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. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Beware of Free or Cheap Baby Goats!



It’s kidding season in the Northeast. Goat farms are chock full of baby goats with more on the way. An alarming trend I have noticed around here is the tendency for goat farms to offer 3 day old kids for sale for very cheap or for free. 

First of all, this is alarming because it floods the market with baby goats which cuts the supply of quality homes. If all the people who are prepared to raise goats get free or cheap babies, then the number of homes available for older animals will be reduced. 

Second, raising a 3 day old baby goat is hard work. Unless you have fresh goat milk available, it can be very hard to keep a kid healthy on milk replacer or cow milk. Selling cheap goats or giving them away increases the likelihood that people who are unprepared to bottle-raise a baby goat will be encouraged to get them. Baby goats are really cute but they take a lot of time and dedication to grow into healthy adults. Bottle-raising is a major time and money investment and it does require a lot of knowledge on goat physiology to get it right. Baby goats are delicate and it can be easy to kill them by accident if you don’t understand or underestimate their needs. 

Third, cute baby goats grow up into adult goats! Adult goats are not as cute, eat a lot, require a lot of space, and can have annoying habits. A baby goat can live happily in your livingroom or garage. An adult goat will not be happy in your house or ¼ acre backyard (without a lot of work on your part). Adult goats eat a lot of food and need high quality pasture and/or hay available at all times in order to stay healthy, which requires both land and hay storage space. Goats also require specific minerals and supplements. Goats need parasite management. Goats need social interaction and training. All of this stuff takes time and dedication (not to mention MONEY!). Baby goats are a long-term investment. 

Fourth, cheap or free baby goats have a high chance of being poorer quality and less healthy. It doesn’t make economic sense to undersell or give away animals that you have invested time and money into in order to make them high quality and healthy. I know a lot of goat dairy farms tend to sell of their kids as soon as possible so they don’t have to use their milk for feeding unneeded kids when their milk can be used to make a profit in cheese or other products. But this method doesn’t make sense because they could also make a profit by selling their kids. This causes a problem because the more expensive and better quality animals will wind up culled for meat or neglected when they really should be the ones used for breeding to better the genetics of the goat population. All the cheap, lesser quality animals will get homes and be used for breeding and goat genetics as a whole will suffer.

In conclusion, getting a baby goat is a decision that should not be taken lightly, no matter how many cute babies are available. If you do decide that a goat would be a good addition to your farm, be sure to research the genetics and health of the babies available. Make the decision based on quality and not price. Remember that baby goats require time, energy, and money to grow into healthy, productive adults so be prepared for that before you get your goat.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Update on the Farm

So you might be wondering what's going up on the farm? This blog is "Rose's Life on the Farm" but I rarely mention the actual farm, right? I will tell you what's up:

First of all, the above photo is from the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival parade in which the Adirondack Goat Club marched with their goats. Figaro, my Angora goat, was there in all his furry splendor. The crowd loved seeing the goats march by and the goats enjoyed spending a wintery day walking down Main Street. The Goat Club won the 1st place trophy for "Best Animal Unit" (we were the only animal unit, but winning by default is still WINNING in my book).

Second, Lucy and Daisy are pregnant (or should be) and will be kidding the third week of April. I am glad that my attempts at early breeding were a bust because it is mid-March and we have 3 feet of snow and night temperatures in the negative numbers. Mid-April kidding sounds pretty good to me right now.

Daisy is definitely pregnant. Her udder is getting bigger but has the unfortunate problem of leaking milk. I am not sure what to do about that. I tried teat tape. I also tried just super-gluing her teats shut. She still leaks. I am monitoring the situation and I hope that her teat orifices tighten up before she really comes into her milk in a few weeks.

Lucy is hopefully bred. I can't really tell by looking at her size or udder if she is bred or not. I am assuming she is bred since she is very dependable for getting pregnant and since she hasn't come back into heat since the last mating. I am hoping that since Lucy usually waits until the last possible minute to kid (day 155 or 156 of gestation) and Daisy is a first freshener that both goats will get together and kid on the same day, even though they were bred 10 days apart.

The other two goats are good. Fiona, the yearling Alpine, has grown up well. She will be added to the breeding line-up this fall if all goes well. Figaro, the Angora, is enjoying his fame from the parade and is continuing to provide a healthy pile of mohair every 6 months. There will be a new goat added to the farm in a few months. I had ordered a 2014 doeling from a local goat dairy. I wanted either a sundgau Alpine (a black goat with white trim) or a doe from an Alpine named Daisy that I had met on a previous trip to that farm. The farmer assured me that they rarely get sundgau colored Alpines but they would keep a Daisy doeling for me. Well, much to everyone's surprise, four out of the first seven kids born this year were SUNDGAU! Luckily three of the kids are does. One of those does is reserved for me. Hooray!

The chickens are good. I was able to get a new rooster from a neighbor after my last rooster froze to death. The new rooster is a Cochin/Americana/Orpington/a bunch of other things mutt. He is a big boy with a small comb and small waddles. So far he shows more cold hardiness than the last rooster so I think he will be a success for a few years to come.

Carlos, the rabbit, is still hanging in there. He currently lives in a bunny cage in the empty kid pen. I do hope that the weather warms up and the snow melts enough that he can go back into the outdoor bunny hutch before I need the kid pen. Carlos is pretty happy. I give him treats of dried Red Maple leaves that I raked up for the goats and guinea pig food that I accidentally bought thinking it was rabbit food.

The other animals are good. The cat has moved to his winter home in the heated garage. He got in a fight with something a few weeks back and wound up needing a visit to the vet to clean out an abscess on his cheek. He healed well and is looking good. The dogs are both good. Jill is 13 and suffering from "old dog syndrome" in which she prefers sitting on the couch to going for walks. Billy is 9 and the only clue to his age are his gray eyebrows. I recently calculated that my goldfish is older than my marriage which puts the fish at an admirable 10 - 12 years old. He lives in the bathroom in a little fish tank and shows no signs of aging.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Targets (And I ain't talking about the store!)



People love drama and people love to make each other the targets of their drama. I see it (and participate) in it enough to think that this must be a natural human tendency. Maybe the reason for targeting people is to make the “shooter” feel better than their target, or to highlight flaws in someone else, or maybe it’s just out of boredom. Whatever the reason, it’s annoying to be the target of someone’s drama and it’s unhealthy to be the drama-maker. 

I have been the target and I have been the shooter. A target is someone that another person is mad at and is talking about in a bad way. Being the target sucks because gossip and bad feelings swirl around you and follow you. It makes you feel sad to have someone noticeably mad at you. It makes you paranoid if this person is talking about you behind your back. Sometimes a person is targeted for no reason and sometimes they are targeted because they did something purposefully mean to the other person.  Regardless of why you are targeted, it can be hard to make it stop. It’s tough if you are not a confrontational person and don’t feel comfortable telling someone to their face to “knock it off”. It’s also tough if the solution to get the other person to stop involves an apology. Sometimes an apology is warranted, especially if you did something mean on purpose. Sometimes an apology makes you feel mad because you feel the other person should be apologizing to you. It can also be hard to make it stop if the other person is not willing to let go of the problem and stop targeting you. 

A shooter is someone who does the targeting. Unfortunately it is addicting to be a shooter because it relieves stress and is a way to vent frustrations. Some people are “serial shooters” and they aren’t happy and can’t function unless they have someone to be mad at. Being a shooter sucks because you are mad at someone and those mad thoughts and words don’t really make you feel better. Also spreading gossip about someone makes you look crazy to other people. People do like gossip but the gossiper always looks a less nice and less professional when they are talking about someone else. Most shooters are not good at confrontations and prefer to complain about someone rather than address the situation. 

There are ways to stop being a target and stop being a shooter. If you find yourself the target of someone’s frustration the best thing to do is suck it up and tell them to their face to knock it off. Explain to them that they can’t go around talking about you and if they have a problem with you that they need to tell you directly. Since most shooters are non-confrontational, bringing the confrontation to them by hitting them head-on is a good way to shut them down. Once they know you aren’t going to take it anymore, they give up and move on to a new target. If you realize that you are targeting someone, the best way to stop is to quit complaining about them immediately and apologize for being a jerk. Tell them you are sorry and that you are going to stop. This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate annoying behavior by someone else. You should absolutely tell the other person if they are doing something that is making you crazy and is the reason you targeted them. But then you should stop gossiping and being mad at them. 

Get over it.