Q. I just acquired two baby pygmy goats, I could use some assistance.
A. Anyhow, congrats on your new babies! I navigated to your blog and saw pictures of them. They are very cute. Nigerian/Pygmy crosses are very common and they produce some of the most adorable goats. Your goats definitely have the typical Pygmy Agouti coloring. Nigerian dwarfs have a graceful “deer-like” bodies with a narrow, shaped head. Pygmies have more curves and are stocky with a kitten nose and wideset eyes.
Even though you weren’t prepared for goats, you did great in getting five-month olds. They are young enough to be able to do a decent job of taming. I’m sure things would have been easier if you had planned and done research … but the best learning experience is to just do it! It took me approximately six-months of mind-hurtin’ planning, research and then shopping for goats. Unfortunately, I believe I got my family’s genes of planning everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) like a military invasion…
Q. Which books do you recommend?
I haven’t gone through enough goat books to make a truly informed recommendation. There are bunches out there I would like to look through. However, I believe that Lorrie Boldrick’s “Pygmy Goats: Management & Veterinary Care” might be best for you at this time. It’s a good book that isn’t too basic, but isn’t too advanced either. It will apply just fine to your mixed-breed goats too.
My complaint with that book is that it doesn’t have enough First-Aid care or disease treatments, etc and it isn’t as advanced as I would like it to be but I consulted it a lot when I first got the goats and still do.
Because we have no vet around here that will even consider looking at a goat (the nearest one is a couple hours away) I’m really into doing my own vet care. If you are interested in learning first-aid, disease treatments, etc for goats, let me know. There are more in depth books that can assist you in that.
Q. How can I tame the goats to be friendly?
When I got my goats, they were fairly tame but they weren’t really affectionate. The pygmy came from a large herd so she didn’t get one-on-one attention. And the Nigerian Dwarf actually cringed under my touch. But they were tame. It was just a matter of comforting them in their new home and being away from their mother and gaining their affection. They are little love-bugs now. Like lap-dogs with hooves. And they know about 6 commands and two tricks and working on more.
So, I can’t really speak from experience on taming goats. It’s great that they are eating out of your hand, though! That’s a great step to build on.
From my research and from knowing behavior and characters of goats, I can suggest ideas. I believe they will work, but I can’t say for sure.
How big of a space do you have for them? If it’s pretty roomy, try making the place smaller. Having a smaller space will force them to either make contact with you or be within your vicinity. They can’t get away to the furthest corner or run, run, run and keep running away from you. If they can’t get away from you they will come to trust you a lot sooner.
When you first step into this smaller place they will probably panic and try to go over the fence. So make sure the fences are good so they don’t hurt themselves and just move slowly.
And then, sit down. On the floor if you can. This will bring you to their level, making you less threatening.
Now here is the part where you’d have to read your goats. A lot of goats are different so you’ll just have to go with what you feel is best for the situation.
Try just sitting there and ignoring them. Don’t make eye contact with them. But just sit there and read or drink your coffee or whatever. Try to do this every day for a bit. Maybe some time in the morning and some time in the evening. It might take a while, but they are naturally curious and will start wondering what you are doing there and come around to check you out.
You said they already eat from your hand so when they come up to you, just offer them some food. Grain is good but try other things – grain in excess won’t be good for them and you’ll be feeding them a lot of food to try and gain their trust. Try various “treats” and find out what they like and then keep them handy when you are sitting there. Mine love fruits and vegetables including banana peelings, apple peelings/cores, etc.
Lying on the ground can be less threatening to skittish goats, too, so if you take a blanket with you, and lie on the ground while reading, they might come to be near you.
You have to read your goats to see if one is more open to being friends with you than the other. If you notice one being more curious, work with her a lot more. Most goats are insanely jealous and if you do win one over and get to pet her, the other goat will most likely push for that attention too because it feels like its missing out on something.
Once the goats come up to you, you can start trying to touch them. Just go slowly and speak softly. From then on, only give them a treat if one of them lets you touch her. It may take you quite a while to get them to really trust your touching them—but work at it every day as often as you can. Usually the sitting and sort of ignoring them will really get their curiosity going and they will start coming around you.
You’ll want to try to get them tame soon because sooner or later, you will have to catch them to trim their hoofs (about every month) and you don’t want to have the only time you hold them to be a time of restraint and scary (to them) feet trimming.
They need to learn that good things come from you. Try touching the goats in their favorite spaces – between the shoulder blades, near the armpits. They love their bellies rubbed, but I don’t think your goats will trust you with that right away.
Patience is the key, but if you go for awhile doing the above instructions and it doesn’t appear you’ve achieved any progress, then I would go the next step.
I would keep the goats in their small space and catch one of them. Holding one down is like hanging onto a bucking bronc and the poor thing will cry and cry like she’s being murdered. But just hold her and talk to her. Don’t let her go. Don’t let her think that if she kicks you, she can get away. You have to be firm but gentle and just hold her. Once a goat does something and get her way, she’ll keep doing it. So hang on as long as you can. It’s tough, especially as the goat will do her best to convince you that you have just murdered her.
The point of this is to show her that you touching her isn’t going to kill her. So when you have hold of her, just touch her everywhere. Feet, head, legs, belly, etc. Everywhere! Try to hold her until she calms down. And keep talking and touching. When it seems as though she has settled a bit, let her go. You might have to keep doing this over and over. I did that with my Nigerian Dwarf that shied away from being touched. She wasn’t wild, but she acted like I was going to kill her at first. So I would just hold her until she quieted and now she’s such a love-bug.
I have had success with the holding method with other animals. Sometimes, once they know they won’t die if you touch them, then they will tolerate it then come to love it. It’s all about showing them that they will be okay!
Q. How should I worm and maintain their health?
The D.E. (diatomaceous earth) is a good dewormer. I have used it for my cats. However, some people claim there is a risk to it or that it has no effect at all. I don’t really know what camp to join with on that one. I haven’t done any tests or research.
However, you may want to know there is this product that I personally use for my goats due to the fact that it has been proven. There is some documentation that proves it works. And recently, a friend of mine who has been using the product was told that the goats she has on the herbal stuff is completely free of parasites – whereas the one on chemicals still has traces.
Here’s the info: http://fiascofarm.com/herbs/
By the way, the website Fiasco Farm is a great resource for goats.
It sounds like you are collecting all the info/products that you need, so you are doing great. I had a problem with my goats eating the chicken feed too so I had to build a small box-like thing with a door only the chickens can fit into because I was told that even non-medicated chicken feed is dangerous due to the fact that the high amount of protein builds up in a goats’ body.
Anyhow, I thought you might like to know of a few sites where you can get goat products for cheaper than Hoeggers:
And this other company is not cheaper, but it’s great to have on hand for resources:
By the way, you might want to put on some harnesses on the goats at this age to get them used to it or begin training (if you wish). Younger is always better.