Goats in the Garden- December 2008

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I have kept pygmy goats in my garden in Epsom for over twenty years and I must admit that at first I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I started with two female kids that were very difficult to locate as I had decided they must be disbudded. I have since changed my view on that and I now have a small mixed herd. My two females quickly became four as I took the plunge and decided to try my hand at animal husbandry. It was quite a shock to the system as I knew almost nothing about it except what I had gleaned from our booklet and talking to other members. 

For those of you who have never tried it I can tell you, it is a very stressful time, second only to having my own `kids`. However, I lived to tell the tale and twenty years on I am still trying to breed a champion. I now have eight females in my garden, two kids, one goatling and five adults. I borrowed a rather nice male from a friend recently so I am now hoping to have six pregnant goats due to kid at the end of February. In the past I have managed to obtain the services of a man who scans goats and he is able to tell me if my goats are pregnant and how many they are expecting. Unfortunately this year he says he is not coming out my way, which is understandable as this is not exactly farming country.

I will just have to wait and see and keep my fingers crossed for six sets of twins. (Some hope!)

Over the years I have encountered many problems and in this column I will endeavour to pass on information that I hope may be of interest to our numerous back garden members. Also, if you have any problems concerning garden goat keeping that you think I may be able to help with please write or email. I certainly do not have all the answers but I quite often know a man/woman who does.

One of the first problems I encountered was finding a suitable vet. The local vet who looked after my dog was very obliging at first and disbudded my first kids without any problem. However, one of the partners got a bit twitchy and decided they could only deal with domesticated animals and said I would need to go elsewhere. After numerous local phone calls I soon discovered that I would have to look further afield for a vet.

 As I was now into breeding on a small scale it was very important that I had someone to call on should problems arise. I eventually found a vet about 17 miles away so that wasn`t too bad. He admitted that they had not dealt with many pygmy goats but they were willing to have me as a client. So if you are having trouble finding a vet, they are out there, they just take a bit of tracking down and you might need to be prepared to travel. A lot of our members who are back garden goat keepers have a couple of wethers, in which case you might be lucky enough not to need a vet as most of my problems occur during kidding. However, I do think it is important to be registered with a vet, if an emergency occurs then is not the time to be frantically trying to locate one.

I have since changed my vet as the practice decided to deal only with horses.

I now use a practice called Westpoint Veterinary Group, they are farm vets and seem to have practices all over the South of England. They do not have a surgery and all procedures are carried out at your premises, which can be a bit disconcerting when it is a caesarean at 2am. However it does mean you avoid the problem of getting a sick or very pregnant goat into the car in the middle of the night.

By the time our next magazine is due out I will have finished kidding and hopefully I will be able to report that I have numerous bouncing kids, all born during daylight hours and without the help of a vet. Who am I kidding?

Good luck to all of you who are expecting kids, I hope it goes well.

Viv McNeil