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The dairy goat's popularity continues to increase rapidly as more people discover the dairy goat's appeal, utility and productiveness.

A goat's life span is eight to twelve years, and dairy goats have a strong herd instinct and prefer the companionship of at least one other goat.

Some of the basics to know about the care and management of dairy goats are:


Cleanliness is of extreme importance. All equipment and milking area must be kept very clean.

Cooling is critical to milk flavour and quality. All milk contains bacteria, some of which comes from the air and the utensils. If milk remains warm for a short period, the bacteria begin to multiply and the quality of milk deteriorates. Therefore, cool milk immediately after milking.  

f the milk is to be sold to the public or to a processor, there will be state inspection of the operation just as is required for production of Grade A milk from cows. Check with your local health authorities.

Lactating dairy goats in full lactation should not be left for more than 24 hours without relief by milking.


Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. The digestive systems of a goat allow nearly any organic substance to be broken down and used as nutrients. Contrary to common belief, goats do not eat everything and they certainly don't eat tin cans.

Dairy goats have fastidious eating habits and are particular about the cleanliness of their food. Their natural curiosity may lead them to investigate newly found items by sniffing and nibbling, but they quickly refuse anything that is dirty or distasteful.

Goats do not thrive under the same conditions as sheep and dairy cows as they are a browsing rather than grazing animal. Goats like to graze good pasture but their diet must also contain ample roughage, some concentrates and a supply of bushes, weeds or rough scrub to give variety.

For a dairy goat to milk well and maintain condition you need to feed them well, a dairy goat will not milk and survive well on grass alone! A goat producing four litres of milk per day will need at least 2.5 kg of concentrates per day as well as access to good quality lucerne or clover hay. A good rule is to feed 500 grams of concentrates for every litre of milk produced and 500 grams for maintenance. A crude protein mix of 12 - 14% will give good results.

Kids are milk fed until two to three months of age, but should be consuming forages such as pasture grass or hay by two weeks of age and grain within four. All dairy goats must have fresh clean water and  access to a mineral block.

Goats of all kinds enjoy branches, Some suitable trees are Blackwood wattles and Acacias. Goats really enjoy rose clippings and vegetable scraps. But be aware that Azaleas, Rhododendron, Foxglove, Lilac, Helleborus (Christmas rose) Yew, Laurel, Fuchsia, Poppy, Laburnum, Potato tops, Rhubarb leaves, bulbs, Hydrangea, Oleander, Belladonna, (deadly nightshade) Oleander, Potatoes, Rhubarb and some Gum trees are highly poisonous to goats. If unsure the best idea is do not feed it.

Always remember, when feeding anything new to your goat it should be introduced slowly. Make sure they have a good feed of hay before being turned on to lush feed.


Dairy goats do not have the thick or oily coats of other animals. They need to have access to shelter from the rain, cold winds and intense summer heat. They also like a warm bed at night. The shelter need not be exotic but it must provide these basic elements. Ideally there should be straw litter over the floor (a cement floor is easy to keep clean but it is cold and hard) and the litter should be cleaned or changed regularly to keep the shelter sweet-smelling and disease-free.


Good fences are important. They keep goats in and dogs out. They also keep foraging goats away from your trees and shrubs as well as your neighbour's flower garden.

Goats are very clever and they will quickly learn to escape over the fence or through the smallest gap in the fence. They are much more intelligent than sheep and will keep going back to the same spot. If you teach kids to respect fences you never have any trouble.  You need good latches on your gates as clever goats soon learn to open them.

Your local farm supply can recommend the proper equipment.



Tethering should not be used for goats as they often strangle themselves. Also they at a disadvantage should they be harassed or attacked by dogs or the like. The tether often becomes tangled and prevents access to water or shelter.

Hoof Trimming:

Hooves should be trimmed frequently to assure proper development of the hoof.

How often you trim depends on the type of ground you have; goats that live on rocky, hilly properties will need less foot trimming than goats who live on softer ground. You need a good sharp pair of footrot shears and a small woodworkers rasp is a good investment for smoothing off the soles of the feet.

Demonstrations of hoof trimming are occasionally held in conjunction with some shows. Contact the Secretary or Publicity Officer if you would be interested in attending one of these sessions.

An excellent video demonstrating hoof trimming can be found at this site:   



Dairy goats are usually seasonal breeders. Most breeding occurs in late summer into winter. The goat has a 21 day oestrus cycle and her "season" (when breeding can take place) lasts from a few hours to two or three days. The gestation period is five months. Twins are very common and some does have triplets or quads. A good milking doe will milk for a year after kidding, many will milk longer if they are not mated to a buck again.

Bucks have a strong musk-like odour during breeding season, but are not offensive with proper management. The doe has no odour at any time. Most small herds do not keep a buck and rely on stud services, if available, from other local herds. Most breeders require a vet’s certificate to state that the doe has tested negative to CAE and Johne's Disease before granting access to their bucks. There is a charge for the buck's service. Contact the Secretary or the Publicity Officer for information on breeders offering stud services or see the 'Studs of South Australia' pages.

Only bucks from high quality parents should be kept for breeding purposes and doe kids can be fertile from three months of age so they need to be separated from the buck kids.

Excellent birthing video thanks to Nina Smith:


For the safety of the goat-keeper as well as the other goats in the herd, kids need to disbudded (unless naturally polled) as early as possible but this is better left to an expert unless you know exactly how to do it. Contact an experienced breeder for information or an expert in your area.

Drenching and Vaccination:

A useful fact sheet about the need to keep tetanus vaccination current.

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Caseous lymphadenitis (CLA) is a recurring bacterial disease in goats that causes ab-scesses in lymph nodes in internal organs and under the skin.


Cheesy gland is caused by infection with the bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuber-culosis. The organism occurs in abscesses as well as in the gut and faeces of the goat. It can survive for up to 4 months on the ground and on fences, feed troughs and head bails depending on shelter from wind and sun.

Spread of Infection

The bacteria are abundant in the pus inside abscesses. When these abscesses burst, the pus containing bacteria is transferred to the environment around the goat pens. The infection is then picked up by other goats through contamination of wounds and broken skin. The common behavioural habit amongst goats of frequent licking, as well as of rubbing their heads and necks against fence posts and sheds, allows the rapid spread of cheesy gland. Where goats are kept in small yards, the direct contact and close grazing of contaminated grass or feeds in feed troughs also encourages spread.

Dairy goats that are placed in head bails for milking are particularly prone to being in-fected through splinters around the neck. Contaminated grooming gear can spread the bacteria to other goats.

Once the bacteria enter the goat’s body, they spread in the bloodstream until they become localized in the lymph nodes, organs or subcutaneous tissue.


 Infected lymph nodes grow to become large abscesses ranging in size from an egg to a grapefruit. The contents are thick green/yellow cheese-like pus, hence the common name ‘cheesy gland’.


In individual goats with large abscesses, lance the abscess at the lowest point. Flush out the cavity with disinfectant after the pus has drained. Because pus is the main method of spread, it should be collected and disposed of safely by burying or treating with disinfectant. Once the cavity is clean, infuse with antibiotic cream or ointment to assist recovery.

Personal Hygiene

After handling goats infected with cheesy gland, ensure you take personal hygiene measures, especially if you have cuts and abrasions on your hands or arms. These wounds can become infected, involving lymph nodes, which in turn become tender and swollen.

                                                          Cheesy gland sites


Vaccination is the most effective way to control cheesy gland. The vaccine against cheesy gland is combined with vaccines for other diseases. The three-in-one vaccine protects against cheesy gland, pulpy kidney (entrotoxemia) and tetanus. It is important to give two initial vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart followed by an annual booster for ongoing protection.

See further:  Files\    






HEALTH REGULATIONS                                                                     Back to  CARE & MANAGEMENT   

South Australian authorities impose strict heath regulations concerning two major diseases. These are CAE and Johne's Disease.

What is CAE?

Caprine arthritis/ encephalitis is a disease of goats caused by a lentivirus. This disease is also called chronic arthritis-synovitis, big-knee, viral leukoencephalomyelitis, progressive interstitial pneumonia and caprine retrovirus disease.

It causes chronic arthritis and occasionally progressive interstitial pneumonia or chronic mastitis in adults and leukoencephalomyelitis in young kids. Clinical signs include swelling of the carpal joints and lameness in adults. Other joints become involved as the disease progresses. Kids show nervous signs such as lameness, ataxia, hindlimb placing deficits, hypertonia and hyperreflexia.

The virus is mainly spread between goats through the ingestion of infected milk by kids or adults. Adult goats can also become infected by exposure to infected milk droplets during milking.

The virus can also be spread by respiratory secretions, saliva and tears when goats are kept in close quarters.

Transfer sometimes occurs by exposure to blood on gear such as vaccination needles, tattooing equipment, dehorners or foot/hair shears, or through exposure to open wounds for example, torn ears after ear tagging.

Venereal spread via semen and in utero spread to kids are less likely but can occur.

The virus usually enters a clean property in an infected goat. The goat may or may not be antibody positive for CAE at the time of first blood testing because of the delay between exposure to the virus and the development of antibodies.

 Control programs have been conducted in many countries but CAE is still causing problems in dairy goat populations world-wide.


What is Johne's Disease?

Johne's disease (pronounced "Yo-nees") is a serious wasting disease of goats, which can lead to loss of production and death.

The disease affects animals by causing thickening of the intestinal wall resulting in a reduction in the normal absorption of food. The disease is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium paratuberculosis) that lives mainly in animal intestines, but can also survive in the outside environment for several months.

The disease is seen more often in dairy goats than meat or fibre goats, but all breeds may be infected if they come into contact with the bacterium.

Goats acquire infection at an early age through eating contaminated pasture, or drinking contaminated milk or water.

The signs of disease develop slowly and the disease is rarely seen in young animals. Click on "About Dairy Goats' then select 'Johne's Disease' from the articles.
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South Australian Health Schemes:

1.MASSA   ( Market Assurance Scheme of South Australia)

This is a health program, run by the DGSSA Inc committee, for the monitoring of CAE (Caprine Encephalitis) and JD (Johne's Disease) for South Australian members.

All shows held in South Australia require documentation to demonstrate that the goats are tested negative to both of these Diseases. All Sales and Purchases of dairy goats should have a current health certificate to say that the goats for sale and the WHOLE herd test negative.

Rules are slowly being introduced throughout Australia to say that unless on a Heath Scheme animals cannot be sold, purchased or shown or they have been tested negative within the past 90 days. This is on the NLIS forms.

Our scheme has been acknowledged  by PIRSA (Primary Industry and Resources S.A.).

It makes showing and selling easier. If you are a member of MASSA, only one piece of paper, saying your animals have been tested negative, is needed to accompany your entries or sales. NLIS require other paper work to accompany any sales whether that be to local, interstate or overseas export.

If you are not on our scheme your will need to produce and forward, with your entries or sales, at least 2 years of whole herd negative testing for your goats and any other goats or stock introduced to your property.

 It is very simple to become a member of MASSA. Simply apply to the committee, present the one or two recent negative test for both CAE & JD, plus a map of your property to say where your goats are kept in relation to other stock etc. (see 'Forms You May Need' in the main menu)

For continuation, conduct an annual negative test for both diseases for a couple of years, then you may be eligible for bi-annual testing. You are required to have a stock movement list as well to state if goats have been sold, introduced, shown or taken out to a service.  (again, see 'Forms You May Need' in the main menu) The Branch does impose a small fee to cover processing costs.


2. MAP   (Market Assurance Program for Johne's Disease)

This is an Australia-wide program for the monitoring of JD only. This is for many species of stock such as cattle, sheep, deer and Alpacas.

 The blood test must be taken by an approved Vet and the management authority will also impose their fees to monitor this scheme.

For more information see:



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