Thursday, June 12, 2014

Everyone Needs A Wether!

I never, ever thought I would be a person who would keep a neutered male goat for any reason. I always considered myself very utilitarian and don't have much love for animals without a very specific function or use. Wethers always seemed so pointless to me. Neutered males can't make babies and they don't give milk. They hang out, take up space, and eat with no return on the investment. The best option for them was butchering and eating them. At least then you would get a few meals out of them.

Fast forward to now and I find myself having had a wether for 4 years! I have one Angora wether. At first I kept him for his fleece but now I keep him because every farm needs a wether! Wethers are great additions to any production herd. My other goats are dairy females that I breed every year to get milk. The girls earn their keep with their milk. My wether earns his keep by being a great companion to my girls. He gets along with all the does, regardless of their herd status. He doesn't bother the kids who like to jump on him and chew on his fur. He always loves to meet new people and comes with me to various public events. I have taken him to parades before and I always get a kick when people say I have a "funny looking sheep". My wether will always have a home in my herd. He's a good boy and doesn't cause any problems. I love that he can be put with any of the females or kids and I know they are in good hands. He is a great buddy to any bucks I have kept. My wether is always on call to be a friend to does and bucks alike.

Wethers may seem kind of useless but a well-behave boy can be worth his weight in gold and pay you back with the joy he brings to your daily routine.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Rules of My Farm

I don't have many rules on my farm, but I do have a few:

1. Be nice - No fighting with the other animals and no fighting with me. Be friendly and learn that I am a nice person who feeds you and takes care of you.

2. Don't hurt me - NO biting, NO butting, NO injuries, period! Even if it was an accident, don't hurt me. I don't have large livestock due to the fact that they are more likely to hurt me by accident.

3. I will not chase after you - Learn where you live and stay there. If you run away, I will not go looking for you. Stay in your pen. Chronic escapees will end up in the freezer.

4. Be quiet - The rooster crowing in the morning or goats baaing at chore time are okay, but excessive noise after you have been fed and watered will get you kicked off my farm.

5. No prima donnas -  I don't mind buying expensive feed and supplements to keep all my animals healthy but I can't afford to treat one animal for chronic ailments or recurring problems.

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Goats!!

Daisy kidded on Monday. She was a few days late -- day 153 and a first freshener so her labor and delivery was a little rugged. She had two lovely kids, a buck and a doe. I noticed her ligaments were looser on Sunday so I set up the baby monitor to listen through the night for any noises. Of course, every fart and burp woke both my husband and I up all night long. When I did chores on Monday morning, Daisy's tail was crooked and her ligaments were gone. I sent my daughter to daycare and spent the day watching and listening to things progress. It was pretty slow progress. Daisy slowly got to the pushing stage at about 1pm. She wasn't very happy about me messing with her so I had to be patient and not run in the pen every time she laid down or else she would jump up and not get back to pushing for a while. She was a dam-raised kid who has never been very comfortable with people. This is the big reason why I like to bottle-feed!

Anywho.... Daisy got down to pushing. Her water broke and she spent a long time licking and eating every pile of goo that came out. It's a gross habit of pregnant goats but whatever. I was getting a little nervous because she spent such a long time between the water breaking and actually trying to push a kid out. I went in and felt some hooves close up so I knew it wouldn't be too much longer. The baby finally started coming out and it presented the largest hoof I have ever seen on a new kid! Judging by the size of the feet, I knew he was going to be a massive buck. I grabbed the leg and started to pull as Daisy pushed. I pulled as hard as I could and was pretty sure I was going to end up with just a leg and nothing else. Daisy pushed with all her might, I pulled with all my might, and we both screamed the entire time! The buck's forehead was hung up because he was so big. After a lot of stretching, pulling and pushing, the buck came out and was fine. I am pretty certain that he would have died if Daisy had to pass him all on her own. There was no way she would have pushed him out in time for him to be alive. I am glad I was there.

Soon after the buck came out, a smaller doe followed. She basically shot right out due to the space left by her brother. Both kids are creamy/white/tan-ish. I call the color "pink" because they do have a hint of strawberry highlights in the tan. They are both super cute with dark eyes and dark noses on white heads. Not much is cuter than a Saanen kid!

Both kids are doing great. I am bottle feeding them because they would be totally wild if I left them with Daisy. Daisy's udder is nice and producing 1/2 gallon of milk a day right now. It's still pretty tight and congested -- first fresheners can be like that -- so I am sure she will be producing a lot more milk soon. I pulled the milk machine out of storage and I am very glad to have it because first freshener teats can be too small for my meaty paws.

The other goats are well. Lucy's kid is winning the "Largest Baby On The Planet" award and no wonder since he is guzzling almost 1 gallon of milk a day already. Luckily the over-consumption of milk from his mom doesn't seem to adversely affect him. I am hoping to start putting him in with the new babies this weekend so he can get used to them.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Less ranting, MORE GOATS!

For once, I will treat you all to a blog post that isn't a long screed about something that I have an opinion on or some lame-O rant about this or that which no one probably cares (except me!).

Yesterday my oldest doe, Lucy, kidded with one big, hugemongous (totally a word!), black and white buck. He is so big that she was in labor for 48 hours. She spent Friday night until Sunday afternoon rolling around, digging a nest, stretching her back, and looking generally miserable. I took all of these signs as a fact that she would pop out her babies at the exact moment I decided to go in the house to warm my feet. This prompted me to stand in the barn for almost 48 hours straight. Of course, being the first goat of the year to kid I was extra cautious and totally forgot all of the lessons I learned during last year's kiddings about what a doe looks like when she is actually ready to kid. In my first-kidding-of-the-year enthusiasm, I took every burp, position adjustment, and fart as a sign that kids were coming any minute. I wished I had remembered what Lucy looks like when she is actually pushing kids out because it would have saved my 46 hours of standing in the barn.

Despite my focused attention and unnecessary worry over Lucy's pre-labor rituals, the kidding went very smoothly. Lucy started pushing for real at 12pm and by 12:45pm the biggest kid ever born was out and meeting the world. One look at him and I knew why Lucy had been in pre-labor for two days. I am sure that trying to manipulate that behemoth into the right position and into the birth canal is the reason for all of her rolling around and discomfort leading up to the birth.

Lucy had one buck. I waited for more kids but none came. I am pretty surprised by the singleton birth because Lucy has had 5 sets of twins. She's never had a single. It's not a bad thing, just unusual for the normally prolific Lucy.

"El Grande"
 I am calling the buck "El Grande". I may change his name to "El Burrito" because a) he looks like a small donkey, and b) he is probably going to become the feature meat in some Mexican food soon.

Lucy and her baby
Since "El Grande Burrito" was a single buck, I let Lucy keep him. This totally breaks all the rules because a) Lucy is CAE positive so her kids should be pulled, and b) I am a harsh critic of dam-raised kids due to their potential to be not as friendly as bottle kids. But I threw all my rules out the window this time since this is probably Lucy's last kidding due to being 7 years old and CAE+, and due to me being too tired after being on kid watch for 48 hours to imagine spending the next night getting up every 4 hours to bottle feed one lousy buckling. Lucy is happy to have her kid and the kid is doing very well. One great thing about Lucy's ginormous babies is they hit the ground running and need very, very little assistance with getting going. This baby was up and nursing within 15 minutes of birth. Yay!

There's one more goat left to kid. Daisy is due any time. I hope all goes well for her.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The "All Natural" Way to Hurt Your Goat

I get super frustrated when I see people on internet forums post about horrible problems with their goats and follow the description of the problem with something like, “Well, I gave them a dose of cinnamon and put tea tree oil on it and it didn’t get better!”. I just want to scream at the computer when I see junk like this. When did people decide that cinnamon, tea tree oil, yogurt or other goofy home remedies for goats are a valid treatment option for diseases and infections?? 

It chaps my ass to no end when proven conventional treatments (e.g. antibiotics, anthelminthics, coccidiostats, etc) are shunned in favor of an “all natural” approach. The reason I am frustrated is not because I am getting kickbacks from Big Pharma to advertise their products or because I have been brain-washed to believe in the global suppression of natural alternatives by the chemical lobby. I am frustrated because I see needless and painful suffering happening to goats whose owners refuse to use conventional treatment methods. I don’t believe that most “all natural” remedies are in the least effective. If you had a horrendous case Staphylococcus aureaus dermatitis with blistering pustules and raw, bleeding skin, what would you chose to use on yourself – a proven treatment with topical antibiotic cream or a dash of cinnamon and some tea tree oil (neither of which have been proven to do anything)? Or better yet, if you had worms – which treatment option would you choose? Would you endure pain and suffering to try out your “all natural” remedy first or would you go to the doctor and get a prescription? If you would not use the remedy on yourself, then why would you use it on your goats????!!!

People are very quick to dismiss conventional treatments as “bad” or “dangerous” because they are manufactured from chemical components. This does not make them inherently evil. You have to realize that when trying to fight a bacterial, parasitic or fungal infection in your goat, those pathogenic microbes are fighting back just as hard. Bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses have evolved over millions of years to live inside your goat and reproduce. They do not care about the health or pain-level of your goat. There only mission is to reproduce and spread to new hosts. They have developed incredibly sophisticated ways to infect and spread. Those ways are harsh and dangerous. Sometimes the only way to save your goat from an infection is to fight back with something just as harsh and dangerous, like a conventional treatment. 

People want to believe that “all natural” remedies are better, more effective, and safer because they come from nature. Well, guess what? – Nature is a BITCH! Nature doesn’t care about your goat. Nature is the same thing that created the bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses. Those are “all natural” too. And they want to kill your goat. 

It saddens me to no end to see animals suffer because their owners are too stubborn and stupid to use conventional treatments. I see goats die because someone wouldn’t use an antibiotic on their mastitis or kids suffer because someone won’t preventatively treat them for tapeworms by using an anthelminthic. This is unnecessary when a valid chemical treatment option is available.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dual Purpose Breeds : A Waste of Time AND Money

I am not impressed with most "dual purpose" breeds of animals. They are breeds that provide both milk and meat, or eggs and meat, or fiber and meat. They can either be hybridized breeds which are a result of crossbreeding dairy and meat animals together or they can be heritage breeds which have been repurposed as supposed super animals who are the best of both worlds. My experience with dual purpose animals is that they are a waste of time and money because instead of getting an animal that performs both duties well, they actually produce poorly on both accounts.

The major problem is that by trying to combine both functions into one animal, you wind up sacrificing their production of both milk and meat. A high production dairy goat is a well made machine who has been bred for generations to take inputs of grain and hay and turn those into milk. A good dairy goat is expected to produce more milk than her kids have capacity to consume. This leaves milk left over for the farmer to have. Dairy goats are not very successful meat animals because the calories which would be used to produce meat are instead converted into milk. Meat goats are the opposite. They are bred for generations to turn calories into muscle and not into milk. They produce milk too, but they only make enough milk for their kids. It is a large disadvantage for a meat goat to overproduce milk because milk left in the udder is an invitation for mastitis.

It is a tough job to create an animal which can efficiently convert calories into both milk and meat. The demands of milk production and the demands of meat production are opposed to each other. A goat can only consume so many calories per day so they can either produce one thing in large amounts or both things in much smaller amounts.

A major problem with dual purpose breeds is this calorie conversion inefficiency. You lose all of your profit margin when you have to add extra calories to an animal in order to get the same production from it as another animal. You could get 1 gallon of milk a day from a dual purpose goat but you would have to feed it a very specialized high concentrate diet and the goat would probably not be producing any meat at this point.

You also lose all of your profit whenever you have to keep an animal of one breed longer than an animal of another breed. Because dual purpose animals are typically for meat and some other product, it generally takes them a lot longer to produce the same amount of meat as a strict meat-only breed. If you have to feed and care for a dual purpose animal one and a half times longer than a meat animal, there won't be any money left over after selling the meat to justify the extra costs.

If you are trying to produce milk, eggs or meat for sale, you should probably pick single purpose breeds that are well-suited for your location and facilities. Even if you are just producing milk, eggs, or meat for your own family, single purpose animals are still the best way to go. You will still have to feed, care for, and breed dual purpose animals just as much as single purpose animals. The advantage comes when you can quickly and efficiently gain products from your single purpose animals. Dual purpose animals are neither quick or efficient.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My thoughts on mastitis

I have had a couple of cases of mastitis on my farm in the past. Mastitis is a general term for an infection in the udder. Most mastitis is caused by Staph bacteria but it can be caused by other pathogenic bacteria. Staph is the same bacteria that cause MRSA in hospitals. Staph lives on the skin and circulates in the body. Sometimes it gets where it shouldn’t be and causes a problem. Staph inside the udder is a problem because milk is a perfect media for growing bacteria and Staph can proliferate wildly in there. This proliferation causes the symptoms associated with mastitis. 

Topical Staph infection is seen as little whitehead pimples covering the udder skin. The pimples don’t normally cause problems other than looking alarming. Topical infection normally occurs when the udder is moist due to wet living conditions or through milking technique. This infection can be cleared up by carefully washing the udder before and after milking with an antiseptic solution. FightBac teat spray works well when sprayed on the pimples. Resist the urge to pop the pimples because this will just spread the bacteria. Be careful to wash your hands in between goats when milking in order to not spread the infection.

Staph abscesses are not uncommon in goats prone to mastitis infection. A Staph abscess is a localized infection and usually presents as hard ball between the size of a pea and a golf ball, located just under the skin of the udder. Sometimes the abscess will burst and drain. I have had luck with carefully opening Staph abscesses with a large needle and then expelling the pus into a paper towel. I wear disposable gloves, spray the abscess with disinfectant before and after opening, and use a sterile needle. The gloves and anything that has pus on it is burned in order to get rid of the contamination. Once the abscess is cleaned, I take a tube of ToDay mastitis treatment or SpectraMast mastitis treatment and fill the abscess with this antibiotic. I repeat the cleaning and antibiotic treatment until the abscess is dried up. 

Staph mastitis occurs when the bacteria are inside one or both sides of the udder. It is very important to keep a CMT (California Mastitis Kit) on hand during milking season in order to test the goats weekly for mastitis. This way you can track any changes in the milk and make sure that the goats do not have subclinical (non-symptomatic) cases of mastitis. Sometimes only one side of the udder is infected. In any infections, it is imperative that you do not spread the bacteria from infected udder halves to uninfected ones. Make sure the infected udder side is the LAST thing you touch when milking. Do not go from infected to uninfected. To treat mastitis inside the udder, the goat will need infusions of an appropriate antibiotic. Not all mastitis is killed by ToDay (the most commercially available mastitis antibiotic). To find the correct antibiotic for the mastitis, it is essential to get a culture of the infected milk done by a vet. Most veterinarians who are familiar with cow dairys are capable of culturing goat milk. A house call may not be necessary to get a milk culture done. Some vets will allow you to drop off clean, fresh milk samples for testing at their office. Having a vet culture the milk is important because they can pinpoint which antibiotic the bacteria will be killed by and will be able to write a prescription for the right one. Many strains of Staph bacteria are resistant to ToDay so using it without testing will not cure the problem. Follow the directions on the box to treat your goat.

Sometimes mastitis can be systemic and not isolated to the udder. I have had two cases on my farm where goats became feverish, stopped eating and were sick from systemic mastitis. The infection had moved from their udder into the rest of their body to make them sick. I treated this by giving the goat shots of Penicillin, along with teat infusions of mastitis antibiotic. If your goat is showing signs of fever and not eating, look at their udder first. They may have systemic mastitis and will need not only their udder treated, but the rest of them treated as well.

Most goats who suffer from any of these types of mastitis will be prone to recurrent infections throughout their lifetime. Mastitis signals that the goat carries some form of pathogenic bacteria, typically Staph, on their skin or in their surroundings. Some goats have udders shaped in ways that make them more susceptible to mastitis. Goats are more prone to mastitis when they have teats very close to the ground, or with loose teat sphincters that leak, or with floppy teats that can get stepped on. They can also re-infect themselves from time to time. If you have a goat with multiple cases of mastitis, it may be a very good idea to retire her from breeding in order to save her from future infections.

When drying off a goat who has had mastitis during her lactation, it is a good idea to treat her with a mastitis dry treatment. A dry treatment is an antibiotic that is formulated to be infused into the udder and left there during the dry period. It helps to clear up any bacteria that may be trapped in the udder after drying off. ToMorrow is a commercially available dry treatment. A dry treatment not only helps while the goat is not lactating, but it can help prevent mastitis within the first few days of freshening. One of my goats freshened with mastitis because I didn't use a dry treatment on her. Her udder was hot, painful to the touch, and producing chunky infected milk right after kidding. I was lucky I had frozen colostrum on hand because all of her colostrum was not useable until the infection was cured.