How to Purchase a Dairy Goat

Getting your first goat is always exciting.  And purchasing more animals to add to your existing herd is addicting as well.  This article is designed to help both those who are just starting out and those who have had goats before and may still have goats.

For those just starting out, before you begin to look for the perfect goat, you should be sure that you have a safe place for your goats to live. A shelter from wind and rain, and an area for them to go outside. If you plan on them getting the majority of their food from their pasture, make sure you have plenty of pasture/browse with secure fencing.  Do lots of research on the breed you want and make a list of what you are looking for in a goat.  Do you just want a family pet?  Are you breeding and want to improve what you already have?  Do you need milk for your family?  These decisions will have an impact on the traits you will be looking for in your goat.

The first step after you decide on what you are exactly looking for, will be to find a reliable breeder.  Regardless of if you are getting a family pet/milker or your future showing champion, you want to find someone who you can trust.  Breeders directories are a great place to start your search.  There are online directories for most registries as well as several listings that are not connected to registries.  Talk with many breeders and ask lots of questions.  Anyone selling a goat should be able to tell you about the animal's personality, potential and pedigree. 

Once you have found a breeder who has animals for sale (or kids coming in the spring), visit the herd if you can.  When you are looking at the animal you may buy and the goats that he/she lives with, pay attention to the following:

If you are not able to visit the farm, you will have to ask more questions and you can always ask for references if needed.  Ask about the health policy of the farm.  Do they test for the common diseases like CAE, CL etc.  Or at least take precautions against them?  If they have never heard of these, or blow them off as no big deal, run the other way.  You can educate them, but certainly don't buy from them unless you test the animal before you bring it home.  This may sound harsh, but it is so much easier to prevent disease than to try and deal with it after your herd is infected.

Once you have found a herd and breeder that you trust, you can go on to choosing the particular animal you are looking for.  The traits you are looking for will depend on the use of the goat of course.Goats as pets

Goats as petsFor a Pet, a doe or a wether (fixed male) will work excellently.  You do not want an intact male as a pet (they have some not-so-polite manners and a strong cologne in the fall).  The main trait you will be looking for in a pet goat is personality.  They should be free of major conformation defects and/or health issues, but it doesn't really matter for a pet if he/she has a steep rump or incorrect breed character.  Being able to pick out your pet in person, is nice, but if you live far away, a good breeder should be able to tell you which goats should make good pets.  Most bottle-fed kids will make great pets, but only some dam raised kids are friendly enough to be really good as pets.  One other trait I would insist on for a pet is that they are hornless.  Either naturally polled or disbudded at a young age.  Horns are too dangerous to have in a pet goat.

For a Family Milker, you will be looking for a doe who will give you good milk for your family, be gentle and easy to milk, and does not have difficulty kidding.  Her conformation is not horribly important beyond the fact that she should not have any traits that will make her have difficulties.  For example, you would want her to have good sized teats (not tiny or huge), but if her topline isn't that super straight, level-as-a-board, show topline, it really doesn't matter for your purposes.  So for a family milker use this checklist:Family milker

Breeding Stock are more difficult and you will be much more picky about this.  This should really be a separate article as there is so much to cover, but I'll give you a brief overview at least.  You want to buy the best you can afford.  You will need to evaluate and prioritize the goals for your herd.  If you already have goats, determine their weaknesses and what you want to improve with the new goats.  If you are starting from scratch, you will want to find goats that complement each other.  Remember that there isn't really a 'perfect' goat out there, so there is always room for improvement.  Study the herds you admire, watch shows, attend linear appraisals, learn as much as you can about conformation and what makes a good goat.  Talk to as many different goat people and listen to the different opinions to learn as much as you can.  Most breeders will work with you on your choice and are willing to help you pick out a pair or starter herd that will go well together and complement each other.  If you don't know a lot about goats yet, this is where having a breeder you trust is SO important.  The traits you are specifically looking for in a breeding animal will depend on what your goals are (showing, milk production, improving the breed, etc.) but there are still basics that cover all of them:


Breeder Directories:

Places learn about conformation: