G2267 Index: Animals, General Management

Issued October 2015

Goat Production Basics in Nebraska

Randy D. Saner, Extension Educator

Jerry D. Volesky, Extension Range and Forage Specialist

Jay D. Jenkins, Extension Educator

This publication provides some basic information frequently requested by youth who are considering 4-H goat projects, or by people interested in commercial or hobby goat production. Goats also can be an added source of income for a beef cattle operation.

Raising goats can be pleasurable and profitable, but knowledge of the breeds, nutrition, forage, diseases, and marketing is needed to make goat production successful.

Goat Facts

Novice goat producers need to learn about the physiology and reproductive system of goats to successfully manage them (Table 1).

Table 1. Physiological data and reproductive aspects of goats.

Body temperature


Heart rate

70–80 beats/minute

Respiration rate

12–15 breaths/minute

Age at puberty

7–10 months

Length of estrous cycle

18–22 days

Gestation (pregnancy) length

146–155 days

Kidding rate (births per doe)


Doe death loss (breeding age)


Kid death loss (birth through market age)


Breeding bucks required

1 per 30 does serviced

Breeds and Types

Goat breeds are generally divided into three primary types: dairy, meat, and fiber.

Common meat goat breeds are the Boer, Kiko, Savanah, and Spanish. Crosses between these breeds have resulted in very good performance and hardy kids with a desire to survive. Table 2 lists some of the breeds, their breed type, and important traits to consider.

Table 2. Goat breeds, types, and important traits.

Breed Type Traits of Importance



High milk production



Mohair yield; light muscling; must be sheared



High growth; heavy muscling for meat production



Fiber production



Hardy; large frame



High milk production; very small ears

Myotonic (Fainting Goats)


Smaller frame; very heavy muscling; hardy

Nigerian Dwarf


Provide a surprising amount of milk for their small size


Dual Dairy/Meat

Good milk; large frame; more meat than most dairy breeds



Small frame; heavy muscling; currently not desirable in the open market



Good milkers; hardy; moderate frame



Large frame; heavy muscling



High survivability; moderate frame; good milkers

Nutritional Requirements

The nutritional requirements for goats can often be met with forages. However, feed supplementation may be needed, depending on forage quality and desired animal performance (e.g., lactation, growth, or maintenance). On average, dry matter intake for a mature doe is 2 to 5 percent of her body weight per day (Table 3).

Table 3. Nutrient requirements for meat and fiber producing goats.

Nutrient Young Goats1 Does ( 80 lb)
Weanling 30 lb Yearling 60 lb Dry Pregnant Early

Pregnant Late

Daily Feed, lb






TDN, %






Protein, %






Calcium, %






Phosphorus, %






Nutrient Does 80 lb Lactating Bucks
Avg. Milk High Milk 80–120 lb

Daily Feed, lb




TDN, %




Protein, %




Calcium, %




Phosphorus, %




Derived from: Nutrient Requirements of Goats. 1981 National Research Council and Pinkerton, F. 1989. Feeding Programs for Angora Goats. Bulletin 605. Langston University, OK

1Expected weight gain >.44 lb / day

Fig. 1. Goats will consume leaves off the lower branches of the tree.


The most common forage species for grazing goats in Nebraska are listed in Table 4. Goats will also graze a large number of weeds and understory plants found in Nebraska. The productivity, persistence, and nutritive quality of these species will vary, based on the stage of plant maturity and grazing pressure.

Fig. 2. Goats like shade to lay under during the hot part of the day.

Goats prefer to graze above their shoulder height. When given a choice, goats prefer shrubs, saplings, and brambles over common pasture grasses and legumes.

Table 4. Common grass and legume species for grazing goats.

Perennial Cool-Season Grasses

Smooth Bromegrass
Crested Wheatgrass
Reed Canarygrass
Intermediate Wheatgrass
Western Wheatgrass
Prairie Junegrass

Perennial Legumes

Red Clover

Perennial Warm Season Grasses

Sand Lovegrass
Little Bluestem
Prairie Dropseed
Hairy & Blue Grama
Big Bluestem
Sand Bluestem
Sand Dropseed

Summer Annual Grasses

Pearl/Foxtail Millet
Sorghum Sudangrass

Winter Annual Grasses




Common Weeds, Brush, and Understory Plants for Grazing Goats

Small Soapweed
Common & Western Snowberry
Prairie Wild Rose
Skunkbrush Sumac
Smooth Sumac
Lead Plant
Prairie Coneflower
Serrateleaf Evening Primrose
Purple & White Prairie Clover
Eastern Cedar

Mineral Supplementation

Many minerals and vitamins are not available in forages at the levels needed to support optimum growth, reproduction, lactation, and the health of the kids, mature does, and bucks. Minerals are divided into two categories, macro and micro, depending on the amount required in the diet. The major macro minerals are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chlorine, and sulfur. The micro minerals, which are required in smaller quantities, include copper, zinc, iron, iodine, manganese, and selenium.

Both the macro and micro minerals must be provided in the proper amounts. Providing either too much or not enough of these minerals and vitamins can cause problems. The most important thing to remember when considering mineral supplementation is that goats have a higher copper requirement than sheep. Use a good-quality trace mineralized salt to meet the goats’ needs. Do not feed both a complete feed with minerals added and free choice minerals at the same time. This wastes money and can potentially cause toxicity. Most common feeds do not contain a complete package, so read the feed label. The local extension office should be able to provide information about recommended minerals for the operation.

Stocking Rate

Stocking rate refers to the total number of goats per unit area over a given time period. To figure stocking rates, two terms must be understood:

If a goat weighs 150 pounds: 150/1,000 = .15 AU or six to seven goats per AU.

The stocking rate will depend on the vegetative zone and condition of the range. Check with the local extension office for stocking rate guidelines for the pasture type and location. Most producers have been able to add one goat per cow to their existing operation without having to change their stocking rate for cattle.

Fig. 3. Woven wire goat fence works well to hold goats.


Options for Constructing New Fences:

The fence that offers the most security for goats is constructed of woven wire with horizontal and vertical stays approximately 4 inches by 4 inches. This type of fence prevents goats from getting their heads stuck in the fence while providing excellent predator control. Treated wood, steel, or cedar fence posts should be placed 15 feet apart for maximum strength. Table 5 lists specifications, approximate costs, and recommendations for fences. Install all types of woven wire fences as close to the ground as possible to eliminate escape routes for kids or small goats. It helps to fasten barbed wire at ground level under the woven wire.

Cattle woven wire may be used in place of goat woven wire by installing one strand of electric wire along the interior of the fence approximately 10 to 14 inches off of the ground to prevent goats from getting their heads stuck in the larger fence squares.

New fences may also be constructed with high tensile electrified wire. Perimeter fences should be constructed using five or six alternating hot and ground wires approximately 9 to 11 inches apart to provide maximum control.

Options for Renovating Old Fences

Existing fences can be “goat proofed” by adding barbed or electric wire. Plank-type wooden fences can be upgraded by adding electrified wires between the planks. Any fence that is too high off the ground may be fortified by using either barbed wire or electric wire. Remember that goats are excellent climbers and will climb out of even the best constructed fence if objects (e.g., stumps, logs, rocks) are too close to the fence. Also, gates should be constructed with goat-proof latches. Corner braces should not be positioned so that goats can walk up them to escape.

Table 5. Specifications, approximate costs, and recommendations for fences for goats.

Fence Type Specifications Approximate Cost Recommendations

Sheep and goat fence

48" tall with 4" square openings

$.067 per foot

Install close to ground and keep tight. A standoff electric wire will decrease maintenance and increase longevity of the fence.

Woven wire fence (field or cattle type)

47" tall with various size square openings (most larger than 4")

$.056 per foot

Install close to ground and keep tight.
May need electric standoff wire on the interior of the fence to eliminate the possibility of heads getting caught in large square openings.

Treated wooden posts

5' by 8'

$10 each

No more than 15' apart
Use for corner and line braces.

Metal T-posts


$3.20 each

No more than 15' apart.

High tensile fence

12.5 gauge

$0.11 per foot @ 6 strands

At least 6 strands.

Non-electric barbed wire fence

15.5 gauge

$0.14 per foot @ 6 strands

At least 6 strands.

Health Issues

The No. 1 cause of death in goats in the United States is the blood-sucking gastrointestinal parasite Haemonchus contortus, or barber pole worm. The reproductive capacity of this parasite and its resistance to many dewormers make parasite control one of the limiting factors in goat production. Internal parasite management includes:

Table 6. Commonly used dewormers in goats (oral route of administration only).

Athelmintics Brand Name Approval Type Dosage/100 lb Withdrawal Time
Meat Milk


Safeguard Panacur


2.3 ml

14 days

4 days

Morantel Tartarate



1 ml/10 lb

30 days

0 days



Extra Label

8 ml

7 days

5 days



Extra Label

12 ml

10 days

4 days


Ivomec for sheep

Extra Label

24 ml

14 days

9 days



Extra Label

4 ml

23 days

56 days

Use of anthelmintics as “Extra Label” is legal only if prescribed by your veterinarian in the context of a valid client relationship (Meat Goat Production Handbook, page 131).

Foot scald/foot rot is another common health issue that results in lameness and often develops into a major economically significant disease. Frequent foot trimming helps reduce the incidence of foot scald by keeping mud from packing into foot crevices. Spot treatment with antibiotic sprays has limited benefits. Foot baths using zinc sulfate are the most effective treatment of foot scald. Special facilities must be constructed to hold goats for the 15-minute treatment. Goats with chronic foot scald/foot rot should be eliminated from the herd.

Abortion occurs when a female loses her offspring during pregnancy or gives birth to weak or deformed babies. There are vaccines (individual and combination) for several of the agents that cause abortion in sheep, including enzootic (EAE, Chlamydia sp.) and vibriosis (Campylobacter fetus). Abortion vaccines should be administered prior to breeding.

Risk factors for abortion include an open flock and a history of abortions in the flock. Unfortunately, no vaccine is available in the United States for toxoplasmosis, another common cause of abortion in sheep and goats. Since the disease-causing organism is carried by domestic cats, the best protection is to control the farm’s cat population by spaying or neutering and keeping cats from contaminating feed sources.


A good health plan centers on a solid vaccination program that protects the goats from the common diseases Clostridium perfringens types C and D (overeating disease) and tetanus. Animals are vaccinated for two main reasons: to prevent disease and to reduce the recovery period if an animal is exposed to and contracts the disease. A basic vaccination program should include vaccinating kids at 1 month of age, booster vaccinations three to four weeks later, followed by booster buck and pregnant doe vaccinations 30 days prior to the start of kidding (Table 7).

Predator and Predator Control

The control of predators often requires a combination of methods, e.g., a guardian animal and a good fence. Dogs (e.g., Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Akbash, Anatolian, and Maremma), donkeys, and llamas are commonly used. The choice of a guard animal is a personal decision.

Fig. 4. Great Pyrenees dog guarding goats as they graze.

Fig. 5. Great Pyrenees make good guard dogs for goats.

Table 7. Suggested health practices for bucks, does, and kids.

Stage Suggested Health Practice Additional Practices

Pre-breeding (30–60)


Be aware of heat stress.

Do breeding soundness evaluation.

Vaccinate for Clostridium perfringens types C and D, plus Tetanus Toxoid; Chlamydia, Campylobacter, and Leptospirosis, if necessary.

Check Body Condition Score, and adjust management accordingly.

Deworm based on fecal egg counts or FAMACHA score.

Trim feet.

Put bucks next to doe pens. The buck effect will bring transitional does into heat.


Vaccinate for Chlamydia, Campylobacter, and Leptospirosis if abortions are a problem.

Always vaccinate for Clostridium perfringens types C and D, plus Tetanus Toxoid.

Give Vitamin E and Selenium to does 30–45 days before breeding in selenium-deficient areas.



Provide additional feed.

Be aware of heat stress and provide shade.

Make sure cats are not defecating in feed to prevent toxoplasmosis.

Perform fecal egg count or check FAMACHA score and deworm if necessary.


Observe for heat.

Check for pregnancy at 45 to 60 days with ultrasound.

Perform fecal egg count or check FAMACHA score and deworm if necessary.

Pre-kidding (30 days before)


Booster for Clostridium perfringens types C and D plus Tetanus Toxiod.

Deworm based upon fecal egg count.

Body Condition Score, adjust management accordingly.

Watch for pregnancy toxemia.

Perform fecal egg count or check FAMACHA score and deworm if necessary.

Begin to collect supplies for kidding.



Observe 3 to 5 times per day.

Assist if needed.

Strip small amount of milk to make sure teat ends are open.


Clip navel cord to 2–4 inches.

Dip navel in 7% iodine.



Feed extra feed to does with multiple kids.


Observe daily for signs of diarrhea or respiratory disease.

Vaccinate for Clostridium perfringens types C and D, plus tetanus at 5 to 6 weeks of age, revaccinate at 3 to 4 weeks after first injection.

Castrate males before 2 months of age.

Start creep feeding by 2 weeks of age.

With uncertain vaccination history of doe or questionable colostrum ingestion, kids should be vaccinated at 7 to 21 days of age then given a booster 3 to 4 weeks later, or 150–205 units of tetanus antitoxin can be given at birth or castration.


Wean at 3 to 5 months or when marketed as young kids.

Check for internal parasites and deworm if needed.

May want to use coccidiostat in creep feed and post-weaning feed.



About every four weeks, check for internal parasites and deworm as needed.

Reduce feed to does just before weaning.

May want to reduce water availability for a day or two after weaning to reduce milk flow.

Vaccinate for Chlamydia, Campylobacter, and Leptospirosis if abortions are a problem.

Clostridium perfringens types C and D, plus Tetanus Toxoid; Chlamydia, Campylobacter, and Leptospirosis, if necessary.

Check Body Condition Score, and adjust management accordingly.

Deworm based on fecal egg counts or FAMACHA score.

Trim feet.


In general, the demand for goat meat in the United States is greater than the domestic supply so the market for meat goats continues to improve. Table 8 provides an annual basic goat budget per breeding doe.

In Nebraska, most meat goats are sold at livestock auction markets or by private treaty. The livestock markets that sell goats are limited in Nebraska so plan the marketing of them accordingly.

Websites of livestock auctions that sell goats include:

Table 8. Annual basic goat budget per breeding doe.

Input Amount Needed/Year Cost Per Unit Cost Per Year






2.5 bu




500 lb




20 lb





Protein Supplement

28 lb




5 hr

$25 per hr




Kids Weaned/Year Weight of Weaned Kid Average Price/lb Returns/Year


70 lb



Breakeven Price $1.87

Profit Per Doe/Year, Including Labor


Profit Per Doe/Year, Excluding Labor


This publication has been peer reviewed.

UNL Extension publications are available online at http://extension.unl.edu/publications.

Extension is a Division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln cooperating with the Counties and the United States Department of Agriculture.

University of Nebraska—Lincoln Extension educational programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska—Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.

© 2016, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska—Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.