dogs, they all are capable of becoming long term friends some with a life span up to 18 years.
In Massachusetts, Nevins Farm in Methuen, the farm animal sanctuary for the MSPCA, has many goats ready for adoption.
Because they have so many goats, they no longer accept any goats from owners who want to surrender them.
When considering getting a goat, please think of adopting an animal that needs a forever home. Like many pet species of animals, there are more goats that need a good home than people that are looking for them.
Catherine Carney-Feldman is a board member of the Ipswich Humane Group that oversees the Ipswich Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter. She and her husband David live on a small farm in Ipswich with many rescued animals including horses, dogs, chickens, ducks and a rooster named Copernicus