Grooming Goats for Health and Wellbeing
There are many components to providing proper care for goats. Proper fencing and shelter are vital to goat wellbeing as well as balanced feeding and having a good supply of medications on hand. It doesn't just stop there, however. Caring for goats goes even deeper if you want to have the healthiest animals possible. Something else that should be a part of your care program is grooming.
Grooming a goat is something we should embrace for many reasons. First and foremost, grooming fosters a healthy bond between you and your goats. Since many of them enjoy the feeling of being groomed, having them associate you with that enjoyment will make them more interested in interaction with you. At the same time, grooming gets you well acquainted with your goats. You learn what is normal for them and their bodies and as a result will be quicker to notice when something is not right, such as a decline in health or the presence of parasites. The sooner you find a problem such as this, the quicker it can be addressed and the less likely it is to jeopardize the health of the entire herd, which is all the more reason to get busy grooming every day.
Photo: Fainting Goat Guild
The first task to tackle when it comes to grooming is having the necessary tools. You will want a series of brushes including hard and soft brushes as well as a curry comb. Beards and tails can be tackled with a comb or addressed with clippers as needed. If bathing is part of your plans, you may wish to add a brush for that purpose. Also useful are trimmers for maintaining hooves and a collar and/or grooming stand for securing goats that may have short attention spans or need acclimation to regular grooming.
The foundation of a good grooming is brushing, which is where most of your tools will be used. If your goat is muddy, a hard brush will help break that up. You can then follow with a curry comb to bring dirt to the surface, then brush it away with a soft brush which is used all over to help distribute the skin's natural oils. Bathing isn't something that needs to be done frequently but is useful in the treating of external parasites as needed. Use warm water and goat shampoo for any bathing you feel is necessary.
Clipping is useful for parasite control as well as keeping cool when temperatures rise although long hair should be retained during the cooler months. The exception is show goats which are clipped at various times of year and may then need to be blanketed for warmth depending on your climate and housing. Keep in mind, too, that a freshly bathed goat is easier to clip and that clipping clean hair extends the life of clippers in comparison to dirty hair.
As goats move about and play, their hooves are worn to some extent, but this does not mean that routine trimming should not be part of your grooming plans. Ideally trimming should be done every six to eight weeks by an experienced person. Regular foot checks should be conducted much more frequently to catch issues such as foot rot or sticks and stones that could be lodged in the hoof, causing discomfort. If you notice a foul odor in the hoof, chances are that foot rot is present and veterinary intervention may be necessary.
Establishing good grooming habits will go a long way towards the health of your goats as a whole and is something that should not be overlooked. Since grooming requires physical contact, you get the benefit of growing accustomed to your goats' bodies and are going to notice small changes before they become big changes that threaten overall wellbeing. Always look for lumps, bumps, discharge, and cuts, treating what you find as needed and following up with the vet for those beyond your scope. Since grooming is a positive experience for both you and your goats, chances are you'll both be relaxed, content, and feeling great at the end of the day. You also get the peace of mind that comes with knowing the outcome of routine examinations which is priceless in itself.
What is your goat grooming regimen? How often do you groom and with what tools? Tell us in the comments!