Your goats' feet and legs are literally the foundation of your herd, so making sure that they will hold up for the lifetime of your goats is imperative. Once a goat begins having foot or leg issues, problems begin to compound, and their productive life dramatically decreases. Goats with foot and leg problems forage less, play less, and become less fit. Because they are less fit, kidding becomes more difficult and dangerous. Unfit bucks are less virile, and breeding becomes more difficult. Does lay down more, creating a greater risk of mastitis and infection. Avoiding problems like these can often be as simple as buying goats with good feet and strong pasterns.
So what should you be looking for? In this first illustration, the goat to the far left has the feet and legs that we should be breeding for:
Strong, solid, tight feet are ideal. Toes should point straight forward, not point in or out. Here are examples of goats that toe out in the front and rear feet, respectively:
Toes should also sit tightly together, not spread out to form a V between them:
Even with her winter hair, you can see that there is no separation in this doe's toes:
Look for goats with level feet, as well - they should be the same depth at the heel and the toe, and run parallel to the hair line at the top of the hoof. They should not be flat, low in the heel, crooked or malformed. Although her hair hides the top of the hoof, this is a good example of a nice level foot:
Regardless of whether your goats are headed for the show ring, the backyard, the milking stand or the freezer, breeding for good feet will reward you with a happier, healthy, more productive herd.