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!
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?!
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.