Goat Health & Care
Over the years, I spend quite a lot of time speaking with experienced and new owners, alike. Always learning from the experienced and sharing information I have learned with the new. I love every aspect of it.
We want you to have a happy and healthy start with your new herd, so I have decided to try and compile information I have learned over the years, for you to have a quicker reference.... some of you already know how hard it can be to get me ON the phone!!
If at any time, you see something missing or have further questions that you would like me to look in on, please don't hesitate to email you questions to: [email protected]
- Hay ~ Our hay is a mix of Timothy, Orchard, Brome grasses. It also contains approximately 20% alfalfa and 10% clover. This has been an excellent base for the entire herd, bucks included. While I expect my goats to "clean up" FRESH hay (not the filthy stuff on the ground that all goats waste, poo and pee on) they basically have this mix, free choice. I'm blessed to have a hay guy that has all of these mixes in his hay crop. A one stop hay shop... To break it down simply, goats need the grass and long stems for the "scratch factor" and fiber for rumen health and effective digestion of all nutrition. Also, for the correct balance of phosphorus, among other things. The alfalfa and clover are for protein and calcium for healthy gestation, kid development, bone health and milk production. I have found over the years that if the goats are lacking in any of these areas, they crave the forage they are missing.
- Minerals ~ The LOOSE mineral of our choice is, Concept Aid 5s. We have seen much improvement in the entire herd, by switching to this mineral. Our old one just wasn't cutting it, and we needed the switch and are very happy with it. This is also, free choice. While this is our preferred mineral mix, and good for our herd, the key things to look for in a loose mineral, are GOAT SPECIFIC. With goat specific minerals you will find that Copper is key. Goat's require higher dosages of copper that can be dangerous to other livestock, such as sheep. So, do your research for your area!!
- Grain ~ Our grain is mixed at our local Ag store and consists of Whole Barley, Oats & BOSS. It also contains a ration of Kelp Meal, Linseed Meal and enough Molasses to bind it all together. All of these items were chosen for the added nutrition and minerals that we need, for our area. We have seen drastic improvement with our herd on this mix, with production, weight management & skin health. Bucks only receive this mix in the winter, in rut, IF they are loosing body condition because of their "increased" activity. Does receive this mixture while they are on the stand milking, basically all you can eat, while I milk them out. We decrease their ration once they are dried up from milk production, usually the last 2 months of their gestation to discourage kids from becoming TOO big, in utero. Growing kids will receive this ration, in moderation, to increase friendliness and for of course, the added nutrition. As your animals grow and if you are raising wethers or bucks, it is very important to note that if minerals get out of balance for males, specifically if they receive too much grain and/or alfalfa, they run the risk of developing urinary calci build-up, which can be fatal to them.
- Alfalfa ~ Milking does also receive Alfalfa Pellets. I choose to use pellets, rather than baled hay as it is easier for us to store. Our hay barn in already packed full with the above mentioned hay, normally. Alfalfa provides the necessary protein and calcium, not only for growing healthy babies but also the extra calcium and protein needed for improved milk production. Some goats get some of these pellets snuck in as a rare snack. Pregnant does get an increase in Alfalfa Pellets, the last month of their gestation.
- Baking Soda ~ We do not put out baking soda as a free choice. With a healthy diet, a goat should maintain a healthy rumen pH. We use baking soda, on the very rare occasion that someone needed antibiotics, or some other event that caused the much neede flora and good bacteria in the gut to be killed off, resulting in bloat. I've racked my brain and I think we have needed to do a baking soda drench only 3 times, in 10 years. In the event that baking soda is needed, we simply mix it with water and drench a couple of cc's, several times a day with a needless syringe. That combined with counter clockwise rubbing on the goats left side (rumen) has completely fixed our minor cases of bloat.
- Vaccinations ~ Does are vaccinated 4-6 weeks prior to kidding with 2cc's of the BarVac brand CD/T. (We have found that BarVac is less reactionary to the goat's skin)This is not only the vaccine for the doe, but also the babies first vaccination, as it will receive the antibodies from their dam, through the colostrum. The does receive this vaccine, typically in the left side of their neck, SubQ. Seeing how this is typically in the spring, the other goats in the herd get their CD/T at this time, as well. Babies that leave the farm will receive their first "booster" of this vaccine, before they leave Magic Apple. We administer this vaccine, in the babies IM, in their right rear leg. As you get to know your goats, you will see that this is one of the rare *slightly* meaty areas that you will find, on a dairy goat!! You do have to be extremely careful with this administration as there are blood vessels and ligaments, in this area that you need to avoid. The best way that we do it is with the needle at a 45 degree angle, downward into the muscle, drawing back to make sure that we are NOT in the blood stream. Others may find it easier to do in some of the more common SubQ areas such as under the skin at the base of the neck or in under the loose skin behind the elbow. After our administration of the vaccine, it is then the buyers responsibility to give them their second "booster" 30 days, after that. We have confirmed with our vet, that 1cc is very sufficient for our small Nigerian Dwarf babies. We have been vaccinating this way for nearly 10 years, successfully. The gauge needle used is a 20g x 3/4".
- Hoof Care ~ Baby goats will need their hooves trimmed more often than your aged adults. Everything grows faster, when you are young. Babies are checked at 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age. Then typically, every 4 weeks, or so. Older animals can usually go the full 8 weeks before needing to be on the "to-do" list. We trim the outer wall flush as well as the soft heel that can over-grow. The goal is to have the hoof look just like it did when the kid was born (take note to look, at birth!)
- Parasite Control ~ I like to operate with a nice mix of Holistic and Modern medicine. Our first choice of external parasite control is Diatomaceous Earth in the goat herd's bedding. This is mixed in with their clean straw, a couple of times each year. More so in the spring when things start hatching. Also, we up the usage in the spring, of a product called VetRx. It is a mix of essential oils that not only promote health but also repel external parasites!! Lice (ew) are simply a part of raising goats. The lice are species specific, but something you will have to attend to. A few drops of the VetRx behind the ears and down the spine, have all but eliminated our problem with external parasites and is also a nice fly repellent. Plus, it makes the goats smell wonderful. Now, we differ with internal control from most places as we live in a very dry, high desert environment. Worm eggs, do not like to live here... more like, they just can't survive here. Because of our environment, I only need to chemically worm directly after kidding with Ivermectin drench. The typical dosage is 1cc per 22lbs of goat. The rest of the year the herd gets Molly's Herbal Wormer. We have confirmed that we actually carry zero worm load here. Your worming needs will be different, and it is recommended that you contact a local, healthy goat herder or your local goat veterinarian to confirm what wormers you will need for YOUR area.
- Assessing Body Condition ~ Goats carry their extra weight differently than a lot of species. A lot of people confuse a full, gaseous, healthy rumen (a large looking tummy) for being obese. This is not the case. Goats will carry their extra weight, noticeably in their neck and felt along their rib cage, behind their elbow. This is where I assess my goats. For the amount of work they do (growing babies and milking) I want a nice, not overly thick or excessive, layer of flesh over their ribs. If your doe does not have this, it will be very hard for her to produce up to her full potential, for you. A good dairy goat will sacrifice her own body condition, in order to produce milk. It's her job. It's OUR job to make sure that she doesn't have to do that for us. Feed her well!!
Once you get back to the tummy, if it appears "full" and "squishy" with visible movement on the goats left side.. (mind you NOT tight like a drum - that is bloat) THAT is the sign of a healthy rumen with lots of good gases moving through their tummies. Goats have a four chambered stomach and need that gas, the burping and chewing of cud, to receive all the proper nutrition out of the food you are feeding!! A lot of burps and cud chewing are a GREAT thing... and no one is a true goat herder until you've had the privilege of being burped in the face by your favorite caprine!!!!
- Kidding Time ~ ND's average gestation is approximately 145 days. At about 140-142 days the doe is moved into the goat barn. We have 4 stalls filled with nice clean straw, a water bucket, a grain bucket and a Premier One Heat Lamp, safely secured. We are also blessed to have a goat baby cam, in the house to keep an even closer eye on the girls. I breed for very nice pelvic structures, to increase the chance of healthy and *boring* kiddings. Although, you will eventually run into a kidding that might need your assistance. Honestly, my main job on the farm during kidding season, is to clean the goo from the babies faces as they start to fight for their first breath and give my spoiled does, moral support! My does usually kid quickly, so this is actually an important job. On hand I have: Puppy Pee Pads; these clean up the goo remarkably well and help to dry the babies off. Sterile Scissors that can burst the sac, if need be or it can be used to cut an umbilical cord. Clamps or Dental Floss in case I do need to cut the cord. IF I need to do this, the cord is clamped/tied off on the kids side AND the does side to prevent bleeding. A Baby Bulb Syringe... this is handy to have to help suck any fluid that the baby may be having trouble sneezing out. J-Lube, in case I need to go in and assist a kid. 7% Iodine to dip the umbilical cords in after birthing has settled. I will also use the iodine to mix with the JLube, if I need to go in to promote sterility. After the does have finished kidding and babies are dry and warm, I stay with the new family and assist latching on (if needed) and to imprint on the babies. Mama gets a nice helping of grain, fresh hay and lot's of lovin' and skritches. Assuming that we have had a healthy kidding, that is the extent of things. If we've had a rough one, I will contact our local vet for antibiotics and administer, as directed. This, thankfully, has been rare on Magic Apple Farm.
- Disbudding and Tattooing ~ We believe in total herd safety. This means safety not only for the goats but for all the two leggeds that will be out with them, as well. Also, because of the quality of animals that I breed, we want you to be able to take them into the show ring and be successful. This means we disbud our baby goats. We live in the high desert and do not believe that the horns serve as a "radiator" that must be kept for the animals comfort. This may have been true when these goats were wild, but they are now domesticated, and I am happily, their Steward. We can easily reach 100 degrees in the summer and because *I* have decided to raise these beautiful creatures *I* provide all the comfort these little divas need and they are happy and very comfortable. While people will argue for horns saying, "We've never had a problem..." my response is, "No one ever has a problem, until the one time that they do." I will never risk my children's, my other goat's (or my) safety, when I can prevent it.
We disbud and tattoo all on the same day, so the babies have one young, uncomfortable day and the rest is of their time is spent receiving love... well, unless you're destined to be a wether. And then you have one more day where you have a couple of hours spent losing your big boy parts.... When we disbud, is not so easy to give a time frame on. We do it WHEN the babies are in need of it. Buck kids need done sooner, usually always 1 week or under, in age... and doe kids it can be anywhere from 1-3 weeks of age. Another reason why it is important to be out there with them, every day with hands on!! We use the smaller tattoo gun, I personally do not have the ear release, but have found that having the ear release would have been of benefit.
We have found over the years that the butane disbudder (we use the Portasol III) is the absolute best tool to use when disbudding. It is so much faster, so much cleaner. All in all, in my opinion, the only disbudder to use. I will attempt to attach the video of how we disbud, below. The tattoo identification will match the registration paperwork you get with your breeding stock animal, or for wethers, confirm that they were born on our farm.
- Banding ~ Any boys who are not the "best of the best" will be banded (castrated) and will be available for breeding stock companionship or to serve as weed eaters, for you. We do use the banding method. We use the smaller banding gun, with the green cheerio rubber bands. The area is 100% wiped down with 7% Iodine and then banded; taking care to keep excess hair and teats out of the band. We have always had successful and clean castrations, using this method.
- Milking and Weaning~ My girls and I work hard. Not only do I pay close attention to what they are eating but when we are on the stanchion, they get extra time, as well. I have started miIking my girls approximately 12-24 hours after they birth, with the kids still on them. I do this, to maximize production, keep udders even and I usually stop doing this when the kids are drinking nearly every last drop. I am simply milking out what the babies have not yet consumed to tell the doe's body to make MORE milk. Just like in humans.
Each doe is added to the milking line permanently, when their babies have reached the "weaning at night" stage. This age depends on how hardy the babies are, how fast they are maturing etc. You *can* start weaning the babies at night at 2 weeks of age, however, I find they just aren't as thrifty. I wait until 4-6 weeks, when they are truly starting to get nourishment from the feed. This is when I will start pulling the dams, at night ONLY. Then the dams are milked in the morning and put back with their babies for the day. I try to keep these separation times along the 12 hour mark to keep consistent milk records. My does share a fence line with their babies, in order to reduce stress. They lay together, in families along the fence line and the babies eagerly await their mama to come back into the baby pen, during the day. The families are beautiful. At 8 weeks, we switch to full time milking, which is milking morning and night, usually 12 hours apart. Babies are fully weaned and prepped to go to their new homes. If staying here, they might possibly have the privilege of staying with mom for more milk during the day, for a few more weeks haha.
I bring my girls into the barn 4 or 5 at a time, on leashes (this is where the majority of our *walking nicely* training happens) and they are tide to a steel bench I have, to also help teach patience. I am with them the whole time (never ever leave a goat tied up and unattended). One by one they are taken to the stanchion, where there grain is waiting for them. They jump up.. um, very enthusiastically LOL. Each doe will have received a dairy clip for cleanliness, at some point before being put on the line. Every time they are on the stanchion, they get brushed .. this is the time I assess anything that might need done for them. Their udder is washed, a strip squirt to assess milk is taken, and then they are milked out completely. I hand milk all my does and in our almost 10 years have never had a case of mastitis, which I do sporadically test for with the test cards and visual inspection. I'm not saying that everyone needs to do this; I am saying that this is what has worked for Magic Apple. When the girls are done milking, they are either put out into the baby pen or tied back up to the bench to await the group return to the doe pen. It all flows very smoothly.
Thank you for taking the time to read through how we care for our animals.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.