1 4-H Projects
Dairy goats have become an increasingly important part of the 4-H
program in many states. One of the most impressive qualities of the
dairy goat is that a goat can be handled with equal ease by the
youngest 4-H member to the oldest. This is an advantage over large
livestock species, such as beef and dairy cattle, where adult help in
handling the animal may be needed. Most states require that the 4-H
members provide most of their animal's care in a livestock project,
often as high as 80 Dairy goats are ideal for such a livestock
project, because even young children can handle the care of their
2 Dairy goats require little space in comparison to horses and cows.
Because of this, children with limited space can still participate in a
4-H livestock project by choosing dairy goats. Dairy goat projects may
also be an ideal opportunity for city or suburban children to
participate in a 4-H livestock project, because goats are often
tolerated in neighborhoods where other small livestock, such as pigs
and sheep, are excluded.
3 Goats have the type of personality that make them ideal candidates
for 4-H projects. They are unique among livestock because of their
tendency to become companion animals, as well as livestock in the more
traditional sense of the word. A bond is quickly formed between a child
and a goat, especially when starting with a young animal. Chores are
often more willingly done due to this sense of companionship.
4 The initial investment to start a 4-H dairy goat project does not
need to be large. Kids, even purebreds, are usually within the reach of
even modest budgets. Dairy goats do fine with only a simple shed,
provided they are free from drafts and protected from rain and snow.
Fencing for goats, however, is a special concern. Although fancy
fences are not necessary, fences do need to be tight and high enough
that the goats can not jump out or sneak through between strands
especially on the bottom.
5 Dairy goats can be transported easily in any type of vehicle. Horse
or stock trailers are handy, but goats can be satisfactorily moved in
pickup trucks, station wagons, or even economy cars. Extensive training
and equipment are not needed in order to show goats at 4-H fairs. A
collar is required for the goat; the exhibitor ought to wear clean,
6 A 4-H dairy goat project has a special advantage for younger and
more sensitive children, because it is a breeding project rather than a
market project. Breeding projects usually mature over a period of
years, with the activities of one year blending into the next and long
term goals more important than short term goals. Breeding projects are
more enjoyable for many 4-H members than market projects where the end
goal of the year's effort is to sell an animal for meat, no matter how
strong an attachment for the animal was formed.
7 One goal of 4-H livestock projects is to show a profit at the end
of the project year. Projects involving the dairy goat, with its
efficient conversion of feed to milk, 10-month lactation, and multiple
births, can realistically be expected to show a profit. The milk can be
a welcome supplement to the household food budget and extra milk can be
used to feed calves, pigs, and lambs as a source of income or meat.
8 There are many reasons why dairy goats and 4-H are such a positive
combination. For example, children learn that animals need care every
day and cannot be neglected. Being responsible for the care of goats,
even when the weather is unpleasant or other activities look more
interesting, is a big step toward growing up.
9 4-H dairy goat projects can help children learn how to select
animals. Judging activities, including giving reasons for how animals
were placed, develop the ability to recognize desirable type in dairy
goats and to weigh strong and weak points within an animal and between
10 A 4-H dairy goat project is often the start of the life-long
interest. Participating in the project develops the skills and
discipline necessary to be successful at livestock breeding and
management. Rigorous record keeping is usually required in 4-H dairy
goat projects, including information on income and expenses, animal
pedigrees, breeding and kidding, illnesses and health care, milk
records, kinds and amounts of feed used at different times of the year,
and equipment and housing values and depreciation. Many 4-H record
books require a detailed description of the member's goats, including
their strong and weak points. They may even ask for a rationale for the
bucks used in the breeding program in terms of the buck's ability to
complement the strong points of a doe or correct her weak ones. This
careful attention to detail and analysis of herd management decisions
is an important skill for anyone involved in raising livestock.
11 The objectives of a 4-H livestock project include increased
knowledge and skill in animal selection, breeding, feeding, management,
fitting and showing, marketing, record keeping, and business
transactions. The small space requirements, payback potential,
relatively small initial investments, companionship potential, and ease
of handling and transporting make dairy goats an ideal 4-H livestock project.