Having unusual pets is a hobby for some people. Some people like to keep wild felines and teacup pigs, while others find it rewarding to keep a pygmy goat as a pet. One thing to remember about keeping goats as pets is that they require a much different approach in contrast to taking care of usual house pets such as dogs, cats, and rabbits. Most small veterinary clinics do not carry specialty for such pets. As an owner, you should know a few basic things about them.
Lifespan and Reproduction
Your pet pygmy goat is expected to live for about 7 to 18 years but most of them can only live up to 12 years. The males are called bucks and the females are does. Their young are called kids. Their fur coating varies in color. From the withers, they can grow around 16 to 24 inches (2 feet) tall. Because they will be kept as pets, it is recommended to have them dehorned by a veterinarian at the age of 7 days. Once they are adults, their hooves have to be trimmed every 2 to 3 months.
Almost all animals experience heat. Heat or the oestrus cycle is a period in which their reproductive instincts and desires peak due to hormonal changes. Oestrus cycles are temporary but reoccurring. Bucks and does will be more drawn to reproducing. Bucks will become more aggressive to other bucks. Bucks become sexually mature earlier than does. Around 9 to 12 weeks, bucks will already search for does. Females, however, take around 3 to 8 months to be sexually mature. If you keep both does and bucks and wish for them not to reproduce, the best way is to have bucks castrated. Surgical castration does not have an age limit but can only be done by a licensed veterinarian.
Kids can be weaned around 8 to 10 weeks, depending on their health. By then, you should start introducing hay and rolled grains slowly. Their rumen will develop the moment they are separated from their mother’s milk supply and are fed with roughages. Do not wean them earlier than 8 weeks as their stomachs are not fully prepared to digest hay.
Diet and Nutrition
Just like cattle, pygmy goats are ruminants. They have 4 stomach compartments in which they store their food. This property enables them to regurgitate chewed food before completely passing it to other stomach compartments to be fully digested. Their diet is composed of grains, forages, and hay. Barley, corn, and milo are grains that are good sources of energy. You can feed them whole, ground and rolled grain on a daily basis but don’t make their diet revolve around one type of food. Always prepare these 3 basic types and let them choose. Forages can be grass, weeds, dandelions, blackberry, wild lettuce, and rabbitbrush. These plants usually grow abundantly outdoors. As for hay, you can feed them with alfalfa, legume and clover hay.
Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals are tremendously important for them. Basic Carbohydrates are their main source of energy, but they should also be fed with fat and starches. This can be sourced from grains. Hay is a good source of protein. Large amounts of calcium and phosphorous are crucial for pregnant and lactating does. Lactating can die of hypocalcemia if they lack extra sources of calcium. To provide your pets with extra calcium, you can mix ground limestone, iodized salt, and steamed bone together and let them eat it during the day. Make sure that the ground limestone is the highest concentration. This special mixture provides iodine, too. For the vitamin intake, make sure that they are getting enough vitamin A and vitamin D. You can secure their adequate intake of vitamin A by feeding them with grains and leafy sources with yellow pigment. This yellow pigment contains high amounts of carotene that is converted to vitamin A by their system. The cheapest way to boost vitamin D in their system is to expose them to sunlight. Morning sunlight, preferably 6 AM to 10 AM is the best because it is not too hot. If you’re living in a cold climate, any time period will do. Their complete nutritional intake is set by the National Pygmy Goat Association.
Lastly, they need to be vaccinated. Once they are healthy, it is important to keep them happy. Give them a companion to play with because they are not solitary creatures.
It is not suitable to keep them inside your home because pygmy goats love to roam free outdoors. Moreover, their waste excretions can be a sanitation problem to your family. They can be hard to train, unlike dogs. Lastly, they have a habit of chewing on non-edible materials such as leather and textile. Therefore, it is a must to keep them outdoors. If you live in an apartment or condominium, you clearly should not get them as pets. They can adapt easily to the climate, but as an owner, you have to build them a special shelter to protect them from extreme heat, rain, hail, and snow. Make sure to stuff their shelter with hay, wood shavings and enough food and water to keep them warm during winter. They also love to frolic around from time to time. Give them something to hop on like a piece of sturdy log and large wooden boxes. Keep them away from cars as they have the habit of jumping on the hood.
If you own a big piece of land and you plan to let them roam to graze for almost the entire day, make sure that the area is secured against predators because goats are very easy preyed. You can do this by enclosing your property with high fences or steel mesh walls.
Some countries, like Germany, require pets to be licensed. In that case, abide by your country’s rules when it comes to keeping pets. Some states even require permits to build stables or any type of animal shelter. They can confiscate your pets and bring them to the local animal shelter if you violated the rules.