Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas for the Goats!

Even the goats get a Christmas tree at my house!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Buck Stops Here

Did you know that in order to get milk from a goat it has to be bred and deliver kids? This means that not only do you have to have a female goat on your farm in order to make milk, you have to have a male goat (or access to one). This presents a problem for many small goat herders because male goats can be a real pain to care for. 

The male goat is an interesting creature with some very unique habits. Fully grown male goats are typically larger than females and typically more aggressive. I know many people who have purchased or raised bucks from kids and have called me frantically when the buck is a year old because he is trying to kill their other goats or their children. No matter how sweet some bucks are when they are little, they can grow up to be real bastards. 

Another unique feature of male goats is they produce a musky smell that is described as falling somewhere between rotting garbage and dead skunk on the stink scale. There have been a few times when I have rounded the back of my barn headed to the buck pen where I am almost knocked sideways by the power of the stink. I do not normally have a fickle stomach but I have wretched a few times out behind the barn due to overwhelming buck stink. This stink is oil-based and can get on EVERYTHING! The only effective way I have found to get it off of my hands is to wash my hands with toothpaste (no lie!). Bucks think this smell is awesome and they love to spread it around by rubbing their scent glands, located on the top of their heads and at the base of their tails, on things and other animals. Bucks enhance their particular “eue d’parfum” by sticking their faces between their front legs and spraying pee on their heads. By the end of breeding season, a fully mature buck is usually crusted with several layers of musk, piss, and dirt. Yay…

Besides the aggression and the stink, bucks present other challenges to keeping on a farm. It is highly recommended that you do NOT house your buck with your does unless for breeding purposes only. This means that you need a separate place to house your bucks. Bucks can get very determined to be with your does when the girls go into heat, so not only should their area be separate, it should be well fortified against attacks by amorous male goats who want to get loose to get some action. Does can also be determined to get bred so your buck pen should not only keep your bucks from getting out, it has to keep your does from getting in. It is highly recommended that you do not keep bucks by themselves and provide them with a suitable companion, either a neutered male goat or another buck. Thus, if you have one buck you plan to use for breeding, you will need to maintain two goats at all times. 

Most small farms don’t have a ton of space for housing bucks separately. And most don’t have enough hay/pasture/feed to carry the maintenance of two or more male goats all year round. Is there sufficient reason to feed them 365 days a year for only 5 minutes worth of work during breeding time? 

There are a couple of ways to deal with the problem of breeding your goats and needing a buck:

1.       Borrow a buck – Bucks are a dime a dozen during the fall breeding season so it can be very easy to borrow a buck for a few days or weeks to get your does bred. It helps if you know when your girls are coming into heat so you can accurately time the arrival of the loaner buck with when your does will be bred. Depending on the buck’s owner, some are fine with loaning him out for a few weeks until you are sure your goats are pregnant.

2.       Stud fee – Some breeders will allow you to use a high quality and/or registered buck in return for some money. This is a great way to use a registered buck without paying a lot for him or feeding him. Most people offering stud fees prefer that you bring your doe to their farm and either leave her there for breeding or do a “driveway date” where the buck breeds the doe when you show up and then you take her immediately back home with you. This requires that you know exactly when your girl is in a standing heat so that she will be ready for him as soon as you get out of the car. 

3.       Pump and dump – Like I said, bucks are a dime a dozen most of the time. If you surf Craigslist in the spring or fall, chances are you will find ads for very cheap or free male goats. You can pick up a cheap buck kid in the spring and raise him until fall to use for breeding. Most bucks are fertile and ready to mate at 4 months old, so a spring kid can be ideal. You can also usually score a mature buck in the fall and use him for a few months. Once your girls are bred you can turn around and dump him back on Craigslist or better yet, dump him in your freezer! Buck goats can carry a decent amount of meat on them. Even the smelliest bucks can be turned into pretty yummy sausage without too much hassle. Eating your leftover buck is a great step towards eliminating animal abuse because you are being responsible by euthanizing him for food. You can never tell what a person will do with an unneeded buck when you sell him or give him away. I have heard and seen too many horror stories of buck goats being abused after breeding season was over because the current owners were too cheap or stupid to care for them properly. 

4.       Linebreeding – Chances are, every year that you breed goats you will have bucks born on your farm. The best of these can be chosen to be rebred to their relatives in the fall. I typically save a buck kid from the spring’s kids to use each fall. I try to choose the best looking kid and the one that is least related to the does I plan to breed him to. I typically do this for 2 generations and then bring in new genetics by using a completely unrelated buck. This process can work quite well but you do have to be aware that linebreeding can concentrate bad genetics, just as easily as it can capitalize on good genetics. There’s a common adage in the goat world regarding this, “It’s called linebreeding if it works and produces good kids, and inbreeding if it don’t”. 

5.       Artificial insemination – Don’t be scared to try this if you can find someone in your area who can perform the procedure. This is a super easy and sometimes less expensive alternative to having a live buck to breed your girls. AI does require some special equipment and preparation to ensure the success at breeding. You might have to give your does some hormone shots or implants to get them ready for the procedure. You will also need to purchase semen and have a nitrogen tank available to store it in. Luckily most large breeders of cows, sheep, and goats are skilled in AI so you can get lucky and find a local farmer to help you do the procedure. AI is a fantastic way to breed superior genetics to your girls without paying superior prices for the use of the buck.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Biggest Loser Contest!

My workplace had a "Biggest Loser" contest this summer. It ran from May 31 to August 30. We all put $20 in the pot and whoever lost the most percentage of body weight got all the money. I didn't win but I did well and lost about 22 lbs. I am hoping to keep up the good work and continue to eat my vegetables and exercise. I lost the weight by giving up most sugars, all pastas and breads, all potatoes, and other starches/carbohydrates. I ate a lot of vegetables and fruit, with plenty of cheese and meat. Yay me!

Before at 220 lbs.

After at 198.2 lbs

Friday, August 23, 2013

Yarn from Goats!

 When you take this: 

And then subtract that:

 You get these!
I sent three shearings worth of fleece from Figaro (my Angora goat) to Battenkill Fiber Mill last fall. This summer they sent me a big huge box filled with 40 skeins of lovely yarn. At the mill, they washed the fleece, carded it, mixed it with 80% merino sheep wool, and spun it into yarn. I had 9 skeins dyed purple, 9 done green, and 9 done red/pink. The lady at the mill urged me to save a few skeins undyed because the natural fiber color was so wonderful (that's the white skein on the left). She said people were trying to purchase the yarn from her before she could get it in the box to ship to me! That's how nice it turned out!

I can't don't knit and can't really crochet. Luckily I have a mother-in-law who can knit very well so she will be getting this lovely yarn to work with. Even though I am not a yarn user, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have my very own goat's fleece made into yarn. How many people can point in their pasture to the animal who made their hat?!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Dirt Got To Do With Raising Goats?!

I live in the Adirondacks of New York State. It’s way up north; above NYC and even north of Albany (I bet most of you didn’t even know there was anything north of Albany!). The reason location is important when talking about raising goats is because of the soil. All of the good, mineral-rich topsoil in northern NY was scraped off of the Adirondack Mountains and deposited somewhere else by a huge glacier many thousands of years ago. All that was left were mineral poor granite rocks to make new soil. Over the millennia, the ADKs (Adirondack Mountains for short) slowly regained some soil through erosion and natural processes. Unfortunately this new soil is very sandy and acidic. The forests and vegetation that blanket the area have helped to enrich the soil but it is still mineral deficient and not very fertile.  Now why would dirt have anything to do with keeping goats healthy?! Well, I will tell you.

Dirt or soil is the base that plants that your goats will eat grow in. All of the minerals in those plants come directly from the soil they are grown in. Plants can’t magically create minerals that they don’t have in the soil they grow from.  So if your local soil is mineral deficient, the plants growing around you will also be deficient. This is a problem for animals that need a large variety and quantity of certain minerals in order to stay healthy.

Goats are browsers by nature and have evolved over millions of years to have very high mineral demands. In their natural habitat they would range far and wide sampling a large variety of plants in order to satisfy their mineral needs. Each plant has different mineral compositions so if a goat needed a certain mineral for their health, then they could roam a large territory and find the plant which would give them what they want. Goats are not designed to be confined to pastures that contain only grasses. Goats are also not designed to be fed grassy hay as a sole fiber source. They need more minerals than grass can provide.

The intersection between a grass-based diet and poor mineral soil is the dangerous place where the Adirondack Mountains sit. Most of the goats I see around here are severely mineral deficient. They show all of the outward signs of it, like rough hair, faded coloring, and flaky skin. They also show inward signs by being prone to parasite infection and growing slower than their supplemented peers.

Mineral deficiency can be remedied easily and even goats living in the ADKs can manage to be very healthy. The most important thing you can do to keep your goats healthy in a mineral deficient area is to put them on a loose mineral blend designed specifically for goats. Don’t use mineral blocks, salt licks or pre-mixed grain as a sole source of mineral supplementation. None of these things have enough accessible minerals to keep goats healthy. Loose minerals are easily consumed by goats and generally contain a better ratio of minerals than mineral blocks or complete feeds. It is very important to make sure that the loose mineral blend is specifically for goats. “All stock” minerals or those not labeled for goats will not have the proper amount of certain minerals. 

My favorite mineral blend is Sweetlix Meatmaker 16:8. It’s a good quality and affordable blend. It works great for all breeds of goats, not just meat goats. My goats have free access to their minerals all the time. I have hanging mineral tubs in each goat pen. I clean and refill the mineral tubs every couple of days because goats don’t like stale minerals.

The second thing you must do to supplement your goats is give them copper boluses a couple of times a year. Most goats in the ADKs are extremely symptomatic of copper deficiency. Copper deficiency makes a goat have rough, dull hair and causes their hair color to fade. Take a picture of you newborn goat kids and then compare that picture to them when they are 1 year old. If at a year old, they look washed out and faded, then you know that they have severe copper deficiency.

Copper also plays an enormous role in parasite resistance. Goats that are copper deficient also tend to have very high internal parasite loads. Internal parasites rob nutrients and calories from goats and cause them to be more prone to other diseases, have fertility and lactating trouble, can cause fatal diarrhea, cause weight loss and poor growth, and cause anemia. Anyone who raises goats for any period of time learns about the role internal parasites cause. The old joke is that you aren’t goat farming, your parasite farming! It can be extremely difficult to manage internal parasites when a goat is copper deficient. All the dewormers and medicines in the world won’t be able to help until you get the goat on track with mineral supplementation. 

I recommend using Copasure Sheep and Goat copper boluses at least every 6 months. Dose each goat at 1 gram of copper per 22 lbs (or 1 gram per kilogram). Copper boluses are little gel capsules that contain small copper rods. The rods are meant to be ingested by the goat and then slowly absorbed through the rumen wall. When dosing your goats with boluses, it is important to maximize their chances of staying lodged in the rumen for slow absorption. Give the boluses on an empty stomach and don’t feed the goat anything for at least 1 hour after dosing. Use a balling gun to insert the bolus in the back of the goat’s throat so they are forced to swallow it without chewing. Follow the dosing with a slug of selenium/E gel or Probios gel. The gel will stick to the boluses and help them to stay in the rumen. 

The final thing you need to do to supplement goats living in the ADKs is to give them selenium. Goats need selenium to help with muscle contraction and growth. Selenium deficiency is most often seen in newborn baby goats who are born with curled under ankles and can’t get up within 15 minutes of birth. Baby goats can also suffer from “White Muscle Disease” which is severe selenium deficiency to the point where their heart fails a few days to a few weeks after birth. They don’t have enough selenium to stay alive. 

Selenium is a micro-nutrient and is only needed in very small amounts. Selenium overdose is possible and it can be fatal. Luckily there are selenium supplement products available that are easy to use and hard to overdose. I prefer to use Selenium/Vitamin E Gel in my goats. Many people recommend using the prescription supplement called Bo-Se or Mu-Se. Unfortunately another lovely feature of living in the ADKs (besides crappy soil) is that we have no veterinarians who will treat goats. So getting a prescription supplement is out of the question for me. The gel works great so I don’t have a problem using it. I dose all of my goats once a month with the gel. My pregnant goats get extra bi-monthly doses in order to help the kids. 

In conclusion, be sure to evaluate the soil of your area before deciding on what minerals your goats might need more of. If you live in Northern NY, please be sure to supplement your goats with loose minerals, copper boluses, and selenium gel.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Milk and Grain Do Not Make a Fast Growing Kid Goat!

It goes against common sense to say the key to raising fast growing and hefty kid goats is not in what you feed them. I have been raising baby goats for 10 years and have learned repeatedly over the years that kids grow best on limited grain and milk. Overfeeding a kid grain or milk is a sure recipe for disaster. 

Kids fed too much milk at one time tend to get watery scours if they are under 3 weeks old. Watery scours leave a kid prone to dehydration and death, and are best avoided at all costs. If they are over 3 weeks old and consume too much milk, they can bloat and die. Enterotoxemia can also be a common result of feeding too much milk. Enterotoxemia bacteria are naturally found in the soil and all kids carry some in their digestive systems. Normally, this bacteria doesn’t cause a problem because it does not reproduce well in a healthy, aerobic rumen. But if a kid gorges on milk, their rumen can become an anaerobic environment. The enterotoxemia bacteria will proliferate and release large amounts of a cell killing endotoxin that will shut down the kid’s digestive system. The end result is typically very quick death. Thus it is very important to always slowly increase the amount of milk. 

Age at weaning can be a hotly contested issue. I have fed milk to kids from anywhere between 8 weeks to 6 months old. By 8 weeks most kids are freely consuming grain, hay and grass. I have found that most kids continue to gain weight when weaned at 10 weeks old. Milk after that age doesn’t seem to contribute to their weight gain.

Grain is something that is often overfed to kid goats. Grain can cause bloating as well when fed too much at one time. It can also cause enterotoxemia by creating an anaerobic rumen. You have to be careful when feeding grain to kids because they tend to eat it first and then not eat as much hay or pasture. Grain tastes good and most kids enjoy eating it. Unfortunately, kids under 3 months old are not very keen on eating lots of hay or grass like an adult goat. This can cause an imbalance in their calorie intake and make them not as healthy overall. It’s like a picky toddler who only wants to eat mac’n’cheese all day. This is not a well-rounded diet and has consequences! 

It’s important to consider mineral and vitamin supplementation in kid goats as much as it is important to consider in adult goats. Kid goats are growing quickly and need to have the proper ratio of minerals to keep them healthy. Buck and wether kids are very prone to formation of urinary calculi when they have mineral imbalance. This can cause urinary blockage which can result in death. 

If large amounts of grain and milk are not the best way to promote rapid, healthy growth in a kid, what is? The answer is PARASITE MANAGEMENT! Kid goats are extremely susceptible to intestinal damage and nutritional deprivation caused by coccidiosis and tapeworms. My farm is a hotbed for these parasites. I have struggled for 10 years with them. This year I finally got serious and it may be the first year ever that my kids hit the 80 lbs mark by 8 months of age. I have had kids die from coccidiosis in the past. I have also had kids stunted and pot-bellied by tapeworms. 

My kid parasite management program involves preventatively treating for coccidiosis and worms on a monthly schedule until the kids are 6 months old. By 6 months old, most goats are immune to much of the problems these two parasites can cause. 

Coccidiosis prevention: Starting at exactly 21days old, I treat each kid with Corid. I mix 20% Corid powder at 1 gram of powder per 10 mL of water. I then give each kid 1mL of this solution for every 10 lbs of weight. I give it orally before feeding time. I like to wait 30 minutes after dosing before I feed the kids. This allows the Corid solution some time to be absorbed. I dose each kid once a day for 5 days. I repeat this 5 day dosage every 21 days until the kids are 6 months old. 

Tapeworm and other worm prevention: Starting at exactly 28 days old, I give each kid a dose of Safeguard (fenbendazole) dewormer. I follow the dosage recommendations on the bottle. I then give the kids a dose of Cydectin Sheep Drench 10 days after the fenbendazole. I give this at 5 mL per 22 lbs of weight. I continue to rotate these two dewormers every 28 days until the kids are 6 months old. 

So, if you are wondering why your kids are not as big as you think they should be or they are skinny, don’t start throwing milk and grain at them. Instead, it might be time to start a parasite prevention and management system on your farm.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Veterinary Care

“Much of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is offered either as an addition to conventional, science-based treatment or in situations in which conventional therapies are unavailable or ineffective. This doesn’t excuse offering treatments that haven’t been properly tested, and it doesn’t mean such therapies can’t do harm. However, such an approach at least avoids the harm that can come from delaying or rejecting effective treatment. 

However, sometimes CAM providers actually believe their practices are an appropriate and effective substitute for conventional medicine, even in the case of serious disease. This attitude is truly inexcusable when, as is usually the case, there is no sound evidence to support the belief and when irrational and inaccurate denigration of conventional treatments is used to scare people away from medicine that could really help their pets.” – from

The above paragraphs hit a chord with me in regards to goat care. I know of many people who tend to eschew all conventional preventions and treatments for goat problems, in favor of “natural”, “holistic” or “homeopathic” remedies. As goat owners we must always care for the animals with their best interests in mind. We cannot become so indoctrinated by the CAM ideal that we avoid proven conventional treatments or preventions. I know many people who don’t use chemical dewormers, never use antibiotics, or who won’t vaccinate their goats because they are afraid of the “chemicals” or “toxins” that may be in those things.

Be aware that herbs and homeopathic remedies also have chemicals and toxins in them. Wormwood that is found in many herbal deworming blends can be a serious liver toxin ( Belladonna, which is often used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever is one of the more extremely toxic plants in the world ( And keep in mind that most “homeopathic” remedies are nothing but water. Homeopathy is the practice of diluting a toxic substance until the substance is no longer toxic and the water “remembers” the substance and is able to “teach” your immune system how to react to it. If you dilute something 30,000 times with water, the end result isn’t magic memory water, it’s just plain water. It’s true that sometimes there could actually be something in your homeopathic remedy other than water, but that’s not usually on purpose and more related to the fact that many homeopathic remedies are manufactured in third world countries using unfiltered and untreated tap water for the dilutions. Your homeopathic remedy probably doesn’t contain any of the original substance it’s supposed to, but it may contain bacteria, toxins, and heavy metals due to the water used (

I understand the tendency to turn to over-the-counter or over-the-internet herbal, holistic, or homemade concoctions to treat a sick goat. When the animal can’t tell you what is wrong, you are desperate to try anything. Also, when a licensed veterinarian is not available or too expensive (like in many of the areas of the North Country), you will turn to cheaper and more accessible alternatives whether proven to work or not. Add to that the fact that many veterinarians are not prepared to deal with goat problems and may not have prescription goat medicines on hand. So even if you do use a vet, they may not be able to help you. Finally, there is the strong myth that “natural”, “holistic” or “homeopathic” remedies are safer that conventional medications. 

When deciding which path to take in order to treat or prevent a goat problem, remember that most CAM therapies and treatments are not scientifically proven. Most of the evidence that they work is purely anecdotal or based solely on individual results. There is very little to no government regulation or oversight for herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies, and holistic concoctions. This means that anyone can mix up a batch of random stuff, call it “Magic Goat Cure”, and start selling it over the internet while claiming it cures everything from mastitis to CAE. To make it a real money maker, all the seller needs is two or three fictional “testimonials” about how some goner goat was magically cured by the stuff. It works even better when the seller makes up a fictional disease and claims that most of the population suffers from it and thus every animal should be on his patented and proprietary magic pills (

On the other hand, conventional therapies and treatments have to go through regulated and reproducible scientific studies. The drug in question has to be statistically proven to treat the problem in a majority of the population. And those findings must be capable of being scientifically reproduced in order for the drug to be approved for sale ( 

Some of the bad names that approved conventional drugs get for containing “chemicals” and “toxins” is because they actually do contain those things. Parasites, bacteria, and viruses are dangerous to goats because they are aggressive in their pursuit to grow, reproduce, and infect fresh victims. The biological forces behind these things are very strong, thus it is important to use a strong chemical or toxin to stop their infection and spread. 

Keep in mind that purposeful decisions to not use the appropriate treatments and therapies in your animals due to your personal beliefs is not always in the animal’s best interest. Choosing not to vaccinate for tetanus or use an antibiotic for coccidiosis prevention does not hurt you, it hurts your goat. It is our responsibility to care for the animals, thus it is our responsibility to consider ALL the tools that are available to us to use to keep them healthy. Ignorance is not an excuse for negligence!