I'm looking into goats(a pair of boer goat castrated bucks), and I have the following questions:
What do they eat? How much do they eat? How much hay would it take to get them through the winter?
Goats are mixed feeders, NOT strictly browsers, like most people think. They eat grass, weeds, leaves, bark, shrubs etc. They also enjoy fruit and vegetables. Wethers really dont need any grain if they are just pets, though a handful each per day is a good treat - use a horse grain, that wont get them over fat, but make sure the calcium to phosphorus ratio is 2:1, nothing under that. On the other hand, if you want to grow them out to put in the freezer, I would give them at least a cup each per day of good calf rearer pellets, at least 16% protein but preferably 18 - 20%. As far as hay, they dont need alfalfa, its a waste of money with wethers and can cause problems also. Give them a grassy hay or cereal hay - my favourite is wheaten hay but see what you can get in your area. I generally budget roughly 2 large biscuits of hay per goat (from a small square), if you know roughly how many large biscuits in a bale you can figure out how many you need for winter. Alternatively, I would give them 2kg of hay each per day, if you know how heavy the bales are again you can figure roughly how much you need. You may have to scale these rough figures up or down depending on the size, age and condition of the guys.
What sort of fencing would work for them? Sheep fencing?
yes, sheep fencing (woven wire) is fine, all my goats stay within sheep fencing, I rarely have one get out. I have both horned and dehorned goats, and I only have a stuck head once every few months.
How much water do they need daily? Can I use a cattle water trough?
Yes, you can use a cattle trough, ideally they would have ad lib water available at all times, but if that cant be done, I would water them morning and night, or only once a day is fine too. How much they drink will depend on the weather, hot or cold, how much they eat, what type of things they eat, how much exercise they get etc. If you ever intend to breed, dont use a cattle trough for does and kids, I have seen does birthing, drop kids straight into the trough, and also older kids lose their balance and fall in. Not pretty.
What plants are poisonous to goats?
do a google search on this one, there are plenty of compiled lists that surpass what I can give you off the top of my head. The few that spring to mind immediately are rhododendren, azalea, oleander, but there are many more
How much space does each goat require?
as much as you can give him, but if you are pen feeding really they can live in quite a small space - basically if you were pen feeding, two wethers could live quite happily in a standard horse stall, you'd need to let them out every day or every few days, for a bit of a run around. More space is preferable, but honestly they dont need a huge area.
What are some common health problems? How can I avoid them? How can I treat them organically?
common health problems with wethers - top of the list would be urinary calculi - prevent it by not feeding grain, not feeding alfalfa, and provide them with a stone block (ammonium chloride). Treatment - removal of urethral process or perineal urethrostomy. Bloat and scours from unbalanced diet - prevent by giving plenty of rough hay. Treat bloat by drenching with oil, scours by giving rough ray and electrolytes, probiotics etc. Grass seeds in eyes - leads to pink eye - difficult to prevent - remove grass seed at first notice, lot of the times if you get to it early you dont need to treat with antibiotics, but in advanced cases you do. Pneumonia is another one to consider. Make sure you are up to date on vaccinations for clostridial diseases. De-worm regularly.
Again, do a search, it will be far more comprehensive than I can give you off the top of my head.
If you want to go organic, then so be it. Just dont let the animal suffer just to uphold your organic status. If your organic remedies dont work, bite the bullet and either treat it conventionally or euthanase it.
Any special minerals I'd need to provide? Would a cattle salt block do?
you should be able to get goat minerals, either block or loose. I prefer blocks. Make sure the mix has copper in it - my goat block doesnt so I add a copper block. I also give a calcium block but you shouldnt need that unless you have breeding does. Also for wethers, you should provide a stone block (ammonium chloride)
I have predators. Would a horned goat protect itself?
Depends what your predators are, and how big the goats are. Small predators shouldnt bother them if they are already grown out. If they are still babies you should watch out.
What would prey upon a goat?
I can only tell you what we have here in Australia, and the list includes foxes, wild dogs, wild pigs, birds of prey, crows, occasionally a goanna. Most of the time, predators go for new babies.
What does goat meat go for?
Again, Australian prices etc. We sell wethers between 12 and 16kg carcase weight, and get $3.50/kg and upwards on the domestic market. We also sell cull does and bucks, and larger wethers, on the export market (the meat ends up in the US) and they can be any weight (minimum carcase weight 10kg), they get between $1 and $2.50/kg. But they are just culls. The domestic market wethers get cut up much like lamb, into roasts, chops, mince, cubes, etc. The export culls get sent to US either whole, or cut into a 6 way primal, and once they are in the US the whole carcase is made into bone in cubes.
Can a dairy goat be used for brush control?
Any type of goat can be used for brush control
What else do I have to watch out for?
Thanks, everyone! I'm new and I want to make the best home for goats possible!