Finding the Right Goat Mentor
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Having a goat mentor can be a lifesaver for you and your flock as you begin raising goats. Getting timely answers and comparing notes with another goat keeper is a great learning method. But, how do you know who to go to with your questions and concerns? What is the most time-sensitive approach in a goat emergency, and what should you do?
Let’s assume you have done a fair amount of research before bringing home the new goats. At the very least, you have a purpose in mind for the new arrivals. Are you keeping goats for dairy production, fiber, to sell kids, as a meat source, or as pets? Will you be breeding your does? The answers to these questions will help you narrow down who to approach for mentorship. You will want to talk with a goat mentor who is doing or has done what you are attempting with your goats.
You can find answers regarding health, property, kidding issues, and milk production through veterinary teaching universities, your local livestock or farm vet, and the county agriculture extension agents. While these people may not turn out to be the personal goat mentor you were hoping to find, they are good resources for questions and concerns as you navigate the new goat world.
Local Goat Mentors
The person who sold you the goats should be a good source of information and assistance. When we first began to keep goats, I was very happy with how the breeder made herself available for my questions. Other goat keepers, previous goat keepers, 4-H clubs, and local breed organizations can all be a source of information. Reaching out to local organizations is also a great way to get your name out if you hope to make some farm income from your goat herd.
Attending local and state fairs, breed shows, and agricultural forums may lead you to a goat mentor. Keep in mind that you are looking for someone who will take your phone calls or receive text messages. Being respectful of your mentor’s time is important. Most people want to be helpful and encouraging but are also juggling their homesteads or farms and off-farm work and family responsibilities.
How to Ask the Right Questions of Your Goat Mentor
Hopefully, you connect with someone willing to help you. How do you know when to contact your mentor?
If I were your mentor, I would expect to receive calls anytime you felt undecided about a situation. If the situation is not life or death, perhaps a text message that I can answer later is appropriate. If your doe was kidding and you thought something might be wrong, I would certainly understand a phone call!
When choosing a goat mentor, look for someone with a similar goal. If raising fiber goats, discussing thoughts with another Pygora, Angora, or Cashmere goat owner would be better than someone running a dairy goat operation. While all goats are goats, there are management differences based on their main purpose. This is particularly true when getting advice on feed. If you raise goats for meat, your goals are different from those of a dairy goat farmer. Each type of goat keeper is feeding for optimal results. Does kept for milking require higher protein and more calories per Kg than goats kept for clearing brush from properties.
Another concern about feed recommendations is considering what is consistently available to you locally. If your mentor uses brand X, but it isn’t available easily for you, you will be likely to run out and have to substitute. Feeding a ration consistently is easier on the digestive tract. Use your common sense. Any ration that meets the standard requirements using wholesome ingredients will be fine. Ask local goat keepers what they feed for the different goals of goat keeping. You won’t be feeding your pet Pygmy goats the same ration as the local goat dairy farmer.
Be honest when describing problems, illness symptoms, fears, and concerns. If you saw signs of illness but didn’t recognize them as a problem, telling a mentor you just noticed these is not helpful. Often treatment or procedure will vary based on the longevity of symptoms
The internet is flush with groups set up to help fellow goat keepers. There is a group for almost any caprine caper you can dream up. It can be fun to discuss goat treatments, training, health preventatives, and milk yields with goat owners worldwide. The broader perspective found in online goat help groups can also be overwhelming. My best words of advice with online mentorship groups are to be discerning.
Here are some questions to ask before seeking advice from someone who doesn’t know your goat or your property.
- What kind of goats does the person raise?
- Where are they farming? Is their climate similar to yours?
- How many times have they encountered a similar situation to your question?
- What does your gut tell you? Does the information fit with other facts you have learned?
If it doesn’t feel right to you, move on. There are more than a few methods of goat keeping available. The person from the internet might have the best intentions but does not have a full picture of the situation you are dealing with. Most likely, you will find a blend of tips and facts that work well for your herd.
Most of us who keep goats will tell you that fellow goat keepers want to help you and your herd. There is a learning curve with any livestock pursuit, and there are sad days and, thankfully, many more joyful days ahead. Before long, you will find yourself sharing advice or relating a situation that you experienced. The beautiful part of mentoring is that it creates new mentors. That is how we make goat keeping and agricultural pursuits, in general, better for the next generation.
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.