Reminding Myself Why (OP: 5/2014)

Here lately, I’ve had to stop myself and reevaluate my plans so many times.

As I get more and more involved with the goat world, I find myself second guessing, and sometimes I have to remind myself why I have goats, and what my goals are.

As my herd of registered goats grows, I often start to think that I should cull and sell off most of my unregistered goats. I tell myself I should purchase goats from awesome show lines and breed for show goats.

Then I stop and realize: this is not what I want to do.

I love goats of all shapes, colors, and sizes, but my true passion is for goats who are visually pleasing to me. I love colorful flashy goats with bright blue eyes. Small and friendly, affectionate and beloved. And it doesn’t take a piece of registration paper or a best in show to accomplish that.

That isn’t to say that I don’t breed for quality as well. I want my goats to be hardy, healthy, and to live long lives. To accomplish this, they need proper conformation. To raise health happy babies, they need good udders with strong attachments and good teats.

So you can see, there is no reason that one can’t have the best of both worlds. While it costs as much to feed an unregistered doe as it does a registered, I don’t love my unregistered girls any less. I have to remind myself, my unregistered goats are not worth less to me. And it doesn’t matter how much they’re worth to other people – in the end, I have them and I breed them to produce goats that I love.

Thankfully, other people *do* love them, and I never have to fear finding offspring excellent homes, where they become beloved pets, milkers, companions, and yes occasionally, show goats.

While I’ll continue to register my does that are from registered stock, and breed them with registered bucks, I won’t discount my sweet grade girls as well. They are what started me on their journey, and when I walk through the fields in the evening, both registered and unregistered alike make my heart happy with their beauty.

Blood Drawing for Testing (OP: 4/2014)

If you’ve done any research into goats at all, you’ll learn very quickly that there are some important blood tests that should be done in your herd, to ensure long productivity. Blood tests can be used to test for CAE, Johnes, CL, and even pregnancy.

But with vet prices through the roof in some areas, it can become cost prohibitive to pay for a veterinarian to come out and draw blood on your entire herd. Never fear – drawing blood on a goat is actually very simple and I would even venture to say, easy.

What you will need:

  • A goat
  • A helper to hold the goat
  • Trimmers to shave the neck if need be
  • 3cc syringes
  • 22 gauge needles
  • “Red top” or Vacutainer tubes

We start by shaving a patch in the neck. It’s not completely necessary but it makes it far easier to locate the vein. You can see in this picture below the location of the jugular vein. There is one on each side.

Picture courtesy of luresext.edu

Have your helper hold the goat and tilt the animal’s head back. Using your fingers, press in the area to locate the vein – it will be large, and when you press a finger down on it, will pop out and become even more visible.

While pressing on the vein, insert the needle at an angle firmly. If you go straight in, you will go right through the vein. If you are too gentle, the vein will roll to the side. Do not panic if you need to poke more than once, although after a couple of tries, switch to a fresh needle, as they become more dull with each use.

Once you believe to be within the vein, draw the plunger, looking for blood. If you get no blood, take care to not allow any air to enter the goat’s body, and try again.

If you lose the vein during drawing, simply shift the needle and attempt to locate it once more.

Once you have your blood, immediately put the needle through the soft top of your vacutainer tube. It will draw the blood into the tube for you. If you wait too long, the blood will begin to clot and be a little more difficult to get into the tube.

I made a short video for you guys, so you can see just how easy it really is!

I use the following lab for all of my testing needs:

Biotracking

Wethering (OP: 4/2014)

A subject to make any male cringe a little!

Wethering is the process of neutering a male goat. There are several methods of wethering, which I will touch upon in this post.

Many many breeders still believe that wethering at a young age will cause urinary calci later in life. If this was true, then intact bucks would not get urinary calci, and they most certainly can.

Urinary calci is caused by an imbalance of phosphorous and calcium – in essence, it’s a diet caused issue. Grain + grass hay is a lot of phosphorous, which is what causes the stones. Alfalfa is needed to balance this issue, or simply preventing the animal from eating grain if they do not need it.

Banding

The most common form of wethering that keepers use is the banding method. It’s efficient and very rarely has side effects.

I prefer to band at about 10-12 weeks but have done it earlier (and later) with no issues. The urinary tract is going to shrink no matter what age you do it, and it shrinks by a very miniscule amount.

You use a lamb band and the tool (procured at nearly any feed store). I get my husband to hold the male in his lap, and the band is passed over the testicles and settled above them, making sure to not capture the teats or bits of stomach skin in the band.

From there, the testicles will dry up and fall off.

An older buck can be done by placing them on a milk stand, hobbling their legs, and passing one testicle at a time through the band.

Spraying the area with an antiseptic or iodine is recommended.

Here are some great links about banding:

http://www.wikihow.com/Band-a-Goat

http://www.goatwisdom.com/ch9husbandry/banding.html

Surgical/Knife

Wethering using a scalpel and the removal of the testicles is not for the faint of heart, but it is quick and rather easy, once you get the hang of it. This is best done with young kids, as they heal quickly and the cords are not large.

Here is a great link to learn more about this method:

http://www.thegoatspot.net/Wethering-Surgical-Technique.html

Burdizzo/Emasculatome

I have never used this piece of equipment, and have heard both positive and negative reviews upon it. When properly done, it appears to be a quick method and can be used on any age buck.

Learn more about it here:

https://fiascofarm.com/goats/buck-wether-info.htm#burdizzo

Your Worst Nightmare – Missing Stock (OP: 3/2014)

Everyone pet and stock owner’s worst nightmare. Coming home and finding some of your beloved animals gone.

Did they run away? Were they stolen? Did predators get to them? All valid questions that sometimes never go answered.

So what do you do when you discover your stock is missing? I’ll share what I did when I had the same thing happen, although in my case, I knew that mine had run away, and were not stolen nor killed.

I brought home two new does, put them in the quarantine pen, and made a vital mistake – the housing was entirely too close to the fencing. Over it the does went, and frightened and lost, disappeared. I was terribly disappointed in myself, but set about looking for them. I searched nearby properties, both on foot and horseback. I shook a feed pail and called them, but these goats were unfamiliar with me and did not respond.

I called the local feed stores and let them know I was missing goats. I put up signs at the Post Office and on street corners. I contacted all of my neighbors who owned stock and let them know. We continued to look for days and finally we got a call from a neighbor a mile away – one doe was found and captured after being trapped in a shed by their dog.

We didn’t hear anything about the other for two weeks, and I gave her up for lost. Imagine my surprise when a sweet old farmer called and let me know he had my second doe. She had been found over *ten* miles away, two weeks after she went missing.

My story turned out well, but so often it does not. Do not underestimate humans – goats are often prime targets for thieves. They are easy to run through an auction and make a little money off of, or slaughtered for consumption or black market sale of the meat.

Predators too, take their toll. However in this case, there is almost always evidence of the predator, unless by chance it was a large cat like a Mountain Lion, which is more than capable of dragging away a goat after killing it and leaving very little trace.

If your stock goes missing, don’t waste any time. Go looking. Call – shake a feed pail. Call your local feed stores, veterinarians, and anyone else you think would possibly hear about a goat (or other animal) being found.

Print out and put up flyers in places people will easily see them. Don’t ignore the internet community either – find your local Facebook and Craigslist groups and post. Offer a reward, no questions asked. The more people that see your flyers and posts, the better.

Don’t forget to take a second look at your fencing, your gates, your barn. Think about investing in intruder deterrents. Livestock Guardian Dogs, motion-activated lighting, locks for your gates if needed.

Even if your stock is not registered, consider micro-chipping or tattooing as a permanent way to identify an animal as belonging to you, in the case that you find it and have to prove ownership.

Watch your local ads as well – you never know when your animal might come up for sale by someone else who has procured it one way or another.

And try not to give up hope.

The goats pictured at the top of this blog went missing not too long ago in South Texas. If you see either of them or know of their location, please contact me using my email or phone number on my website.

Dam Raising Vs Bottle Raising (OP: 3/2014)

There are plenty of things goat keepers debate about, and one of the biggest? How to raise your kids!

The main two ways kids are raised are bottle feeding (removing the kid from the mother and feeding by a bottle or bucket/lambar system) The second is dam raising (allowing the mother to raise the kid naturally).

Both ways are fragmented into a hundred more ways to do them, and both have their benefits.

You’ll find that most large breeders and dairies will bottle feed their kids. The babies are removed at birth, fed colostrum and milk through the bottle from day one. This is especially prevalent in herds that practice CAE prevention by pasteurizing all milk and colostrum. It also enables the handlers to check each kid individually and the kids learn that humans = food, making them easier to handle as they grow.

Small breeders often dam raise, allowing the mothers to clean and nurse their kids. This is only recommended in herds with CAE negative test results that span years. It only takes one doe to cause a contamination of a herd, as kids are not particular about who they will nurse from. Dam raising often results in hard to handle kids unless the handlers take the time to associate themselves with the kids on a daily basis.

When I started, I dam raised. I had the time to play with and socialize the kids every day, and I often wondered why people would claim “All dam raised kids are wild” when it obviously was not true. However, I learned very quickly that when you have a job and a large herd, it becomes almost impossible to ensure the offspring become socialized and you have an uphill battle.

There are, of course, other ways to combine the two. I learned about a technique another farm uses, where the babies are placed in a communal pen directly after birth and receive all sustenance from the owners, but the dams can still see and “speak” with the offspring. After a couple weeks, the kids are let loose, and will return and follow their dams, but continue to be fed by their handlers.

Other farms allow the dams to keep the kids a week or more, allowing colostrum to clear the system, before removing the kids and training them to take the bottle, keeping them separated until the bond between dam/nursing and the kid is broken.

Some farms dam raise and allow the youngsters to run wild, until it comes time to be bred and then broken to the milk stand.

In the meat production world, almost all kids are dam raised.

So which is better? This is entirely up to you. Find out what works best for you and your farm. When properly done, both bottle raising and dam raising can produce strong, healthy, friendly kids.

My First Milking Experience (OP: 10/2013)

Ahh, I remember it so well. The goat stood, staring at me from among the tall weeds. Her name was Hope and she had an udder full of milk I was determined to get my hands on.

My husband stood nearby, watching with an amused expression. He is well used to my often random decisions to take on a new hobby or skill. Little did he know this one would stick, and stick hard!

Hope’s horns were huge and a little intimidating. The smaller wether hung behind her, peering warily around his friend. I held out my hand and tried to convince them to move closer. No luck. They were baffled by their new surroundings and very suspicious of these new people.

I walked towards them and they ran away. This repeated for some time before my husband and I cornered them and he grabbed the doe by one horn. She swung her head in an effort to free herself. “Bring her over here.” I motioned, picking up the clean pickle jar I had brought outside with us.

Hope dug her heels in and protested, but my husband got her to where I wanted. I squatted in the dirt and looked at the hairy udder between her hind legs. Hmm. Reaching out, I grabbed one of the teats. Hope kicked wildly and jumped in the air, and I fell backward, getting dirt all over the seat of my pants.

“Let’s tie her to the fence.”

Rinse and repeat.

Ten minutes later, Hope is tied to the fence with three different ropes; one around her middle, one around her neck, and one around her hind legs. My husband grabbed her horns and held her still as I fumbled with her teats, trying to figure out just how to produce the milk that I was certain existed inside.

At long last, a thin stream of warm milk arrived, missed the pickle jar I grasped in one hand, and hit the dirt. Success! Well – almost.

Thirty minutes later, a couple of inches of milk splashed around in the jar, specks of dirt and leaf floating within. I gleefully screwed the lid on and looked at it while my husband untied the annoyed looking goat from the fence. She swung her horns at him grumpily before stalking off, dignity affronted.

I showed him the hard won milk and he gave me an exasperated look I’ve come to know so well.

 

The Great Horn Debate (OP: 10/2013)

Almost from the moment you start raising goats, you will be faced with one of the largest debates in the caprine world. Horns, or no horns. The opinions differ from person to person, and even industry to industry. You’ll find that the meat goat industry is for horns, while the dairy goat industry is against horns. So if you are a pet or hobby raiser, how do you decide which is the right course for you and your farm?

I also started as a hobby raiser. My goats were Nigerian Dwarf crosses, a miniature dairy breed. I thought the horns were beautiful and decided that I would allow my goats to keep their horns. The horns are used to help disperse heat from the animal, something I thought would be very useful, living in Central Texas where it gets quite hot. I thought also, the horns would be a good deterrent against predators. Plus it was natural. While it is true that horns are a natural radiator in goats, I found out very quickly that horns will not help a goat under attack. My favorite goat was mauled badly by a dog, despite her large formidable horns. I was lucky: she survived and with much care, healed and suffered no lasting harm except for a torn ear.

With that I learned two valuable lessons: horns are not protection, and domestic dogs are one of the most common causes of livestock attacks. Still, I was determined to allow my goats to keep their horns. Until about the fifth time I untangled one goat from the fencing. Then I went online and began to research further into the matter, and found that the cons of allowing goats, especially dairy goats, to keep their horns was greater than the pros. I read about one owner who had a doe (female goat) get trapped in the fence much like mine had, but in her case, it was dogs that found her poor goat before she did.

They can also die of dehydration if trapped on a hot day when you are not home. Horns can break off during a fight, causing a painful bloody mess. Even the sweetest goat can accidentally harm you by an unfortunate movement of the head at the wrong time, as I also learned and now sport a scar from. Bucks (male goats) with intact horns, even when not aggressive, can cause some substantial damage to fencing and housing by rubbing their horns against it. Dairy goats cannot be shown with horns intact, so if you ever move from hobby goats to registered stock to improve your lineage, you will face this trouble as well. Which of course brings you to the final key point of all these discussions: disbudding. Disbudding is the act of using a very hot iron to burn the horn buds on a young kid to prevent future horn growth.

While it sounds grotesque, it is a valuable skill many goat raisers learn to do themselves. The skull of a goat is very thick (remember, they use their heads as battering rams) and the pain is quickly forgotten by the youngster. The other methods for horn removal in older goats are not near as quick or as easy, so it is always recommended that if you are going to remove horns, you disbud them as kids. Talk to your local goat raisers – if you do not wish to learn this skill, you can certainly find someone to help you out. In the end, it’s a rare person that will not buy a goat because it is disbudded, but you will find that quite often, people will pass on your goats because they are horned.

Horns are beautiful and I do still enjoy the look of a goat with a majestic pair, however, when it comes to my herd and not just their safety, but my own, I have changed my mind and choose to disbud.

Goat Breeding in a Nutshell (OP: 10/2013)

First off you have to realize, there is almost no scientific research done on goats. 99% of what you will be using is not marketed towards goats. And  manyvets have no earthly idea what they are talking about. Goats are not cattle!

To remain healthy, alive, and productive, a breeding doe needs a great amount of supportive care. Deworming, proper diet, supplements, minerals. The bucks put a lot of effort into breeding and need the same.

Here is a basic run down of things on my end.

Dry (open does not in milk) does are being fed grass hay and a bit of grain every day. A month before breeding season, grain begins to increase! I begin pouring it into them – this helps them to ovulate and release more eggs. A single kid birth is a troublesome birth.

ALL does come in to get their feet trimmed, supplemented with Bo-Se (prescription) for selenium, and dewormed pre-breeding twice. They’ve already received a copper bolus in June.

Breeding rolls around. I have the buck – he is stinking himself and everything else up. I hand breed everyone if I can and then he lives with the herd to catch any who might come back into estrus.

Grain feed increases slowly. Come December everyone gets copper bolused again and I begin adding alfalfa to the diet – the calcium is a MUST. They also begin to get yeast and powdered calcium in their feed.

February rolls around – time for the buck to leave if he hasn’t already. All this time between then and now you’ve been working on getting him back in shape. He’ll have lost weight and could possibly have urine scald on his legs. You’ll have been separating him to feed as he is not supposed to get an unproportionate amount of calcium vs phosphorous but still needs a good diet to get his weight back. He needs to be bolused just like the does, as well as given Bo-Se before and after breeding to keep fertility up. Dewormed before and after as well, and his feet trimmed no matter how badly he was stinking.

Everyone by now should be showing their udders and I will know who settled and who didn’t. Hopefully everyone did. They receive their CD/T booster, Bo-Se, and I now begin to pay far more attention to their moods and actions.

March! KIDDING TIME! Five months after they are bred, I now face multiple sleepless nights. Every doe is checked multiple times during the day. I pay special attention to several points – udder, hind legs, tail ligaments, behavior. All of these can tell me when they are due to kid. If I feel they are close, they go into the kidding stall and I watch them on camera.

Kidding! If all goes well, the most I need to do is wipe off noses and make sure the babies nurse. Or more likely, I’m sorting out tangled kids in utero and helping them into the world. I hold scared first fresheners until they understand what their babies are. I pray that no kid is so large I cannot pull it on my own. I pray no doe tears inside and needs to be put down.

Mama gets dewormed again, babies get umbilicals dipped and get a vit e and selenium supplement. They are kept stalled for a couple days if I don’t need the stall immediately, then out with the herd. Babies MUST have access to safe warm dry shelter. A wet and cold baby goat is a dead baby goat, period.

Kids now need to be disbudded. Nothing like the smell of burnt hair and flesh and horn bud. Kids need their CD/T booster. Kids need to be pulled from mama and taught to nurse from a bottle before going to new homes.

Now mamas need to be milked. Their grain and alfalfa ration is huge. They eat it all and demand more. They lick up every bit of the expensive minerals and demand more. The newbie moms have to be hobbled and taught what milking is all about. The pros kick the bucket over from time to time to remind you who is really in charge.

Any kids you kept are either nursing mama and need to be separated at night once they are old enough so you can milk in the morning, or you are bottle feeding up to 3-4 times a day. They need to be carefully managed – coccidosis and worms are a massive killer of baby goats, and what they don’t kill, they stunt.

So kids are on some kind of preventive program. If you can get Baycox, you can get away with one dose at 21 days. If not, you are using Corid or Albon or Sulmet and treating orally every 21 days for five days in a row. You are also carefully deworming with the proper dosages and dewormer every 21 days. Prevention in kids is key if you want them to grow robust. They also eat an amazing amount of high protein for their size.

Now you are milking every day, usually twice a day. No excuse – you must get up and milk. You must be home to milk. Each udder must be wiped down, the teats stripped of that first squirt and checked for mastitis. Then you milk. You dip the teats and shoo the doe back out. Then the milk must be quickly strained and chilled and you bring in the next doe to milk.

So forth until you decide to dry the doe up which means careful watching that she doesn’t become too full in her udder which is painful and could cause issues. Finally, she’s dry!

And breeding season looms ahead of you again. Time to decide who is ready to be bred, who to breed to, and start all over again.

And remember…these are just the basics of breeding goats, and based on things going properly. There is so much that can go wrong, which I will touch on in later blog posts.

Falsely Accused? (OP: 9/2013)

Who here hasn’t seen a picture or video of animal neglect? I’m willing to bet a great number of my readers have seen multiple, and not just ones reposted by someone else. I’m sure many of you have come across a questionable Facebook post, or forum thread, or Craigslist ad. You’ve seen an animal who looks neglected or abused.

Many of us will do what we can to rectify the situation. Some of us try to educate the owner. Some try calling local law enforcement and animal control. Some even gather personal information about the owner and use it against them.

So what happens when it’s *you* being accused of animal neglect or abuse?

For the purpose of this blog, we’re going to say that you are innocent of what you are being accused of. Perhaps the animal has a medical condition. Perhaps you just recently procured the animal, which came from a bad situation.

So what do you do when the internet begins calling for blood?

First and foremost: Stay calm!

I simply cannot stress this enough. Your innocence doesn’t matter worth a shit if you immediately jump to the defensive. If you hit your capslock and begin “screaming” at people, you have lost any and all credibility right away. When you begin to insult people, they begin to automatically assume your guilt.

Stay calm. Step away if you must, until you have full control over your mouth/fingers.

Next, believe it or not, you need to *thank* the people who are questioning your animal. Thank them for their concern. After all, they wouldn’t bother doing so if they weren’t actually worried about the animal. (With a few exceptions, of course)

Tell them your appreciate their feedback. Thank them for caring enough to say something.

Explain yourself, calmly. If you are innocent of what you are being accused of, no doubt you have a damn good reason for having an animal that appears neglected/abused. Outline the situation. There’s no need to go into a great deal of detail as long as you lay down the factual foundation.

To those threatening to call the Sheriff or Animal Control, tell them they are welcome to it. Whether or not they actually do so, this shows that you are unconcerned about what these agencies will find. Now, make note, Animal Control has had it’s share of epic screw-ups, but for the most part, if you are doing things correctly, they will find no reason to bring charges against you.

You will of course, need to provide some sort of proof to back up your reasons for the animal’s condition, but you need only present this to an agency of the law. The people on the internet do not *need* this information. Posting it can help, but take care to remove *any* and *all* personal information posted on said documentation.

Staying safe is paramount. There are people out there who truly only care about the animal(s) and will not bring harm to you or yours.

But there are a great deal of insane lunatics out there who will not think twice about spreading your name, personal information, and even going further and beyond.

Just remember – we are all in this together. Take a moment to *ask* about a situation you may see online. Not every neglected or abused animal being posted became that way via the person posting it.

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!