Goats - What ISN'T Normal?

Goats are quirky, but if your goats display these behaviors you need to take a closer look.

Since Goats, What's Normal? talked about some unusual things that are "normal" for goats, I wanted to visit the opposite side of this, and talk about things that aren't normal. These are behaviors that should cause you to stop and take notice.

You'll need to keep an eye on the affected goat, and you might need to call your vet for some of these conditions. I realize that many vets don't work on goats, so you might need to call a goat-owning friend, or do some research online about symptoms and treatment instead. I'm not going to give medical advice; I'm not a vet. Instead, I'm simply pointing out some symptoms to watch out for.

Any kind of behavior that is unusual for your goat calls for a second look. This is why knowing your goat's normal behavior is important. That's your baseline, and that's how you'll know that something is "different". The only way to know what's normal for your goats is to spend time with them and observe them.

A goat's normal vital statistics are:
- Temperature = 102.5 - 104 - This varies depending on the temperature of the goat's surroundings and time of day. It's a good idea to take a second goat's temperature for comparison.
- Pulse rate = 70 - 80 beats per minute
- Respiration = 15 to 30 per minute
- Rumen (stomach) movements = 1 - 1.5 per minute

Goats are quirky, but if your goats display these behaviors you need to take a closer look.

Any goat that won't eat has a problem of some kind. If your goat is nibbling at hay but turns up her nose at grain, she has a problem. A bottle-fed kid that doesn't want a bottle has a problem. Once you've ruled out mouth problems - burrs in the soft tissue, or blood from a tooth or other injury - you'll need to take her temperature and look for additional symptoms. Does she have diarrhea? Is her rumen making normal noise and movements, and how many movements per minute can you detect? This goat probably needs treatment; I'd call the vet or a goat-owning friend for help.

A goat that stands off from the herd, or won't come out of the goat shelter, needs a second look. Sometimes this means an injury - it might hurt to walk, for instance. My goat Wish did this when she had pinkeye because sunshine hurt her eyes.

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If your goat is crying or bawling, there's a problem and it's urgent. She might be scared, being chased by something, stuck in the fence, or in pain. On the other hand, if your normally noisy and friendly goat is quiet and anti-social, you also need to investigate.

Standing with his or her back hunched up is another cause for investigation. There can be several causes: the goat might be cold, or if it's a buck or wether, he might have urinary calculi.

Another sign of urinary calculi is a buck or wether who is unable to urinate. You might notice him straining with no results. I once had a young buckling that strained, cried, and rolled on the ground in pain. If you suspect a urinary blockage, you need to get help for this goat immediately. This can be a life-threatening situation.

Goats are quirky, but if your goats display these behaviors you need to take a closer look.

Goat poop can tell you a lot of things. Normal, healthy goats should produce "berries." Soft, clumpy poop might mean anything from eating a weed the goat wasn't used to, a bit too much grain, or perhaps intestinal worms. It can be hard to tell which goat is the culprit, so keep an eye on the whole herd. Usually this sort of thing doesn't last long, but if it does you should investigate more closely. You can check your goats' gums and/or eyelids to check for a worm infestation; the tissues should be a healthy pink color, not white which would indicate a heavy worm load. Research the famacha worming method for more information.

Watery diarrhea is more serious. It's usually easy to see which goat is affected. Do some sleuthing to figure out what's wrong. This may or may not be caused by coccidiosis; this condition has a certain odor and once you've smelled it, you'll instantly recognize it again.

Anytime you notice your goat acting out of character you should investigate. Hopefully it's nothing serious, but it's better to check out the situation than to be sorry you didn't.

These seven goat behaviors are cause for concern; if one of your goats is acting this way, you must investigate.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. Thank you for this information! We're new goat owners, and learning as we go. I'm visiting for the HomeAcre Hop.

  2. Jennifer, I hope you never come across any of these situations, but it's good to know what to look for. Congratulations on your new goats.

  3. Good tips Kathi...when my previously bottle fed young doe didn't come to me for attention and was lying in the grass I investigated and found her with a fractured leg so glad I followed thru to see.

  4. It would have been pretty easy to think she was just enjoying a nap in the sunshine, Michelle. I'm glad you checked more closely.

  5. These are really great things to know, Kathi. We don't have goats but have goat sitted for friends before. Thanks so much for for sharing with us at Simple Live Thursday; hope to see you again this week.

  6. That's a good point, Angi - goat sitters should know those things too. And goat sitters are hard to find, so your friends are blessed that you are willing to do it!

  7. Great information! You are so knowledgeable.

  8. Always learning, Daisy! We should all be learning something new every day, don't you think? I have a long way to go...

  9. Oh this is so true with goats. Learning to catch problems early can be the difference between a small issue and a life threatening one. I make a habit of visiting my goats a couple times each day. I don't just feed and run. Spend time, know their personalities so you can quickly catch when they are acting "off".
    Great tips Kathi! So glad I saw this on Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop!
    Tracy Lynn

    1. Spending time with your livestock is one of the most important things you can do!

  10. We had a goat for a while that was dumped at some friends and they could not keep her. She was really odd and such a fussy eater despite not being ill. Give her goat food and she's turn up her nose at it but add a crushed sweet biscuit and she'd scoff the lot. Hay in a rack was fine but no way would she eat one speck of hay that dared to touch the ground! #WasteLessWednesday

    1. Despite popular belief, goats really are quite fussy eaters. They all have their own likes and dislikes too. Yours sounds particularly quirky. :-)


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