Routine Health Care for Goats

Apart from fencing, feeding and watering; there are a range of other routine things you need to do when keeping goats; whether a single animal right through to large herds. Here are some of those tasks. 



Hoof Care

Hoof care frequency may vary depending on the type of surface goats are exposed to. For example, if they live on hilly or rocky land (or on crushed limestone) they will require less foot trimming then those goats that live on smoother areas (or on soft bedding). The horny external layer of the goats hoof must be trimmed periodically. Foot trimming may begin when kids are a month old, and repeat from every 6 weeks to every 3 months, depending on each animal (some animals hooves grow faster than others). There are several tools for trimming which vary depending on the method used. Simple tools that can be used are: a jackknife, pruning shears, roofing knife and goat-hoof trimmers (often called “foot rot shears”). For light trimming and defined finish, a Surform is suggested.



Disbudding is thought by some to be an inhumane process, but it is generally safer for all concerned if horns are not allowed to grow. Partially or fully grown horns can cause injury to other goats, their handlers and also to the goat itself. Even if the goat is extremely friendly and easy to handle there is a chance that it may accidentally injure other members of the group or accidentally gore a handler. Horns can also get caught in gates and fences and cause injury to the goat itself. The process consists of burning the horn buds off a kids head when it is from 3 to 7 days old; it involves the cauterization and nerve supply to the horn bud before it really begins to grow. The most common method for disbudding is with an electric disbudding iron. Disbudding can be a very dangerous and life threatening practice, however, if the procedure is done properly before the kid’s nervous system has entirely matured, it can be an easy and harmless procedure, as well as a quicker healing process.



This process refers to the removal of grown or growing horns in an older goat. A goats horns have a very good blood and nerve supply so removing them once they are grown is not a good thing to do unless absolutely necessary. The horns are an integral part of the goat’s skull, and when removed the risk of infection is extremely high. If this process has to be carried out it is best to done by a qualified and experienced veterinarian who will carry out the procedure under anaesthetic.



Tattoos are used as positive means of identification for a goat. Many breed societies insist that a goat is tattooed before it can be registered in their stud book. Tattoos are normally applied soon after birth to ensure lifelong identification. Depending on the breed, they can be applied to the goat’s ears or if they are a breed with very small ears the tattoo can be applied to the tail web area. Tattoo symbols are normally split up into a herd identifier (which remains the same for all kids born on that property) and then a specific animal identifier, which identifies the year of birth followed by a sequential number that identifies the particular animal. Often the herd tattoo is placed on the goat’s right ear, while the individual identifier tattoo is placed on the animals left ear.

Tattooing can be carried out by the herd owner and is a fairly straight forward process as long as the appropriate equipment is available.

The procedure is summarised below:

  • The animal is appropriately restrained
  • The area for tattooing is cleansed with alcohol to remove any dirt and grease
  • The tattoo pliers are loaded up with the appropriate symbols
  • Tattoo ink is smeared over the appropriate area. Green ink is a popular choice as it shows up well
  • Make the tattoo by firmly closing the pliers in the appropriate area
  • Release the pliers and immediately rub the area for around 15 seconds to ensure penetration of the ink
  • Leave the area to heal, which may take 10-15 days



Routine vaccinations are an important part of the management of a flock of goats. Vaccinations will protect against disease and ensure the flock remains healthy. The most important vaccinations given prevent against Clostridial bacteria, in particular enterotoxaemia (Pulpy Kidney Disease) and additionally tetanus. The table below summarises vaccines available, identifies the disease that it protects against as well as giving guidance on when the vaccinations are best administered. Most vaccinations are administered subcutaneously (under the skin) so can be given by the herd owner if they are confident to do so. Care should be taken to adhere to any withdrawal periods for milk and meat after vaccinating.



Gastro-intestinal parasites (worms) are one of the most significant health problem affecting goats. Goats are affected mostly by the family of strongyles or round worms. In warm, moist climates, the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) can also cause problems. Effective parasite control will involve a variety of management practices as well as the use of appropriate anthelmintics (de-worming drugs).



Grooming and Hair Care

Goats are generally very clean animals and do not require a lot of grooming. Routine grooming will help to increase the goats confidence in being handled and will allow the owner to check the state of the animals health and body condition.

Grooming or brushing will help to scurf and loose hair from the animals coat and will help to promote circulation to the skin. It can also prevent infestation from lice and other endo-parasites.

Brushing is carried out in the direction of the coat growth and it is best to start from the top of the animal and work down and back so scurf and loose hair is not brushed onto areas that have already been cleaned. A firm bristled brush particularly designed for small livestock is the ideal thing to use for this.

Occasionally bathing the goat can again help to promote good skin and coat health. The goat should be bathed with warm water and an appropriate livestock shampoo. It is not a good idea to bath in cold weather.

Clipping can be carried out if necessary on an annual basis. This helps to keep the goat cooler and will also help to prevent lice and the buildup of dirt. Common places to clip are around the goats back end particularly before kidding to ensure the area is clean and germ free and also around the udder and under the belly, which helps to prevent contamination of milk with hair and dirt.

Long coated goats who are kept for fleece production are generally clipped twice a year (towards the end of summer and the end of winter), all over their bodies. This is carried out to make sure that the hair is kept as clean and tangle free as possible resulting in high quality hair fibre for selling on.


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