A Reddit Response (OP: 9/26/2013)

I wrote this in response to a picture posted on a social media forum called Reddit.

No big deal – it’s normal for newborn ruminant offspring to present in that fashion – feet first. The doe might be a first timer and decided to take a little jog mid-birth. Again, pretty normal. It appears these deer are almost tame and are probably used to being in the area around houses and whatnot.

While this is not an unusual presentation during birth, it’s not the OPTIMAL one. The optimum presentation is forelegs with the nose upon them, one shoulder/leg slightly back. Like this: LINK 

However, many other presentations, while not as optimal, still generally work. When I looked at this image, I thought these were the back legs. As I am visually impaired, it’s hard for me to tell, so I just went with what I thought it was, which is THIS  presentation.

To get to the point: I have seen several does present with kids the way I perceived the picture to be. If the fawn is actually forelegs out, (Like this  ) head back, this is a far more serious issue. But what I most hate seeing and what I treat as a serious concern is a breech like this  .

We had a good variety of positions presented this year, especially in the smaller goats who often carry multiples (we had one girl birth five kids. Several others kidded four and most kidded three) and the things can become tangled up.

I help sort out tangled babies and ease them into the world, and I also know when a situation will likely solve itself on it’s own. To me personally, a backwards baby like I thought this was, is “no big deal.” Hence my comment! You would be surprised how resilient animals are – they will push their hardest and deliver their babies even when their babies are delivered in the oddest fashion. And many times the babies live. It can be surprising!

Goat Myths – True or False? (OP: 9/18/2013)

To this day, some myths about goats continue to persist. Even I, the Goat Whisperer, find myself having to time and time again refute these myths.

It gets a little frustrating at times! Ignorance is never a fun thing to come up against. But ignorance can be remedied, if people are willing.

So let’s take a look at a few of those myths and I’ll give my . . . unique point of view on them. Won’t that be fun?

1. Goats stink.

Now here’s a fun one! It’s both true and false. My does (female goats) and any wethers (neutered male goats) I keep absolutely do not stink. They have a pleasant subtle smell if you stick your nose in their fur. However, bucks (intact male goats) absolutely do stink for part of the year. They go into rut, a state of heightened sexuality, where they urinate on themselves and their faces. They emit a powerful odor to make themselves sexy to female goats. It works.

To someone not used to the smell, it can just about knock you over. It sticks to you and is difficult to remove. So yes, buck goats stink. Don’t want smelly goats? Don’t keep a buck.

And of course, if a person locks any animal in a small enclosure and don’t clean it, it’ll stink.

2. Goats eat anything.

Man I hate this one. Very false. For some reason, every moron out there thinks goats can eat anything and everything and will be just fine with some shitty moldy hay they wouldn’t give cattle.

Goats have stomachs far more delicate than cattle. They are more on the level of horses, despite having a chambered stomach and rumen. They cannot eat poor forage and absolutely do not eat trash or tin cans. And most won’t.

My goats and many others won’t even touch something that fell on the ground. If I give them the best hay available, they pick out the best and anything that falls out of the feeder is stomped into the ground and laid on. Wasteful creatures. If I give them slices of apple, any that are dropped are left to the chickens. Goodness forbid these prima donnas eat something with dirt on it!

Feeding goats insufficient and even moldy feed has cost them their lives, when they eat it out of hunger.

3. Goats will mow your lawn.

True and false I suppose. Goats are browsers, not grazers. They prefer to eat from high up, like trees and bushes. They will clear that out first before they touch grass, and even then they’ll be picky. You won’t get a nice smooth lawn, that’s for sure! If you can keep them in your pasture anyways.

4. Goats are impossible to keep penned up.

*cough*true!*cough. Ahem. Well, true and false again. Goats are clever creatures who are quite certain that the trees are always greener on the other side. To keep goats in, you need fencing made for Fort Knox, and even then, you’ll need to watch, if there’s any weakness, they’ll find it.

5. Goat milk tastes “goaty”.

Absolutely false. “Goaty” or musky tasting milk is the result of poor handling, not the milk itself. Goat milk is naturally homogenized and more delicate than cow’s milk. It needs to be strained and cooled as soon as possible and not overly shaken about. Which is why goat milk in stores tastes so poor, it’s been pasteurized to death and then shipped, which breaks it down. Goat milk I get from my own animals tastes just fine, like whole milk, perhaps a little sweeter, and definitely way better for us.

6. Goat meat is a poor man’s meat.

Are you aware that over seventy percent of the world’s population eats goat meat? It’s a wonderfully lean meat, very healthy. It’s molecular structure makes it easier to digest than most meats. Goat meat is so popular that our country cannot keep up with the demand and imports much of it for those of us who eat goat meat.

Did you know that the goat was one of the first domesticated animals, if not the first? They are amazingly diverse creatures. They can be used for milk, meat, fiber, packing, carting, weed control, pets . . . the list is nearly endless. Goats are intelligent, as intelligent as most dogs. And people wonder why I’m so fascinated with them.

I’ll leave off there for now. Have you any myths you’ve heard? Have you discovered that they are true, or false?

Hermaphrodites in Goats (OP: 9/13/2013)

Now here’s an interesting subject for you!

That’s a pretty masculine looking goat right there, isn’t it? That’s certainly what I thought when I walked up to it.But the owners claimed it was a doe, or female.

Baffled, I took a closer look and examined the goat’s teats and vulva area.

My suspicions were correct. This was no female goat! Of course, niether was it a male goat.
It was a hermaphrodite.

Hermaphrodites aren’t very uncommon in goats, believe it or not. It occurs when a goat has both male and female reproductive organs. In this case, the goat has a female vulva, but inside was a nodule, which is actually a penis. If we were to examine the internal structure of this goat, we might find testicles in the abdominal cavity.

 

 

You can see the visually evident penis within the vulva of this goat above. Fascinating, isn’t it? The goat also exhibits immature looking teats much like a buck or wether would and masculine attributes instead of a more feminine look.

There is some debate about the genetic link between the polled (hornless) gene and what causes intersex goats. While it has not been proven, there are many cases of two polled goats being bred together and creating a hermophrodite kid. There are also plenty of cases where it did not.

When breeding polled goats, it would be worth your time to take a closer look at both studies done and anecdotal information to decide for yourself if the risk of breeding a polled goat with a polled goat is worth it to you.

The Basics of Deworming (OP: 9/19/2013)

One of, if not THE, biggest issue that faces goat keepers is the issue of internal parasites.

In a species like the caprine, that comes from a much different climate than we now keep them in, it’s a constant struggle to stay ahead of parasites and keep your herd healthy.

An internal parasite infestation will prevent your goats from growing to their potential. They cause disease and anemia. Your goat will exhibit a rough coat, lethargy, even symptoms such as coughing and fever. Internal parasites kill.

So what can you do?

Let’s start with the most basics – checking your goat for worms. A very useful tool is using the Famacha chart to check eyelid color. A goat with a worm load will show it with anemia.

You check the color against the color of the inner eyelid.

 

Another useful tool that every serious goat keeper should look into learning for themselves is fecal sampling. You can learn how to do it here.

Prevention is also a huge key. Some folks swear by dry lots. I have personally had a lot of success in this as well, but you also have to take care that your dry lot does not become crowded and dirty.

Keep feeders off the ground – keep your goat’s feet out of it. Parasite eggs are transferred through fecal matter most of the time. Keep hay up high – don’t just dump it on the ground. Try your hardest to keep your goats out of their feed.

Water should be higher than the goats can poop in it whenever possible.

Copper bolusing (I’ll do a blog post on this as well in the future) can really help. Good diet and minerals can assist in boosting your animal’s immune system against parasites.

Pasture rotation is often heralded as a great way to keep parasites down, and it can be when done properly. You graze your goats in one field, then move them to a new one and follow them with another species like horses or hogs. (Rotating with sheep is ineffective as they can pass the same species of parasites to each other.) However, simply leaving a field fallow for a cycle will not kill the worms – it can take up to a year to clean an empty field of parasites.

Culling too, can assist you in building a strong resistant herd. Remove animals from your farm that are unable to stay healthy.

So how do you treat a worm load?

We have many options, but you’ll soon find that almost all of them are off-label use of chemical dewormers. Even now, there is a startling lack of research done by anyone except goat raisers themselves.

The biggest chemical dewormers include Ivomec, Cydectin, Dectomax, Safeguard, and Valbazen among others. I won’t go into specific dosages of each one as that can vary by where you are – what works for someone in Michigan or Montana does not work for me in Texas.

Some specifics notes: Valbazen is not safe for pregnant does. Safeguard has become largely ineffective almost everywhere, but still makes an excellent dog dewormer.

The most effective method of deworming is to use one dewormer and stick with it for a year. Switching back and forth from dewormer to dewormer can build resistance. Don’t ever underdose – always overdose! All of these dewormers are safe to overdose by some degree. Don’t deworm just once – deworm, then again in ten days, and in extreme cases, again in another ten days. Every time you get a really good rain, it’s a good idea to deworm again.

Dewormers carry an expiration date but generally do not expire.

I’ll touch base briefly on “natural” goat dewormers. I’ve been known to give the goats pumpkin and pumpkin seeds to this effect, but on the whole, “natural” dewormers are simply inefficient. Many people swear by Diatomaceous earth but there is absolutely no scientific evidence that eating or feeding this will have any effect at all on internal parasites, and indeed, much evidence that it does nothing at all.

Staying on top of parasites is the biggest key to being successful in goats.

Dominant Traits in Goats (OP: 9/17/2013)

A lot of people know some goats are born polled (hornless) and some are born with blue eyes. But SO many people don’t quite understand how this works!

I’m going to use “X” to denote both polled and blue eyes, because they are both a dominant trait, and interchangeable for the sake of this bit of a genetics lesson.

Let’s say you have a doe who exhibits X and a buck who doesn’t. You breed them.

Xx stands for the doe. This means she exhibits the trait (ie blue eyes). xx stands for the buck. He does not exhibit the trait.

If you breed Xx with xx, because it is a DOMINANT trait, and not recessive, you stand to get:

50% Xx
50% xx

In clearer terms, each kid has half a chance of exhibiting the blue eyes. Each kid also has half a chance of having plain eyes.

Now, you breed a Xx with a Xx. Two blue eyed goats.

This means you get 100% blue eyes right?

Wrong.

Because this is a dominant trait, both goats most LIKELY carry the brown eyed/horned gene as well. This means you get:

50% Xx
25% XX
25% xx

But wait, what does this mean? There’s three results.

Xx is obviously a blue eyed kid. xx is a brown eyed kid. So what is XX?

XX is a homozygous blue eyed kid. The homozygous means that it carries two copies of the blue eyed gene. This means if you breed a homozygous goat, all of its offspring will have blue eyes.

Now, I am not 100% certain homozygous blue eyed/polled goats exist. They should. Doesn’t mean they do.

Confused yet? It’s okay, it just takes some practice.

But let me get some things straight.

Your goat cannot CARRY the polled or blue eyed gene without exhibiting it. There is NO non-visual heterozygous for these traits, because they are dominant.

If you breed a blue eyed/polled goat to a blue eyed goat/polled goat, you can STILL get brown eyed/horned kids. You’re more likely to get what you’re seeking, but each kid still has that chance of the draw.

Hope this helps. I’ve seen one too many comments about “carrying” such and such gene or “guaranteed to have such and such gene kids.”