Friday, March 21, 2014

Beware of Free or Cheap Baby Goats!

It’s kidding season in the Northeast. Goat farms are chock full of baby goats with more on the way. An alarming trend I have noticed around here is the tendency for goat farms to offer 3 day old kids for sale for very cheap or for free. 

First of all, this is alarming because it floods the market with baby goats which cuts the supply of quality homes. If all the people who are prepared to raise goats get free or cheap babies, then the number of homes available for older animals will be reduced. 

Second, raising a 3 day old baby goat is hard work. Unless you have fresh goat milk available, it can be very hard to keep a kid healthy on milk replacer or cow milk. Selling cheap goats or giving them away increases the likelihood that people who are unprepared to bottle-raise a baby goat will be encouraged to get them. Baby goats are really cute but they take a lot of time and dedication to grow into healthy adults. Bottle-raising is a major time and money investment and it does require a lot of knowledge on goat physiology to get it right. Baby goats are delicate and it can be easy to kill them by accident if you don’t understand or underestimate their needs. 

Third, cute baby goats grow up into adult goats! Adult goats are not as cute, eat a lot, require a lot of space, and can have annoying habits. A baby goat can live happily in your livingroom or garage. An adult goat will not be happy in your house or ¼ acre backyard (without a lot of work on your part). Adult goats eat a lot of food and need high quality pasture and/or hay available at all times in order to stay healthy, which requires both land and hay storage space. Goats also require specific minerals and supplements. Goats need parasite management. Goats need social interaction and training. All of this stuff takes time and dedication (not to mention MONEY!). Baby goats are a long-term investment. 

Fourth, cheap or free baby goats have a high chance of being poorer quality and less healthy. It doesn’t make economic sense to undersell or give away animals that you have invested time and money into in order to make them high quality and healthy. I know a lot of goat dairy farms tend to sell of their kids as soon as possible so they don’t have to use their milk for feeding unneeded kids when their milk can be used to make a profit in cheese or other products. But this method doesn’t make sense because they could also make a profit by selling their kids. This causes a problem because the more expensive and better quality animals will wind up culled for meat or neglected when they really should be the ones used for breeding to better the genetics of the goat population. All the cheap, lesser quality animals will get homes and be used for breeding and goat genetics as a whole will suffer.

In conclusion, getting a baby goat is a decision that should not be taken lightly, no matter how many cute babies are available. If you do decide that a goat would be a good addition to your farm, be sure to research the genetics and health of the babies available. Make the decision based on quality and not price. Remember that baby goats require time, energy, and money to grow into healthy, productive adults so be prepared for that before you get your goat.

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