Goats have a reputation for being tough creatures who can survive anywhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. If they are in their natural habitat and roaming freely in an environment that suits them, they will be alright, but when kepts as pets or in any domestic situation, there are many hazards. Goats are escape artists, make sure they don’t get tangled up in the fencing. An ill-judged leap or scramble through a gap and a broken leg is the likely outcome.
If your goat is a milker one of the ever present dangers is if she gets caught up in a fence, if she tears her udder it will be a nightmare situation to deal with, you will still have to milk her even though she has had to be stitched up. If you don’t milk her she’ll get mastitis. No matter how small a cut it must not be neglected.
Poisoning is another big danger for goats, it may be that in the wild they develop a sixth sense of what to eat and what not – but they certainly lose this when they are kept in a backyard or on a smallholding. Rhodendron leaves are the worst killer, they are appetising to goats and eating them almost always proves fatal. The vet will try to save the goat and giving powdered charcoal may help, but the outcome is almost a foregone conclusion. There are many other plants that are poisonous to goats – rhubarb leaves are very toxic, privet is too, laburnum. the seeds and leaves are deadly and yew is killer also. There are many more dangerous plants, these are some of the most commonly found poisons and the only way to safety is to keep your goats well away from them. If a goat eats any of them, call the vet immediately. Strangely enough, we have seen goats eating nightshade and also ragwort with no apparent ill effects.
Check the hedges to see if there is anything poisonous growing in there that Miss Goat might fancy for a light snack. Going round the fields and any land the goats have access to is the only sure way to keep them safe. Goats love to roam, is there anything on your neighbour’s land that can harm them? You need super fencing to keep them in if that is the case.
The goat shed can be another hazardous place for the mischievous and inquisitive goat. Watch out for protruding nails or small gaps they can get their feet stuck in. Remove all collars when the goats are indoors – you don’t want a hanging and if there is something they can hook themselves up on, they will do. For the same reason, hay nets should never be used for feeding goats. They paw at them and get their foot stuck, if it twists round, the circulation will be stopped and if you don’t find her in time, she’ll lose her limb. A safe and specially designed hay rack is the only way to provide forage for the goats.
Pick up all the bits of string, baler twine and plastic bags, if a goat eats any of these she will die. You probably won’t know what’s wrong with her, the goat will stop eating and have tummy ache and nothing works – it’s only at the autopsy stage that the problem is found. This is the same for horses and any other animals.
Keep all drinking buckets and tubs spotlessly clean, especially in summer. When sunlight shines on water the result is green algae – this is toxic and makes animals ill, it can even cause death. Check the drinking troughs and keep animals away from stagnant ponds. If they venture into the water it will make them ill, although this is more likely with dogs and horses, the fussy goat doesn’t usually like getting her hooves wet.
When they are outside goats are vulnerable to dog attacks. They have little defence from a determined and aggressive dog. We’ve seen horrific injuries caused by dog attacks so make sure the paddocks are safely fenced and check on the goats regularly. It’s usually the dogs who aren’t used to farm animals who cause the trouble. Some dog owners think their pet is playing with the goats and don’t know what all the fuss is about. The poor goat doesn’t see it like that. If she’s in kid, she is likely to have a miscarriage if she’s been chased. All dogs should be kept on a lead near farm animals, but this rarely happens.
Foxes attack young animals mostly, we have never seen them chasing adult goats. They will definitely take a kid though, just as they take lambs. It’s a food source for them, heartbreaking for us when the sweetest spotted nanny kid has been grabbed. The only solution is to never let mums and newborns out where Mr.Fox is likely to roam. Our kids stay close to quarters until they are well grown.
Goats mostly stay fit and well and out of danger – but it’s obviously sensible to be aware of what could happen just to make sure.