Raising goats can be a ton of fun – but is there a dark or smelly side to goats, poop, and hygiene? Thankfully, the answer is mostly no! But if you’re a backyard homesteader who’s considering goats, then here is what you need to know about goats, poop, and cleanliness.
Goats, when cared for properly, are generally a smell-free and fun choice of livestock. Their poop should be odor-free enough not to bother your family or the neighbors. And, with minimal regular grooming and upkeep required, they’re truly a delight to have in any backyard homestead.
Okay, so while they’re in milk the upkeep does go up – to however frequently you’re milking them. But even then, they’re so cute and a lot of fun to be around. Even so, let’s dive right into all things goat – so that you know exactly what to expect.
Goats Poop: What It Looks and Smells Like
Usually goat poop doesn’t smell – even if it does get everywhere your goats can. Even so, I wanted to make sure you had a good reference for what regular goat poops look like – including what it looks like for common goat ailments. Because the first time somebody asks if your goats have scours, trust me – you’re going to wonder what it is. Spoiler: it’s goat diarrhea.
So here is what common goat poops look like, smell like, what they’re caused by, and what the most common treatments are. That way, you can get the goat poop back to the usual, non-offensive pellets that they should be.
|Goat Poop Type||Description (Including Smell)||Common Causes||Treatment|
|Pellets||Normal goat poop is small, evenly-shaped pellets or balls. No smell.||None.||None.|
|Pointed Pellets||Pellets develop a point on one or both ends. Usually no smell.||This may be caused by too much protein.||This usually self-resolves.|
|Clumped Pellet Log||The pellets are clumped together in larger balls, though the individual pellets are still visible.||Diet changes, eating too much, or at the start of an illness (including parasites).||Determine and treat the underlying cause. Consider a fecal test.|
|Poop log||The pellets are squished and smashed together. The feces more resemble a dog or human’s poop than goat pellets. Depending on the cause, there may or may not be a smell.||Severe diet change, inadequate hydration via electrolytes, infection, parasites.||Make sure your goats have minerals and electrolytes. Also take the goat’s temperature and determine the underlying cause. Run a fecal test.|
|Goat pudding poop||The goat’s poop more looks like gloppy pudding than pellets. It may have an odd, really bad smell.||Infection, parasites, severe acidosis.||Take the goat’s temperature and determine the underlying cause. Run a fecal test. Keep your goat hydrated (use electrolytes) while you figure things out.|
|Watery Scours||Goat Diarrhea. It usually stinks – and bad.||Infection, parasites, acidosis (diet caused).||Take the goat’s temperature and determine the underlying cause. Run a fecal test. Keep your goat well-hydrated with electrolytes while you figure things out.|
|Goat Kid meconium||Dark, sticky first poops of a kid. Little to no smell.||None.||Only the first few poops should have evidence of meconium. Consult your veterinarian if it continues or is concerning.|
|Goat Kid Poop||Yellow, pasty, pseudo-pellets. Usually no smell.||None.||This is normal. As your kid starts eating foliage, their poops will become more brown and become actual pellets.|
|Goat Kid Yellow Scours||Runny yellow poop. It smells!||Too much milk, also known as a “milk scour.”||For bottle-fed kids, cut back on the milk feeding. For dam-raised kids, milk mom at least once a day. If reducing milk intake doesn’t resolve things, consult your vet.|
|Goat Kid Other Scours||Green, yellow, or dark and foul-smelling scours. This smells horrible!||Infections (usually E. coli, enterotoxemia, coccidosis, salmonella) or parasites.||Keep the kid well-hydrated with milk or electrolytes and consult a veterinarian for a proper treatment regimens.|
While I haven’t seen every type of poop myself yet, I’ve seen a good deal of them. And the ones I haven’t seen? I’ve heard about extensively via chatting with other goat owners and by an insane amount of research into goat feces.
Goat Diarrhea: What Are Goat Scours?
Goat scours is the official term for goat diarrhea. It’s runny, smelly, and can come in all sorts of colors (usually depending on the cause and the goat’s age). The color, smell, and any lumpiness can help you (or your vet) determine the underlying cause, which will help you figure out the proper treatment plan.
How to Clean Up Goat Poop
Goat poop is usually fairly easy to clean up, no matter where it is. Unless your goats have scours, then it may be messier to tidy. But to clean up goat poop, simply rake up the dung and any bedding material that’s been soiled. Then, dispose of it.
As long as our goats appear healthy (with FAMACHA parasitic risk testing included), then I shovel the soiled bedding and poop pellets into my compost pile. If you only have goats, you could just put the litter and pellets directly into your garden (or wherever else you wanted to put fantastic compost). However, since our chickens like to hang out with the goats, I put everything into the compost pile first. I don’t want our plants getting burned by all of that nitrogen-rich chicken poop.
If and when our goats fail their FAMACHA test and/or they don’t appear healthy, then I dispose of their soiled bedding and dung rather than compost it.
How to Get Rid of Goat Poop Smell
Goat poop shouldn’t smell. Normal goat poop, anyway. Goat scours (diarrhea) does smell – and horribly. So if there is a goat poop smell, then there’s an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
So the first thing to do to get rid of the goat smell is to recognize that the smell is an issue – and then diagnose and fix the underlying cause. However, it’ll probably take a few days (or longer) to fix an underlying cause, so in the meantime, let’s clean up the goat poop smell.
Next, clean up all of that soiled, smelly bedding – and dispose of it properly. A “proper” disposal will depend on your area. Some more suburban areas don’t let you put animal feces or manure in your garbage cans, so make sure you’re familiar with your local garbage collection do’s and don’ts. If that’s the case, you may need to bag all of that mess up and take it to the dump yourself.
Could you dispose of the goat poop by composting it? Yes, but it’s generally not recommended. Parasites cause many goats scours. If your composting process can kill the pests, then it could work fine and be safe to use that compost like normal. However, if your composting operation doesn’t wholly kill those parasites, then that’s important to know, too. Spreading that compost in your yard will increase your yard’s parasitic load, which could then impact your herd and other susceptible livestock.
Once the smelly goat bedding has been disposed of properly, put down some stall freshener (or diatomaceous earth). That will help manage the smell, so be sure you use it. Then lay down a new, smell-free layer of clean bedding. You’ll need to keep on top of the smell (and overall bedding cleanliness) for a few days until things resolve.
Can Goats Control When They Poop?
In my mind, this is a several-part question. So let’s break it down.
- Do goats have a way to choose when they poop?
- Could they “hold it” if they chose to?
- Can goats be house trained (or yard-trained) to poop in a single, owner-approved area?
First, let’s look at if goats have a way to choose when they poop. Goats, like other mammals, have an anal sphincter (isn’t that a fun word?). This sphincter opens up when the goat has to poop. Then, it gets small again when the urge to void lessens.
Based on watching my goats poop and my knowledge of anatomy (both goat and human), it looks like they have a small amount of control over that sphincter. But based on their “don’t care about where I poop” attitude, I think it’s safe to say that when they’ve gotta go, they just go.
This leads us to question #2: Could a goat “hold it” if they chose or needed to? I think it’s possible that a goat could hold it if they chose to. But as long as they’re in their pasture, why would they choose to wait to void? They’re going to go ahead and answer nature’s call when it comes.
And that leads us to the final question – could a goat be house-trained? Or at least be trained to void in a specific area of the yard? Maybe. But it would be a lot of work – and it’s something you’d need to start training them from birth.
There’s no realistic way that my goats will learn to poop in a specific spot in my yard. They’re too accustomed to going poop wherever and whenever they want. Maybe if they’d been potty trained since they were kids. Maybe. But that’s why they have a dedicated pasture. That way, they can poop anywhere they want – and it’s not on my patio or the children’s playset.
But if you’re bound and determined to house (or yard) train your goats, then start at it from birth. I imagine it’ll be largely similar to potty-training a lamb – and I’ve got a whole article on how you can house-train a lamb right here.
Do Goats Get Constipated?
Goats who are fed a proper diet don’t usually get constipated. Goats who get too many treats may get constipated, but they’re far more likely to develop other ailments first (like urinary calculi).
It’s easy to think that goats get constipated. After all, some of their symptoms could look like constipation if a human exhibited those same motions. However, a goat’s digestive system is different enough that it’s essential to know that goats don’t suffer constipation on anywhere near as typical a timeline as people do.
Now, as a registered nurse who worked for years in both a pediatric and adult emergency rooms, I could tell you countless stories about abdominal pain and constipation. But let’s save those for another time.
But as a goat owner? Zero constipation issues. If they are low on their goat minerals, then I do notice an increased lumpiness to their poop – but it resolves almost as soon as I refill their mineral feeder.
And as I’ve researched this question online, it really is a common question. So don’t feel bad if you’ve wondered it. It is, after all, all over in the goat Facebook groups and in the forums. It’s asked a ton!
However, based on things I’ve read in forums and various websites, it’s become clear that goat experts’ animals don’t have issues with constipation – because constipation isn’t a common goat issue. Most of the behavior asked about in the various forums is normal goat behavior – or indicative of a different concern. In those cases, it’s usually a urinary problem or a parasite.
But if you’re worried about your goat being constipated? Don’t be. It’s almost never the problem.
Why Goats Pee So Much
Goats pee as often as they need to – and it’s going to depend on how much they drink. And how much they need to drink will depend on the weather, their feed, and if they’re pregnant or nursing. Pregnant, nursing, or being-milked does need to drink more water than other goats.
Then, goats look like they pee so much because they have smaller bladders – so they need to pee to make room for more urine. Plus, it’s more noticeable when goats squat to pee than when some other animals do it.
How to Keep a Goat Pen Dry
The best way to keep a goat pen dry is twofold.
- First, make sure that it’s staying dry and safe from outside elements.
- Second, make sure it’s staying dry and free of urine smells by putting down a thick layer of absorbent bedding. You may also want to use a stall freshener (or diatomaceous earth) to control any extra moisture or smells.
Why does your pen need to stay dry from outside elements? Well, if your goat shack is constantly being hosed down by sprinklers, then it’s going to be wet and smelly. And you’re never going to get that smell under control until you let it dry out some – or, better yet, all the way. Plus, goats don’t like a wet house. At least mine don’t!
Once you’ve made sure that your goat pen is dry, then you can adjust the bedding to control the urine-related dampness and related smells. In my experience, pine shavings work great. I haven’t had a lot of luck with the compressed pine pellets in the shelter itself, but it does work great around the goat house. It’s especially great at sopping up rainfall outside the shack.
A lot of goat owners swear by straw, but I find that it’s not nearly as absorbent at smells as pine shavings are. However, it’s far better than pine shavings for insulation purposes.
So if insulation (mostly for cold, though it’s worked for hot temperatures, too) is your concern, then you may want to combine pine shavings with straw. That has worked great for our goats’ comfort – while also keeping their pen cozy and dry.
Goat Udder Hygiene
Goat udders need to stay clean – especially if you have nursing kids (baby goats) or you’re milking your does. Otherwise, a dirty udder is bound to develop mastitis.
So whether you’re milking or just doing a visual inspection of an udder, here’s what you need to do.
- Encourage your goat to their milker. It’s far easier to inspect and clean them when they aren’t running away from you. Giving them something to munch on while you do this will make the whole experience better – for everyone.
- Clean the udder off with a soapy solution, or a skin-safe cleaning wipe. A damp, slightly soapy paper towel will work in a pinch, too. Then, wash off the soap – or use a damp paper towel to finish cleaning it off.
- Next, inspect the udder and teats for any signs of problems. Problematic signs include dry or chapped skin, irritated skin, cracks, bleeding, or other signs of trauma.
- If you’re milking your goats, go ahead and milk them now as long as they (and their health) allows it.
- Apply udder balm, first aid, and/or a teat spray as needed after milking.
- Continue to watch the udder and teats on a regular basis.
- Let your goat out of the milking stand and watch them go play.
It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated – but it does need to be done regularly. And if there is any damage that will require first aid or care beyond your comfort levels, then please call your veterinarian. They’ll be your most valuable resource in caring for other or more complicated issues.
Goat Hoof Hygiene and Poop
Goat hooves are more like our nails than anything else. And if our nails (or a goat’s hooves) get too long, then it’s problematic. And left unchecked, that problem can spread from “just an overgrown hoof” to joint issues, issues with walking, or worse. So hooves need to be trimmed regularly.
“Regularly” will depend on what your goat enclosure looks like on the inside. If your goat enclosure has a rocky outcrop where your goats play regularly, then you may not need to trim your goats’ hooves as often as someone who has a gorgeous pasture that’s free of rocks. After all, this is how wild goats keep their hooves scraped and trimmed.
It will also depend on how aggressively (but safely) you trim those hooves. Based on my experience and research, if you’re cutting the hoof back down to the quick (the base of the hoof) without going any further (because that would draw blood and hurt), then you’re able to go longer between trimmings. Conversely, if you’re only trimming the outer-most edges of the hoof, then you’ll need to trim them more regularly. And it may need to be a monthly chore.
Another factor will be the tool you use to do the trimming. Hoof trimmers are a common tool – but the frequency of use varies widely. I’ve also talked to goat owners who use an electric dremmel to do the trimming – and they only have to trim their goat’s hooves every few months.
However, a good rule of thumb for a new goat owner as to how often you need to trim your goat’s hooves is about every 4-6 weeks.
As you get more comfortable trimming hooves, you’ll be able to trim them more aggressively and lengthen the amount of time required between the hoof trimmings.
The biggest reason why you need to trim those goat hooves trimmed ties back to their poop. An untrimmed goat’s hoof gets ridges and bends over, which creates some deep grooves and other places where stuff (and feces) can get trapped. If these areas aren’t cleaned out, they can fester all sorts of bacteria and fungus that can affect your goat’s health, gait, and ability to walk. They could even develop a festering sore that could lead to a systemic infection. And if that sore has a constant layer of poop rubbing up against it? That’s all sorts of gross – and totally unhealthy for any mammal.
However, the best way to avoid a rotting-out hoof is to keep the hoof trimmed properly. That way, any mud or poop scrapes right off as the goat walks easily through your backyard homestead.
Now – let’s talk about how to trim those goat hooves. To get you started, here’s a YouTube video that’s helped me. It’s pretty quiet, so turn up your volume or turn on the captions.
But in case you’re in a situation where a video isn’t doable, here’s the rundown. And if you are in that kind of situation, I feel you. Doing research while holding a sleeping baby is kind of my thing. So I’ve got you.
- Encourage your goat to their milker. It’s far easier to inspect, clean, and trim hooves when they aren’t running away from you. Giving them something to munch on while you do this will make the whole experience better – for everyone.
- Pull up a hoof tightly under their body. This way, they can’t jump away from you. It helps if you pull it up from the other side of the goat’s body so that it’s good and tight – and not moving.
- Scrape out any visible poop or gunk from the hoof. That way, you can see what you’re doing.
- Next, trim the hoof using the tool of your choice. Depending on how aggressively you want to trim the hoof, you may need to build up to it over several months.
- The goal is to have a flat base to their entire hoof. Start small and move forward or deeper, rather than starting too deep and needing to do hoof first aid.
- Don’t forget to trim the heel!
- Let your goat out of the milking stand and watch them go play.
For your first few times while trimming goat hooves, let me make an important suggestion: take someone with you to help hold the goat still! It’s near impossible to trim the hoof on a kicking goat. And, if you try it (which I have), just know that it usually ends poorly. Or at least in my needing some basic first aid for a small cut caused by the very-sharp clippers. So skip the accidental cuts to your own hands – bring a helper who’s okay with the idea of holding a goat’s leg still for you.
Goats are an amazing animal. They’re cute, fun, and one of the least-smelly livestock options for adding to your backyard homestead. And, if you take great care of them, then you’re practically guaranteeing a great experience for both your family and your neighbors.
We got the best compliment possible a few weeks back from one of our neighbors. They wanted to come see our goats, but they texted to see if we even still had them! Despite them being right behind our backyard, they couldn’t tell if we still had the goats! They couldn’t smell or hear them.
Okay, so the not-hearing them thing may not always happen – especially when you first get goats. But the not being able to smell them? That’s how it should be.
Can Goats Live with Chickens? Chickens and goats can be kept together if several considerations are made. For example, their feed must be kept separate, as chicken feed is not good for goats. For all of our best tips on keeping goats with chickens, read this article.
Can Goats Live with Alpacas? Goats and alpacas can be kept in the same pastures or pens if both of their needs are met and parasitic loads are carefully managed. For a complete list of considerations, read my post on keeping alpacas with goats.
Can You Freeze Dry Goat Milk? Goat milk can be freeze-dried, though its shelf-life will be affected by fat content and processing. For more information on freeze-dried foods, read my article on 77 foods that will work – and 17 that won’t.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to also learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Niemann, Deborah. Constipation in Goats: a Social Media Epidemic. 1 Apr. 2020, thriftyhomesteader.com/goat-constipation/.
- Niemann, Deborah. Raising Goats Naturally, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More. New Society Publishers, 2018.