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New Kid On The Block | Fall 2006 Out Here Magazine

Give new goats a chance to explore and familiarize themselves with their new home before turning them out with the existing herd.

Use caution when introducing a new goat into the herd

By Lynn Allen

Photography by Amy Peterson

Changing addresses is difficult, with the stress of a different environment, fitting in, and finding your way around.

Especially if you're a goat.

When a goat arrives at its new home, it needs a few days in a quiet, safe place to overcome the stress and potential health problems of moving.

Quarantining your goat, to assess any health problems, is a good beginning to help it adapt. Try these stress-reducing methods during isolation:

  • Buy feed from the previous owner to mix with new feed so the animal doesn't react to a sudden ration change.
  • Keep excited dogs and noisy children away.
  • Give the goat a dark place to "hide" so it feels safe. A small, enclosed shed or even a doghouse will work.
  • Provide a clean, dry, well-ventilated environment.
  • Offer fresh, clean water. Goats don't like dirty water and they dehydrate quickly.

Once the animal is ready to turn out, prepare to do some herd management.

Goats have a social hierarchy, so any animal introduced to the herd is going to have to fight for a place in that pecking order. If you don't prepare correctly, that power struggle can be deadly for the new animal.

"We had a 4-H (member) buy a really nice doe once, and when they got her home, they dumped her in a pen with a bunch of horned stuff," says Linda King, an Oklahoma 4-H goat/sheep project leader. "The next morning, those ol' rips had beat that new doe almost to death and broken one of her legs. She had to be put down.

"It was a hard lesson for the family, but even worse for the poor doe."

To avoid such a tragedy with your animals, start by locking up the herd to allow the new animal a few hours to explore. Giving the new animal a chance to find the feed and water sources, and locate the fence lines and shelter without competition will reduce the risk of injury.

Then introduce a couple good-natured animals. Don't turn the lead goat and her cronies out with the new animal for a couple of days. By then, the new animal is adjusting and is less apt to be injured by the more-aggressive animals.

Most goats settle into their new herd fairly quickly. Goats form maternal groups within a herd, so the new animals may hang on the outside edges for weeks or even months. As long as there is plenty of room at the feed bunks, water troughs, and in the sheds, that isn't a problem.

Taking a few days to isolate new animals, then control their entry into the herd can seem time consuming and burdensome, but the expense and heartbreak of injury — or worse — makes a few extra days of care worth it.

Lynn Allen is an agricultural journalist based in Colorado.