Monday, July 29, 2013

July Topic: Introducing New Goats Into a Herd

Here are a few tips for when you bring new goats to your herd.

1.       Quarantine all new goats – Regardless of where your new goats come from, it is a good idea to quarantine them from your other animals for a few weeks. This quarantine period is not only a good time to test the goat for diseases, deworm them, trim hooves, and treat for external parasites, it’s an important time to allow the goat to get acclimated to you and your farm. New goats have to get used to your schedule and personality. They also have to adjust their digestive systems to your feed and to the microbes on your farm. Stress of moving to a new farm can cause a goat to stop eating or have other issues so quarantine time is good for lowering stress levels before introducing the new goats to your herd.

2.       Let them see each other but not touch – After the initial quarantine period and after the new goats are deemed healthy, it is good to move them from isolation into a separate but visible pen/pasture. House the new goats in an area adjacent to the old herd so they can smell and see each other but they can’t physically contact each other. This allows the new goats and old goats to get used to each other without the stress of fighting over new territory and herd status.

3.       Allow your old goats to meet the new ones on neutral turf – Your established herd has a territory that they will defend from intruders. This territory includes existing pens and pastures that they normally have access to. When putting a new goat in with a herd for the first time it is good to put the herd into neutral territory that they don’t normally go to. Put the new goats in a new pasture or pen area and then bring the herd to them.  This will help to limit territorial aggression during the introduction period. Don’t just throw a new goat fresh from traveling into an established group of goats! This will cause a major fight!

4.       Know when to interfere – There will almost always be some fighting when a new goat is introduced. It’s part of a goat’s social herd structure to have a hierarchy and to defend their place in it. Some fighting is to be expected. The fighting can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Usually one goat from the old herd will be the aggressor. This goat feels that their place in the herd is being threatened by the new arrival. Most of the time you should not interfere with the fighting because the new goat needs to establish its place in the herd. The time to interfere is when there is blood/injury, or constant fighting for more than 1 hour and the fighting goats can’t get a break, or very hard fighting where injury is possible.

5.       Remove aggressive goats from the area if there is a fight – It is better to remove the aggressive goat from the fight than to take away the one that is getting beat up. The aggressive goat needs time to calm down and readjust before being put back into the herd. Also once an aggressor is removed from the situation, the other goats will have a chance to meet and greet the new goat without a fight. 

6.       Feed all goats equally – Even if most of the new and old goats are getting along, it is a good idea to be careful at feeding time to make sure that everyone has equal access to the food. Most goat bullying occurs around the feed trough and hay manger. Feed new goats separately if possible. If not possible to separate, then have ample manger and trough space for each goat. Dominant goats are in charge of allowing the subordinate goats to eat. There needs to be enough space at a shared feeding station for the subordinate goats to get away from the dominant ones and have a chance to eat in peace.

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