Goats have been kept on Corsica for hundreds of years. The combination of their isolation and the native herding methods has resulted in a breed of goats that is quite distinct from their mainland relatives; despite a steep decline in their numbers since the 1980s, the Corsican goat has become a subject of interest among heritage breeders and geneticists. Long-haired and available in practically every color, these are goats that forage extremely well and thrive in mountainous regions akin to their native island.
Kidding problems are few; most does deliver a single kid, but twins are not uncommon. Because of the traditional herding and breeding styles of Corsican shepherds, this breed has extensive genetic diversity and is typified by a stout, robust character that can survive multiple extremes. They are generally kept for milk production, and while they won’t produce like a standard Swiss dairy breed, they don’t need the specialized care and extra feed that most dairy breeds require. Their milk is particularly prized for cheese-making, due to high butterfat and milk solids content.
Appearance / health:
Corsican goats are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, including blacks, browns, whites, spotted colors, badger faced, and more. They are long haired and are handsome enough for showing, but they are primarily a local breed that is raised in semi-wild conditions on the Island of Corsica. Bucks are bearded, and both bucks and does typically have attractive, medium-length horns that sweep back over their heads. The wide variety of colors that these goats come in is the result of hundreds of years of breeding, specifically so that shepherd can more easily identify their herd at a glance and from a distance.
Johne's disease, or paratuberculosis, is the one major disease that has struck Corsican goats in recent years. This disease has decimated the native herds of the island since the 1980s, making preservation of this unique breed something of a priority for goat enthusiasts.
Goats are sensitive animals that can suffer from various infectious and chronic diseases that are sometimes undetected until too late. Vaccinations, as well as de-worming and de-lousing applications must be conducted as needed. Milking goats should be checked regularly using prescribed mastitis tests for udder health. Milking areas should always be clean and the goat’s teats treated with teat dip after milking to prevent mastitis.
Goats must be inspected frequently to detect any signs of poor health, infections, or other ailments. Signs include cloudy or teary eyes, dull or fluffed up coat, droopy tail, hunched back, or poor appetite. A veterinarian should always be on call to address health concerns.
Behavior / temperament:
Goats are inherently curious, active, intelligent, and social. They are known to have the ability to overcome enclosures by unraveling the gate, climbing over the mesh, or pushing and ramming the fence down. Goats have good coordination and balance and can manage to climb low trees, ledges, and overhangs. Their curiosity leads them to constantly investigate items with their mouths; most items get chewed and swallowed. With a little patience, goats can be taught to carry or pull loads, respond to calls, and lead a herd. As social animals, they easily get along with other farm animals.
Written by Gaia Rady
Housing / diet:
As herd animals, goats are best kept in pairs or groups. As grazers, they require an outdoor habitat that is securely fenced to prevent escape or foraging in restricted areas. The area should be large enough to allow the goat to roam. The recommended habitat per goat is 200 sq. ft. of yard or pasture plus a sheltered or indoor area of about 15 sq. ft. The sheltered area should be adequately built to keep the goats safe from rain and strong winds.
Keeping goats inside the house is not recommended because of the pet’s tendency to gnaw and chew on furniture and furnishings. Goats are also not known to adhere to toilet training.
Corsican goats are traditionally raised almost entirely free range, living off scrub and available plant matter on the island. Supplemental feed will certainly increase weight gains, rate of growth, and milk production in freshened does, but the traditional value of this breed has been its particular hardiness and ability to survive free range in harsher climates with limited feed.
The ideal food for domesticated goats is alfalfa hay and grass hay. This should be available daily in quantities of at least 3% of the goat’s body weight. Small quantities of feed grain and concentrates (often protein-enriched) like goat show or goat grain can also be given to add nutrition. Supplements are often used to address deficiencies inherent to local habitats.
Clean water is essential to a goat’s daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled. Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to the goat’s health. Milking goats should be kept away from aromatic or strong-tasting foliage like garlic, onions, mint, and cabbage, which could taint the flavor of the milk.