Goat Setup, Care, and Sources
This is our experience so far and information I've gathered from other goat farmers in Alaska from individual conversations and Facebook. Scroll through the page to find what you need, or hit "Control + F" and type in a word or phrase you want to find, then hit "Enter" to zip straight there. Much of the information was taken from Wasilla Lights Farm website. If you have information/pictures/sources to share, please email or text me!
Barn & Fencing
Barn: Room for hay & grain, kidding, feeding, milking
We have a 12x16 loft barn. It has room for 100 bales of hay, a manger, a storage unit where we keep some grain and supplies, a milking stand, and wood pellets for the stall that's attached. We built a little kidding stall in part of it and fill it up with hay in the summer, then by spring they've eaten the hay and we can use it for kidding again. I use the kidding stall to separate kids and/or sick animals when needed. We also have another dog fence area for bucklings and kids when needed. We don't keep bucks yet, but I've seen some great buck setups (see pictures above).
12x16 is a good space for supplies for 2-5 goats. They don't live in it though. We have an attached stall. With more goats you need more space to store hay. I've seen many people have a stall or several shelters and no barn. They get round bales or square bales on trailers and cover them with tarps and pull from them all winter for the goats.
We actually milk in our garage, but we still have a milking stand in the barn for foot trims, giving drenches, feeding yearlings and tattooing. It's really nice to have an extra milking stand in the barn, especially during kidding season when you might need to milk out a doe in the evening for that first week while keeping her near the babies.
The link below is for the milk stand I made. It cost about $145 to buy supplies to make two milk stands in 2021 (it was much more time and cost effective to make two at once). The directions are awesome! The only part my husband did was cut out the neck holes for me.
Milk stand plan: http://www.fiascofarm.com/goats/milkstand.html
Fencing: 2x4", 4' with electric wire, T-posts and/or wood posts, pallets
Fencing depends on your property, predators, and budget. We have a very steep hill along our fence line, so my husband made a frame-style fence by cutting out grooves in treated 2x4s, and popping in cattle panels cut to the right angle/size. This took almost 3 months of work and was very expensive. The panels pop out when a lot of pressure is put on them, so we're having to add 1x1s around the frame to support them. It looks beautiful, goes up the hill, but doesn't work as well as it could, and the cattle panels are 4x4". Baby goats can stick their heads right out. This is annoying to us since they get their heads stuck at a certain age. It might be a safety concern for those living farther out of the city.
I really like the 2x4" four foot welded wire fencing, with a line of electric going round the top perimeter. I've seen this style at a couple farms and it looks nice and clean and works great. Along the back stretch of their area, we used 5-foot fencing with wood posts every 16 feet and two T-posts in between each wood post. This looks nice and works well too, and we haven't had moose in our pen. I've seen people use just hot wire fencing for goats, but this is a little more challenging to maintain. Another option is pallets. You can hammer metal rebar into the ground, huck the pallet over it, and then screw the pallets together (see pictures above). This actually doesn't look too bad, but won't last as long, and might cause leg injuries.
Expand this section for different shelter ideas and must-haves, as well as tips and tricks for winter. I've included some posts from FB that are interesting/helpful.
Several goat owners in Alaska have insulated barns/shelters, some do not. I like the ventilation in my barn without insulation and we use the deep litter method in the winter so this ventilation is extremely important. I've always heard NOT to use heat lamps. You can always put a coat on your goat if you see non-stop shivering, and make sure they have warm water to warm them up from the inside-out (more on this topic below). Most people suggest no coats so the goats grow their own thick nice coats for winter.
Keep the manger, minerals, & animals out of the weather
Here's advice from Kelly Dellar at Wasilla Lights Farm:
Housing large enough to have hay, minerals & water 24/7 is essential. Housing needs to be dry, have good air circulation without being drafty, have protection from the ground moisture with either wood floors or black rubber matting, be cleaned out more than occasionally, have dry, warm bedding free from mold and moisture, and some light. Some people use a moving blanket to cover the goat doorway in stormy, windy weather, and it's important to have something to close them in completely when weather is severe. Pneumonia and lung issues can be a serous and not so uncommon issue in goats. Proper housing is essential to maintain happy, healthy goats. A shop broom head on the wall helps them groom themselves.
Stall attached to the barn makes it easy to do farm chores in winter
When we got our barn, we cut out the side and built an 8x8' attached pole-barn style stall. The roof is a little too low to make cleaning enjoyable, so I would make sure whatever you have is easily walkable. The goat entrance is about 2x3' and we use a piece of plywood secured with a hay bale or tire to block it during severe weather. Our manger is in the barn so I can fill it easily without going into the stall. The goats have a simple two-part tray for kelp and minerals, and a heated water bucket is hung on the stall wall during the winter. I've seen PVC pipes with an U-bend at the bottom to hold kelp, minerals, salts and/or baking soda. I want to do this eventually!
A table or ledge is a great thing to add to your shelter. Goats love sleeping off the ground, and when it gets really cold, they can cuddle underneath. We have a dog igloo in our stall that they use in freezing temps. The kids love it too. It also acts as an obstacle so if goats are fighting they can run around it or jump on top of it to get away.
Wood pellets and wasted hay make great bedding
I "spot clean" by moving clean wasted hay over any piles of poo so animals don't have direct contact with it. I clean the stall about every two weeks in the summer, and we use the deep litter method in winter. My husband cleans it out in winter about 2 times (when it starts to smell), and then in the spring before new kids arrive. One time after cleaning we dusted with a bit of diatomaceous earth to kill bugs before we put a new layer of wood pellets down. I don't know if it helped or not.
We don't have any protection for our wood floor that goes into the goat stall, so the thick plywood gets soaked. The wood pellets help soak up this moisture, but we want to cover it with some kind of mat that won't make the goats slip (they have to jump onto the wood platform from the ground). I added a little ramp for pregnant goats and young kids who can't make the leap. Just adjusting our setup as I go.
Chain link dog runs with tarps in less windy areas can work
One farm I visited in Anchorage had 3 different tarped dog runs sitting in a large fenced "common" area. Once the does and kids were locked up for the night, the bucks were let out to run around. We could never do this in Palmer because the wind would rip the tarp off real quick, but it looked like a pretty inexpensive, efficient way to house a lot of goats. We've used it this summer with our bucklings. They have a dog igloo to snuggle in at night.
Feeders - Feed bags, PVC pipe, extra fencing
Depending on goat personalities, it's nice to have two separate feeding areas. An equestrian feed bag works great for this. I hang mine on the wall on the other side of the stall in winter, and throw it over a fence post outside in summer when it's not raining. There are many manger designs (see pictures above) but I love the gentleness of the PVC pipes stuffed through holes at 1.5" intervals. It was easy and inexpensive to build. Some of my spacing is off, so the goats are shoving their heads in between - this is something you want to avoid if the goats aren't getting along and try to butt each other while their heads are stuck in a feeder. Make sure whatever kind of system you use is tall enough or has a lid so that kids can't jump inside and get stuck. I've seen farms just use extra fencing to block off the hay and the goats just eat from that. They can get their nose hairs rubbed off on the rough fencing, but it still works great!
See more about shelters at this website:
So far I've used some old fleece coats - front feet through the sleeves, rolled up or cut to size, zipped on the back on my older lactating doe and my yearling. My two-year old didn't need a coat.
Expand this section to see more about hay (including local sources), kelp, loose minerals, baking soda, vitamins, copper/selenium, and grain for all ages.
I am on a quest to find grain that doesn't use Round Up and is non-soy. So far the only one I can find that is shipped to Alaska is Scratch and Peck Organic Goat Feed at M Bar D in Anchorage. It is very expensive, but with my herd shares, I can afford two bags a month for my 3 does in milk. It's whole grain.
Hay, Kelp, Loose Minerals, Vitamins & Copper, Grain
Free-choice hay, 1 bale a week for 1 goat (4lbs per day per goat)
Brome, Timothy or a mix is great. Local hay works great (see Local Sources at the bottom of the page). Alfalfa is high in calcium and good in small amounts for 0-1 years and for lactating does. The research I've seen so far is that too much Alfalfa during pregnancy and especially in the last few months results in longer, harder labors because the goat's body is not processing calcium correctly. Alfalfa pellets work great too with less waste. Break them into small pieces for kids to prevent choking. I've heard that second cut hay is better for goats. Goats like leafy hay and will waste the stems.
Kelp, Loose Minerals, Baking Soda, Vitamins, and Copper/Selenium
Goats need loose minerals always available (we use Manna Pro Goat Minerals from Branded Feed and Tack in Wasilla on Seward Meridian, Amazon, or Caprine Supply). I have kelp free-choice as well. Others only offer kelp, then take it away, because kelp is very expensive and the goats prefer it to their minerals. It probably depends on the number of animals you have. One 50lb bag of kelp ($90 @ Alaska Farm Supply) lasted me about two years with 2 goats free choice.
Baking soda is great to help reset the rumen. I give it as a drench (a teaspoon in water) to my does who have no appetite after kidding, and offer it loose every time there's a change in feed (new hay, springtime greens, etc.). Never offer baking soda and vinegar at the same time.
I also give my goats Replamin which contains vitamins A, D, and E, B12, Copper, selenium, and zinc. I start at 7-10 months old. I give 1cc to kids and work up to about 5cc for an adult mini. I give this monthly through the winter (local hay loses Vitamin A around January) and every-other month during the summer. (Never give the same month as copper/selenium).
Goats need a copper bolus. I start when they are 6 months old with
4 grams and give the bolus every 6 months. Dose is approximately 1g per 22 lbs. I work up to 6 grams by 2-years of age. It has even been proven to help reduce stomach/barber pole worms. Watch for copper deficiency signs: “fish tale,” rough coat, etc. Always schedule selenium to be given at the same time as copper since the two work together. I start with 1cc and work up to 4cc of selenium. (Skip Replamin the month you give copper/selenium).
Grain for 0-1 year olds, pregnant does, does in milk, & bucks in rut
Kids will start nibbling their mommy's grain at about one week. At two months old, I give 1⁄4 cup grain, twice a day, increasing to 1⁄2 cup twice a day. Increase to 1 cup twice a day by winter. At max, feed 1.5% body weight. For reference, 3 cups of most feed mixes is approximately 1 pound. 1 cup twice a day is probably max unless body condition shows a need for more nutrition. At weaning, add a few alfalfa pellets (maybe 1⁄4 cup a day each) into the grain ration to provide calcium while kids are growing - give up to ½ cup a day for the first year.
Pregnant does can get grain depending on their age and weight. For a pregnant yearling you need to be careful to not overfeed her as it may grow a singleton too large to pass. A skinnier doe might need grain the entire pregnancy to maintain weight, while a 2-year old who's fat needs little to no grain. A good rule of thumb is to slowly wean off grain when pregnant and start grain up again slowly one or two months before kidding, up to 1 or 2 cups each meal to get ready for when they're in milk. Once a doe has kidded, you can add milk ration. I use Alaska Mill and Feed non-soy, non-corn Goat Milk Ration as much as they want. About 3 cups AM and PM. (This is not Round-Up free and I may try to wean them off of it.)
Wethers and bucks need a 2:1 ratio between calcium and phosphorus. Purina Goat Chow, Alaska Farm Supply 16% Goat Ration made in Canada (likely with Round Up), and Modesto Milling Organic Goat Dairy from California (Animal Food Warehouse) and Scratch and Peck Organic Goat Feed have the right ratio. Bucks can get a small handful of alfalfa pellets while they are in the rut and grain if needed.
Fresh water morning and night
I use small buckets because I'm small and I don't have that many goats. I put the buckets in old tires so they don't get tipped over. I change out the water morning and night. We often put a splash of raw apple cider vinegar in the water, which makes the pH friendly for goats' rumens (but not if we're offering baking soda at the same time). For winter, we put the tire/bucket in the stall with them and stuff a bunch of straw around the bucket in the tire. This insulates it all fall to about December - I'd say to about 15 degrees or so. Then we use the heated water buckets hung on the wall so that water is always available to drink. I add a tiny bit of molasses to the water in winter to help them drink more. Goats like warm water in cold weather, and cold water in warm weather. When it's really hot you can add electrolytes to the water to keep them hydrated.
Most of these sources were taken by permission from Kelly Dellar's Wasilla Lights Farm website before she took it down.
- Hofmann Lawn and Landscaping: Brome, Timothy and local grass mix. They use compost on the fields. Delivery available. $26ish/bale 2023. FB Page here.
- Ray and Gerald DeVillbiss in Palmer: 907-414-1017 (square bales) Pick up from the field; delivery may be available. $15/bale off the field 2023
- Pioneer Equipment (round bales) in the Butte area: 907-745-3071
- Wayne Brost, Point Mackenzi, 907-373-7671
- Bud Frohling, Spring Creek Ranch, Palmer, 907-746-5797
- Micah Helkenn, Delta Hay, 907-803-0336 (I got some from Animal Food Warehouse which stocks it year around. It was pretty brown and the goats don't really like it that much! Might just be my goats though!)
- Branded Feed & Tack or M Bar D in Wasilla on Seward Meridian has outside Timothy, orchard grass and alfalfa squares, super compressed (saves space!)
- Alaska Farm Supply in Palmer has Washington Timothy and orchard grass. They can deliver as well.
- Randy Speckles (907) 322-8038. Brome delivered to the Valley for $14.50 a bale. Only one cutting delivered in October. (2023)
Anemia, worms, & poisonous plants
How to monitor anemia and worm load in your goats -
Link to a great video on FAMACHA Scoring:
An edible and poisonous plants listing is here: http://www.fiascofarm.com/goats/poisonousplants.htm
Note: Some poisonous plant listings include "fireweed" as poisonous. Alaska Fireweed is fine for goats. Lupine, however, is poisonous.
On-line ordering of supplies
For bulk herbs - Land of Havilah Herbals found here: http://landofhavilahfarm.com/loh/landofhavilahherbalsstore/ or
Mountain Rose Herbs found here: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com or All About Herbs on the Palmer Wasilla Highway has a lot of herbs available locally (very expensive). Many of these herbs can be grown in your garden or outside the fence (like wormwood).
Reference books & websites on natural goat care
"Holistic Goat Care: A Comprehensive Guide to Raising Healthy Animals, Preventing Common Ailments, and Troubleshooting Problems" by Gianaclis Caldwell
"The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal" by Katherine A Drovdahl which can be found here http://www.firmeadowllc.com/store or on Amazon.
"Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals" by Paul Dettloff can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Alternative-Treatments-Ruminant-Animals-Dettloff/dp/1601730128
Another website with lots of goat information: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/articlesMain.html
A great site to look at when trying to figure out what's wrong with your goat: www.dawog.net/Goats
Local veterinarians knowledgeable in goat health
~~~Cherise Neu, DVM, Arctic Equine & Livestock Veterinary, Palmer, Ph: 907-795-5495, Website: arcticequine.com Dr. Neu came to visit my farm for around $100.
~~~Dr. Brook Wilson, Currently practicing with Dr. Neu at Arctic Equine & Livestock Veterinary Service, 907-795-5495, Website: arcticequine.com. She performed the surgery on Heartthrob to remove his retained testicle. It was a little over $1100. It was $60 to take him for his pre-surgery checkup at the vet.
~~~ Dr. Teresa Beck, North Star Animal Hospital: 907-746-7387, Website: northstaranimalhospital.com. She performed surgical castration for two of my wethers (for one of my buyers) that went very well. As of 2022 she is forwarding all livestock animals to Arctic Equine & Livestock Veterinary.
~~~Dr. Julie Stafford, 2 Tails Veterinary Services, LLC, A mobile veterinary service based in the Matsu Valley, Website: 2tailsvet.com
~~~Sabrieta Holland DVM, Might not take new clients right now unless you want to artificially inseminate your goat.
Other veterinarian possibilities:
~~~Dr. Julie Grohs, AK Equine & Small Animal Hosp. (Chugiak): 907-688-9303
~~~Dr. Jackie Frederickson (Anchorage on the Hillside) for exotics, pigs, & chickens: 907-290-3877.
Out of state genetics in Alaska Mini-Alpine herds
Mamm-Key Alpine Diary goats: http://mammkey.com/
(I have these guys in Cassiopea's line!)
Hanson's Hideaway Farm - Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Debra Lucero at Anatevka Farms in the Butte area shipped a doeling and buckling from this farm in 2022.
Rocky Mnt High -
I'm sure there are other herd genetics up here that might end up in our Alaska Mini-Alpines - I'll add them as I find out! :)
A healthy goat is able to fight off most problems. The key is to be consistent. If you want to go all natural/holistic, you're supposed to give herbal de-wormers and parasite doses once a week. When I wasn't consistent with this, I started getting problems.
Either way it's good to have some goat gurus to help and/or a relationship with a vet. This section talks about the problems and solutions I've found so far with my goaties and some great helpful FB posts.
Keeping weight, rough hair, loose or hard poop, & bugs
For weight gain or maintenance, I used Calf Manna (has copper in it), Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, alfalfa pellets, and ground flax (Branded Feed & Tack) as needed to meet each goat's dietary requirements. Barley and oats are also good for a doe in milk. Tiana @ (907) 841-5653 has Alaska crimped and whole barley and whole oats in Wasilla by Pitman. Crimped barley is easier for goats to digest. Equine Shine and Cool Calories can also help bring a doe back from unhealthy weights (these contain soy).
Hair loss or rough coat? Use Zinc
A goat's coat should be smooth, glossy and soft. If the coat is rough, the goat is up to date on copper and vitamins, do NOT do what I did and give more copper. A better solution is an extra dose of Replamin, which can be given weekly for a short amount of time, or zinc. Zinc made a huge difference for me. I used 5cc of Ionic Zinc per goat for 7 days, and saw amazing results. Then I gave it to them every other day for another week.
Bad Poops - Constipation and Scours
I heard that an adult who is constipated may be getting too much protein, so scale back on the grain a bit. If they need help in weight gain try ground flax or other weight gain strategies (Calf Manna, Equine Shine, Cool Calories).
Another thing that can help reset the rumen (low gut noise, off-feed, loose poop) is Guinness Beer. "I keep it on hand at all times. It is liquid fermentation so the rumen doesn't have to break it down, it will be digested as normal. I had a goat go from scours to normal overnight this last summer. She's a full sized Saanen doe she drank a whole can out of a container in one swig. I heat mine to 110°f before offering it to them. Nigerians get a half of can" says Jennifer Johnson, a long-time goat breeder in Palmer.
Runny poop or scours (diarrhea) in youngsters can be very serious and needs attention right away. It could be coccidiosis, which is: "a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of animals caused by coccidian protozoa. The disease spreads from one animal to another by contact with infected feces or ingestion of infected tissue. Diarrhea, which may become bloody in severe cases, is the primary symptom" (Wikipedia). Scours can also be from too much grain or milk at once.
A natural remedy is to use the herbal gut soother and parasite balls (depending on the age of the kid) - one dose every 15 minutes, 3 or 4 times, then once every hour for 3 or 4 hours, then once every day until symptoms subside. This has worked for me with young kids (using just the gut soother).
On Hand Items
SUPPLIES TO KEEP ON HAND/GOAT MEDICAL KIT: This list is currently being created and is not complete.
Digital rectal thermometer - The number ONE thing!!! A goat's temp. tells so much about its condition - should be between 101-103
Lubricant for thermometer (optional)
C & D Antitoxin
ByoMycin 200 (Oxytetracycline injectable antibiotic)
Procaine Penicillin G
Fortified Vitamin B Complex paste and injectible (Make sure it has thiamin in it.)
Selenium with E Gel (Kaeco brand)
Vitamin A, D, B, E gel
Terramycin Ophthalmic Ointment
Syringes - 3cc, 6cc, 12cc and a few 20 to 30 cc.
Needles - 1/2 inch 20 gage and 1 inch 20 gage are the most common ones we use.
Probiotics - Probios paste works great. We also use Fastrack.
Drenching Syringe: http://www.caprinesupply.com/50-cc-drenching-syringe.html Love these!!
Weight Tape: http://www.caprinesupply.com/weigh-tape.html
Coccidiosis Prevention and Treatment herbs or drugs - We keep GI Soother on hand for this. https://www.firmeadowllc.com/store/p437/Herb_Mix_GI_Soother™_OG_WC_8_oz.html
Toltrazuril 5% - Coccidiosis Treatment found here: https://horseprerace.com/toltrazuril-5-200ml/
Note about coccidiosis: It is a condition mostly affecting goat kids and is a killer. If I suspect coccisiosis I treat with Toltrazuril ASAP.
Dewormer - We use herbal deworming as noted above.
Copasure copper rods for bolusing: http://www.caprinesupply.com/copasure-capsules.html
Balling gun: http://www.caprinesupply.com/small-balling-gun.html We cut the wide end/tip off ours.
Disease and Fecal Testing and Herbal DeWormers
Blood testing https://ubrl.org/how-to-collect-and-ship-1
Link to a great video on FAMACHA Scoring to monitor anemia and worm load in your goats:
Mid America Ag Research has a chemical deworming protocol listed on their website. We have not tried this protocol. We have used herbal deworming. Either way, it is very helpful, easy, and relatively inexpensive to get fecals done through this lab. Just grab fresh poop and mail it off with an ice pack and a check.
Kelly Dellar, Wasilla Lights Farm:
"A deworming & coccidiosis prevention protocol is essential in caring for goats. We have used herbal dewormers & coccidiosis prevention for the past 10 years with good success. With warnings from the veterinary community that chemical dewormers are no longer working due to resistance issues, I think learning about herbal deworming is very beneficial. We currently mix our own powdered herbal dewormer."
Commercially prepared herbal deworming options:
http://www.firmeadowllc.com. Look for DWA (Dworm A) and GI Soother.
Herbal Dose Ball Recipe
(I use this recipe for my deworming herbs)
1/2 Cup Any Herb You Want to Dose
1/4 Cup Slippery Elm Bark Powder (Slippery Elm is available for purchase at the bottom of this page.)
1/4 Cup Molasses or Honey
(Slippery elm bark powder holds it together
and is a wonderful GI soothing herb.
If you don't have Slippery Elm Bark Powder,
you can use flax seed meal or peanut butter.)
Mix herbs together, add molasses or honey. Mix till it forms a ball of dough.
Add additional molasses or honey as needed.
Divide the dough into two equal parts.
Divide each of these two equal parts into 8 equal parts.
Now you will have 16 dose balls,
each containing 1 1/2 teaspoon of herb.
Herbal deworming dosing and usage information can be found on the websites noted above. These three websites also have great information regarding caring for goats. They are worth checking out!
Garlic/Ginger Paste Recipe: Put equal parts fresh ginger root and garlic cloves in a strong blender, like a Vitamix. Just cover with extra virgin olive oil. Blend into a paste. Offer occasionally, mixed with kelp, to supercharge herbal dewormer. Store in refrigerator. Drench some of this if extra parasite fighting power is desired. It helps weaken the parasites and allows the herbs to work better. I only use it occasionally when I think my goats need a little extra punch. Drench this a couple days in a row then give the herbal dewormer.