One of our two goats died--introducing new goat(s) to our surviving goat...

Asked August 18, 2017, 6:43 PM EDT

Hello, We had two 7-year old wether goats--a Nubian and an Alpine--and the Nubian died recently. The Alpine really grieved so much, and although he seems better now, we want to get another goat. We have the chance to get two baby goats--a Nubian and a Lamancha. The woman who has them suggested it would be better to get two instead of just one so that when our 7-year old passes away, we won't have the same problem. Here are my questions: 1. If we only get one baby goat, will it have a rough time assimilating with our older goat? In other words, is it true that we would be advised to get two more rather than just one? (Frankly, I'd prefer to have no more than two total, which is why I'm asking! These goats get so big, I guess because they're wethers.) 2. Is half an acre big enough for three big goats? 3. Any info about the Lamancha goats as far as temperament, health problems, adult size? (I don't know if generalizations can be made about the breed as far as temperament, but our Nubian who just died was the more aggressive one of the two goats; the Alpine who is still with us was always the sweeter, more gentle. 4. Our main goal for the goats is for pets but also to help keep our land clear of blackberries and brush. Is there a better choice for us that might be a smaller breed of goat? Or someone even suggested alpacas, but that is probably an expensive choice. Thank you, I'm really hoping to make an informed choice!

Lane County Oregon

1 Response

Hi – Thank you for doing some digging before you acquire another goat! They are wonderful animals but do require knowledgeable owners to protect and care for them properly. I strongly suggest you attend the annual conference for goat enthusiasts sponsored by the NW Oregon Dairy Goat Association. It is usually held the last Saturday in February in Clackamas Co. Look for conference and association meeting details at www.nwodga.org. This is a great group of people and you could learn a lot from them.

Do you know why the Nubian died? If it was a preventable problem, it will be important to make the necessary changes to prevent that problem from happening again with your Alpine or any additional goats you will get. One of the main reasons for an otherwise healthy adult wether to die is urolithiasis (urinary stones), so it is good to learn about that condition and how to prevent it through proper feeding of wethers.

Goats are indeed social animals and your Alpine would probably prefer to have a buddy than be on his own. If you would prefer to have just two goats total, only get one kid. You are right—wethers get big and if you get two kids now, in no time you would have three large goats when you just want two. Then again, it would make the eventual loss of one goat easier for the other two…

Any goat moved from one place to another will go through some degree of stress. The older the kid is, the less stress there will be. Stress will be much less for a weaned kid, too. I wouldn’t put the new goat with the Alpine right away for two reasons: you don’t want the mature goat to harm the young goat, and you need to quarantine the new animal for biosecurity purposes. Let them see, smell, and hear each other, but keep them at least 10 feet apart for a month if possible (this is when getting 2 kids would be easier in the short run, but maybe not what you want for the long run). If the kid has remained healthy while in quarantine, you can let the two goats have access to each other across a good fence or barrier for a week or so, then allow supervised direct contact so you can see if the Alpine is being too rough with the new kid. The kid should catch onto the older goat’s warning behaviors to keep him in line (like an older dog growling at a puppy instead of attacking it) and they should work things out pretty quickly as long as there is enough space and food for both.

Check the kid’s vaccination history from the previous owner, discuss this with your veterinarian, and give any additional vaccinations needed at least a week before moving the kid to your property. Monitor the kid in quarantine closely for coughing, diarrhea, runny eyes/nose, poor appetite, or any other problems. It might break with coccidiosis (a common internal parasite of sheep and goats) due to the stress of moving to a new farm; signs of this could include a dull and rough coat, potbelly, decreased appetite, poor growth, messy hindquarters, and unformed fecal pellets (not diarrhea, though). There is both prevention and treatment for coccidiosis; discuss this with your veterinarian.

Regarding biosecurity, the biggest disease risk for an animal premise is when a new animal is introduced. If you are interested in acquiring a healthy animal or two that will live a long and healthy life, I strongly recommend you have a goat biosecurity panel run on the ones you are considering purchasing. Such a panel includes testing for C.L., C.A.E., and Johne’s disease—three important diseases of goats. These tests are most accurate on animals older than 6 months. These tests should be run even if kids are being offered for free because they are all serious contagious diseases that could endanger your Alpine.

A half-acre is big enough for two or even three goats as long as you consider it a playground. You will need to provide sufficient feed and water to meet their nutritional needs. A half-acre won’t produce enough forage to sustain two or three goats year round, especially growing kids. Learn how to perform Body Condition Scoring (a hands-on method you can learn at http://www2.luresext.edu/GOATS/research/BCS_factsheet.pdf) to routinely determine if your goats are too thin, too fat, or just right.

Lamanchas are a bit smaller and lighter than Nubians; quieter, too. They are reported to be hardy, curious, friendly, and intelligent—sturdy gates and fences are needed to keep them where you want them. You live in Oregon, which is where this breed originated. If you would like a smaller breed, you could consider Nigerian Dwarfs, Pygmies, or Kinder goats. Your half acre would be happier with two or three of this sized goat. These smaller goats usually make great pets, too.

You will need to learn about pasture rotation and parasite control to keep your goats healthy. Dividing your land up into smaller paddocks instead of one large paddock will encourage the goats to eat more of everything in a concentrated area instead of just their favorite things. Move them out of one area after no more than 5 days so they avoid consuming hatched internal parasite larvae; this also gives grass a chance to regrow. Try not to come back to a paddock sooner than 6 weeks if possible; even longer is better so more larvae die. Do not let the goats graze grass lower than 3” ever. If there isn’t sufficient grass, hold the goats off the pasture and feed them hay until the pasture regrows to at least 6”. Monitor goats for signs of internal parasite problems, which can include weight loss, rough coat, messy hindquarters, diarrhea, anemia (can be life threatening), poor appetite, potbelly, thin condition, fluid under jaw, and even sudden death.

In western Oregon, you will need to trim goat hooves every 4 to 6 weeks to keep hooves healthy. It would be best to discuss goat care with a local veterinarian, who can also advise you on vaccines needed, parasite control, and local nutrition issues (especially trace minerals).

Best wishes,

p.s. Please do not get an alpaca; goats are much better suited to your situation.