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Why and how to estimate a goat's weight

Measuring a goat's girth

There are quite a few reasons to estimate your goats' weight on a regular basis. With a doeling, most sources recommend that you wait to breed her until she's attained 70% of her adult weight, and it's also handy to keep track of all kids' weight as they grow to make sure they're doing well.

With adult goats, frequent weigh-ins help you decipher feeding regimes, medications, and possible parasite loads. For example, most sources recommend that a goat be allowed to eat 10% of her body weight in hay if she's not on pasture. Similarly, you should expect a mature goat to put on a little weight naturally in the spring when the grass greens up, perhaps to lose a bit during hot spells in midsummer, then to bulk up a bit again in the fall. If she's losing weight when she should be gaining, you might need to focus on deworming.

Picking up a goat

But it's tough to get an accurate weight measurement on a goat. First of all, you either need an animal scale, or you need to pick up the goat (tough for a goat like Abigail who is not interested in being manhandled; the photo above comes from this past fall, when our herd boss was less pregnant and thus less sensitive about her belly). Similarly, that 10% weight gain after eating her morning hay is going to completely throw off the measurement.

Enter the goat-girth chart or the (slightly) more complicated body-weight formula. In the case of the former (which is accurate to +5% on standard-sized dairy goats), you measure around the goat's body just behind their armpits and shoulder blades, then convert from inches to pounds using the table below. (Be sure to pull the tape tight, and to take into account fluffy winter hair.) If you want to be more accurate, you can use the formula right after the chart, which adds in a second measurement --- the goat's length --- to add in a bit more accuracy.

Heart girth
Heart girth
Heart girth
10 3/45203032100
11 3/46213433105
12 3/47223834115
13 1/48234335125
13 3/49245036140
14 1/410255637150
14 3/411266238160
15 1/412276839170

Here's the formula: (If you put in inches, then you'll get pounds.)

Heart girth X Heart girth X Body length / 300 = Weight

Playing with goats

You can buy tape measurers that automatically convert the heart girth to pounds, or you can make your own the way I did using a bit of ribbon. While my ribbon won't be as accurate as using the formula, it should give me an idea of relative weight gains and losses for our girls, and will definitely make my life easier since I can just pull it tight around Artemesia's chest and call out "37 pounds!" (That was my first measurement, but the girls were so Goat heart girthcaught up in enjoying the bright yellow ribbon that they wiggled like crazy during the first trial. Next time, I'll try measuring while they're chowing down on breakfast, a period when even Abigail lets me check beneath her tail, feel under her belly for babies (who kicked Thursday!), and probe the tendons on either side of her tail to search for signs of impending birth.)

Adding this data to my rough body-condition measurements (feeling for fat in various locations along the body) should help make sure I feed our girls just enough but not too much. I'm not sure that Abigail could eat too much food right now, but since we've decided not to breed Artemesia at her bare-minimum age, we'll have to be careful that she doesn't get too fat while waiting for her fall date with a buck (possibly one of Abigail's kids?). Good thing our little doeling thinks a measuring tape around her chest is as good as a hug!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Thank you for the information about estimating weight: heart girth x heart girth x length / 300. Question: When measuring length, what is the starting point? Nose? Head? Withers? kind regards, shari
Comment by Shari Henry Wed Dec 21 14:47:29 2016

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