I get asked for advice on raising goats naturally very often. It was definitely a huge learning curve because there were natural ways that everyone else was doing and yet their goats were sick and dying often. Their mentors just keep saying to use more herbs. But it doesn't work, at least not for us. I even tried the conventional route a little too and that didn't work either.
So after many late nights doing research, thumbing through google scholar and pubmed, fecal testing, and trial and error, the last two years has been amazing. Our goats have never been healthier and it's really simple!
In a nutshell, here's what we do:
Hay & Feed
Goats are NOT picky when it comes to hay. They'll munch on just about anything. If it is the first cutting and tends to be really thick/stalky, it can be hard on their mouth though. But goats love weeds, even poison ivy. They really are more browsers than grazers, so their preferred greens are bushes and tree leaves. They love to munch on pine branches, wild berry bushes, weeds like lamb's quarters, etc. There are some plants that are poisonous to them, so do your research on that before setting goats free in untouched pasture.
Speaking of pasture, goats surprisingly do not need a lot of pasture. In fact, in many cases, more pasture can mean more parasite trouble since goats are really susceptible to parasites that dwell in the bottom 12 inches of pasture grasses. Ideally they should have access to outdoors where they can get sunshine and move around well, but it is not imperative that they have a large pasture area.
I am currently down to three goats (after having a dozen or more in the past) and these three share an outdoor pen area where they prefer to be most of the time and occasionally venture out onto the attached one-acre pasture area.
Either way, they should have access to hay or other long-stemmed plant matter at least every six hours in order to keep their rumen (stomachs) going and maintain proper microbial balance.
For feed, a good organic goat feed is all that is needed generally. But it is very important to know that goats can get bloat and/or scours (diarrhea) from too many grains, so only give them what they need for their weight and their status (growing, in milk, etc.). When my goats are full-grown and not bred or in milk, we don't give them any grains.
This is a MUST for healthy goats. When we first got goats, a couple came with rust-colored curly fur. We knew this meant a serious nutritional deficiency but didn't know it would turn around so quickly with the right minerals. With minerals from local feed stores, it didn't change. Within two weeks of Wick's hi-copper livestock minerals, their coats were sleek, black, and shiny.
Goats have a very high need for copper. In fact, researchers tried to overdose goats on copper and essentially couldn't.
Like any minerals, it's important that it's given along with proper ratios of corresponding minerals.
Wick's copper minerals are high in copper and contain the other essential nutrients goats need. There are many choices, and you can contact them to inquire which one would be best for your situation. From the difference it has made with our goats, it is worth the price to have it shipped.
In general, goats need a 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. This is especially important when they are bred (pregnant) or in milk (lactating).
If goats are receiving hay high in alfalfa, they do not need to get as much calcium from their mineral mix then as they will get a lot from the hay. So goats that are fed alfalfa hay can be fine with a 1:1 calcium/phosphorus mineral mix.
We leave the mineral mix out "free choice"--meaning available at all times in a feed tray. We put out what they would eat in approximately three days and refill with fresh stuff a couple times a week. (In my experience, my goats will not eat enough of the mineral mix to maintain optimal health unless it has molasses added.)
➡️ Organic Kelp
Kelp is a great choice for naturally-occurring minerals and other nutrients. It is not completely necessary if feeding a formulated mineral mix like the one above, but it is a great way to supplement with plant-based nutrients. (Kelp should not be used in place of a mineral mix, however, as it is not sufficient in nutrients for optimal health in my experience.)
Good-quality kelp provides a long list of bioavailable nutrients to goats. It provides additional immune support and contains prebiotics to help keep the microflora of the rumens balanced well.
We buy Thorvin organic kelp from our local feed store and have it available free choice for our goats.
This is where I finally no longer feel like I had to give up on goats! After years of struggling when herbal products just didn't cut it, ParaFree saved the day. This is what finally worked when the herb blends with wormwood and stuff worked for a bit but made the problem keep coming back.
ParaFree™ is formulated with an advanced blend of some of the strongest essential oils studied for their cleansing abilities. This formula also includes the added benefits of sesame seed oil and olive oil. Unlike herbs and conventional options, ParaFree does not negatively affect the microbial balance in the rumen/gut. (This supplement can be used with people and animals. We have used it on almost all life forms including human children, cats, dogs, and goats.)
I promise if you really want them to be healthy, use ParaFree! We saved so much money on veterinarian bills and other things when we finally started using this. We do 1 softgel per 25 lbs (cut open and mixed with olive oil into a 12ml oral syringe from a feed/farm store) for seven days, then rest for seven days, then again for seven days. Ideally start right before a full moon.
We do a protocol with ParaFree about once every season, but more if needed during rainy/wet season. Does (female goats) should always be given a regimen of ParaFree after kidding as well. This is very important!
(If you do not have a wholesale account with Young Living, it's very easy to get one and costs as little as $45 to get a wholesale account, which is only slightly more than the difference in retail and wholesale price for one bottle of ParaFree, so it's worth it! Click here to get a wholesale account or to purchase ParaFree at retail price. Purchasing through this link will also get you into my private Facebook group and online portal with more natural health education and information. There are no monthly obligations to buy or sell anything; it's more like a Costco membership but without a yearly fee.)
➡️ Water with Add-Ins
Of course goats need fresh water at ALL times.
We have found some fabulous benefits to some add-ins for their water.
- Young Living Oregano Vitality (dietary) oil
- Organic raw apple cider vinegar
We mix a few drops per full-size dairy goat per day of the oregano oil into 1 cup of ACV and 1 cup of organic glycerin (we purchased from Azure Standard) to help everything blend/emulsify and add that to their water trough whenever we refill it. (So if the trough water lasts a week, we calculate the oils accordingly.)
(There is some great research out there about oregano oil for goats, especially goat kids, which I am not allowed to post publicly so do a google scholar search or contact me privately.)
Miscellaneous Natural Things to Have On Hand
A few other things that are very helpful to have on hand with goats are:
- Goat Probios probiotics available from farm/feed stores. This is important to use when they get scours (diarrhea).
- DiGize Vitality oil to give internally with goat Probios
- Animal Scents Ointment for any external issues that need a good soothing ointment
Some General Tips
Look up FAMACHA charts and videos to learn how to identify anemia (from parasites) which is a leading cause of death in goats.
You can also send in fecal samples to MidAmerica Ag Research to assess your goat's health. (I have not had to do this anymore since we have been doing ParaFree regimens.)
These things have made having goats so much easier! They are strong, resilient, and haven't had any problems! I do wish I would have figured this out sooner, so I'm hoping this information can help others!
To order Oregano Vitality, ParaFree, DiGize, and/or Animal Scents Ointment, go here if you don't already have an account: https://yldist.com/godscents and contact me with any questions! I'll make sure you get the support and help you need to raise the healthiest goats possible!
Blessings of good health,
Sara Jo Poff
Natural Health Practitioner