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A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to Buying Goats

Updated: Jan 19

Thinking about adding new dairy goats to your herd or just getting your dairy herd started? Avoiding buyer's remorse starts with asking the right questions when engaging with a prospective goat breeder. In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential questions to ask prospective breeders to ensure you bring home healthy and high-quality goats.

Sales Policies

This is a great place to start out when researching a herd to buy from. Get to know how they run their business and what to expect when going through the sale process. Things to note are health guarantees, reservation wait times, payment methods and anything else that would be a cause for concern should an issue arise during the transaction. If you are concerned that you are dealing with a scammer, ask for a Facetime call with the animals to confirm they are legitimate. Most breeders do not allow visitation prior to the final sale/ pick up day.

Proper Biosecurity and Testing

When considering a goat breeder, it's crucial to inquire about their biosecurity measures and quarantine practices. Ensuring these protocols are in place helps safeguard your herd from potential health issues. The common illnesses tested for in goats are CL, CAE, Johnes & Brucellosis.

Not all reputable and safe breeders test every year. The testing is expensive and stressful on the animals. Many herds do not show or commonly bring in new goats. These are considered "closed herds" and often will only test every few years.

Health Guarantees

While the above diseases can be disastrous if brought into your herd, there are also many that can’t be tested for like acute respiratory infections, internal and external parasites. Sadly, these are more common and even more contagious. 

You will also want to look for signs of illness when you pick up your goats. Ask to do an inspection of your goat(s) prior to finalizing the sale. Things to avoid would be discharge from the eyes or nose, a cough, signs of diarrhea, weakness, missing hair, lice or mites and anything else that would indicate a goat is not in good health. 

If you find that any of your goats have these symptoms, you can either back out of the sale and request your deposit back. Or if you feel that the symptoms are mild, you can ask if the breeder will hold and treat the goat(s) until the symptoms are resolved. 

Registration Matters

For those building a breeding or milking herd, the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) registration papers are a must. Registering your herd is the first step in building credibility however, not every registered goat is correctly bred and healthy. 

Do not ever leave without the proper paperwork! Over the years of mentoring other herds we hear over and over how breeders promise to send paperwork later and never do. We have seen herds have to start over because their buck never got registered and none of the kids they bred and kept could have papers. You will want to have in hand either a paper ADGA application with TWO signatures - one for the sale and one for the transfer- or the blue original certificate for the goat(s) with the proper signature. Be sure that the information is correctly filled out!

It is noteworthy that many reputable breeders now offer to submit the registration and transfer online which significantly speeds up the process. Breeders will not do this until the sale is final as once it is submitted, the ownership is legally changed. If you are really concerned, ask the breeder to do the transfer while you are on the property picking up your goat(s).

A lot of buyers will only buy registered goats so it's prudent when starting out to only buy from registered herds. We use ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association) and love their online system that allows us to access our account and herd information as well as register and transfer goats all online. They also have an in-depth genetics database that allows anyone to access registered goats' pedigrees as well as plan out breedings. For more information on how to get started with ADGA, check out this article. 

Aligning Practices and Values

Beyond health and registration, it's vital to inquire about the breeder's husbandry practices. Ask questions about their approach to goat care, nutrition, and overall well-being. Understanding the breeder's values and methods ensures a seamless transition for your new goats into your own herd. Whether it's their views on natural remedies, feeding regimens, or general care routines, aligning practices and values with your own philosophy contributes to a harmonious and successful goat-keeping experience. 

Don't hesitate to explore these aspects during your discussions with the breeder to ensure a match that goes beyond paperwork and directly influences the daily care your goats will receive. Make your goat journey not just about the destination but also about the shared values that shape the entire experience.

Remember, in the world of goat husbandry, opinions vary widely, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Seek a breeder whose practices align closely with your values and preferences; choosing such a mentor not only ensures a smoother transition for your goats but also provides valuable guidance for a successful and fulfilling journey into goat ownership.

Breeder's Regime and Kid Protocols

An integral aspect of selecting the right breeder involves examining their regime and protocols for raising new kids. By delving into these aspects of the breeder's kid-raising protocols, you can ensure that their practices align with your values and expectations as a conscientious buyer. Make informed decisions about your goat purchase by thoroughly assessing the breeder's regime for new kids. 

Investigate whether the breeder follows robust vaccination practices and if these align with your preferences as a buyer. Understanding their approach to controlling coccidia essential. (Coccidia is a common intestinal parasite in goats common in young kids especially during stressful situations such as weaning and going to a new home.) If you are getting a disbudded goat, be sure to inquire into their disbudding procedures and that they are conducted with precision and care. Consider asking about the breeder's stance on bottle-feeding kids and whether they implement this practice. This knowledge is crucial, especially if you have specific expectations regarding the bonding and socialization of your goats.

Breeder Experience and Knowledge Sharing

Another crucial factor in choosing the right breeder is their experience and willingness to share knowledge. Selecting a breeder with a wealth of experience not only ensures the quality of the animals but also opens the door to a valuable source of guidance and mentorship. Many breeders are passionate about educating new goat owners, creating a sense of community around their herd. 

While not all excellent breeders may have the time for extensive conversations with their buyers, the ones who do offer a unique opportunity for new goat owners to learn and become part of a supportive network. Consider this aspect when choosing a breeder, as it can significantly enhance your goat-keeping journey and contribute to the overall success of your herd.

Making the Choice

Buying goats is an exciting venture, but it comes with responsibilities. By asking the right questions and prioritizing biosecurity, quarantine, and registration, you're taking the first steps towards a successful and regret-free goat acquisition.

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