Goats are herd animals and so prefer to be housed in groups (at least two individuals to provide each other with companionship). A dry building is required for shelter, as goats do not have waterproof coats, because they originate from arid climates.
There should be sufficient height for the goat to stand upright on its hind legs with its neck outstretched. If housed in groups a minimum of 2-4m2 per goat of floor space is required. However, more than this may be needed to avoid bullying.
Goats must have access to a clean and dry lying area at all times. Plenty of suitable bedding (e.g. straw) should be provided and concrete floors are ideal.
Good ventilation is essential but drafts at floor level where the goats lie down should be avoided. Natural lighting should be provided but all windows must be protected from goat damage.
Make sure that all electrical wires and fittings are well protected and out of reach of the goats, there are no sharp edges/projections that may cause injury and no toxic paint or wood preservatives are used.
Exercise and Enrichment
An outdoor exercise area is required and ideally should include an area at least three to four times the size of indoor pen made of concrete or another hard surface that does not retain moisture. Goats may also be turned out to graze in a paddock during the day, ideally with free access to the permanent housing. Alternatively provision of a field shelter is adequate.
All outside areas must be well fenced to prevent escape. Fences need to be at least 1.2m high and any gate fastenings must also be goat-proof.
Goats have an inquisitive nature and are easily bored, so providing some form of environmental enrichment is advised. For example a platform or climbing frame to clamber on is ideal.
Goats are hierarchical and quickly establish a pecking order. Where possible groups should be kept stable since constant mixing can lead to stress and fighting. Horned and polled goats should not be kept together to avoid bullying.
Forage (e.g. hay) should make up at least 50% (dry weight) of a goat's diet.
Hay racks should be placed at head height to avoid hay becoming contaminated and a lid is preferable to stop hay being pulled out of the top or goats falling in! Fresh greens or grazing / browsing should supplement the diet but be careful to prevent access to poisonous plants such as bracken or rhododendron.
Protein should account for roughly 10% of an adult goat’s diet and can be provided, combined with necessary vitamins and minerals, in the form of a commercial goat pellet. Be careful not to overfeed concentrates as this can lead to health problems such as bloat, acidosis, laminitis and obesity.
There must be enough trough space/feeding stations to allow all goats to feed at the same time to avoid competition and bullying. Avoid any sudden changes to the diet and introduce any new foods gradually, over weeks, to allow the goat’s rumen to adapt.
A constant supply of clean fresh water should be provided in buckets or troughs. Milking animals will consume more water than non-productive goats.
Food must be stored properly to protect it from damp, contamination and vermin. Buckets/troughs and hay racks must be checked, changed and cleaned daily - goats are fastidious and will not eat or drink contaminated food or water.
Male castrated goats need particular attention to ensure they are not overweight as they are predisposed to a condition called urolithiasis, or a ‘blocked bladder’, worsened by being overweight. We often recommend these animals do not receive any grain feeding at all, and receive their vitamins and minerals from other block sources. Please discuss this with a vet if you have at risk animals.
You should examine your goats’ feet four to six times a year and trim them if necessary. Overgrowth of hoof horn can lead to excessive strain on flexor tendons in the foot and accumulation of dirt and grit which can cause trauma and lead to infection. Good regular foot care will help to avoid common foot problems (including white line disease, scald and footrot) which can cause lameness and compromise welfare.
Worming: Gastrointestinal worms are picked up when goats graze or eat from areas contaminated with worm larvae. Once in the gut they develop into adult worms and produce eggs which are passed out in the goat’s faeces. Under the right conditions these eggs hatch on the pasture and are ready to infect further goats. Worm infestations can cause serious illness and even death. All goats are at risk of getting worms. Young goats are particularly susceptible. Older goats that have been previously exposed to worms will develop some immunity, however, this is weak and short-lived (compared to other ruminants) and therefore worm control must be continued throughout a goat’s life.
Worming may be required as often as every 3-4 weeks between spring and autumn. Worms should also be controlled by careful pasture management and testing for the presence of worms; you should discuss an individualised worm control programme with your vet, as this will depend on many factors.
To avoid worms developing resistance to anthelmintics (wormers) you must deliver the correct dose for the weight of the goat (never underdose!) and rotate the type of anthelmintic used. Do seek veterinary advice if you are unsure what dose to give or which wormers to use and discuss regular faecal testing.
Goats should be vaccinated against Clostridium perfringens Type C and D enterotoxaemia, and the tetanus causing organism Clostridium tetani. The sheep 3-in-1 vaccine, such as Lambivac™ is recommended. The initial course includes two vaccinations four to six weeks apart and, since goats do not produce strong immunity following clostridial vaccination, it is advised that they receive a booster minimally every six months following this.
This is a common welfare issue and is not recommended as there is a risk of it becoming tangled and the goat being strangled. If used the tether must be moved at least twice a day and the tethered goat should have access to shelter, food and water.
The most important thing is to know your goats! – check them daily and look out for any early signs of ill health (e.g. subtle changes in behaviour or feeding). If a sick animal is identified seek veterinary help.
Registration, identification & Movement: You must register your goats, for this you require a county parish holding (CPH) number for the land you are keeping them on from the Rural Payments Agency. Identify goats within six months of birth. Apply 2 identifiers (if over 12 months of age) typically ear tags, both with the same unique ID number. Keep records of movements on and off your holding, tag replacements, dates of identification and death, annual count of animals on your holding and report the movement of your animals to other holdings. All movements on and off the property must be recorded through the Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS): .