Raising goats can be fun, rewarding and frustrating – all at the same time, so now you are thinking of getting a pet goat, there are many rules or regulations you will have to comply with here in the UK.
- Keeping a Goat as a Pet
A pet goat is, for most purposes, treated by the authorities no differently from any other farm animal. If you wish to keep a pet goat there are a number of requirements you will have to comply with. These apply even if you only intend to keep 1 goat as a pet (which we do not recommend). The main rules and regulations which apply to the keeper of a goat or goats are as follows:
- Rules relating to the identification of a goat
It is a requirement that each individual goat be identified. Identifying Marjorie the pet goat by her name or taking a photograph of her is not sufficient for the purpose of the regulations! Compliance with the regulations is generally achieved by “double tagging” the goat. Double tagging involves an ear tag being fitted to each of the goat’s ears with a unique 12 digit number for each goat. This will consist of a 6 digit “Herd Mark” (see below) followed by a 6 digit number to identify the individual goat.
Alternatively the goat can be identified using 1 ear tag and a tattoo, 1 ear tag and a pastern mark (a band which is placed around the lower leg of the goat) or by fitting a microchip.
Some times it is necessary to replace ear tags, for example when one has been lost. In such circumstances it is a requirement that you replace the ear tag within 28 days from the date upon which you realised that the ear tag had been lost.
- Rules relating to the land upon which you intend to keep the goat
If you intend to keep a pet goat you will need to obtain a “County Parish Holding (CPH) number”. This is a unique number which identifies the land upon which you intend to keep the goat. A Country Parish Holding number can be obtained from the Rural Payments Agency and must be obtained within 30 days of you acquiring the goat. (There are slightly different rules in Scotland)
- “Herd Marks”
A “Herd Mark” is a unique number identifying a person’s herd of goats. You will need to obtain a herd mark even if your “herd” only consists of a single goat. A herd mark can be obtained from the Animal Health Office.
The herd mark is designed to identify any kids born on a farm. However, one is still needed even if you have no intention of breeding any kids
If you ever need to buy any replacement ear tags you will have to provide your herd mark before you can purchase any replacement ear tags.
- The requirement to keep a “Holding Register”
A Holding Register is a document which all goat keepers are required to keep. It is necessary to keep the Holding Register for 3 years from the date upon which the last animal on the holding (i.e. the land to which the County Parish Holding number relates) dies or leaves the holding. The Holding Register should record the following matters:
All movements to and from the land upon which a goat is kept (i.e. the land to which the County Parish Holding number relates) should be recorded in the Holding Register. This includes trips to and from vets and to and from show grounds. Any movements must be recorded in the Holding Registry within 36 hours of the move.
- An inventory as to the number of animals kept
Even if you only own 1 goat (which we do not recommend) you are required to write the total number of goats kept on the holding on the 1st December of each year.
- Replacement tags
If your goat, for example loses one of its ear tags, and there is the necessity to replace the tag this should be recorded in the Holding Register. The replacement of any ear tags should be recorded within 36 hours on the Holding Register.
If your pet goat dies this must be recorded on the Holding Register within 36 hours of its death.
- The requirement to inform the Local Authority of any movements
When you acquire a pet goat you are required to complete and send to your Local Authority a “Movement Record”. A Movement Record form can be obtained from your Local Authority. It is a standard form known as form AML1. You will need to send the Movement Record to your Local Authority within 3 days of the movement.
If the goat is subsequently moved to or from the land upon which it is kept (i.e. the land to which the County Parish Holding number relates) you will generally be required to report the movement to your Local Authority by completing an additional Movement Record each time the goat is moved.
A copy of any Movement Record must be kept for 3 years.
- Do I have to inform the Local Authority if I take my pet goat to the vets?
You do not have to inform your Local Authority of any movements to and from a veterinary practice. However, you must still record the movement in the Holding Register within 36 hours of the movement.
- The requirement to send an Annual Inventory Form to DEFRA
Each year you will be required to send an “Annual Inventory form” to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) stating how many goats and certain other animals you have. The Annual Inventory form must be sent to DEFRA by 31st December each year.
Certain bodies, such as the Rural Payments Agency and Local Authorities, have the right to inspect the documentation set out above and your pet goat in order to check that the rules relating to the identification and movement of animals have been complied with and to ensure that regard is being taken to the pet goat’s health and welfare.
- Rules relating to the death of a pet goat
It is not permitted to bury or cremate in the open a pet goat. If a pet goat dies it must be taken to or collected by a person or business who has been approved by DEFRA to handle the disposal of a goat.
- Health, welfare, transportation and disease
1) Health and welfare
The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 set out various requirements under which farm animals, which would include a pet goat, must be kept. The regulations cover, amongst other things, the health and feeding of such animals.
The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 sets out rules relating to the transportation of livestock.
3) “Notifiable Diseases”
If you suspect that your pet goat is suffering from a “Notifiable Disease” such as Scrapie or Foot and Mouth Disease you are required to report your suspicions to the “Divisional Veterinary Manager” who is situated at your local Animal Health Office.
Information gathered from Inbrief Animal Law experts her in the UK.
"Do not let all these rules stop you from living your dream of owning goats, these rules are here to guide you and your goat down the correct path. There is nothing more fun and rewarding and sometimes more heartbreaking and difficult, than raising goats. It's hard to be in a bad mood when you're surrounded by these gentle, inquisitive, opinionated little creatures...go on have go-at raising goats"
Goats - Social Behaviour and its effect on Foraging
Goats are social animals and in the feral or free-ranging state they form matriarchal groups (of nannies and young) that can included yearling billies. Typically, these are hefted to an area which includes some dry, sheltered ground.
Billies may be more solitary and are known to wander for several kilometres in search of females in oestrus, but can be found in all-male groups outside rutting period.
Because of their strong rutting behaviour, fecund billies may not be ideal components of nature management schemes, and (feral) castrate billies may be used instead.
Because of the size of our conservational grazing area, and that our stock is constantly checked we can graze billies that are entire, which is an essential part of our Rare Breed Goat conservation scheme.
Goats - Impact on trees and shrubs
Highly effective browsing ability and where woody vegetation is readily available, goats tend to browse for 50-75 % of their feeding time – much more than most other large herbivores.
In addition, goats usually bark strip a range of trees. In upland Oak situations the order of preference is: Holly and Ash, Rowan and Willow, Oak, Hazel, Alder and lastly, Birch; in lowland, a base-rich site, Elder is taken first, followed by Ash, with black thorn, Sycamore and Rose taken in similar quantities. Goats do not willingly bark strip Field Maple or Hawthorn. Bark stripping occurs most in mid-late winter. Pine is also readily taken, particularly during the spring.
Thus goats have the potential to effectively control scrub which is invading grass lands. Goats may browse heather to a much greater extent than sheep.
Here on our farm the extensive area that was covered in gorse bushes has been cleared to almost half in only two years of grazing. Another year or so and we will have nearly 30 acres extra hill grazing.