Provide good hay, pasture or browse
Although bucks don't need grain or alfalfa, they won't thrive on dried out brown grass hay, and just as does would get sick when fed moldy hay, so will bucks. But what do bucks need beyond a good grass hay or pasture and browse?
Provide loose goat minerals
They need supplemental minerals that they can't get from their environment, which means they should have a free choice, loose mineral mix available. Why can't they get it from their environment? Because goats in nature live in the desert or in mountains, not on the plains or the prairies. They are not naturally grazers. They are browsers, which means they would normally eat small bushes and woody perennials, not grass. Be sure to get a mineral mix that is specifically labeled for goats only -- not sheep and goats. If it is also labeled for sheep, it will not have enough copper in it for goats. And it should be a loose mineral, not a block, because goat tongues are not rough enough to get adequate nutrition from a block in most cases.
Check body condition
|Pegasus, age 6, clipped for show,|
so you can see his body condition is great!
In addition to checking the buck's body condition, you also need to check his eyelids every month to be sure he isn't anemic. The main cause of anemia in goats is an over-abundance of the barber pole worm, which is an intestinal parasite that sucks the goat's blood, making it anemic and eventually killing it. The eyelids should be bright pink or red. If it is light pink or white, the goat is anemic. Treating the goat for intestinal parasites generally remedies the problem. However, a copper deficiency can manifest as anemia, so if the goat does not have a heavy load of parasites, but is anemic, copper deficiency is a possibility.
Pay attention to the buck's coat
|Pegasus, age 3, under weight,|
with a coat showing signs of copper deficiency
Finally, it's important to check your buck's hooves regularly and trim them as needed. This will mean every two to three months for most bucks, but some will need it monthly, and others may only need it once or twice a year. Again, this is not just a cosmetic issue. If hooves get overgrown, they can wind up with hoof rot or other problems, making it difficult for a buck to mount does and get them pregnant.
Every three to four months, we have a buck spa day, which started as simply pedicure day. The goats didn't seem too excited about having their hooves trimmed, so I thought they might like it more if we referred to it as a pedicure. Who doesn't love a pedicure? For the record, it did not appear to change their opinion of the whole thing. Over the years, we realized this was also the perfect time to check eyelids and body condition, as well as give them the supplemental COWP while they're on the milk stand. They eat grain and alfalfa pellets top-dressed with copper while we
What about parasite control?
You may be surprised that routine deworming is not on this list. Regular use of a dewormer was common practice during the 1990s and early 2000s, but recent research has shown that it's a bad idea because it ultimately leads to dewormer resistance, which means that at some point, you are likely to find yourself in a situation where dewormers no longer work. For more information on dewormer resistance, check out this post.
So, if you don't regularly deworm the bucks, what do you do? Check eyelids and body condition, and if a goat is anemic and under-weight, it is advisable to use a dewormer on that goat. For more information on preventing parasite problems, check out this post.
Now, if you're thinking that this seems like a lot of work, don't despair. It really isn't, especially when you consider the fact that a healthy buck can produce dozens of kids in a single year. Wise breeders for decades have known that your bucks are half your herd, even if you only have a few. Be smart, and protect that investment in your herd's future!