Goats have been used for milk production for at least 9,000 years, but in New Zealand dairy goats are a relatively recent introduction.
According to the NZ Dairy Goat Breeders Association website, when goats have sore feet they will not eat properly and can lose vigour.
The association recommends that at six-weekly intervals, use shears and a sharp knife to trim the sidewalls of the claws and sole. Put a glove on the hand holding the foot as protection in case the shears or knife slip.
Trim after rain or after the goat has walked through wet grass, or after scrubbing the hoof with a nail brush and warm water; the hoof will then be softer to cut.
You can cut safely until pink starts to shine through the white of the trimmed part; this shows you are getting near the ‘quick’, which will bleed if you cut deeper.
This does not show as easily on black-hoofed goats, which usually have softer feet anyway, so go easy on them.
Start on a front foot, and then move on to the back ones; the goat is less likely to play up.
If the goat kicks very hard with her back foot, pick it up by putting your hand tightly round the hamstring above the hock, then run your other hand down to the foot, take up your usual grip and get cutting.
The hamstring grip immobilises the muscles of the lower leg long enough for you to get a firm grip without hurting the goat, and once she realises you have her she will behave better.
Watch out for diseases
A new goat herd owner must first think about what to do if a goat is not well, goat breeders say.
According to the NZ Dairy Goat Breeders Association, “it is important to have found a compassionate vet who is interested in goats before illness strikes.
“The normal body temperature of a goat is 39.5 degrees so it pays to have a thermometer in your first aid kit.”
It also warns about diseases that can affect goats in NZ: Johne’s disease and caprine arthritis encephalytis (CAE).
“If a goat displays signs of these diseases it can be very distressing for the owner, especially as they may not show up for some time, but will affect the goat’s general health and wellbeing, and its capacity to breed and produce milk.
“When you are buying a goat, it is important to get a guarantee from the vendor that the goat has disease-free status. If you can, you should get it vet checked before you buy. A blood test can indicate whether or not the goat is free of disease.”