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External Parts of the Goat

The picture at the left shows the external parts of the dairy goat. It is important that you learn the basic
external parts of the goat so that not only you can relay information, but also so that you understand
the underpinnings of breed conformation characteristics. Generally, the better conformed (conforms to
breed standards) a goat, the more productive life you will get out of the animal. This is especially
important for breeders, for those who participate in goat shows and production programs, and for those
who are producing products (i.e. milk) from the animals.

We will not talk about goat conformation here, but you can find more information about this subject in
later sections.
Skeletal and Muscular Structure of the Goat
Also important and interesting is understanding how a goat is structured, both in it's
skeletal and muscular composition. You can click on the picture at right to open it in
a new window.

Particularly interesting about the internal anatomy is the way the front end assembly is
put together. Notice the shoulder assembly in relation to the elbow, and the
complexities of the fetlock, pasterns and hooves.

If you will be freshening does, pay careful attention to the location of the broad
sacrotuberal ligament. This is the ligament that slackens as kidding draws near, and if
you learn to externally palpate that ligament, you can determine when your doe will
kid more accurately. More on this later in the kidding section.
Digestive System of the Ruminant
Goats are ruminants, which means they have highly specialized four chamber stomachs to digest
food. The following is a crude explanation of how food is digested.

Food (plant matter) is chewed and swallowed by the goat and it first enters the rumen where it is
partially digested. As the food digests, it is layered into solid and liquid matter. The solid matter in the
rumen then travels to the reticulum where it is regurgitated (cud) so that the goat can mix the
undigested solids with saliva. Goats chew their cud on a regular basis and when they swallow it again,
the cud enters the omasum for further processing. The food in the omasum then moves to the
abomasum and onto the small and large intestines and out through the anus. At the same time, liquids
are processed into urine and exit through the urethra. Goat poop exits as round, hard, rather dry little
pellets, very similar to rabbit pellets.

Goat Teeth
The teeth of the goat are worth mentioning, because they are interesting and unique. Goats do not
have teeth in their upper jaw, only their lower. Their upper lips are highly animated, and are used to
grab and pull foliage off of trees and weeds. They have a smooth dental pad in the tops of their mouths,
and also sharp molars in the back of their mouths on the top and bottom jaws which are used to shred
sticks and twigs.

Kids are usually born with teeth or with at least the emergence of teeth. Their first teeth are called milk
teeth. You will probably never see a lost goat tooth in the goat yard, but they do, in fact, lose their baby
teeth, which are replaced with full adult teeth in their fifth year. The illustration at the left shows the
approximate age goats receive their adult teeth. This graphic is particularly helpful if you do not know
the exact age of a goat. As long as the goat is under five years of age you can approximate their age by
looking at their teeth.