Thursday, December 13, 2012

Winter Update

It's not very "winter"-like here with no snow but December 13 is pretty far into the year to call anything other than "winter". So here goes the "winter" update:

All the animals are doing well. The cat mysteriously had a large cut behind his ear when I came back from Thanksgiving vacation. It was a clean cut so he must have got his head stuck where there was something sharp sticking out. I thought about super-gluing the cut but decided he should probably get some antibiotics just in case, so we went to the vet. $400 later he had 8 stitches, a pack of antibiotics, and his immunizations for the year. That bill made me cringe big time but seeing as there are very limited options for vets around here, I paid it and went on my way. Tom and I took the stitches out after 10 days. The vet was going to do it for free but his office is two towns over and I didn't have time to drive home from work, grab the cat, and drive all the way back. Luckily Tom has a pair of stitch removal scissors and a pair of forceps (we live in the woods so this is standard issue First Aid kit stuff here). We didn't know how the cat would react to the stitch removal. I trussed him up in an old coat and sat on him while Tom cut and pulled the stitches. The cat purred the whole time and didn't even flinch once. That right there is why I spent $400 on my cat. He's a good boy!

The goats are doing fine. Lucy didn't come back into heat after the second round of breeding. I actually witnessed the buck do his thing that time so I am fairly confident that she is bred. I am going to do a blood pregnancy test next week just to be extra sure. It will be a bittersweet kidding season with only Lucy bred. I'll be happy not to be running around like a chicken with her head cut off but I will be sad to only have 2-3 kids to spent my summer with. The other does are too old or too young to be bred. Of course, I can't help but second guess that decision because Daisy (the yearling Saannen) is a damn huge beast right now. She's twice as big as my other yearling doe so every time she comes into a flaming heat I start imagining the kids she could have next year. There's still time so maybe I will find her a buck soon. Of course, I say that AFTER I gave away my buck and wether, which means any breeding for Daisy will be of the drive-thru kind. We'll see....

Emily and Tom are great! Emily is a crack up and never fails to entertain me with how her little brain works. Tom just finished teaching Timber Harvesting class at Paul Smith's College. The kids loved it and really enjoyed having an instructor with lots of experience owning his own business and cutting trees for profit. Tom had a great time too. He enjoys teaching and has a good personality for dealing with classroom situations.

I am doing well, also. My job has taken an interesting turn with me finding myself in charge of a lot more stuff than I used to be. It's fun and scary, all at the same time. I love the challenge! I have been making lots of goat milk soap this year. I had four craft shows/farmer's markets this fall. I sold a good deal of soap and enjoyed sharing the wonderfulness that is goat milk soap with the world. Yay!

That's the update for now. Happy Winter!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life and Death

People have lost touch with death these days. Most people I know who live in urban areas have no relationship at all with death. They live their entire lives never knowing death first-hand. They may experience the loss of a grandparent or a family pet but they don't have a real connection with death. They are completely abhorred when someone talks about killing animals for food or research. They don't understand that death is a very important part of life. On the other hand, most people who breed animals for food or science have a very strong knowledge of death. Farmers and researchers are responsible for the creation of these animals and thus, they are also intimately involved in the destruction of them.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is true for birth. The equal and opposite reaction is death. You can't have birth without death. Immortality is impossible because there is always a beginning, so there will always be an end. Death is not something to be feared or demonized when viewed as the equal to birth. Life begins at birth and if I were given a choice, I would prefer existence with a finite timeline to an infinity of non-existence. If you told me today the date of my death, I would not fear it. I would be happy to have lived and existed in this beautiful world. I choose existence over nothingness, even if it means there will be death - my death -- in the end. Unfortunately people who are not accustomed to death do not understand that death is an integral part of life.

People get upset when animals are put to death for food or science. They don't understand that the choice is not between the animal being born and living forever or the animal being born and killed for humans. Those choices are not possible. The choice is actually between the animal being born and killed for humans or not existing at all. If farm animals and laboratory animals were not used for food or science, they would NEVER EXIST. If we can't allow them to die for us, then they will never live for themselves. How can we condemn death if it means we must also condemn life?

Requiring that farm animals or laboratory animals must stay alive and not be used for man's purposes would severely limit the amount of animals that will be allowed to exist at all. It's not like we can just stop processing animals for food or stop euthanizing them for experimental purposes and continue to create new animals. All breeding programs will stop. My lovely baby goats who jump around full of life in the spring sunshine will cease to exist because I will not ever breed another goat if I am not able to send last year's kids to the processor. I don't have enough money and property to continuously breed goats if I do not have an outlet for them. Some of the goats get sold to other people and those people care for them until their natural deaths but a majority of the spring kids get used for meat in the fall. Does the fact that they are born with a set date of death invalidate their existence? Is it better to never exist at all than to live and die?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bottles vs. Teats

The debate about whether or not to bottle feed baby goats is about as heated as the breast-fed vs. formula debate with human babies. Many goat owners get all ruffled up over the idea of baby goats being bottle fed. They cry that it is not "natural" and that the baby goats won't learn how to be a goat if they aren't dam-raised. As if nature has all the answers - Puh-leeze! Nature's ideas for taking care of animals include disease, starvation, natural disasters, and predators. If you are trying to raise goats in a farm type setting, then nature really doesn't have much of a place. The moment you put that goat in captivity and bred it for your own purposes, you made nature take a back seat. So then relying on nature to take care of your baby goats is a double-edge sword. You can't have it both ways.

The argument that baby goats won't learn how to be a goat if they are bottle fed is total crap. Goats don't need to "learn" how to be a goat; they are born KNOWING how to be a goat. That's like saying raising a duck with a bunch of chickens means the duck won't learn how to swim. Throw the duck in a pond and sure enough, he will swim just fine. Nobody needed to teach him how to be a duck. Just like no one needs to teach a goat how to be a goat -- they already know how to be goats. Maybe people that are afraid their goats won't learn to be goats are actually raising sheep and wondering why all their "goats" run around like idiots and make wool.

People like to get their spittle up about how "dangerous" bottle feeding can be. WTF?! Obviously I missed the YouTube tutorial on "How to improperly feed a goat with a bottle" because I have never lost a kid purely due to bottle feeding. Sure, I have lost my fair share of baby goats due to things like coccidiosis and enterotoxemia, but I have never lost one solely due to the dangers of a soda bottle full of milk with a soft rubber nipple on top. That's is crazy talk... Meanwhile, I have heard of kids being killed due to dam-raising. This is a dirty little secret that the teat-lovers don't like to talk about when the bottle vs. teat debate springs up. Want to know the killer secret? --- IT'S CALLED CAE, PEOPLE! Kid goats can die from CAE virus transmission due to being allowed to nurse on mom. You can stop CAE virus transmission by (gasp!) BOTTLE FEEDING! Yep, that's right. The "unnatural", "time-consuming" and "dangerous" practice of bottle feeding can actually save the lives of your little caprine kiddies. Take a newborn kid from a CAE infected mom and bottle feed that kid pasteurized milk -- Viola! = Uninfected kid. How many kids each year are infected by their mommas and sentenced to die due to someone's aversion to bottle feeding? How many adult goats get the axe because they are infected when they could have been saved by someone taking the time to do CAE prevention? It's something to think about, isn't it?

The other argument is that dam-raising is soooooo much easier than bottle feeding. NOT IN MY OPINION! Sure, bottle feeding does require that I commit to being at the farm to feed the kids a couple of times a day, everyday for a few months. But what I lose in time spent bottle feeding, I gain in time not spent chasing half-wild kids around just to trim their hooves or time spent trying to wean them from mom after 8 months. There's nothing like your yearling doe still nursing on mom as she tries to push the next batch of kiddos out her whoo-ha. You can't tell me that situation isn't a huge time-suck when you have to deal with it.

Bottle raised kids are more friendly because they look at humans as a source of food and comfort. Dam-raised kids do not associate humans with those things. They may be "friendly" but that is only because they are tame. They are never going to have the same relationship with a human as they have with their dam. Bottle feeding produces a psychological bond in the kid goat's brain that forever links them with humans. If you want to test this theory just take a bottle fed kid and a dam-raised kid and put them in a pasture together for 4 months and don't let them have contact with humans during that time. Then after 4 months go into the pasture and try to catch them. The bottle baby will come running up to you like you were never gone. Meanwhile the dam-raised kid will be in the opposite corner of the pasture trying to scale the fence to get away from you. Even if both kids were "friendly" when you left them, they both won't be like that when you come back. Bottle raised kids are more friendly towards humans. Period. End of story.

I personally think all those people who claim dam-raised kids are just as nice as bottle raised are not raising dairy goats. Dairy goats are like dairy cows, so over bred for milk production that they are high-strung and crazy. The same genes that control milk overproduction must also control adrenaline overproduction. I have never met a dairy goat that wasn't just a little keyed-up all the time. Meat goats, on the other hand, are like beef cows. Nothing phases them and they just go with the flow. You have to try hard to get a reaction out of a meat goat. Maybe it's all the blobs of fat and meat that clog up their ability to go all cuckoo-bananas when humans come into their pens. Maybe they just know they are big and slow and don't care what it is we are going to try to do to them because they are going to win by brute force and awkwardness every time. I can totally believe a meat goat producer when they say you don't need to bottle feed to make those goats friendly. Meat goats are a normally friendly bunch of animals. But don't get all up in my grill when I say that dairy goats need to be bottle fed in order to make them manageable. There's a big difference between the two types of goats and some people just need to accept that.

So, if you are contemplating bottle feeding your baby goats, please don't let the dam-raised group put you off of the idea. Bottle feeding is a perfectly fine practice that people have been doing for as long as they have been domesticating goats.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Relocating your headache

I hear a lot of people tell me about how they trap raccoons or groundhogs or foxes or skunks or squirrels in live-traps and then relocate them to a new area to be let go. The reason for relocation is because they tell me they feel "bad" for the animal and don't want to kill it but they also don't want it eating their garbage or chickens or getting into their attics. Well, guess what? That animal you just relocated from your property is now at someone else's property causing them the same problems it caused you.

Relocating a raccoon 12 miles down the road does not break its habit of getting into people's garbage cans. It's just going to find new garbage to get into. Then it is going to be live-trapped again and relocated back 12 miles to your property! It's a never ending cycle. That raccoon will have baby coons which it will teach to eat garbage. Those babies will get trapped and relocated to a new place where they will breed and teach their kids to eat garbage. Eventually the whole stinking area is full of raccoons who get into garbage cans because you felt "bad" for the animal and wouldn't shoot it.

If you do not break the cycle by euthanizing the problem varmints, they will continue to be problems. Don't ever assume that just because you drove 12 miles into the "wilderness" on what seems to be an uninhabited road that you aren't just dumping your problem varmints into someone's backyard. They WILL find a way to continue to eat garbage or chickens or get into attics unless you put a permanent end to them. Animals are very smart and once they find an easy meal ticket or a nice place to live, they will try to find that again even if relocated. Once they know the things that human habitation offer, like food and shelter, they will continue to seek out humans and continue to be a nuisance.

This is the reason nuisance bears often get euthanized. Once they learn to cause a problem, they never ever forget it. Bears are a lot harder to trap and relocate, plus they can cause fatal damage to humans, so euthanasia is the only option. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels, foxes and woodchucks, on the other hand, rarely cause fatalities. They do cause property damage, livestock losses, and can hurt people/pets. Is this no less a reason to foist this harmful animal on someone else?

Keep in mind too that all of these animals can carry rabies. Rabies is on the rise with more cases reported in this area each year. It can be fatal to you or your pets to have rabies carrying varmints around your property. Rabies is not a fun disease and is fatal in any animal that contracts it who isn't vaccinated or immediately treated. Treatment is a long process involving several series of shots. Those shots make your whole body ache to the bone. They are not something someone wants to do voluntarily. The vaccine is available for your pets and livestock. It does need to be updated every couple of years. If your pets or livestock come in contact with a rabid animal and you can't prove that they are up to date on their rabies vaccinations then you must put your them down whether or not they actually have rabies. Since rabies is so dangerous, the Health Department does not fool around. All potentially infected animals must be euthanized. My brother's dog was put down because the dog didn't get his rabies booster vaccination on time and then killed a potentially rabid skunk. My brother cleaned up the dead skunk. My brother had to get treated for rabies and the dog had to be euthanized because both of them were potentially exposed to rabies due to the skunk. My only comfort is in hoping that the skunk was a native of that area and not one that had been live-trapped and relocated by someone.

Please don't relocate nuisance animals from your property. If you are going to trap them, please be responsible and euthanize them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fall on a Goat Farm


The air is crisp and cold
Frost is on the ground
Every leave and blade of grass has crystals reflecting light
Fall is coming

The kid goats are fat and growing bigger
The milk does will give the same amount of milk from now until infinity
Only one night of frost makes the bucks stink
Fall is coming

Fresh apples from the tree
A whine of a doe in heat
The lurking scent of male goat on the wind
All make me feel that
Fall is coming

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Start Your Own Goat Club!

I love clubs and associations and societies and organizations and what-not. I love getting together with like-minded people who share the same interests to yack about those interests. I have been involved in my professional society through my job at both the local and national levels for years. Professional societies for occupations are a great way to keep up the learning and to motivate yourself when your job gets blah.

My passion for clubs started in high school. One of my friends encouraged me to join the Eco-Club when I was a sophomore. Up until this point I had never been involved in anything extra-curricular at school. All it took was one Eco-Club meeting and I was hooked! By the end of sophomore year I was in three different clubs and having a blast.

I still have a passion for clubs. When I heard there was St. Lawrence Valley Dairy Goat Association, I drove an hour and a half to the meeting and had a wonderful time meeting new people who also raised dairy goats. Unfortunately the SLVDGA was centered around Potsdam/Canton which pretty far away from my house. I can't make it to many of the meetings due to the travel time.

Last year I decided to remedy the lack of a local goat club and start my own. The Adirondack Goat Club was created as a group where local goat owners and potential goat owners could get together in order to share information, education, resources and goats. The area goat community is small but vibrant. In order not to exclude anyone, I decided that the ADK Goat Club should accept all types and breeds of goats. There is a lot of cross-over around here between meat, fiber, and dairy goat breeders. Most people have more than one breed of goat and more than one type. Due to lack of variety and a desire to consolidate resources, many dairy goat breeders will crossbreed their goats with meat goats and many fiber goat owners crossbreed with dairy goats or meat goats. There's very few "purebred" breeders who won't crossbreed when needed.

To start the club all I did was post a couple of meeting announcements on Craigslist, send in a meeting announcement to the local paper, and alert the surrounding goat clubs to my intent. People were very supportive and I had about 20 goat owners show up to the first meeting. Some of them were old friends that I had worked with their goats before, some of them were new people who I had not known had goats. Many awesome connections were made that day.

Other meetings since have been well-attended. We have meetings every other month. The meetings are on the weekends and are a potluck lunch. Meeting locations rotate between the farms of the members. This way no one person gets burnt out hosting all the meetings. Also rotating locations allows a variety of people to attend based on where they live.

The club is free to join. There's not a lot of expenses for the club so I didn't want to charge membership dues and have to track people down each year to get them to pay up. Contacts and updates for the club are run through email and a blog. I maintain an email list of all the club members. I send out periodic email updates with meeting announcements, articles of interest, goats for sale, equipment for sale, and goat events. The blog is free to maintain and open to the public. I update it with much of the same information that goes out through the emails. The blog allows new people to check out the club and allows members to keep updated with what is going on just be checking it on the web.

If your area is lacking a goat club, I recommend starting one today! It's a great way to meet like-minded people and to have a lot of fun enjoying goats. In the future I hope the ADK Goat Club can host events for the public around the area, get involved in the local fairs and farmer's markets, and continue to spread education to all about the wonderful world of goats!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Goat Parasites

Lots of people ask me about goat parasites and what to do about them. Well, here is what I have to say about that:

All goats can have internal and external parasites. Most goats become infected at birth by whatever parasites happen to be living on their dam or in her feces or in the soil. Internal and external parasites have a knack for being able to survive outside of the goat for a long period of time so they can simply be living in the soil and on the pasture waiting for a goat to come along. There's no way to avoid infection from parasites in goats. The only thing we can do is manage the infection so the parasites do not negatively impact the goat's health.

When a goat is born, they don't have any internal parasites. Their first exposure to the outside world is when they pick up things like coccidia, tapeworms, barberpole worm and other internal nasties. These parasites have a lifespan of a couple of weeks from when they enter the baby goat as an egg or dormant cyst. In these weeks the parasite hatches, morphs into an adult while using nutrients from the goat to do so, and then starts to reproduce. The eggs that are produced by the adult parasite either stay in the goat and become adults or are shed from the goat through its feces. Another goat picks these eggs up from the soil, pen or pasture and the cycle starts all over again.

Coccidia have a 3 week life cycle from cyst to adult. This is why you see kid goats get diarrhea around the 3-4 week old phase. The coccidia infected the goat at birth and at 3 weeks old, there's enough of them reproducing and living within the kid to cause intestinal damage, thus the diarrhea. It is very important to try to prevent coccidiosis by treating all kid goats who are 3 weeks old with a broad spectrum antibioitic that kills coccidia. There are several on the market, like Sulmet 12.5% drinking water solution, Corid powder, and Di-Methox 40% solution. These medicines kill adult forms of coccidia only so you must treat kids at 3 weeks old and then every 3 weeks after that until they are 15 weeks old. After 15 weeks they should be somewhat immune to coccidiosis. Adult goats rarely suffer from coccidiosis.

I currently prefer to use Corid. Corid kills adult coccidia by inhibiting their absorption of thiamine (vitamin B1). Some people feel this could cause thiamine loss in the goats too, so it is recommended to supplement any goat taking Corid with thiamine and other B vitamins. This can be done by giving the goats Fortified B Complex (it's "fortified" with extra thiamine) or thiamine/B vitamin gel. Since all of the coccidiosis medications are antibiotics, I also recommend giving any goats on them supplemental probiotics to replace any of the good gut bacteria that got killed by the medicine. I use Probios probiotic gel. I usually give the Corid to the kids in the morning, and then in the evening give them thiamine and Probios each day during treatment and for 1 week after. The thiamine and Probios will not hurt the goats in any way, so it is better to give lots of this and be safe.

Tapeworms are another internal parasite to worry about in kid goats. Goats over 6 months old tend to have less problems with tapeworms than kid goats for some reason. Kid goats who have lots of tapeworms will get a pot-bellied look and be smaller and slower growing than uninfected kids. It is recommended to preventatively treat kids for tapeworms and other stomach worms by giving them Valbazen dewormer at 1cc per 10 lbs weight, starting at 3 weeks old and repeated every 10 days for 30 days. Valbazen is okay to use in kid goats and non-pregnant adults but should NEVER be used in pregnant goats (or potentially pregnant ones) because it can cause birth defects and abortions. Repeat the Valbazen every 10 days for 30 days because it is only effective against adult tapeworms. The first deworming will kill all of the current adults but leave eggs and cysts in the goats to hatch and reinfect. The second deworming takes care of all the internal eggs that hatched after the first. The third deworming takes care of all of the eggs and cysts that were picked up by the goat from the environment and hatched into adults. The 30 day cycle is very important to use every time you deworm, regardless of dewormer chosen. This is the most effective way to deworm.

So now you have your kids on preventative coccidiosis medication and preventative dewormer. What about the adults?

The best way to manage parasites in adult goats is to monitor their condition frequently and only treat for worms when warranted. I never recommend to use a strict deworming schedule on your entire herd. Always deworm only the goats that have the worms! I have my own 4 step monitoring system for parasites.

1. Body condition - I want my goats to look sleek and shiny with just the right amount of weight. I don't want my goats to be too fat nor too thin. Parasites rob nutrients from the goats and cause them to be thinner than they should be. If I see one of my goats eating well but not gaining weight, I check for parasites.

Another external clue to parasites is the condition of the goat's hair. Their fur should be sleek and shiny. If it is dull and looks like it has split ends, the goat has worms. If the hair is shedding constantly and looks dry, the goat has worms. If when I brush the hair back and there are little bugs moving around, the goat has lice. Mites cause hair to fall out in patches. If the goat's tail is rubbed raw and missing lots of hair from scratching, the goat has pinworms that live around the anus. A goat's coat can tell you a lot about what is going on internally.

2. Mineral supplementation - This is very important to parasite management in goats. Goats need lots of minerals to stay healthy and any goats that are deficient in minerals are very susceptible to parasite problems. I supplement my goats with a loose mineral blend made specifically for goats called Sweetlix Meatmaker 16:8. It is a great all-around mineral that works for all types of goats (not just meat goats). I also supplement my goats with a copper bolus every 4 months. Copper is very important for goats and plays a huge roll in parasite control. Most goats are deficient in copper so they need extra copper even when getting it in their loose minerals. I use Copasure cow copper boluses that have been re-sized for goats. I give 1 gram of copper per 22 lbs of goat. The boluses are little gel caps filled with copper rods. It is important that the goats swallow the boluses without chewing them and on an empty stomach. It is also important to either wad the bolus in wax or shortening or follow bolusing immediately with Vitamin A, D, E gel. The wax, shortening, or gel helps to encapsulate the bolus within the goat's rumen and keep the rods in there for slow absorption. If the goat chews the bolus or eats it on a full stomach or takes it without wax, the copper rods can be flushed from the rumen and not absorbed.

3. FAMACHA - A cheap and dirty way to assess parasite load in goats is to look at the color of their lower eyelid membrane. This helps to tell you if the goat is anemic. Anemia is most often caused by barberpole worm (a very common internal parasite) that is sucking the blood from your goat. Where there is barberpole worm, there are usually other internal parasites so it is good to deworm a goat when they are anemic. The lower eyelid membrane should be dark pink or red in healthy goats. If is it white or light pink, the goat is anemic and needs deworming. Unfortunately FAMACHA does not tell you the type of parasites found but it does give you a good measurement of potential worm infestation. It is best to do FAMACHA on all your goats at least once a month, if not once a week.

4. Fecal samples - Once you have determined through lack of body condition, lack of mineral supplementation, and FAMACHA that your goat has internal parasites, it is important to find out what type of parasite it is and how large of an infestation. Fecal samples can tell you that. They are easy to do and can by done at home by anyone with a decent microscope. Just take a sample of poop from each goat (3-4 berries), process it per fecal sample instructions (found on the Fiasco Farm website), and look at the prepared fecal slide under the microscope. You should see little bits of fecal debris floating around on the slide. You should also be able to clearly see parasite eggs and cysts. Count up the different types seen and the amounts per type. Coccidia oocysts are tiny. Barberpole worm and other stomach worm eggs are larger. Liver fluke eggs have a flat spot on one end. Tapeworm cysts are square. There's lots of pictures on the internet of what parasite eggs in goats look like on a fecal sample.

Once you have figured out what types of worms are in your goats, then you can choose the appropriate treatment. Coccidiosis requires a sulfa-based, broad spectrum antibiotic (NOT A DEWORMER). Tapeworms are killed by Valbazen or Fenbendazole. Barberpole worm and stomach worms are killed by most dewormers, especially Ivermectin and Cydectin. Liver flukes require Ivomec Plus injectable (the "Plus" is actually what kills them so regular Ivomec won't work).

Like I said earlier, always use a 30 day deworming cycle when you deworm. Treat the goats every 10 days for 30 days in order to kill all the adult worms that have hatched. It is not at all effective to deworm once and then not again for 6 months! This does absolutely nothing to help reduce the worm population because the worm eggs that are in the goats and the worm eggs in the environment are still alive to reproduce. You need to treat twice more to kill these.

It is best to give any dewormer on an empty stomach and not give any grain or hay for at least 30 minutes after dosing to allow absorption of the dewormer. Giving dewormers during feeding time is not effective because the dewormers will get flushed out if the system by digestion of hay/pasture and grain. I deworm my goats in the morning before putting them out to pasture or feeding. Then I wait at least 30 minutes and put them out to pasture or give them hay. I do not give them grain after deworming for at least 12 hours because grain is quickly drawn into the digestive tract from the rumen and I don't want the dewormer to be taken out of the rumen faster than necessary. I want it to stay in there and be absorbed or at least be slowly drawn into the rest of the digestive tract.

Most people recommend using one brand and type of dewormer exclusively until it is no longer effective. This helps to cut down on possible worm resistance to dewormers. Worm resistance is a common problem because no dewormer is effective against 100% of the worm population in all goats. There's always going to be a small percentage of worms that are naturally resistant to a particular dewormer. For example (I am making these percentages up just for this example, so don't quote me!!), if you use Ivermectin 1.87% horse paste for deworming, it will kill 98% of the worm population in your goats. The 2% that is left will be the ones that will reproduce the next generation of worms. Now the next time you use Ivermectin, only 70% of the worms will be killed. 30% will be resistant due to genetics and will reproduce the next generation. The next time you deworm with Ivermectin, 40% of the worms will be killed and 60% will be resistant. And so on, and so on until a large majority of the worms are resistant to Ivermectin 1.87% horse paste. This will be when you notice that after you deworm, your goats still have rough coats, anemia and worms on their fecal samples. Time to switch dewormers. Your worms may be resistant to Ivermectin 1.87% horse paste but they won't be resistant to Valbazen because it is a totally different class of chemical. So you start the resistance cycle all over again by switching to a new dewormer and continuing with that one until resistance occurs.

Don't rotate dewormers every time you deworm because you could potentially create a "super worm" that is resistant to all dewormers. For example: You deworm with Ivermectin 1.87% horse paste and it kills 98% of the worm population in your goats. The 2% that is left will be resistant to Ivermectin and will reproduce. Then the next time you rotate to Valbazen and it also kill 98% of the worms. BUT there is a good possibility that the 2% of the worms left this time can be resistant to both Ivermectin and Valbazen, after having lived through the first deworming with Ivermectin and the second with Valbazen. Then you deworm again with Cydectin and kill 98% of those worms. Now there is a possibility that the 2% of worms left are resistant to Ivermectin, Valbazen, and Cydectin! Eventually if you rotate through all the classes of dewormers available often enough, you could create a super worm that is resistant to EVERYTHING!! Only rotate dewormers when the one you are using is no longer effective or your goats have a type of worm that isn't killed by the dewormer you normally use (ie: you use Valbazen but the goats have liver flukes you may have to switch to Ivomec Plus for the liver flukes).

Herbal dewormers work well as a preventative for both internal and external parasites. They do not treat any outbreaks of parasites but they make the goats' bodies an unwelcome environment where parasites prefer not to live. I use Hoegger's Herbal Dewormer in my goats and have had great results. I still have to use chemical dewormers occasionally but the necessity of these has been lower since starting the herbal. Also my goats seem to have less lice, mites, nasal bots, lungworms, and pinworms than before starting the herbs. The most important part of a herbal deworming regimen is to be consistent in giving each goat a proper dose of the herbs every week, continuously for life. The herbs do not work unless you are giving them consistently because they do not stay in the goats' systems for more than a week. I prefer to mix the dry herbal dewormer with molasses to create a ball. The goats love these little "treats" and will eat them out of my hand which makes a very convenient way to ensure they are getting their individual doses of herbs each week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Farmcycling

I like to save resources on the farm by reusing things or reducing waste. Here are some things I do:

I have two male goats who live outside in a pen all the time. They have two hay mangers and two nice dog houses to sleep in. I take any uneaten hay from the hay mangers daily and spread it in their dog houses for fresh bedding.

The male goats waste a lot of hay by pulling it out of the mangers and not eating it. Every week I rake this fairly clean hay up and put it in the chicken yard. The chickens love to dig through it for seeds and bugs. If I throw 1 cup of scratch grains on this hay, the chickens really tear into it!

My does go into the barn at night where they have individual hay mangers in their pens. My oldest doe and my youngest does are picky and won't always eat all of their hay each day. I take this clean hay out of their mangers and put it in the mangers of my two middle does. They will eat just about anything so they don't mind getting clean leftovers from the other goats.

Any spilled hay gets raked up in the barn and distributed in the goat pens for fresh bedding. This helps to keep the pens fresh and eliminates the need for me to buy hay or straw just for bedding.

My goats love fresh, clean water. After two days they will not drink any water if it is stale. I take this stale but clean water and use it to water the chickens and the lettuce plants by the barn. Any poopy water goes to water the flower pots and seedling trees.

When I rinse my water buckets out I always dump the rinse water on my flower pots. I never dump it on the ground.

All of my dirty goat bedding goes directly on the garden for mulch. This works great during the fall and spring to cover the empty space and renew the soil. During the summer I put the dirty bedding in the compost pile for later use as topsoil. The chicken manure goes in the compost pile.

My husband owns a wood chipper for his business. Any wood chips that people don't want, he brings home and puts in a big pile. I use these as a base for my goat pens and for covering muddy spots in the goat yard. I also use them for the chickens.

I unplug the electric fence at night. I bring the goats in the barn at night so no one is out on the pasture anyway.

When I prune the maple trees or raspberry bushes I give these cuttings to the goats. They love them! I also cut raspberry canes in the fall before the leaves fall off and bundle them for drying in the hay loft for the winter. The goats love to eat these when they are in labor and right after giving birth. It's a nice treat and raspberry is supposed to help with labor and delivery.

I rake all my maple leaves up in the fall and bag them for the winter. The goats love getting a few handfuls of these every few days as a treat. Just be sure that they are very dry before bagging so they don't mold during storage.

I never mow my lawn. I use portable electric netting fence to move the goat pasture all around. It takes only 20 minutes to move and I move it every 3 days to give the goats fresh forage and to keep the lawn cut short. The goats do a good job at cutting the grass and they fertilize as they go. I have gotten pretty creative with moving the fence so the goats get to all parts of the lawn.

My chickens get any melon rinds, corn cobs, leftover pasta and vegetables from the house. I compost the rest of the food waste. The goats get any stale cookies or crackers.

All cardboard and paper from the house go into the compost pile. It composts fairly well and is cheaper than paying a dump fee to dump it in someone else's hole in the ground. In the winter we use it to start fires in our two wood stoves to heat the house.

I use rolled up feed bags as insulation in the eaves of my hen house for the winter. The eaves are open for ventilation so I plug them with feed bags for the cold weather.

I use an old lid off of a large tote bin as a rain cover for my electric fence charger. It covers the charger and the power cord so they don't get wet. I also have a solar fence charger that I can move around for spots where the plug-in can't reach.

All of my milk that I don't need for my house goes into buckets for the neighbor's pigs. The neighbor's drop off buckets with lids once a week and I fill them up with goat milk. The pigs don't mind if the milk is a little fermented by the time they get it, they love it!!

That's some of the things that I do. How do you farmcycle?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pictures!

 Time for some pictures to prove I actually do have animals here somewhere. Up there is Daisy looking out of the barn.


 Here's Figaro the Angora wether. Quite fluffy and quite wonderful!


 Here's Miss Primrose. She is also quite nice. Her and Daisy live together and are future milk/kid producers.


Here's Brun. He's the buck for this year. He'll be bred to Lucy. He's got a buddy, Bro, the wether who keeps him company.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Things I have learned so far....


There are some things that I have learned in my journey with raising livestock. 

1. Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched: There’s a reason this saying is about animals and not something more predictable, like the weather. Animals will always surprise you. That little doeling goat who shows potential may be a 2 gallon-a-day milker when she grows up, or she might get coccidiosis and kick the bucket next week. Don’t start planning on things that you can’t control. This isn’t to say you should never make plans, but don’t act surprised when your best laid plans are made into manure by your animals. 

2. Do what you can with what you got: Sure, a brand new wood paneled, welded bar horse stall looks pretty, but guess what? Your animals don’t care what it looks like. The only thing most farm animals care about is if their surroundings are safe, sturdy, and tasty. A horse isn’t going to be any happier living in a fancy new barn than living in an old run-in shed. As long as the roof doesn’t leak, there’s plenty of food available, and it is a calm place to live with happy interactions, the horse will be as happy as can be. An old horse trough makes a great new duck pond, a leaking water bucket is a new grain bucket, and an empty feed sack makes great barn insulation. Look around at what you have and make it work for you.

3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Farming is a constant learning experience and everyone has a different way of doing things. Be careful, though, about changing things that work well in the first place. Animals tend to be resistant to change. Some people might have great luck with putting their goat kids on a strict CAE, coccidiosis, and deworming schedule starting at birth. The schedule might sound perfect and might be the key to keeping your kids as healthy as possible. But it might also be the key to killing your kids with kindness by changing too much of what you know already works. I killed three kids this year by changing too much too soon. I thought what worked for someone else should work great for me. Big mistake! In all the changes I forgot to keep the same some very key elements that I already knew worked, like using probiotics after using antibiotics and the dangers of feeding too much grain. I should have stuck with my old program and only changed one thing at a time. 

3. Don’t go overboard: I jumped in when I first started by buying up all the goats I could find. I got old ones and young ones and pregnant ones and sick ones. If it was free or cheap, that was music to my ears. I have found that this isn’t worth it in the end. Take your time and research what you really want and what you want to do with it. Don’t just jump at the next Craigslist ad you see. Ask questions, talk to people in your area and on the internet, and look at a lot of animals before deciding what to bring home. Keep in mind that chickens can live from 4-8 years, goats live 10-15 years and horses can live to be 40. Getting animals is a long term commitment. If you get 15 goats and then decide next year that you don’t like goats, what are you going to do them? Have that figured out before you bring animals home. 

4. Breed within your means: This goes along with #3. Baby animals are super cute but they eventually grow up to be bigger, eat more, poop more, and get into trouble. It’s your job as the caretaker for your animals to consider what happens to what you will produce. Is there a market for baby goats in your area? What if they are all males? Are you willing to do what it takes to care for that situation (ie: slaughter them or sell them for slaughter)? I have had a lot of neutered male goats come back to me over the years. This is because people bought them as cute little babies and then realized after 5 years that their cute baby is a large, unruly, food-consuming machine. I have now decided that all of my extra male baby goats will be used as food for my table. I feel this is a much more humane endpoint than being used as coyote bait (that happened last year), or bounced around from home to home (yep, one of my boys got that treatment) or just straight up neglected (seen that, too). 

4. Be willing to go the distance: There are ways to farm that are easier and cheaper than others, but you still have to be willing to do what it takes and spend what it takes to keep your animals happy and healthy. Farming is a lot of work, takes a lot of time, and can cost a lot of money. Be prepared for that before you start. Are you willing to take a day off of your off-farm job to wait for a vet to come and charge you $300 to help your sheep? Are you able to stay up all night long to wait for your cow to give birth? Can you imagine putting down your horse that got pneumonia suddenly and is very sick? If you aren’t ready for this stuff, you might want to reconsider getting livestock.

5. Have fun with it! Farming and raising livestock can be a lot of fun. Animals are amazing to work and live with. Don’t be afraid to change something that isn’t making you happy. If your llama is a pain in the butt and he makes you dread doing chores, perhaps it’s time that llama found a new home. Farming will be a lot of work but it should be a lot of fun too!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

To Register or Not To Register?

I have never registered my goats. They are all dairy goats (no Boer, Pygmy, or Angora crosses here) and they could qualify for registration, but I have never bothered to do it. I haven't registered them for a variety of reasons: 1) Expense - it costs money to register a goat and stay a member of the ADGA. 2) Showing - I don't show my goats and don't sell to people who do. 3) Market - I can't get more money for a goat just because it is registered.

I am currently thinking about registering my goats. If my daughter were to get interested in showing goats, she would need registered animals to do that. I wouldn't want to have to buy a new registered animal specifically just for showing since I already have a lot of nice animals to choose from. The two newest does are very nice and would probably win a few ribbons in the show rings. So I may get my butt in gear and get the papers filled out.

I can register my oldest Alpine doe as a purebred American Alpine. I still have her original registration papers from when I bought her as a kid. She might even have a tattoo already. Her daughter, Lucy, could be a grade since her sire was never registered. Her other daughter, Prim, would be an experimental since her sire was a registered Oberhasli. My new goat, Daisy, is another grade doe since her dam is a registered Saanen and her sire is an unknown fence-jumper. He is a dairy goat but the lady I got her from doesn't know which of her many purebred Oberhasli, Saanen, or Toggenburg bucks did the deed.

Being a grade or an experimental isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you can't qualify as a purebred and you can't be shown in a purebred show. You can compete in grade shows with any grade or experimental goats. The offspring of a grade can become registered purebreds after 3 generations of being bred to the same breed. If I bred my Saanen grade doe to a Saanen purebred buck, then bred those kids to a purebred Saanen, and then bred those kids to a purebred Saanen, the result of that third cross would be considered purebred Saanen. Recorded grades and registered experimentals hold about the same monetary value as most registered purebred goats in the eyes of most small-time breeders. The only breeders who get worked up about pedigrees and purebred-ness are the big timers who are doing it for showing or dairying.

If I were to register my goats I could also get into the world of milk testing. The DHIA (Dairy Herd Improvement Test) is set up by the ADGA to accurately track and record production levels of individual goats. You apply to be a tested herd and then set up test days with someone from the ADGA to verify the milk levels. If you goat produces a certain amount of milk per year they will get a * added to their names in the registry. The *s help to notify someone looking at a goat's pedigree of large milk production levels. The DHIA also looks at butterfat percentages and other things to assess a goat's production levels. This seems like a lot of work so I will probably forgo the milk test for now.

I am working on improving my goat herd through CAE prevention and breeding the best genetics, so I might as well improve the herd through official registration.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Armchair Farmers and Wannabees

I get a little miffed when people who have been raising animals for less than 2 years feel fit to tell me how to do what I am doing and all the ways that they are doing it better. I have been raising animals for 10 years on my own so I hope that I have at least a little farm-cred from this length of experience. It bothers me when someone has raised chickens for one season goes on about what they did and how well it worked. They say they did it right. I say they got lucky!

With the ease of finding information on the internet, there seems to be plethora of "armchair farmers". These are people who did a lot of internet research, read a couple of books, and raised a few animals for a few years. After a season or two they feel ready to expound to the world their ideas on farming. They never hesitate to tell someone what they did and how well it worked. I don't want to discourage anyone from helping out a fellow farmer by lending advice, but please make sure your advice is tested with real-life experience and not just a jumble of Google searches mixed with 6 months of a good growing season.

What irks me right to the bone is someone who doesn't even have a farm or raise animals trying to tell me how I can improve my system! There's all sorts of "wannabe farmers" who never hesitate to tell me how if they were doing it, they would be milking 75 does a year and selling 150 gallons of milk a day to such-and-such cheese factory, and they would be clearing XX-thousands of dollars in profit each year. If this was at all doable, I would be the FIRST one to be doing it. I always tell those people after their 30 minute lecture on proper farming techniques that any day of the week they want to show me how it is done, please do so. I will never hesitate to step aside and let someone else show me the light and the correct way to take care of my animals... That being said I have yet to wake up at 6:30am on Saturday morning with any of these wannabe's knocking at my door ready to milk the goats.

One thing that sends armchair farmers and wannabees onto a slippery slope of bad advice are internet forums. I have been involved in several different goat forums over the years. I love internet forums because you can learn all sorts of new things that people have tried, you can find new friends from all over the world who love goats as much as you do, and you can hear the latest ideas in goat care advancements. I hate internet forums because you don't really know who any of these people are and if their advice is actually been tested on any living animals. The advice on forums can snowball if one person gives bad advice to someone and that person then passes on the bad advice to someone else. Eventually everyone thinks the bad advice is actually good advice because they've heard it so much!

There's one forum where there's this one person who always writes long and strong opinions to every question that is posted. This person is on the forum for hours and hours each day writing responses to almost every post. The forum is quite popular and has a lot of posts, so writing back on all of them is a big time-kill. What she writes seems like somewhat decent information from my experiences with my animals but I get a little suspicious of her when she professes to have lots and lots of goats and does all sorts of shows and things with them, yet she is on this one forum for hours and hours each day. How is she able to care for all her animals and still be on the internet about 23 hours a day?? I have a theory that this particular person has no goats at all. I think she is an entirely fictional farmer who writes long and drawn-out posts because she has nothing better to do all day. This theory is scary when considering the fact that this particular forum has lots of unsuspecting people on it trying to get good answers to their most important goat raising questions. Can you really trust what those forum posters have to say??

Now, I don't profess to know everything when it comes to raising my species of choice (goats and chickens). I have definitely made some super huge mistakes recently in regards to how I raise my animals, so I know there will never be a time when I can sit back and say, "Now I have it right and I don't ever have to change what I am doing because I have perfected my farming system". Unfortunately some new farmers have one good season and they start telling everyone how great they are at farming and how wonderful their systems worked. I know that some systems are better than the others and most of those better systems can be found at the click of a button on the internet. This is fine. I don't want to discourage anyone from getting into farming or trying new systems with their existing animals. But I do want to discourage new farmers from sending potential farmers down a dangerous road of unproven advice.

So all you new farmers and wannabees listen up: Be careful what you say unless you've proven it works on your own animals. It's okay to experiment but don't pass on advice based on someone's suggestions if you haven't tried it yourself.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It All Came Crashing Down


When you stack things on top of each other in a precarious way, it’s only a matter of time before they all come crashing down on you. That’s what’s happened to me this year. 

It all started with the great kid management plan that I came up with. I changed a bunch of things from the way I normally do them to try to enhance my goat kid rearing. The first thing I did was to put all the kids this year on cow colostrum and then pasteurized milk to prevent CAE. My adult goats have CAE and I knew that I wanted to raise some kids for breeding this year so I didn’t want them to get CAE. The next thing I did was to put all the kids on Noble Goat medicated goat feed to try to prevent coccidiosis. I have a lot of coccidia on the place and most of my kids go through some bouts of diarrhea at 3 – 4 weeks old. I wanted to avoid that by feeding medicated goat feed to the kids. This plan sounded like a good one and other people have had luck with using pasteurized milk and medicated goat feed. 

The problem with pasteurized milk is that it does not contain any naturally occurring good bacteria or antibodies. All the good bacteria and the good antibodies that come from the mother goat are killed in the pasteurization process. This is great if you are trying to kill the CAE virus but it is not good if you want your kids to have healthy immune systems that are fortified by good bacteria and antibodies. Kids on pasteurized milk are slightly less protected against some diseases.

Even though I was using the medicated goat feed, the younger kids weren’t eating it in large enough quantities to help stop coccidiosis. All the kids got diarrhea from coccidiosis when they turned 3 weeks old. Three weeks is the life cycle of the parasite. It infects at birth but takes three weeks to cause enough damage to give the kids diarrhea. I started to treat all the kids with Sulmet 12.5% drinking water solution given orally. This is a harsh general antibiotic that kills the coccidiosis parasite and kills any other bacteria in the goat’s system (good or bad). 

Then I overfed some of my kids. I had three different age groups in the same pen, feeding on the same bucket feeder. I wanted to give my bigger kids more milk and my littler kids less milk but when you dump all the milk in a big bucket and have all the kids nurse at once, there is no way to regulate that. Some of the kids got too much milk and wound up sick. Baby goats get upset stomachs when they have too much milk. It’s not good for them. 

So now the kids’ stomachs are upset from too much milk and all the good bacteria in their systems is dead. Their bodies are having a hard time digesting food and some of them are getting run down. Pile on top of this access to the medicated grain. Grain is acidic and if eaten in large quantities can cause the rumen to become too acidic for the good bacteria to reproduce. Unfortunately bad bacteria, like Clostridium perfingens Type D, proliferate in an acidic rumen. 

The result of all this is two kids died suddenly of enterotoxemia and a third is still at risk. Enterotoxemia occurs when the good bacteria in a goat’s rumen die and don’t get reestablished, and the rumen pH remains acidic for a long period of time. Enterotoxemia is caused by the naturally occurring Clostridium perfingens bacteria. They love an acidic rumen with no other bacteria in it and can proliferate quickly. They kill a goat by producing a toxic sludge as a byproduct of their reproduction that poisons the goat. Usually there are not enough bad bacteria in a healthy goat to produce a high amount of toxins. But if a goat gets indigestion and their rumen gets thrown out of whack, the bad bacteria will go nuts and kill the goat very quickly. The only signs that my goat kids where very sick was that they got very weak and cried like their stomachs hurt. At this point, there was nothing I could do to stop the damage. 

I could have prevented this by giving the goat kids Probios probiotic paste frequently and continuously during their treatment with Sulmet. Probios contains good rumen bacteria and helps to establish new colonies in the goat. I should have pulled all grain from the kids or given them very, very little grain. I was giving them a lot because they were eating it and I wanted them to eat enough to prevent coccidiosis. I also should have not increased their milk quantities and only fed just the amount of milk to suit the youngest kids. 

I am very sad that two of my kids died. One was a buck that I had no special attachment to. I was going to sell him when he got older. Anytime a kid dies, it is sad. The other one that died was my Crystal. She was a Saanan/Alpine doeling out of one of my favorite Alpine does. She was a total surprise because I thought her mom had been bred by an Oberhasli and her mom always has bucks. I was not expecting a pure white doeling when she popped out! She was beautiful and gentle and oh so sweet. I am devastated that she died and I wish I didn’t have to learn these lessons in a very hard and painful way. Luckily now I know what I need to in order to keep my kids alive. I will spread this to other people so they don’t have to learn the hard way either.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Single-Celled Monsters!!

I have a problem with coccidiosis on my property. For some reason those little single-celled parasites have a party in my soil and love to infect my animals. I am not sure why I am so lucky to receive such an honor of infected land but I wish I could give that honor back.

The problem with coccidiosis is that it kills goat kids quickly and sometimes before you see definite symptoms. It compounds any problems kids commonly have, including malnutrition, dehydration, and worms. Kids between 3 weeks and 6 months old are the most susceptible to massive infection. The main symptom that they are infested with the parasite is loose stool. Once they have that, their intestines have been compromised and you are fighting an up hill battle to keep them alive. Three weeks old is the golden age for coccidiosis symptoms because the parasite has a three week life-cycle. They infect the kids at birth but then it takes 3 weeks for the parasites to mature and cause damage in the intestines. Any kids that hit three weeks old and have smelly, brown diarrhea are infested with coccidia and need to be treated immediately.

This year has been a particularly bad year for coccidiosis on my farm. The warm, wet winter did not kill the endemic soil populations. There weren't any good stretches of weeks of -20F that normally help to kill all the soil parasites. Couple that with my kid ages being spread out over a month and a half. I have older kids and younger kids together. This causes problems because the older kids need more milk and the younger kids need less milk. I have been feeding them all on a lambar bucket feeder. In order to give enough milk to all of them, I wound up over-feeding some and under-feeding others. Also add to these problems the fact that I am very busy and stressed out this year, which leaves me not always thinking straight when it comes to kid care. I let a few things slip through the cracks that I should have known better. As a result, one kid died, another is still on the verge of death, and another has loose stools that won't go away.

The kid that died had started not to suck on the bucket at feeding time as much as the other kids. I didn't think very much of it for a few days. Then one evening he was lethargic, stumbling, and cold. I quickly gave him a little electrolytes to help rehydrate him. He was very thin and very dehydrated. He perked up for a little while and I continued to give him more electrolytes. The next morning he was dead. I think he died as a result of a combination of coccidiosis and dehydration. The kid that is on the verge of death has had very watery scours for days. I gave him electrolytes and coccidiosis treatment. He had good energy but continued to have bad diarrhea. I finally gave him to my neighbor to take care of because she can keep him in her house and spend more time on trying to rehab him. So far he is still alive. The kid with loose stool is doing fine. I am going to leave her alone for a few days and see how she reacts. She's been drinking her milk fine and eating hay.

To treat for coccidiosis you must you a sulfa-based antibiotic. I normally use Sulmet 12.5% drinking water solution. This is easy to find at any farm store and it is convenient to use. The dosage is 1cc orally, undiluted per 5 lbs of body weight for two days and then 1cc per 10 lbs of weight for 5 days. Treatment must be given for at least 7 days in order to kill all the parasites in their different life cycles. Sulmet tastes terrible and is best when mixed with something that tastes good, like milk or molasses. I taste-tested some Sulmet the other day because I was wondering why the goats always gag when I give it to them. I don't wonder about the gagging anymore! It is awful stuff! I will always mix it with something to make it taste better from now on.

I am planning on switching to using Corid powder to try to mix up the antibiotics I use. The Sulmet doesn't seem as effective as it used to be for me. Corid has a slightly different mode of action for killing coccidia so it might help knock the populations back for me. I am also using a medicated goat feed this year for the kids. This will help to keep populations of the parasite in check as the kids grow. It will not treat an infestation of coccidia but it will help to slow the infection. Once the kids get past 6 months old, they are usually immune to the parasite. Coccidia will always be present in an adult goat but it usually does not cause any problems unless the adult is compromised by another issue. Hopefully I can get my remaining kids to the 6 month mark and I won't have to worry about this again.