On Baby Goats Born with Weak Pasterns

 

These adorable little kiddos were born on January 15th, 2016, to Blackberry. She’s a first time mom and is one of the neediest, baby-like yearlings I’ve ever met, so I was worried she was going to be a terrible mom.

NOT.

I was actually at an event for work when they were born (typical goats – never kid when you want them to), so one of my house-mates found them first. I instructed him via the phone what to do until my fiancee could get home take over.

I received updates over the next few hours, telling me that, first, Blackberry wouldn’t let the kids nurse. But when they held her still for a moment and let the kids suckle, she immediately got the idea. We haven’t had a problem since. Like, absolutely no problems. Blackberry even cleaned butts and ears incessantly for days afterwards, and pretty much has an anxiety attack if she can’t check on her babies every 30 seconds.

I didn’t get home until nearly 10:30 at night (much to my extreme annoyance), to see all the important after-birth things done: the kids cords had been sprayed with iodine solution; mom and babies had been put together, separated from the herd, in a pen of fresh straw; mom had plenty of food and water; and since it was cold, babies had been tucked into fleece baby coats I’d picked up from Goodwill.

Apparently I’d overestimated how big these kids were going to be, because the kids were SWIMMING in the clothes I’d gotten. We ended up using twine and elastic bands around their bodies to keep the coats from tripping them up.

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Mom (Blackberry) with kids in oversized baby clothes

To be fair, the kids are TINY. (Not so tiny anymore!)

That evening I noticed that the kids – the girl more severely than the boy – were walking on their fetlocks. As in, their pasterns were so weak they didn’t support their weight, so instead of remaining on their hooves, they collapsed down onto the next joint. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take pictures, but I found a picture that’s close enough that I stole from here.

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Notice the extreme bend at the fetlock, causing the hooves to tip up at the toes? All of that should be pretty much straight.

My little girl was even worse than this picture, the bottom of her hooves pointing almost directly forward.

With a little research and a sneaking suspicion, I realized that this is due to a selenium deficiently. (Disclaimer: I am not a vet, nor am I trained as such. I do my best educated guesses based off of the knowledge I’ve gained and almighty Google). Selenium is naturally deficient in the area that I live (NW Oregon), and vets caution pretty much everyone to supply selenium in goats feed due to this.

Usually that means: supply mineral supplements (either loose or a block), feed alfalfa imported from Eastern Oregon (where selenium is not as deficient), and give a shot of selenium once a year. Preferably, 2 months to 6 weeks before a goat kids (if you’re breeding), so that the kids have an adequate supply of selenium from mom and won’t need shots themselves.

Severe cases of selenium deficiency result in white muscle disease. Less severe cases can result in… well, what happened with these kids!

The good news is that an injection of Vitamin E and selenium will usually fix the problem, even severe cases. As it was, I didn’t have any selenium on hand, and the kids’ pasterns were already better by the next day. Within three days, their feet were almost completely normal – and now, you would have never known they had that problem at birth. They’re climbing over everything!

And their names have been decided: Magnolia (Maggie, on the left) for the girl, and Aztec Gold (on the right) for the boy.

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In the Beginning there was Love

My introduction to goats came by way of a neighbor we moved next to when I was eleven. This neighbor had been raising dairy goats for 35+ years. And not just raising any dairy goats, but championship quality Nubians who won routinely at shows. When I showed up, she had about 40 full-time milkers, excluding maybe a dozen or so retired ladies, and bucks. This number only grew with my help.

It took about three seconds for goats to become my love and joy. Think horse crazy girls, only with goats. I spent every moment I could in the barn, to the point where my family would asked in exasperation if I was ever coming home. I wanted to learn everything; I wanted to participate in everything.

I spent five years learning this way. I learned everything from care and management, to how to best show them in the ring, to what excellent conformation really looked like. I won at 4H. I fell in love with newborn kids. I loved and lost some of my best friends. In a lot of respects, I discovered what humanity was.

It’s been 12 years since my family and I moved next to the neighbor with all of the goats. I have only one of the original ladies I raised from that time. Cocoa is ten years old, stubborn as a mule, and spoiled rotten.

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Cocoa was returned to me with only one of her daughters, who I named Phoenix. She’s the spoiled rotten, heart-of-gold Princess of the group. If you stand there when she’s obviously asking for something, and refuse to give to to her, she rolls her head around (goat version of rolling your eyes) and races manically around the barn. She has a habit of face-planting in your lap when she wants attention. Or rolling around on you.

 

 

As a graduation present to myself, I bought Sari, an opinionated, butthead of a lady who doesn’t take no for an answer. She loves food, and then affection. In massive quantities. In that order. She also routinely falls asleep in my lap if I lay outside reading or writing.

My first gentleman came to me in 2015. Rhett is a lug of a buck who practically vibrates with the need to get and give attention… but has no idea how to express it, so usually just ends up invading personal boundaries and accidentally biting people when he just wants to get your attention. We’re working on that.

 

As a moving in present when I moved in with my fiancée, he bought me Blackberry and Sauvignan Blanc. Blackberry is the neediest goat you’ll ever meet, who practically goes comatose when you give her attention. She will probably follow you to the ends of the earth, though she’s incredibly loud and wants to yell all the time, so it wouldn’t be a quiet journey.

Sauvie is the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet, very shy, and very curious about everything. He’s only recently begun to actually stand up for himself, which usually results in epic battles between him and Rhett, and trying to get out the door when I’m feeding the boys.

 

Sassinach (Sassy) and Duchess are half-sisters and cousins, born of sisters bred to the same buck (Rhett). They are mutts; meaning, their father is a purebred Nubian, but their mothers are boer/Toggenburg/Nubian mixes. Both of them are much too intelligent for their own good, and get into absolutely everything. When I’m mad I call them the Devil Twins.

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On Friday the 15th of January 2015, these adorable beautiful babies were born. They hold a special significance for me. All of the babies I’ve cared for up until now were born under another’s name, or I bought them when they were older.

These beautiful tiny ones are truly mine.

It’s hard to explain why that means so much to me. They don’t feel any more “mine” than my adults, and it’s not like I haven’t seen hundreds of other babies born; there were even some babies born last year on the property I’m currently living on (Sassy and Duchess). Perhaps it is because legally now, as well as physically, nothing can be done to these babies without my express permission.

This is the first piece of advice I will impart upon you all. When raising goats, and becoming attached to their beautiful faces and personalities (which you undoubtedly will), make absolute sure that they are legally yours. I doubt many of you will have that problem, but still: be smarter than me. Put it all down in writing.