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!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Beware of buying raw milk

Everybody knows that farm fresh, local eggs and meat taste the best and are healthier for you. The same goes for local, fresh milk. Also, everyone knows that cooking eggs and meat is a good idea in order to eliminate harmful pathogens. So then why do people get so worked up about pasteurized milk versus raw milk? Pasteurization isn’t evil. It is simply cooking the milk in order to kill any harmful bacteria or viruses that have set up shop in your milk pail. 

Milk is nature’s perfect media for bacterial and viral growth. The reason we can make cheese out of milk is because it grows bacteria so well. Unfortunately, not only does milk grow cheese bacteria really well, it can grow some nasty bacteria easily too. Raw meat and raw eggs are similar in that they have the nutrients and correct environment to grow some really nasty bugs. This is why we cook these things. Heating up eggs, meat or milk to a certain temperature for a certain period of time works to kill the bacteria and viruses that may be lurking.  

I don’t like the idea of people buying raw milk in order to drink it [insert collective gasp!]. I don’t believe that raw milk is this magical substance that is somehow able to fend off growth of bacteria and viruses. There are claims that it doesn’t spoil and that it never makes people sick. Given that milk is actually used in research as a media for growing cell cultures, I feel that there has to be some ability for raw milk to grow harmful things if handled incorrectly. 

If you buy raw milk from someone else’s farm, you have no guarantee that they handled it properly from udder to bottle. Milk in the udder should technically be sterile, unless the animal has an udder infection, AKA: mastitis. Once milk is expressed from the udder and out into the environment, it can pick up all sorts of harmful pathogens. Unless you have taken a tour of the farm and watched the farmer milk the animal before you bought the raw milk, you will have no clue if their barn is filthy or not, if the animals look healthy or not, if the farmer milks with shit on his hands or not, or if he milks into a clean, sterilized pail or a dirty bucket. Is the milk strained and cooled properly before you get it? Did it sit out in the barn for 3 hours with the barn cats drinking out of the bucket before being chilled? Did the goat step in the bucket during milking and the farmer needed to fill your order so he strained out the poop and hair and bottled it anyway? You have no way of knowing. I highly recommend anyone who is thinking of buying raw milk take a thorough tour of the farm and watch the milking process first hand. 

Another problem that raw milk presents to someone who does not live on the farm where it is grown, is that the off-farm buyers of the milk are not inoculated against the particular bacteria and viruses that are endemic to that farm. The people who live on the farm are exposed daily to the microbes of that location. They have close contact with the animals, thus they are somewhat immune to whatever bacteria and viruses the animals naturally carry around. They are also immune to what the soil of the land carries. This is very important because someone who is not from that farm could be sensitive to something that the farmer is immune to. I have heard of people getting very sick from drinking raw milk when traveling. They had not been exposed to the normal microbial fauna of that region so they became ill when they drank milk which contained normally non-pathogenic stuff. The farmer had never been sick but his guests wound up going to the hospital. 

If you are looking into switching from purchasing store-bought, pasteurized milk to farm bought raw milk, be careful! Raw milk is not a magical panacea for all your ills. In fact it can just flat out make you very ill.