Raising Dairy Goats for Beginners: 10 Tips for Buying Your First Goat

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If you're thinking of buying your first goat, congratulations! You're in for a real treat. Goats are intelligent, friendly animals that make great companions, and they produce delicious, nutritious milk that you'll love. If you've never owned goats before, the idea of buying your first goat might be a little bit scary.

Pin image of a pretty black and white doeling with the text "Raising Dairy Goats for Beginners: 10 Tips for Buying Your First Goat
Pin this image: 10 Tips for Buying Your First Goat

I thought making a list of the top things you need to know and watch out for before you buy a goat might be helpful! I wish I had had this list before I bought my first goat. (It was a hot mess!) Below, I share with you 10 tips that will make the experience of buying your first goat as smooth and enjoyable as possible. So, let's dive in!

1. Make sure you are ready to bring your goats home

The first thing you need to do before you ever even look at any goats for sale is to make sure you have everything ready for their new home. Goats are adorable, and you will instantly fall in love with them. You will then want to go ahead and just bring the goats home. If you bring them home before you're all set up, things will not go so well, lol.

Just avoid this scenario and get all the basics taken care of first. Make sure they have adequate shelter and fencing. Make sure you have good hay or browse, and any grain they might need. Make sure you have some Prairie Pride Goat Protein Pail Supplement…

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” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>medications on hand as well. Goats like to surprise you, so being prepared first is my most important tip for buying your first goat.

2. Choose Which Breed or Breeds you Want to get

The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) recognizes 9 breeds of dairy goats. There are eight standard-size breeds and one miniature breed. Taking the time to look through and choose the perfect breed for your homestead is a great starting point for buying your first goat.

Some breeds are better for cheesemaking than others, some have better temperaments, and some are just easier to care for. Decide which characteristics you are looking for in a dairy goat, then look at the different breeds to decide which one fits the bill!

If you like some characteristics of a Nubian and some but not all of a Toggenburg, then consider getting a cross or one of each! Unless you want to show purebred registered goats, there is no reason to not consider crossbred goats. In fact, some of my favorite most hardy goats have not been purebred!

3. Buy Healthy Goats from a reputable source

I can not stress this point enough! You need to buy healthy goats from a reputable source. There are people out there who have no problem selling you their problem. Personally, it happened more than once to me. I bought my first milk goat, and she turned out to be a complete and “udder” (ha, see what I did there?) mess. I purchased goats from another farm a year or so later and ended up bringing unwanted illness into my herd.

When you begin to look into buying your first goat, make sure you are buying healthy goats. Ask the owners for health records showing what treatments and vaccines they have had or if they have been sick. Ask if they test for common goat diseases such as CL (caseous lymphadenitis), CAE (caprine arthritis encephalitis), TB (tuberculosis), and Johnes (pronounced “yo-knees”).

I highly discourage anyone from buying dairy goats at a sale barn or livestock auction for a couple of reasons. You generally don't know who is selling them, so you can't find out any history on the goat. You don't know their health record or if they are diseased. You don't know if they will be a good milker or if someone is selling off their problem. (Doe doesn't let you milk, she kicks/fights, has a history of mastitis, kidding problems, etc)

Instead of auctions, try finding reputable breeders in your area that way you go actually go visit the farm and see the rest of the herd for yourself. You can find breeders on Facebook, or if you decide to become an ADGA member, they have an entire directory of hundreds of farms throughout the United States.

If you take nothing else from this blog post, please don't get taken advantage of. Do your research, buy healthy goats from a healthy herd, and you will save yourself a LOT of headaches in the future!

4. Plan to buy at least two does or kids

When you are deciding to buy your first goat, just go ahead and decide you need to buy two or more goats. Goats are herd animals and they do not do well being by themselves. Even if you have a donkey or calf or another farm animal, they still need a goat friend. I'm certain you will find many stories floating around of how a goat and a duck or donkey became best friends ( I mean, it is pretty cute though!), and that can happen, but generally, as a rule, your goat needs another goat friend.

I have had a single buck who was sharing a fenceline with the doe pen do just fine living “by himself”, but if his girls went out to graze the yard he would stand in his pen and holler for them to come back.

You can keep does, doelings, bucklings under breeding age, and wethers penned together, so there are several combinations that can work out. You really don't want to keep your buck in the same pen as your does for several reasons, so don't plan to do that. (Bucks like to do their job and can harass your does as well as breed your doelings far too early.)

Goats that live solitary lives can become depressed and not thrive. They are also much more likely to be noisy! So, do yourself a favor and just get at least two that can be penned together to start with.

woman with long hair petting a Nubian goat. This is one thing I would do before buying your first goat
The relationships you build with your goats are so rewarding!

5. COnsider what you will do about breeding bucks

As you move further through the process of buying your first goat, you will need to consider what you will do when it comes time for breeding. If your goal is to have milk from your goats, then your does will need to be bred.

There are several ways this can be accomplished. You can own your own buck, you can use breeding services from folks who own bucks around you, or you can learn to do AI (artificial insemination).

• Owning your own buck is probably the “easiest” in terms of getting your doe bred. You don't have to worry about her being in the exact correct part of her heat cycle. You can even not worry about detecting heat cycles at all if you want to just run your buck and doe together for 4 weeks or so. (Goats cycle approximately every 21 days)

• Utilizing stud services is another great option. If anyone within a reasonable distance (if the does travels too far, her heat cycle may get messed up) offers breeding services then I would consider this option over keeping a buck when buying your first goat. You don't have to handle a buck or feed one year-round. Goat owners joke about their fall perfume “eau de buck”… those boys get really gross and anything they touch is pretty much just grimy and stinky.

Depending on what the buck owner offers you may take your does to the buck or have the buck brought to your does and do a “driveway” breeding. Either option works. Be sure that the buck you are using is tested clean and healthy. If you take your doe to the buck, make sure the whole herd is tested clean and healthy as well.

• One other option for breeding your does is to learn to AI. The pros for this option are that you don't have to keep any bucks yourself and you can pull from a much larger genetic pool as you can get semen shipped from all over the place.

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” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”>does heat cycles, you have to be ready to AI at just the right time, and keeping a semen tank can get expensive. You have to refill the liquid nitrogen frequently. I have considered this as an option for us, but the closest place to get our tank filled would be a 45-minute drive.

6. If buying an adult doe you plan to milk, Ask to milk her first

You want fresh goat milk, that is why you're buying your first goat to begin with. Many people want to purchase an adult doe that is currently fresh (in milk) so they can start getting that yummy milk right away.

If that is you, go milk that doe before you purchase her! Referencing back to my first milk goat-buying experience, I did not do this. I found a couple of dairy goats (Nubian crosses) on Craigslist that were only a couple of hours away. We went to look at them, bought them, brought them home, and then I tried to milk them. That is when the rodeo started. Have you heard the phrase “it's about to get western”? It got western. Jumping, kicking, hopping off the stand… it was a hot mess.

Just milk the doe or does you want to purchase before you do so. If the owner will not let you try and milk them before you buy them, then walk away. I guarantee they are trying to hide a problem and you don't want that.

7. Only buy a goat that has already been disbudded

Ok, so I know the topic of disbudding (burning the horn buds of a goat kid with a hot iron when they are a few days old) can be controversial and some feel quite strongly about the matter. Let me explain my statement, though.

As a brand-new goat owner, I think getting goats that are disbudded is the best way to go. If your fencing isn't just right, horned goats get stuck all the time. Trying to get them out can be tricky, and if you don't notice it in time can even be ill-fated for your new goat.

Another reason is that you are just learning about goats and how they operate. The last thing you need is to have a goat with horns that you can't read, bluff you and take you down. Trust me when I say, those horns hurt!

If you have small children, that is another good reason not to buy a goat with horns. Obviously, your full-sized goats should not be left alone with your small children, but if an incident were to occur, at least the goat using their horns isn't going to be an issue.

When it comes to purchasing baby goats as a new goat owner, it will just make your life easier if they are disbudded first. I promise, one of the first you don't want to do when you bring home a bottle baby is to have to disbud them. I've been doing it for over 10 years, and still don't like it!

If you are buying your first goat to be a pack goat or expect them to fend off predators then by all means, keep your goats horned. If not, consider making sure the horn situation is taken care of before you buy a goat.

Three sweet baby goats enjoying an afternoon nap
Baby goats make a good option for buying your first goat.

8. “You Get What You Pay For”

For the most part, in this world, the above adage holds true. For the most part, in the dairy goat world, it holds true as well. Is it possible to find a gem and get an amazing goat for a smoking deal? Yes, absolutely. Is it possible to find someone who for whatever reason something happened in life to make them have to quickly find new homes for their goats? Without a doubt. Is it likely to happen to you? Probably not.

When you are looking to buy a goat, don't just go looking for a cheap goat. Chances are if they are cheap there is a reason. I've purchased some “cheap” goats that ended up costing me dearly. Plan to spend $150 (very low end) and up for a good quality dairy goat. Even if you don't plan to show your goats, having a doe with a correct udder will help to ensure that she will be able to be milked for many years.

9. Make sure you are allowed to have dairy goats on your property

I am not a lawyer, so I'm not going to give you any actual legal advice. What I do recommend though is to make sure you are allowed to have goats on your property. If you live pretty rural, chances are you don't need to worry about this.

However, if you live in a town or even in what I call a “rural subdivision”, be sure of the rules and regulations you need to follow. Can you have full-size or only mini goats? Can you keep any bucks on your property? Are your goats allowed to have horns?

Again, I'm not a lawyer, nor do I know the specific laws for each of your locations. Please contact your local governing agency to find out if you can buy a goat for your property.

10. Research livestock vets near you that will treat goats

I stated earlier, that if there was anything you took from this article, you need to buy healthy goats. Well…. this is the other thing that I truly hope you take from me. Find a good goat vet. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I see people on Facebook groups looking for a goat vet because their goat is having an emergency.

Do your research ahead of time. Not all vets will treat goats and not all vets who will treat goats are well-versed in goats. Check around your area, make phone calls, and get after-hour emergency numbers. It is much more likely your goat will have an emergency at midnight on a Saturday than business hours on a Tuesday, lol. It's just a rule… I can't change it.

Build a rapport with your vets before things happen, and I might encourage you even before you buy a goat. If you have a good working relationship with your vet, your time as a goat owner will go much more smoothly.

Are you ready to Buy a Goat?

I hope this post has helped you prepare for buying your first goat. Owning goats is so much fun, and I encourage everyone to give them a try. Just make sure you are prepared first!

If you need more info to prepare you to get started raising goats, check out my entire series on Raising Dairy Goats For Beginners!

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