Bumble’s Beginning

This year brought a lot of kids, and a lot of adventures, but there is no doubt that one doeling sticks out of the bunch. A little darling that was born dead, and once revived, reminded me that the bad can always be balanced by the good.

The day the insane buck JP (reminds me I need to write about him sometime too) left, I bred him to two does – Orchid and Crown Royal. Orchid unfortunately passed away from a sudden heart related event, but Crown Royal, one of the dairy’s top milking does and favorite La Manchas, carried her pregnancy without issue, and went into labor late one night.

Crown Royal has always kidded without assistance, so I left her to herself while I worked on other necessary chores during my overnight barn shift. However, as time passed and no kids arrived, I became concerned.

I checked internally to see what was going on, and unhappily, all I found were legs. Too many legs! At this point it was nearing 3:00AM in the morning and no more time could be wasted. As poor Crown Royal groaned in discomfort, I began the arduous task of sorting out what these legs belonged to. It was quite a tangle in there – all I could find was legs legs and more legs. It certainly felt like even more legs than eventually came out, but with time, I was able to shift everything around, and trace a pair of front legs up to a chest, neck, and finally head. Triumphant, I helped Crown Royal deliver the first kid, a massive buckling that looked just like his father.

He was alive and alert as I dumped him into the bedding, still steaming in the cooler barn air. Right away he began to try and jump to his feet and Crown Royal knocked him back down in her eagerness to lick and clean her new son. We didn’t have much time to appreciate the scene, as there was still at least one kid in there that needed to come out. So I went fishing again, and found some hind legs and a front leg. Two kids? No, just one I discovered, but it took time – too much time – to get it readjusted so that it could come through the birth canal easily.

That night was a strange one – I was already bone tired, even though we were just a couple weeks into kidding. I was dealing with some frustrated feelings, having just been through the Toggenburg troubles, which had been an immense amount of work that left the entire dairy with no reward in exchange. The time of year that was normally my favorite had become just another tiresome chore that I wanted to be done with. Time had no meaning, and I just closed my eyes and felt my way to bringing this goat kid out of one world and into mine.

Finally, things aligned and with a final grunt from Crown Royal, out the kid came. I was filled with disappointment and anger – the kid was limp and didn’t take a breath. I’d taken too long. This was our last JP doeling, from a great doe, and I blamed myself for losing her. I rained admonishments upon my own head in those brief seconds the dead doeling lay on the straw – why hadn’t I checked sooner. Why hadn’t I worked harder. Why had I failed? Failure is something I often don’t handle as well as I should.

I wasn’t ready to give up on her just yet though – I snatched the slimy kid off the ground by the hind legs and swung her back and forth in an effort to clean the fluid from her lungs. I massaged her little chest, and blew a couple of breaths through her warm wet nostrils, trying to get her to breath on her own. Finally, I thumped her sides, and my eyes filled with boiling hot tears that spilled over as I continued to blame myself.

I don’t know how long I worked on that doeling – longer than I normally would. But finally I dropped her onto the bedding and admitted defeat.

Then she kicked her hind legs and took a breath.

In that moment, it was like the world shifted – the tears were still coming, but now with relief as I returned to rubbing and encouraging the little doeling to keep breathing. When she let out a soft wobbly cry, my heart wobbled right along with it. Crown Royal was busy with her buckling, who by now was on his feet and thrusting his muzzle at her swollen teats, so I picked up the little doeling and took her to where I had a heater set up for just these instances. I worked on her until she was dry and breathing well, but I could not get her to latch onto her mother’s teats. So I fetched the syringe and tube and filled her little belly with Crown Royal’s rich colostrum.

I realized then that it was almost 5:00AM and my shift was ending. The doeling was weak and Crown Royal had paid very little attention to her, but I had done everything I could do. I warned the next shift that she would need help, and I honestly admitted that I was not sure she would survive – it had been a struggle, one that was only starting for the weak baby. I went to bed, certain that the morning report would include her passing away.

She did not, and in fact, by the time I returned to the barn in early afternoon, she had a suck reflex. I helped her nurse from Crown Royal, but it became pretty clear that her mother was not interested in her. By removing the doeling and drying her myself, I had broken the bond that’s created when a dam licks off her doeling. However, Crown Royal being the patient good doe she is, she would allow the doeling to nurse if I asked. Otherwise, the poor dear was butted away and ignored.

So now we had a bottle baby – just what I didn’t want! Although I admit, she rarely got a bottle – most of the time I just held Crown Royal and the little doeling would fill her belly until Crown Royal kicked her away and let me know that lunch time was over. This situation would continue until her weaning, and I thank Crown Royal for her patience and willingness to please.

The doeling came to recognize my voice very quickly, and her long legs made her terribly clumsy and endearing as she ran over to me anytime I came out. As she grew stronger, so did my affection for her, and as she bumbled about the barn attempting to play with the other newborns, I knew I had a good name for her already. Bumble!

As she grew, I wanted to ensure she got enough nutrition to live up to her large heritage, so we began to allow her into the dairy during milking. It was often easier to just put her on the stand and let her have her milk that way. Soon enough, she discovered a taste for grain as well – and the Bumble invasion of the dairy really started.

Not only did the little bugger decide that she was allowed to run into the dairy parlor anytime the door was open, nothing was off limits to her. The grain became a sandbox to play in when she was finished picking out what she wanted – she’d dig her front hooves in and send it flying across the floor. The floor that I would need to clean afterward, I might add!

Too, she realized very quickly that the really good stuff was on the milking stanchion. One milking she slipped into the holding pen with the other milking does, and all by herself, galloped onto the stand and stuck her head through to get her share, imitating her older working relatives. I couldn’t even begin to control my amusement at the sight of her little face poking out one end.

It became a habit to take pictures and post them on Facebook to “complain” about my little dairy pest. Spoiled brat! I would shout at her as she scrambled out of my reach after dumping a scoop of grain all over the floor. Pesky pain in my tail! I lamented as I shoved her butt out the door for the third time in one milking. Annoying little urchin! I grumbled when I needed to extract her from the stand so that legitimate milkers could take that spot.

I was relieved I tell you, when weaning time finally came and I unceremoniously dumped Bumble into the pen with the rest of the distressed kids her age.

Yet, milking time just wasn’t the same. A bit dull, to be honest So Bumble spent just a short time with her agemates, and now she’s back to her usual antics, brightening each and every day for all of us here on the farm.

 

Grand Theft Goat (Kid)

For Mother’s Day, I have quite got a funny little tale about a funny little goat to share with you. Hemlock the La Mancha is actually a newcomer to our herd, purchased from a friend to join the dairy’s line up of milkers. Everyone knows how much we fancy black and white goats, and an unusual amount of pigmentation in one eye made Hemlock even more unique, and she was very much welcomed on the farm.

Once she arrived and went into quarantine, we were able to see what a lovely personality she had – if a bit needy. I was told she kidded in secret overnight and hoarded her doeling until morning, when it was removed to be raised by hand, as is very typical for many farms.

Most does forget about their offspring rather quickly, transferring that affection to their owners who are milking them, but Hemlock wasn’t ready to give up her dreams of being a mother – not by far. After milking one evening within days after Hemlock arrived, I watched her shove her nose through the fencing and call after a group of our own goat kids who were running by. They paused to look at her, then ran on, and I swear I saw her expression fall in disappointment. She repeated this process over the next week, even encouraging several kids to come closer and talk back. I noticed with interest it was exclusively the dark chocolate and black colored kids she was interested in, paying the lighter colored and patterned kids no mind at all. Curious, I sent her previous owner a message and asked what color her kid had been. Black of course.

Now I was incredibly interested in what would happen next – would she continue to show interest in the kids after being released from quarantine, or would she realize they were not their own after being able to sniff their little bums. By now I had no doubt that goat mothers recognized their kids visually, and kid theft was not an unusual thing among the herd – especially the Nigerian Dwarf. I imagine the herd itself carries its own scent, and the raising of kids has become an almost community project among them. Every year a few does would end up as baby snatchers, and some of those relationships still stand to this day. The young kids quite frankly don’t care who feeds them – any spigot will do. But for a stranger to walk into the herd and take a kid? Unheard of. I figured once she had taken her ritual beatings from the top does of our own herd, her mothering ideas would take a backseat to just figuring out this new home and her place within it.

Well – I was wrong. Two days after passing all of her health clearances and entering the herd, Hemlock came into the dairy with an empty udder. I followed her around that day, and watched her go from kid to kid, as if trying them on like new pairs of socks. Every single one was dark in color, and thanks to the buck we used on the La Mancha the year before, a beautiful chocolate fellow, we had a lot of them running around!

At one point she attempted to make off with Strawberry’s young daughter, who followed her willingly enough until Strawberry chased after them and gave Hemlock a bashing I don’t think she’ll forget quickly. Hemlock left that particular kid alone afterward, and it wasn’t long before she finally settled on her favorite – a little chocolate girl belonging to first freshener Cupcake.

In no time at all she took complete control of the doeling and Cupcake no longer had any say in the matter. Hemlock came proudly into the dairy every milking sporting a mostly empty udder, and even learned to kick and stomp in an attempt to protect her milk for her adopted offspring. We’re used to such behavior, since we do dam raise, and soon enough she realized it’s polite to share.

I did however, have to send a funny message to her previous owner – Excuse me, I ordered a milking goat, not a nanny goat!

She found it as funny as I did.

I found Hemlock’s escapades to be incredibly interesting. How strong must her mothering instinct be! She was separated from her own kid almost immediately, and it was several weeks until she had contact with new kids, kids that had to smell drastically different than her own. She was in a completely foreign place, confronted with a mass of strangers, and it still didn’t stop her. The first time she went out with the herd to browse, she hung back and refused to allow her new kid to stay with the others who preferred to play in front of the house. They slowly followed the herd, Hemlock talking and fussing over the baby every step of the way.

So now Hemlock is a mother again, despite all odds, and I feel happy for her. I do not consider the methods of hand rearing goat kids to be wrong in any fashion and could see myself doing it even in a different situation, but the bonds between dams and doelings is one of my favorite things, and it brings me a great deal of happiness to see the complexity of it, and even better, something new happened on the farm thanks to this funny doe who just would not stand to be “kid-free.”

What about Cupcake, the victim of such an absolute baby-snatching? She didn’t seem to care at all. In fact, her second doeling was stolen by a herdmate named Lime and Cupcake was able to continue the kid-free life that Hemlock was not interested in. Different strokes for different goats, as they say!

Our theme for naming this year is cars, trucks, motor vehicles, etc.

So I named her kid Grand Theft Auto.

The Toggenburg Tragedy

Some stories are harder than others – and this is one of them. This story exposes a very large painful mistake that I made, and it would be easier to just bury this tale the past and ignore as if it never happened.

But that just isn’t something I have ever been good at doing. Wrong decisions are made every day, and we have all made them. If I can show just one person very clearly how easily this mistake is made, even by those of us who know better, then that person may not repeat it. That alone makes sharing this story worth writing and sharing.

As many of you know, I manage the stock at a dairy. With the business growing, we have been in need of good (but affordable) milking does. Not always an easy thing to find! So when I was tipped off that there was a large herd of Toggenburg goats that needed a new home, I immediately looked into it.

The story was a sad one – the elderly owner had kept and bred these goats for many, many years. They used to be show stock, and then dairy animals. Now she was facing eviction from her farm, had serious health problems, and her herd was facing the auction house. We have very little time to make a decision, and the goats were several hours away, making this a pressing issue right away.

When we visually inspected the animals, the decision ultimately lay on my shoulders. There were health records going back generations, and the herd had been closed to outside animals for over ten years. I found no abscesses – or scars from abscesses – that would indicate a Caseous Lymphadenitis issue. Not one doe I put my hands on had the classic swollen knees of Caprine Arthritis-Encephalitis. Each one peered up at me with bright eyes, their delightful shaggy fur glowing in health. The kids were tagged, disbudded, and bounding around the area in picture perfect form. The facility was clean, and even the bucks in the next pasture over were everything one could want in  quality Toggenburg stock. Despite the fact the owner was well into her eighties, hobbling along a pace at a time with a walker, she had used every resource she had, including hired help, to keep the animals healthy. I enjoyed speaking with her – this was a woman who had seen more years of dairy goats than I could ever hope to. She told me baldly that she could no longer care for the herd, and wanted them to find a new home before it actually became an issue of declining health for the animals, but circumstances had come crashing down. Now it was surely the auction house, because how can one sell over sixty Toggenburgs to quality homes in just days?

We knew it was a risk. We knew we were gambling. But we felt the odds were in our favor – and if it worked out, it would be an incredible opportunity for the dairy. A treasure just waiting for us, to help us continue to grow and thrive. The breed is growing in popularity in our area, and it could mean a much needed increase in revenue with the sales from the kids, not to mention the boost in milk we could expect. So we decided to do it.

We were able to arrange transport right away, as the current owner of the Toggenburgs had a friend willing to help out. They showed up on an awful rainy day in two trailers, and I supervised the unloading into the quarantine pens, bucks separate from the does and kids. I had planned to refrain from mentioning our new additions until after the cleared all their health testing, but I didn’t think to share that plan with others, and it leaked on Facebook pretty much immediately. Of course, everyone was very excited for us, and it was contagious!

We were able to clear the animals for the really scary stuff right away, which put our minds at ease somewhat. The herd was settling in, and I was growing very fond of them. They were wonderfully calm animals – I almost never saw them engage in disputes, and they took the move in stride. The kids were big and sturdy, and we were able to get everyone on track with vaccinations, copper, and hoof trimming. With our next free day, we drew blood for the final test, Caprine Arthritis-Encephalitis, commonly shortened to CAE.

To our absolute horror, all but two of the does came back positive. It was incredibly crushing, and I in particular was incredibly disappointed – mostly in myself. Announcing the results to those following the herd’s progress was difficult, and quite frankly, embarrassing. The support was amazing for the most part – I couldn’t ask for better friends.

There was no choice but to break apart the Toggenburg herd and remove them from the farm. Several private breeders approached me, and many of the friendly and attractive does went to homes that were set up to appropriately care and keep CAE positive animals. Even some of the bucks were able to find good homes where they should live well. The rest were lucky enough to find a job as a pasture herd. I hope their future treats them well.

As for the two does who tested negative, one unfortunately died from pneumonia, but the second was placed on a regular testing schedule, and as of today, has continued to test negative for all disease. I came up with the name “A Pretty Penny” – because in the end, that’s what this entire ordeal cost us.

I knew better than to purchase untested animals – the idea of doing it with so many was ludicrous. But I was over confident, and I wanted to have these beautiful animals for myself. I wanted what they represented for the dairy’s future. I was willing it to succeed with every ounce of my being. So when it turned into tragedy, I put a lot of the blame on myself. I refused to take any commission for the rehoming of the animals, and worked endlessly to place them in appropriate homes. The hardest one to let go of was the oldest buck, a massive wise looking boy I had dubbed The Old Guy. He would stand quietly with me while I scratched his thick neck. I was truly heartbroken for them – they were beautiful gentle loved animals.

So often we hear a breeder say something along the lines of, “I’ve never tested, but my goats have always been healthy.”

It’s just not good enough. A great number of infected animals will be asymptomatic. With how accessible testing is, there just really isn’t any good excuse. A responsible breeder should do everything in their power to control and prevent disease.

Learn more about Caprine Arthritis-Encephalitis at the links below:

http://www.biotracking.com/goats/cae/faqs

http://waddl.vetmed.wsu.edu/animal-disease-faq/cae

https://www.vdl.umn.edu/services-fees/serology/caprine/caprine-arthritis-encephalitis-faq

 

 

Buck Camp

One of the most important parts of your herd is your buck. But what happens when your buck doesn’t “buck?”

We all know a buck’s usual behaviors, especially during rut. They urinate on their beard, legs, and face, exuding a musk so strong it makes your eyes water from yards away. They stick their tongues out and blubber a delightful love song to the girls.

But why would a buck not exhibit any of these behaviors? What would cause an intact buck to act placid and uninterested in a doe?

Simply put – socialization.

The first time I ran across this particular issue was an article by Fias Co Farms, who talked about a buck they raised that saw his owners as his companions and does, and ignored any actual caprine females put with him. Years later, a friend of mine raised a sweet little Nigerian Dwarf buck on the bottle, and when it came time to breed, he simply had no interest. He never rutted, and eventually she wethered him and sold him as a pet.

I kept this in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until just a couple years ago when I encountered yet another young buck who “wouldn’t buck” and took a shot at trying to get him back on board.

Before we moved to the dairy, we had some fabulous neighbors who were just starting to get into Nubian milkers before we left the area. They raised a very handsome little buck along with two doe companions, who got along great. They were well cared for, well loved. However, when autumn came close and the girls were supposed to be going into estrus and the buck into rut – nothing was happening. They reached out to me for advice, and after mulling it over a bit, I told them to bring him here. Bring him to Buck Camp!

My thought was that this was a mixture of issues – Pinky, the buck in question, had been raised with his little friends and only ever exposed to them. I felt as if they too might need a jumpstart – if you’ve ever heard about the “Buck Effect” (which I should write a post on someday too, thinking of it) you know what introducing a strange buck in rut to a herd can do. Here at the dairy, we had an entire pen full of bucks in raging rut, urinating on everything that came near and bellowing their beautiful amorous noises at the does peering through the gate at them. If these guys couldn’t help teach Pinky how the world works, then nothing would. It was definitely worth a shot.

Pinky arrived looking very confused, and after a short quarantine period, in with the bucks he went. They immediately fell upon him as if he was a doe, bashing him about and mounting him. Poor Pinky! He had quite a shock coming to Buck Camp, a place filled with more testosterone than Super Bowl Sunday at the local bar. Within days however, he had settled in, and I could almost see his brain working as he watched the other bucks go through their wooing behaviors.

Several times I pulled him out and put him with a doe in heat, letting him smell and explore all the wonderful things a female goat might have in store for him. Slowly, he began to show interest, curling his lip back over his nose in the classic Flehmen to smell their pheromones, and he even started to paw at them. He did not gain enough confidence to mount one of our bossy standard does, but after two weeks, I felt he was ready to go home. I was hoping that his little girlfriends at home would be stimulated into strong heat cycles at his return, which would hopefully kickstart his brain at long last.

So Pinky was loaded into the backseat of a truck, missing his scurs that the other bucks had knocked off for him, smelling much more ripe, and I swear he had a big smile on his face. I wished my friends luck, and told them to let me know how Buck Camp worked out for them!

Well, it worked pretty darn good. Just five months later, kids hit the ground. Buck Camp was a roaring success.

Socializing your young bucklings, especially bottle raised bucklings, is important. Bring them in with your does – let them chase and blubber and do all the things they’ll need to know as an adult. Don’t let mature aggressive does beat on them excessively, possibly frightening them away from others. It’s a real shame to raise a young buck for months, only to find it was wasted effort when he cannot produce kids for you.

And if all else fails – consider Buck Camp if you can! Pinky’s proud smile speaks for itself.

 

 

Minx & Mocha


There are at times, goats who pair up with an unrelated goat, appearing to become best friends. I have come to call these special pairings “close-companions” and can name several great ones, but one pair rightfully stands out in my mind – Minx and Mocha!

Most folks know who Minx is – the “face” of our farm and my favorite goat by far. Full of personality, she is descended from our first Nigerian doe and sired by our most influential buck. She was still a junior when we moved to the dairy, and it wasn’t long before she met Mocha.

Mocha is a doe close in age to Minx, exhibiting all the best quality of the dairy farm’s lines. I fell in love with her and it wasn’t long before she joined my personal herd. It took even less time for the pair of them to become joined at the hip.

Though Minx’s mother had rejoined my herd, I bottle raised Minx and so her closest friends were the other goats her own age, and suddenly she’d gone from a farm with just a couple of age-mates, to one with many! They formed the first ever “teenager gang” here at the dairy, with Minx at it’s head of course, backed up by Mocha. They broke fencing, unlatched gates, and made holes to wriggle through. The entire lot of junior does were bouncing atop cars and banging on the doors before we knew what had happened.

Thankfully, after several of their gangster friends moved to new farms, they settled down somewhat, and we turned to the thought of breeding them, along with a group of similarly aged La Mancha juniors. We wanted to try having the young does kid out a month before everyone else, to have a little extra milk in our down time. To accomplish this, we decided to use CIDRs.

CIDRs (Controlled Internal Drug Release) are an intravaginal progesterone insert used in ruminants to control the estrus of the animal, and when used with the proper protocols, can help you more carefully plan your time of breeding.

Inserting the devices was an exercise in hilarity between my employer and I. The lubrication we brought came as a powder and had to be mixed. It turns out, if you don’t add enough water, it turns into a disgusting clinging slime that set us off into peals of laughter. Then came the actual insertion of the T-shaped device into the vagina of the goats, who were displeased to say the least. It was a tight fit on most of them – until we got to Minx. Minx had more than enough wriggle room, leading my sweet unassuming employer to exclaim, “Minx! What have you been doing out there?”

The results of our adventure with CIDRs was less than successful – not one La Mancha settled after breeding.

Minx and Mocha however had quite an exciting day with our new very fine young buck Khan, and five months later they were round and ready to burst – a month earlier than the rest of the herd.

I locked them in the pen nearest my house, and kept a close eye on them. Minx started labor first in the evening, and went all night long before finally kidding around 7am with two very handsome bucklings. Mocha assisted her friend in cleaning them off and helping them to stand and nurse. Satisfied with their health, I went back inside – only to pop back out a few hours later as Mocha gave birth to a huge single doeling.

  

Just as Mocha was alongside Minx with all the help one could ask for, Minx was there for her friend. They cleaned off Mocha’s little girl, and had her up and nursing in no time. Even without anthropomorphising this type of herd bonding behavior, it was a touching and wonderful moment in time to be a part of.

For the several months up until the three kids left for their new homes, Minx and Mocha shared them, nursing all three without discrimination, cleaning their bottoms, answering their cries when they became separated. And all three of the kids were close, especially when they could gang up to bully the much smaller kids who began to arrive a month later.

Now, a few years and freshenings later, the two remain amicable friends, though they’re not quite as close as they were as youngsters. A parallel to our own world, really, where our relationships with others grow and change over time. Yet in my mind, they’ll always remain the best of friends – Minx and Mocha, the first of many terrible teenager gangs.

 

My Experience with Meningeal Worm in Goats

Although we love dearly our ability to browse our goats over such a varied bit of land, this style of keeping brings it’s own issues. Meningeal Worm is something I’ve unfortunately become very familiar with.

Meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongulus tenuis) is a parasite that live in the brain and spine of whitetail deer. When the eggs are shed, they are often picked up by snails and slugs, which are then ingested by ruminants such as goats, llamas, and sheep.

This can cause some serious issues, as the parasite gets “lost,” potentially causing hind end lameness and even paralyzation.

My first experiences with Meningeal worm (henceforth referred to as MW) were confusing, because there was almost no information on the parasites, nor the strange symptoms we were experiencing. In the beginning, I actually thought I was looking at two diseases – one that caused hind end lameness, and one that caused skin lesions.

It started that very first year the rains really returned. We had been in a drought for so long, I think a lot of us forget just how green and wet it can get. As slugs and snails thrive in the wet, and whitetail deer are everywhere, it’s simply the perfect environment to pick up MW infection – though I didn’t know it at the time.

The skin lesions were the true start of my quest. Some of the goats – almost exclusively La Manchas – began to present with awful raw patches of skin. They started as small bare spots, but within a day would be bloody and raw, as if the goat had scraped it ferociously against something. Sometimes the lesions would grow larger, sometimes they would remain small. The vast majority were located on the upper parts of the body, most commonly on the neck. There have been instances of the lesions appearing on the head, shoulders, spine, rump, but rarely below the middle of the goat. After a few days, the lesions healed, and the hair grows back eventually, leaving no trace.

  

I assumed it was a fungal infection to start with – perhaps rain rot or ringworm, though it didn’t exactly fit any of those ailments. When treatments had no effect, I did a skin scraping to look for mites and found nothing. I was left scratching my head in puzzlement over the issue, and the problem was left unsolved.

As the season progressed, the skin issues continued, but appeared to have no long term effect on the goats. They’d rub themselves raw, then it would heal with no issues. No one lost their appetite, ran a fever, or became lethargic. I sent the pictures to several fellow goat owners, and even posted them on a couple forums, with no solid diagnosis.

However, at the same time, I began to have issues with hind end lameness. Several La Mancha does started to drag a hind leg or have trouble standing. A promising young Nigerian Doe had trouble getting up one day, and by the next, was completely paralyzed in the hind end, and could only drag herself about. This I could diagnose – surely MW. While researching MW I never once came across a description of the skin lesions, until Onion Creek Tennessee Meat Goats updated their own MW article, which included the following:

“You should suspect Meningeal Worm disease if the goat displays bare patches of hide from quarter to palm size (generally on the flank or near the front leg), a bloody hole chewed in the hide, neurologic signs or any problem involving the spinal cord, from hind leg dragging to inability to get up.”

It suddenly all made more sense, and I immediately launched into treatment not just for the lame goats, but the ones exhibiting skin. We use extremely high doses of fenbenzadole – 10x the normal dose at least, over several days (minimum five) depending on severity. If the animal is showing neurological symptoms, I include a dose of banamine to act as an anti-inflammatory.

Closer inspection of the lesions made it painfully clear it was MW causing these issues – the parasite exits the skin once it becomes lost, and underneath the hair, one can often find “track marks” and holes where it has done so.

  

No one else had described these lesions anywhere, and even a parasite specialist from Texas A&M during a small ruminants veterinary conference had no idea about them, asking us to bring some examples this year if possible. When I tried to bring it up during a goat meeting (that I no longer attend) I was promptly shut down (the rude way in which I was dismissed is one of the reasons I no longer attend, actually). I admit to feeling some vindication when Caroline Lawson wrote an article for the Dairy Goat Journal recently that also described the lesions – the first time since the Onion Creek article that I have seen someone other than myself report these issues in conjunction with MW.

Many claim that monthly doses of Ivermectin injectable will act as a preventative, but after trying this method for a season, I was forced to conclude it was not effective for our herd. It’s interesting to note that while both breeds we run can exhibit the hind end lameness, it’s almost exclusively the La Mancha that develop the skin lesions, while the Nigerian Dwarf have only two recorded cases of minor sores. Yet the Nigerian Dwarf are much more likely to go completely down in the hind end and become paralyzed, and also do not respond as well to treatment.

Most of the goats treated recovered, though not always 100%. One Nigerian Dwarf doe who had a minor case continues to show some permanent lameness, but it has not inhibited her ability to produce kids or keep up with the herd. Several La Mancha who have had varying degrees of infestation have recovered completely with no sign. A Nigerian Dwarf buck that lost complete control over his hind end recovered through intense treatment and therapy, but can no longer breed due to the weakness of his hind leg still.

And unfortunately, three goats – two Nigerian Dwarf does and a La Mancha buck – never recovered the use of their hind legs and were humanely euthanized.

Thankfully, this issue is rarely seen among penned goats, but unfortunately it’s one of the risks we personally run here with our style of keeping. There are positives and negatives to any way of keeping, and Meningeal worm remains our largest enemy running our goats the way we do. It’s a risk that, in the end, we have chosen to accept in order to continue to reap the immense benefits of free browsing. The life of a goat owner is never easy, and we all must decide what is best for ourselves and our own animals. Thankfully, the past few years have made me nearly an expert on this parasite, and I hope that this post will help someone else understand what they’re dealing with some day.

The Goat That Floats

There’s one thing that goat owners learn very quickly: goats hate water. We’ve all seen our goats race for shelter when the rain begins, laughed as they jumped over puddles, and a few of us have even used a squirt gun to discourage inappropriate behavior.

And yet, another thing we’ve all learned is that there are always exceptions to the rule. And here at the dairy, we have one extremely notable exception, though our entire herd has become rather more tolerant of water than the average dairy goat.

Lime, a young La Mancha goat, has proven herself to be quite the swimmer.

I’ll never forget the first time I caught the goats in these antics. As many of you know, our herd browses on a mixture of forest and pasture during most of the year. There are a few ponds, and a rather large creek runs through the property as well. More than once I have had the fortune of catching the herd crossing the creek at a low point, jumping, swimming, and walking through the water rather nonchalantly. So when a couple of goats had turned up recently with hair that showed evidence of being wet, I thought nothing of it.

One of my favorite things to do is to take the camera and go out and walk with the goats. I take pictures, shoot video, and just hang out with the girls. It was quite a hot afternoon when I decided to go out – I checked the GPS location of the goats (two of the herd members wear trackers on their collars), finding them relatively close, near a group of ponds. They often rested in this location and I figured I had plenty of time to catch up to them.

When I approached, I immediately became concerned – there was a goat in the water! A storm had blown over several trees into the water; the goat must have climbed out for leaves and slipped. I hurried towards the scene, worried that the goat was caught up in branches and unable to get out. As I got closer, I stopped in surprise, realizing that the goat was swimming.

I turned the camera on right away, knowing no one would believe it unless I had proof! I hardly believed it myself. What kind of goats are we raising around here? Lime was just a head bobbing about in the water, and she wasn’t alone either – several other goats had joined her in an effort to reach what had to be some really delicious leaves.

I moved closer to get a better look, the goats ignoring me as they usually did in these instances, and was just blown away by the antics of these La Mancha. And it’s interesting to note too that it’s only the La Mancha (and primarily Lime) that I catch swimming or wading voluntarily. While the Nigerian Dwarf will cross water if they must, I’ve yet to catch one swimming or wading just to browse.

Over that summer and fall, I caught them in the ponds several more times. It still surprises me to see them indulge in this behavior, but I have to say it makes for some great video! As for health concerns, we’ve yet to have any issues stemming directly from the swimming (or drinking of pond water) but precautions should always be taken when it comes to animals around open water.

 

 

 

The Deformed Kid

This post contains image/video that may not be for everyone. 

 

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that every kidding season comes with it’s own surprise. This year was certainly no different. For the first time in hundreds of kids, we had an extreme deformity.

Many people are familiar with the flaws a kid can be born with – wry face, supernumerary teats, parrot mouths, underbites. And most of us have seen pictures of very strange deformities – extra legs, cyclops, legs turned backwards. But I’d never had a deformity of this magnitude born to any of my animals.

Midori, the doe famous for kidding five-six kids every year, delivered something completely different in 2017. Not only did she have a big healthy doeling, she delivered a deformed kid.

The birthing went perfectly fine, Midori needed no assistance, and the first doeling was completely normal. The second however, was a surprise to us all.

The second kid was almost completely hairless, with just hair on the lower legs, tail, spine, and top of what should have become a skull. You could clearly see the developed blood supply system that had kept the kid “alive” up until birth, when it surely suffocated. Since it had no discernable face. The rest of the body appeared to have formed fairly normally, (it was a doeling), the joints were in the proper position and it had muscle structure. However, once you reached the neck, you could clearly see things had gone wrong.

The neck vertebrae felt normal upon palpation but the soft structures of the neck and throat were mushy, underdeveloped. Where the neck ended, there was merely a hard knob instead of a formed skull. Instead of a face, there was only a strange small ear, with possibly another auditory hole on the other side of the head.

Thought I was sorely tempted to perform a necropsy on the kid, I know of an author working on a book for deformities in livestock, so I wrapped up the little creature and stuck it in my freezer until I could get it to them.

There were some questions of outside influence creating a deformity, but I personally do not believe this was the case in this particular instance. These things just sometimes happen – just from conception to live birth is a miracle in itself, with how much can go wrong. Most things that go wrong are absorbed or slipped very shortly after conception, so we rarely see one last this long.

I admit, I became entirely too excited over this deformed kid, insisting that my employer take a look with me. Yes, it is sad that this kid did not develop normally, but at the same time, we were experiencing an unusual occurrence. I felt it was important to stop and appreciate the fascinating way something can go wrong – however strange that sounds.

The live doeling continues to develop and grow perfectly well, and is in fact quite a good looking girl. She’ll have to get a name soon.

I’ve posted pictures of the kid below, along with a video I took. There is no gore, and in my opinion is not disgusting or disturbing, but please look/watch at your own discretion.

 

 


Building a Social Media Presence

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I am a very lucky person to have so many great hobbies, but one of my greatest passions, one that has lived longer and surpasses even my love for our caprine companions, is computers and technology. My dear grandfather is the source of this – as an architect, he had access to home computers very early on in their life, and as he adored me as all good grandfathers do, he shared this with me. Nevermind I was little more than a bouncing baby! Almost before I could read, I knew how to switch on the computers and navigate MS-DOS (Windows was a thing of the future in these times) via keyboard (the mouse too came later!) to the simple games and programs a young girl might enjoy. Even better, I knew the appropriate way to shut the computer down – much more complicated than it is now!

I’ll never forget the first day we logged into the World Wide Web. I barely understood how it worked – and I had no idea how it would shape the rest of not just my life, but the world itself.

My grandfather passed on fairly young, but the love of technology stayed and only grew. As my life changed and computers were much too expensive for me, I learned how to rescue parts and pieces from others and build my own. When personal websites became available, I taught myself HTML. I remember typing classes in Elementary and advanced networking classes in High School. For many years, I funded our farming venture by building websites for others – until WYSIWYG builders put me out of business!

I continue to seek out new things to learn in the industry however, as I’ve always really enjoyed the straight forward challenges of writing code. And too my interests have expanded to include many other aspects of our new world, all of which tie back into my beloved desktop computer.

So – obviously – I’ve managed to build a miniature “social empire” surrounding K-N-S Farm. Following links, one can find my website, my Facebook, my Twitter, my Youtube, my blog, my Reddit, and a few other less attended to social media platforms. My logo is recognizable at a glance, and the content I put out consistent – or at least I hope it is.

In this day and age, a presence on social media is almost necessary. When people are looking for local farms and breeders, it’s Google they turn to now, not the local Thrifty Nickle. So let’s look at what’s important for your farm:

  • Logo
  • Website
  • Facebook
  • Other Social Media

 

Logo: Your logo is so important! This is what you should use on anything that comes from your farm/operation. From website header, to Facebook avatar, to Forum signature. Keep it simple – it’ll be easier to add it to anything, and you never know what you might want to put it on someday. Pay or create something original for yourself – avoid using clip-art spliced together or pre-made logos if you can. Often times farms start with these, and they often work well enough, but as you grow, remember, you’re also growing your brand recognition. It’s worth the investment.

Website: In this current time, there are a good number of operations that believe websites redundant, and prefer to use other social media platforms exclusively. I say they’re wrong. A website is an incredibly valuable resource for your customers – all of the information they need should be there. A customer should be able to view your stock/product, and contact information should be available to them as well. Keep in mind when building your website – it’s for the consumer! One may love sparkles and music, but when someone goes to your page and encounters lag from particle effects and auto-playing music, they’re going to close your page.

Facebook: There are many social media platforms now, places where one can connect to others, be they local or distant, but there is no denying that Facebook is still the current king. There are an uncountable number of resources for goat and other stock breeders and keepers, from sale groups to pages about color patterns. Just about every farm I know these days utilizes a Facebook page – myself included. I always recommend to have one, and to ensure a link is easily available on your website. Don’t forget to share the page on your personal page!

Other Social Media: First and foremost – don’t take on more than you can keep regular, but don’t forget to check out other social media platforms. The Internet moves at breakneck speed and it waits for no one. You just never know what the next platform to explode will be! If you have a special or favored hobby/skill that falls in line with one of these, absolutely use it to its best advantage. Love to take a lot of pictures? Instagram is great for that. Do you have a talent for videography and editing? Youtube offers a ton of possibilities. Even if you don’t have the time to dedicate now, it’s often prudent to sign up to these services and set up a profile that links back to your mainstay location.

There’s more to it than just setting up and posting, of course. It’s incredibly important to treat your farm’s business pages as exactly that. Remember that you are posting to potential, past, and present customers and consumers. Your page, website, etc, are no place for political, personal issues, and religious postings. Now, I know many farms are founded on religious ideals, and perhaps there are farms founded on political ones as well. Your pages are like your farm in the end – yours. Post as you will, but when it comes to drawing in a large – and varied – fanbase, you must be aware of the image you are presenting.

How you handle an issue that arises will change how others perceive you and your farm as well. It’s difficult to give guidelines in these cases because they vary so wildly, and each farm will handle problems that arise differently. The rule of thumb to remember is to remain calm, collected, and never allow yourself to become heated publically. Whenever possible, move issues with customers into a private method of communication.

Finally, you’re never going to please everyone. You’re never going to make everyone happy, and no doubt you’ll face some type of online harassment, abuse, or negativity. This is just part and parcel on the Internet. The keyboard and screen gives some the courage to be ugly, and there’s absolutely no point in responding to it. Block, ban, and move on. Occasionally there may be instances in which it’s prudent to respond, but for the most part, there is nothing to be gained from it.

We are so fortunate to live in this age of fast paced communication and education. I remember clearly the days of scanning the newspaper ads, or putting ads in them ourselves to sell stock. The bulletin board at the local feedstore was the original Facebook local sales group. You played phone tag with a stranger, then wrote down directions and hoped they were correct! The flea markets were the hot places to be when looking for a varied selection.

Now it’s easier than ever to get what we’re looking for, and so many ways to utilize it. Break free of your Internet comfort zone and expand!

 

Dairy Diaries: The Making of Minx

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If you follow my farm in any form, be it Facebook, Youtube, or even Reddit, you know who Minx is! How she came to be, and came to be mine is actually an interesting little tale, that covers a range of goats and even a couple of generations.

Our first goat was Hope, a rather large Nigerian Dwarf doe. Once we’d moved to our little farm, we added a few more goats to the herd, and made a few goat friends. I leased a very handsome buck from a neighbor, Pace County Roadhouse Blue, and he bred the handful of does we had.

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Hope gave me two beautiful blue eyed doelings. Both buckskin, one a bright gold, the other a darker shade. Immediately, there was something just . . . not quite right with the darker doeling. I’d never before seen (and never seen since) a kid reject its dam. But this is what this doeling proceeded to do. As both doelings struggled to stand on their wobbly legs, the darker kid wandered away, over and over. No matter how Hope called to her and licked her and chased after her, this kid completely ignored her.

I was able to encourage her to nurse by holding her up to the teat, but after filling her belly, off she went again. As you can imagine, I took both doelings inside, concerned. I milked out Hope and made sure they got full bellies. In the morning, I returned them to Hope. The golden doeling nursed immediately, but again, I had to help the darker doeling.

I christened the doeling “NQR” – Not Quite Right – and kept her inside for a week or so, taking her outside to nurse on Hope alongside her sister and let Hope fuss over her. Besides her strange behavior, NQR was normal – she grew at the expected rate, played, and was a typical goat kid. Both doelings spent the nights inside, as I didn’t want NQR to be lonely.

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After a week or so, NQR’s little lightbulb seemed to go off, and she began to nurse on Hope by herself, though she showed little other interest in her dam. I still kept her inside at night, though I started letting her stay longer outside with her sister as the days passed. Before long, she was almost like a normal doeling in the pasture, so I decided she could go to a pet home with no problem. Her new owner would be a lovely young woman who recommended me through a friend, and after her visit to meet little NQR and my other kids, I had not just a new customer, but a new friend. She planned to take little NQR home when she was weaned, and put down a deposit.

Unfortunately, before that day could come, I suddenly found little NQR cold and still one morning. I’ll never know exactly what happened, but her little life was over.

Saddened, I offered her sister, who I was calling Rose, in replacement. Her new owner promised to bring the now named June back to be bred, and then I could have a baby, as she emphasized with the disappointing turn of events.

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June did indeed return the next year, to meet the most influential buck my herd has seen.Sometime in between she’d lost her ear to a very rude dog, but she hardly seemed to notice. Her owner was planning her wedding, which would be fairly close to the birth, so I was happy to agree to board her again when she was closer to kidding, so that her owner wouldn’t need to worry about her while trying to plan the most exciting event of her life at the same time.

June’s pregnancy progressed normally, and it was almost no time at all before she was back. She enjoyed an extended stay on our farm, and when it came time for her to kid, she had a stall all to herself, and I had a camera to monitor her. When her labor began, I set the camera to record so I could share the event with her owner, and settled in to be with her.

The labor was fairly quick, and uneventful – which is always nice. The kid was a large single, so I gently assisted June as she pushed, and soon the kid landed in the bedding, steaming hot. June was shocked by this and retreated to a corner of the stall to stare at this new foreign life form. I rubbed the kid, stimulating it as it breathed its first startled breaths, and marvelled at what a pretty kid it was! Sturdy and large like most singles are, it was a buckskin like June, but splashed with patches of white. I picked up the kid and checked between the hind legs, dreading the sight of a scrotum, and was rewarded. It was a doeling!

I gently brought June back over and showed her the doeling, and after a short time, she was nuzzling and licking her, one hundred percent mom material. Indeed, she’s ended up being one of the best goat mothers I’ve ever known.

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Once June recovered from the birth, and her owner recovered from her wedding, the little doe went home, and began a career as a home milker. The little doeling stayed with me, and for anyone who doubts whole milk to raise goat kids – that’s what this girl was raised on!

She 485717_2168043218094_370609915_nearned a name quickly enough with her bold hijinks and playful attitude as she froliked amonst the other kids on the farm. I named her Minx, and I adored her like I’d never loved a kid before – though I’ve loved a few almost that much since. She grew quickly and flaunted her domination of her age group, and when I moved her and her companions to Honey Doe Farm, she took it in casual stride. Totally unfazed, she made friends with some other does her age and created the first “teenager gang”, constantly squeezing under gates and getting into trouble together. We’ve had a group of them every year since – much to my dismay!

Since then our love for this doe has only grown. She’s proven herself not only intelligent and affectionate, but a good mother and a great milker. She rules the Nigerian Dwarf herd with little challenge, but she always has time to break off to request a scratch or two from her favorite people. It wasn’t long before she became the face of our farm, with her likeness adorning everything to do with K-N-S Farm. She truly embodies the goals of our breeding: A hardy doe that milks well, mothers well, and does it all in style.

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