The number of goats being raised in East Texas is rising. Many people buy a few goats while they are still under the impression that goats are hardy animals that will eat almost anything. The problem occurs whenever reality hits, and new goat owners quickly realize that those hardy goats are mostly mythological creatures.
The misconception of goats eating everything comes from their exploratory nature; they identify things by taste and will mouth and lick items. They won’t eat them, however and are incredibly picky animals generally. Goats prefer to forage on the same types of plants that our native white tailed deer prefer, and will only eat grass or graze as a last resort. If you are wanting to clear brush goats can be quite helpful, but they are not suitable as lawn mowers.
The primary issue we face with goat production in East Texas is caused by our high levels of humidity. Goats were designed to live in dry, arid climates which is a far cry from the rainforest like spring, summer, and fall that we encounter in a normal year. Our winters are also often too mild to freeze long enough to be detrimental to the population of nematodes and bacteria present in the soil. The humidity and lack of cold temperatures creates a great environment for intestinal parasites that are a goat farmers greatest enemy. Goats are far more sensitive to the infestations of intestinal parasites than cattle and horses, which is a lesson that new goat owners will learn very quickly in East Texas. There are varieties of intestinal parasites who can cause death due to extreme dehydration and anemia in less than a week of not managed adequately.
Goats can experience a rapid decline in health when they have a moderate to high worm or intestinal bacteria load and monthly worming schedules can be ineffective as different types of wormers are effective against different classes of parasites. This is the primary reason why goat owners should develop a strong relationship with a veterinarian who can conduct fecal samples to identify the types of parasite that is impacting the goat. Once the culprit has been identified, the correct and effective anthelmintic can be administered to correct the problem. Goat owners also need to pay close attention to the products being used on animals that are used for meat or milk. Many products on the market are not designed for goats or haven’t been tested on goats to determine withdrawal periods and should only be administered following veterinary supervision.
The old saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” is certainly true when it comes of goat herd management. Goat owners in East Texas must stay a head of the potential issues that can and will arise if given the opportunity. Goats should be vaccinated with a CD&T vaccine annually in addition to receiving the regionally recommended immunizations.
Goats must be handled to maintain their health and condition. This time of year many goats will develop lice which are visible on the coat of the goats if you brush your hand against the grain of the hair. There are both topical and internal treatments to rid your goats of lice. Visit with your veterinarian to determine what best meets your needs. Goats also need to have their hooves trimmed on a monthly or bi monthly basis depending on how quickly they grow. With the humid conditions in East Texas, hoof rot and foot infections can pose a great problem to goat herds if hoof health isn’t maintained. It is recommended that goat owners handle their goats weekly to check the “Fa Macha” scale which is indicative of parasite levels in most cases and also to ensure that goats hooves are in trimmed and in good condition.
While goats are a little high maintenance, they can be profitable for producers who get herd management down. Does who are managed well can kid up to 3 times in 2 years and are ready to breed at 7 months old in most cases. Does are also more prolific than cattle, often safely having 2-4 kids per kidding. There is a growing market for goat meat in Texas due to our ever changing population. The market trend for goats shows them averaging $2.50 per pound across ages, sizes, and types. — Jessica Rymel, Cass County ANR Extension Agent