Our kids are dam-raised and receive plenty of human interaction, and our does are very people-friendly. We feel this gives them the best opportunities to be well-socialized with both goats and humans. Kids are usually weaned and ready to go to their new home at about 8 - 12 weeks old. All of our kids start off with their dams, as we believe this gives them the best start for a long, happy, productive life. We try to teach all of our kids to take a bottle at a young age, just in case and it also makes separating moms and kids for milking much less stressful on everybody! So we can usually send kids home early at age 3-4 weeks to homes ready and able to take on the responsibilities of raising bottle babies.
We believe very firmly disbudding is important for the safety and welfare of both the goat and goat-owners. Therefore, we do not sell goats with horns, nor place our goats in situations where they will share the same housing and pens as horned goats (separate is fine though). We tried it, and after witnessing what can happen on our own farm in addition to talking to others who have also tried it, we feel it is unsafe and potentially cruel to keep a goat without horns with those that do. Non-horned goats just cannot defend themselves adequately from their horned companions.
Because we have the capability to do so, and we feel it offers maximum benefit to the kid, we perform disbuddings under full sedation. While we believe disbudding can absolutely be done humanely without use of sedation, we strive to offer the best we can to our animals. We will gladly offer resources to those wishing to either learn to disbud their own animals or have it done for them.
We use banding for castration, and band at about 6 weeks on Nigerian Dwarf kids. Nigerians are sexually mature much earlier than larger breeds. Not only is the urethra developed enough by that time, but giventhe large number of bucks who succumb to urinary calculi, we feel appropriate diet is the most important aspect in preventing this terrible problem. Interestingly, we found sedating was not optimal for pain and stress management with banding. We found kids were less stressed, and had shorter duration and milder pain using only pain control medication versus pain control meds and sedation. Our protocol now is to use pain control medication the day of, and sometimes the next day. We have little or no crying, significantly lower levels of discomfort, little reduction in feed intake, and faster recovery (most are back to normal in 24-36 hours). If you will be raising any babies, please talk to your veterinarian about pain control options for banding. It has made a substantial and positive difference for our animals.
We feed the best quality hay we can get. Our does get dairy-quality alfalfa and good quality mixed grass hay, with pregnant and lactating does getting more alfalfa, plus grain on the milking stand. Bucks get primarily grass hay, with a small amount of alfalfa to maintain condition and appropriate mineral balance, trace mineral/selenium salt blocks, and specially formulated loose minerals. We rarely need to give anything else to our bucks, and our kids rarely, if ever, need grain. On the rare occasion a buck gets very thin during rut, we will give a pelleted feed formulated with the correct mineral balance for goats and his diet. Our goats have fresh, clean water at all times. Adequate water intake is a very important part of goat management and prevention of so many problems which often gets overlooked.
In the summer, the herd has access to pasture and browse, but do eat hay year round. All goats have unlimited access to trace mineral/selenium salt blocks (the same kind that are for horses), and also receive a specially-blended mineral supplement. We do not copper bolus, feed kelp or BOSS or other daily supplements. In the beginning we did copper bolus but find we no longer need to do so. We strive to truly understand what our goats nutritional needs are, and provide it through their daily diet.
We rarely worm our adult goats. We utilize fecal exams, appropriate husbandry, housing, and pasture management to keep worm loads in check. We sometimes have elevated worm loads (primarily strongyle species) and coccidia with our kids, owing to our cool wet climate. So with our kids, we implement coccidia prevention and periodic worming during times of the year when those issues seem to arise (mid-spring through summer). We are very conscious of the problem of anthelmintic resistance, and are fortunate in that fenbandazole (aka "Safeguard") is effective in our herd. We employ strategies to maintain it's effectiveness for as long as possible, while balancing the overall needs of the individual animal as well the herd.