Posts Tagged ‘goat care’

Anyone know of any?  A friend of ours was asking, and I wasn’t sure what to recommend.

There are plenty of books devoted to the home cheesemaker.  But we’re looking for a book that covers home dairy animals – selection, breeding, milking, management, birthing, the whole shebang.  A section on home cheesemaking would be a plus.

A lot of our books are too generic, I think Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is probably the closest.  But I want something one step up.

If I was more experienced, I think I might write the book. 😉  Maybe one day …


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Friday night we had our first goat crisis.  After getting home and changing into farm clothes, I gathered milking supplies and went out to gather the milkers.  I found Abba in the barn, standing by the hay manger, listless and panting.  *Hard.*  Open mouth panting.  I quickly milked Jacqsonne and Memphis so that I could devote all attention to her.

With some prodding I was able to get her onto the milking stand so I could evaluate her.  I turned on the two box fans in the stall at full force, angling them so she was getting air from both directions. I stuck the thermometer in and when it got to 107 (!!!!) and continued rising, I left Abba on the milking stand and dashed inside to grab my clippers.  It stopped at 107.6!  SCARY!  I had planned to clip their heavy coats this weekend, but maybe this was a sign to DO IT NOW.  I asked HB to come help and I started clipping her thick coat.  Once HB finished the cheese he came out to help clip.  I filled a bucket of cool water and offered it to her.  She drank a lot!  But did not want to eat.

I called a friend for advice on the next step.  There are several wonderful goat ladies in the area, but I rang up my friend Jennifer.  We planned to clip Abba and then start sponging cool water over her.  All I could think of was heat stress.  Unusual – yesterday wasn’t very hot, but it was very very humid.  And the fact that Abba was standing in the barn without a fan made it worse.  My friend suggested that she may have a touch of milk fever, so we went ahead and gave her oral calcium, B complex, nutri-drench and probiotics.   Subcutaneous lactated ringers were also suggested to help get her hydrated, fast.  The CMPK gel, it smells so yummy! like cupcakes!  Although from Abba’s reaction I’m guessing it didn’t taste like it’s smell.  Although Memphis was licking the side of the milking stand today where a little bit was stuck…

By the time we finished clipping, her temp was down to 104.5, so I started sponging her with cool water.  I sponged just like we do the endurance horses when we want to cool them quickly:  sponge water on, paying special attention to areas where blow flows near the skin (the large blood vessels on the inside of the gaskin, forearm, and neck … then across the rest of the body).  You let the water sit briefly, scrape it off, and reapply.  The reason for the quick turn-around is that if you let water sit too long on the hot skin, then it heats up and actually holds heat IN instead of releasing it.  Note:  HB was very stern with me note to use the gaskin area — too close to the udder and a potential source of infection he says, wetting the udder.  Just a thought.  I was very careful around her udder.

Within an hour of starting work on Abba, her temp was down to 102.5 and she was acting normal – eating, drinking, and being very talkative.  I got up a few times during the night to check on her, and HB kept an eye on her through the day.  She appears normal, and I am so, so, so relieved.

I had almost everything I needed for our first emergency.  And you can bet I have extra bags of lactated ringers now.  But it’s made me think about the rest of a first aid kit to keep for the goats.  There are lots of suggestions out there, but I thought GoatWorld had a pretty complete list.

What are your absolute, *must haves* in emergencies?

All the milkers got spring hair cuts today.  I don’t want to risk something like this happening again!  Last night HB and I strung up box fans for the stalls, angled off the rafters so that they blow directly down on the goats.  Xenia clipped up the prettiest, I will have to take pictures tomorrow.  Sweet Roll and Donut are next on the list, especially Sweet Roll with his long, thick coat.

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Doris and Rock, 12 hours post-disbudding

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Abba and Memphis were bred October 23, 2009.

As of today, the yearling does have been pregnant roughly 117 days (16.5 weeks).  Xenia is approximately one month behind the yearlings.

We are barely a month out from their expected due dates!  This means it’s time to do some preventative management.  The care of pregnant goats revolves around keeping them happy and healthy.  This includes minerals, immunizations, hoof care, and nutrition.  Please keep in mind that this spring is my first time freshening goats, so what I’m about to share is simply what I’ve picked up from my own reading.

Making sure the does are current on vaccinations in important, not only for their own health but also for the health of the developing fetus(es).  It is recommended that does be vaccinated one month out from kidding.  Thus, this week I plan to vaccinate the two does due mid-March with a “CD&T,” which is a vaccine against Clostridium perfringes types C and D (the cause of enterotoxemia, aka overeating disease) as well at tetanus.  There are other, more comprehensive, vaccinations available if such diseases occur in your location – such as Caliber 7 or Covexin 8.  One vet in the area recommends using Covexin 8, others say it’s not necessary.  Last year the wethers were vaccinated with it, this year I think I’m just going to use the regular CD&T unless something changes.  Jacqsonne, Memphis, and Abba will all receive this vaccine this week.  In order to maximize the exchange of antibodies to the developing fetus, Xenia will be vaccinated in late March.

Some people use a vaccine called Lysigin, which is for the prevention of Staph. aureus.  S. aureus is a bacteria known to cause mastitis (inflammation of the mammary tissue that can affect milking ability and potentially be career or life ending for a dairy animal).  S. aureus is a pathogen frequently found in the soil so it is hard to avoid.  I’m still debating about using this vaccine, this year I’ve chosen not to but as time goes by I may consider adding it.

Also at this point, each doe will get her hooves trimmed.  Hoof care is a very important, often overlooked, aspect of caprine management.  With horses there is a saying, “No hoof, no horse” that stresses the importance of hoof care to a horse’s athletic ability.  Goats, while not athletes, are productive animals who deserve the best care possible.  I like to put the goats in the milk stand, give them a little grain for entertainment, and trim them.  The goats don’t seem to bothered by it this way.  Today, after trimming my horses, Anita helped me trim Jacqsonne’s hind hooves, which are overgrown.  HB and I worked on them individually about a month ago.  Before we trimmed again, we wanted a little input on how to advance their growth and try to return them to normal.

Nutrition is important to any animal, let alone a gestating animal, and especially one you plan to milk.  It is important to not let them get too overweight during pregnancy because that can cause birthing problems.  However, you don’t want them too thin when they kid, because once they begin lactating it’s hard for them to recover any lost weight.  Some people offer free-choice grain, but for now we offer grain twice daily.  We are currently using Blue Seal’s 20% dairy goat pellet.  Since Jacqsonne is milking, she gets more milk (close to 3 pounds daily) and right now we’re slowly increasing Abba and Memphis’s grain intake.  The plan is to slowly increase grain so that by the time a goat gives birth you are giving them the amount of grain they will be receiving on the milk stand.  This way their digestive system slowly adjusts to the increase in grain.  If you suddenly offer  a lot of grain, it can upset the bacterial population of the rumen (and other parts of the digestive system) and cause problems – and potentially be fatal.

We do, however, keep good quality hay (75% alfalfa, a legume, and 25% orchard grass) available at all times.  We also keep alfalfa pellets available.  In a separate container, the goats have access to special minerals as well as baking soda (there seems to be a 50/50 split on whether offering baking soda is a good thing) for them to munch on if they feel they need it to neutralize and upset tummy.  We started offering baking soda when we were using a textured grain with a high percent of molasses – we’ve recently switched to a pelletized grain, but for now are keeping the baking soda out.  Grains high in molasses and other starches are thought to potentially increase the chance of acidosis and other problems.

Selenium is an important mineral known to be an autoimmune stimulant and is often linked to Vitamin E, since they typically work together in the body.  Selenium is an intracellular antioxidant while vitamin E is one of the major antioxidants in cellular membranes.  When deficient, immune responses are impaired.

Bo-Se is an injectable supplement available through licensed veterinarians.  One ml of Bo-Se supplements 1mg selenium with 50mg vitamin E; making the vitamin E work 6 times more efficiently and making the high amount of selenium non-toxic.  While most research suggests that the concentration of Vitamin E negates the potentially toxic effects of such a high level of selenium, some people only want to supplement it in selenium deficient areas.  Unsure if your area is selenium deficient?  Click here for a map of the country showing Se levels (from the USGS, you can zoom into county-wide statistics for a range of minerals).  Keep in mind, that if you’re feeding local hay and grain then you’re not really changing your selenium status.  Selenium deficiency occurs when the soil contains less than 0.5 mg Se/kg of soil (source).  So, in my area of Virignia, the Se level is 0.138ppm or 0.1338mg/kg (conversion factor is 1).

Copper bolusing is another relatively new addition to goat care.  Copper deficiencies are linked to a number of ailments such as anemia, lack of growth, hoof deformities, parasitic susceptibility, and autoimmune deficiencies.  Because of this, many breeders have added regular bolusing of copper to their management schedules.

Keeping the parasitic load at a minimum is critical to maintaining herd health.  It is important to monitor the herd’s parasite load by performing regular fecal counts and dosing according to the types of parasites present.  If you are planning on consuming the milk, it’s important to remember that many types of dewormers (and other drugs) have milk withdraw times – check the list.

Looking for more information?  Click on the “Favorites” link at the top and scroll down to the Dairy Goat Information links.

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