Our New Goat Keeper’s Guide. No kidding.


New to the world of goats? No worries—your interest in them is already a positive sign! We’re not professors, but Alexia and I have a decade of goat experience we’d like to share.

So, what do these fascinating creatures need, eat, and do? While you could go all out and construct a lavish goat hotel, their needs are quite simple: safety and comfort are paramount. Nigerian Dwarf goats, for instance, aren’t fans of rain; even a few drops can send them scurrying back to the kraal. The veld goats are not too worried about getting a little damp, or so they try to convince us. Providing a shelter with a sturdy roof is essential, offering protection from rain, chilly winds, and the scorching summer sun. While grazing, they’ll seek shade as necessary and may return to the kraal periodically throughout the day. Our shelters, sized at approximately 3×3 meters per ten dwarf goats (or three veld goats), promote a cozy huddling atmosphere, especially during winter months. Newborn kids are remarkably resilient to both hot and cold weather, provided they’ve dried off before facing frosty winds.

Our experience has shown that goats are quite adept at giving birth even on rainy winter nights, typically without issue. Funny enough, in afrikaans there is a term “boklam-weer”, which translates to “goat kid weather”; it’s the absolute worst weather.  Our opinion is that they do this to spite us 🙂
While it’s best not to interfere with the birthing process, being present to offer assistance if needed is perfectly acceptable—and even advisable. Labour can span several hours and may initially be stressful for both the doe and yourself. Grab a chair, watch and learn. If things go weird, you can step in.  Some folks like to call a vet to come around and help, but Alexia learnt to handle these situations herself. You do whatever you are comfortable with. In the end, there are almost never issues.

Maintaining a fresh, cool water supply is crucial, occasionally supplemented with electrolytes or vitamins to support them during extreme weather conditions. Goats are browsers by nature, nibbling on various vegetation as they roam. While they generally avoid toxic plants, it’s wise to monitor and manage their surroundings. Ensuring a nutritious feed is available encourages them to consume the right foods. There’s some things they won’t eat, because they can be fussy. There’s other things they shouldn’t eat (like Kraalbos), but ours never tried. One bite and they walk away. You will have to do some homework on your area, learn about what’s around and enjoy the bonus floral knowledge you will gain about your land.


Remember that keeping your goats happy and healthy, means that they will produce and perform at their best, too. Bred responsibly, from no younger than one year old, they are able to produce twins most of the time. They are good dairy providers, and can even be further bred for dairy conformity. The high butterfat and protein percentage of the milk makes it very suitable for culinary use, cheese-making and drinking (which is also healthier and stays in the human stomach for much shorter than cow milk). While not common, they are formiddable quality meat producers for their size, if this is your inclination. They are alert, protective to the herd and juveniles (up to a point, where they start getting annoyed with them). Keeping them healthy and happy is a matter of feeding them correctly, giving them space and keeping an eye on them. Proper animal husbandry counts for you, here.

The NDG Data Card

  • Lifespan: 9-13 Years, realistically and if well cared for.
  • Milk: 6.5%+ Butterfat, 3.9% Protein
  • Heat Cycle: 18-23 Days + 1-1.5 days of heat
  • Gestation Period: 145-153 days
  • Heartrate: 70-80 bpm
  • Avergae Weight: 35kg
  • Respiratory Rate: 10-20 p/min in adults, 20-40 p/min in juveniles
  • Rectal Temperature: 37.5-39.5 Celsius after 3 minutes reading
  • Size: 48-60cm for bucks, 43-57cm for does

Our feeding approach is straightforward: when goats are introduced to a new area, we keep them confined for a couple of weeks, providing enticing treats daily at the same time. This teaches them that rewards await at day’s end. In the veld, they graze among acacia trees, renosterbos, grasses, and assorted shrubs. Upon returning to the kraal, they’re offered roughage and pellets to maintain optimal health. The pellets are like ice-cream to them. Crushed mielies are extremely popular in the goat kraals, but do limit the intake. Too much is a bad thing.

Ruminants require roughage, which we provide through teff, oat hay, lucerne, and the like, particularly during chilly nights to aid rumination and warmth. Pellets serve as supplementary feed, complementing their diet effectively. While we can’t cater to each goat’s individual preferences, we ensure they’re accustomed to browsing and socializing with the herd. Herd dynamics play a crucial role in their well-being, so we recommend a minimum of three goats for companionship. The more, the merrier! When it comes to training or bonding, bribery can be your ally. Offering pellets by hand encourages friendly interaction and facilitates milking training over time. Initially, some goats may be hesitant to affection, but with patience and gentle handling, they’ll soon warm up to it. Ultimately, raising your own kids from day one provides invaluable control and insight into their development.

A fantastic bonus of keeping goats is their remarkable ability to produce copious amounts of manure. This valuable resource can be incorporated into your compost piles, enriching your gardens with nutrient-rich fertilizer. While there are certain vegetables goats should avoid, such as nightshades like tomatoes and brinjals, they can safely consume most other varieties, including brassicas in moderation. At our farm, we utilize goats to ‘convert’ our kitchen scraps into compost and to tidy up growing areas. After cultivating crops like mielies, sunflowers, or pumpkins, our goats eagerly assist in clearing away leftover vegetation. This cyclical process not only minimizes waste but also contributes to improved soil health, illustrating the ‘interconnectedness’ of goats, feed, food, and soil enrichment. It’s a win-win scenario!

Let’s talk about gardens. It’s a common query we receive, and just like chickens, goats contribute positively by wandering around, leaving their mark. However, if left unchecked, they can wreak havoc on your prized flower beds and vegetable patches. We’ve learned this firsthand, employing chickens to control parasites post-grazing—they certainly get around! My advice is always the same: Protect what you hold dear. We’ve found that fencing off vegetable gardens and shielding trees, especially young saplings, with sturdy fencing rings is the most effective method. It’s better to be safe than sorry. While our Border Collies have been trained to deter them from the house area, goats are cunning and can devise schemes aplenty. They have a penchant for thorny prickly-pears and will consume them without hesitation (it’s actually beneficial for them).

Now, onto temperament. The majority of our goats are gentle, affable creatures. Both our dwarf and veld goats are remarkably docile and quick learners, making them delightful companions. However, like humans, they exhibit varying attitudes, habits, and personalities. Some may be less inclined to socialize with people than others. During rutting season, bucks may emit a stronger scent and display peculiar behaviors (some even amusing), like snorting and hissing while vying for the attention of does in heat. While it’s often a source of amusement for us, it’s worth considering when planning your enclosures. Does may vocalize their greetings upon seeing you, while bucks are more likely to exude… well, a distinct goat odor. It’s something to ponder during your preparations.

In our experience, out of the many bucks we’ve had—five specifically selected for their genetic traits—only one proved to be aggressive and unpleasant. It turns out he was allowed to dominate and climb on to humans from an early age and once he matured alongside does in heat – his behavior was unpleasant. He was promptly sold to an informed buyer. While such instances are rare, it’s crucial to manage your herd responsibly, ensuring they breed safely and lead fulfilling lives, irrespective of their role as a pet, worker, milker, or companion. You have the flexibility to decide whether to sell, exchange, or retain kids, and even opt to castrate bucks if necessary.

Horns? This topic could become frustrating. Many believe the horns are a danger to the goats and children. Naturally, these goats have horns and we allow them to keep them. Removing horns could be risky for the goat, affects the psychology and how other goats react and communicate (as it does with dog’s tails), not to mention other aspects (health wise). Furthermore, a goat will only touch its horns to something if it intends to do so. They are acutely aware of their horns and dimensions, and will not accidentally damage the paint-job on your Harley unless they intended to do that. In the end, the choice is yours to action responsibly and safely at the correct age. We do not support debudding, or breeding horns out genetically as this is not a part of the natural nigerian dwarf goat, and may highlight issues that should be adjusted in the goat’s environment. Is it the right animal for you, your property and did you consider everything from kid to old buck age?

Hopefully, this article helped to kindle some thoughts, and provide a better idea of what to expect, what you can gain or risk. It may very not be what you wanted to hear, but this comes from our experience and that of our fellow breeders.
We’re here to support you along your goat adventure. Feel free to reach out via email or check out our video channel for further insights.

Wishing you a successful and fulfilling journey with your goats.

Warm regards,
Marlon & Alexia