Thanksgiving In Goat Land

This is what Thanksgiving Dinner looks like in the world of goat:

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I’m working part-time at a produce stand right now, and they sell bruised apples at a discounted price. There were all sorts of goodies in there.

I had to start Thanksgiving treats early, of course:

But the actual ‘dinner’ was a little more prepared:

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The bucks didn’t really get the idea of the apples. They definitely liked the grain though.

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But the girls were REALLY into it.

… and then the bucks got really excited about the girls hanging out near them and forgot about the grain and apples. (The girls didn’t care)

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Maggie got really excited and somehow managed to shove her dish under the pile of straw in her effort to chew her apples.

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And occasionally a few of them remembered there was alfalfa.

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone!

Remember that the actual Thanksgiving story and tradition is tragic and terrible — and that many families are being fractured due to the rise of hatred in the United States.

With all of this in perspective, I hope you found a lot to be thankful for, and were able to spend good quality time with family and friends!

 

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Projectile Vomiting Blackberry

When it rains it pours; not only are we dealing with Duchess the Broken Goat and Phe’s phosphorus deficiency problem, but Blackberry started projectile vomiting a few nights ago.

The lights are not working in the barn, and that evening I was late to chores so it was pitch black outside. I was using a flashlight, but I really only noticed it because of the smell.

Goat bile is really hard to miss.

I consulted Google, which can really be a hit or miss. The most likely cause is that she ate something poisonous, due to the violence and the suddenness of the puking. I didn’t realize until later that they’d found a way into the backyard and tasted the rhododendrons (which resulted in a more severe case later). Thankfully, she only had a few nibbles.

The biggest worry was that she wouldn’t stop puking, and I’d need to start worrying about dehydration and pumping her full of vitamins. Which, of course, couldn’t be oral, because they’d just vomit it all back up.

Thankfully, she stopped puking by that morning. Rancid bile covered the walls and most of her companions, but she wasn’t puking, and half-heartedly ate some alfalfa and grain.

Cleaning up all that was a joy.

But mostly I’m just really relieved it wasn’t going to turn into a long-term problem. A few days later, and she acts like it never happened.

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Afternoon after the Night of Puking… all clean, and about 75% feeling better

The Adventure of Duchess and her Broken Leg

So Duchess somehow managed to snap her leg in half. Bone protruding, the bottom part of her leg dangling free without any support, the whole deal. This is the goat who gets out of any fence known to man and clears 5 foot fences like a deer.

(Warning: graphic images!)

So we rush her to the vet while I practically lay on her, because she somehow thinks standing in a moving car instead of lying down with a broken leg is a good idea.

So the veterinarian is in surgery when we arrive. We wait about 15 minutes. Vet comes out and assesses, and gives Duchess some pain meds. Duchess proceeds to crash out on my lap.

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We wait for about 45 minutes, because it’s the day of emergencies apparently (then we realize it’s the full moon, and we understand).

Anyway, the vet returns. We need to carry her in to work on her leg. I’m sure that she’s going to thrash around, so the vet knocks her out. Wow, that stuff works like a charm. We carry her in on my ratty old sleeping bag, which has it’s second life as a gurney.

Duchess stops breathing. Vet has to intubate. Apparently, it’s really hard to intubate a goat, so we were all pretty sure for a few seconds there that she was going to die. But we finally get her breathing again after a few minutes.

It takes an hour and half to fully shave, clean, reset, wrap, cast, and take xrays of her leg.

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I wish I had taken a picture of the xrays! It was pretty fascinating actually, for the more scientific minded. I think you probably have to get used to a little gore working with animals, though I did need to look away when the vet pulled her bone back into alignment.

Back in the car, Duchess is waking up, but really drugged, but keeps trying to talk. So mostly I see a lot of lip twitching, blinking, occasional head throwing around and plaintive noises.

Of course, as soon as we got her back into her pen and went to leave, she woke up and jolted to her feet and yelled at us to come back.

But anyway. Here’s a funny picture of my very stoned goat after being returned to her pen. Look at her fancy bright red cast!

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For the next few days I’ll be giving her a shot to help with inflammation, and make sure that her cast doesn’t get wet. And I have another appointment with the vet in 5 days to check on everything, clean it, and have another antibiotic shot.

The biggest worry at this point is that an infection may form (since it was an open wound). I was told there was a possibility the bones may not fuse, and she’ll need orthopedic surgery… so here’s hoping her bones fuse! It’s going to be a rough month or two for this kiddo, especially since she’s the troublemaker of the group and just loooovvves to get out of everything and be a brat.

The positive news is that she gets alfalfa again to aid her healing! She can’t deny being happy about that.

 

UPDATE:

A little over a month later, the vet’s biggest worry is that the bone isn’t “bridging,” or starting to fuse. It’s possible it’s due to infection, so we loaded her up with a ton more antibiotics and another month of waiting.

Let’s hope the bone starts healing. Otherwise, if it’s a non-healing fracture (which is a possibility with the severity of the break), she’s going to become a three-legged goat.

That being said, she has MASTERED the three legged hop-run. The cast is no longer slowing her down in the slightest. And she’s pretty mad about being locked in a little pen all the time (the vet said she needed to stay ‘quiet’ to give her the best chance of the bone bridging).

On Pregnancy Toxemia (AKA Ketosis) and Milk Fever (AKA Hypocalcemia)

This article is actually about two different subjects (Ketosis and Hypocalcemia), but since their symptoms are almost identical, and Hypocalcemia leads to Ketosis, I thought it would be best to address them both at once.

Hypocalcemia’s definition is pretty straightforward: it’s when your goat’s levels of calcium is dangerously below what’s needed.

Ketosis is slightly more complicated. Ketosis is when the body isn’t getting enough energy, and the body starts breaking down fat reserves. This kind of metabolism is incomplete, and leaves behind deadly acid compounds called ketones. Too many of these ketones will turn the blood acidic and kill.

Both of these occur often because of an incorrect diet, and most often to pregnant or recently kidded goats. The last 6 weeks of pregnancy demands a lot on a doe’s body (as the kids are getting 60% of their growth, her body is preparing to create milk, and the birth process also requires a lot of energy and calcium), and if she doesn’t get what she needs, her body is going to start using her fat reserves in excess, resulting in all of the deadly ketones. Similarly, if she doesn’t get when she needs when she comes into milk, or if she’s a heavy producer, her body will pull from its own reserves.

These two problems can result from not getting enough feed, and, interestingly enough, from getting too much feed.

The simpler explanation is this: Grain is needed for the correct calcium/phosphorus ratio in a goat’s diet (I believe phosphorus is needed to process calcium). In the last 6 weeks to a month of pregnancy, when the babies are pulling a lot on on the doe for calcium, your doe is going to make a smart move and switch to focusing on eating alfalfa.

In Hypocalcemic situations, she doesn’t eat enough grain or isn’t able to consume enough to keep up the proper calcium/phosphorus ratio. Her body starts pulling calcium from her bones.

In ‘simple’ Ketonic situations, her body, which has been depending on this high-energy grain intake, panics. It starts drawing energy from her fat cells.

In either situation, the incomplete metabolic process results in an explosion of ketones, turning her blood extremely acidic.

So here’s the trick: in either situation, it’s best not to give any grain until the last month or so of pregnancy. Giving your does a little boost in this manner helps keep up her energy for growing kids and metabolizing alfalfa, but not early enough that the body depends on it and goes through a shock when the kids rapidly begin to pull more from the doe.

There is also a possibility of ketosis after a doe has kidded, if she’s a heavy milker. This is called Milk Fever (and is Hypocalcemia). It’s the same basic story: her milk production is demanding more calcium than she’s intaking, so it pulls from her reserves, and again with the ketones. The best way to prevent this problem is to make sure to increase her grain (not too fast, but enough) after she kids to keep up with her production.

Stress is also connected to a doe succumbing to Pregnancy Toxemia. Preventing sudden changes in her environment, in her herd, and in feeding will help combat this.

Hypocalcemia and Ketosis will kill a doe very quickly. So how can you tell if your doe has Ketosis or Hypocalcemia?

These are the common symptoms:

The doe eats less or stops eating completely
Depression
Separation from the herd
The doe may be slow to get up or may lie off in a corner
Her eyes are dull
Sometimes blindness
Muscle tremors & seizures
The doe’s breath and urine may have a fruity sweet odor. This is due to the excess ketones, which have a sweet smell.

So what do you do if see these symptoms?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to diagnose whether it’s ‘simple’ Ketosis or Hypocalcemia, so treating for both is probably the best method. You must get her calcium and energy levels up, and get her eating again so she’ll keep these up herself. Often times a doe will refuse to eat when she feels sick in this way, exacerbating the problem.

For the calcium component, you will need something called CMPK. This stands for Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium — all of these minerals are needed to absorb the calcium. Giving straight calcium does no good if your doe doesn’t have the right minerals to process it.

If your doe is severely weak and refusing to eat, use an injectable CMPK. It takes time for the doe to absorb calcium through an oral solution and there are situations where there is no time for the absorption.

For this, inject subcutaneously, or under the skin, not into the muscle. After tying her down or having someone hold her head, pull up her skin a few inches down from her topline, where the skin is looser and you won’t be in danger of hitting any bone or major nerves. Inject 40-60 cc of Calcium Gluconate. The injections should be broken down into at least 4 injections in different sites. Do not give more than 10 cc per injection site. The injections should be given slowly.

If her symptoms are milder and you’ve just noticed a change in behavior, then you can probably get away with an oral calcium drench: 8 oz. three times a day until the doe is eating and symptoms are subsiding.

Important note: Please be careful with what kind of CMPK, because several types of calcium will burn or leave sores if given orally, or burn when given in shot form, which can result in putting your doe off her feed even more. CMPK with calcium chloride is the most common one to do this. Try to find a composition with calcium carbonate, or calcium gluconate. (I’ve also used, in milder situations, a for-human-consumption CMPK that’s flavored. They definitely want to eat that!)

To combat the energy and sugar side of the Ketosis equation, there are several things you can do. If you can convince your doe to take some tasty treats, give her all she’ll take! Grain works, anything that’s good and healthy with lots of calories and calcium. Also, follow any of the suggestions below:

  • Molasses & Karo syrup (corn syrup). Mix 2 parts corn syrup to 1 part molasses. 20 – 30ml every 2 hours. It also tastes good, which makes it easier to administer and nicer for your lady-goat.
  • You can use Propylene Glycol at 3-4 oz (90-120ml) 2 times a day, for 2 days, and then 1-2 oz (30ml-60ml) 2 times daily until the doe is eating normally, OR, 10 – 20ml every 2 hours
    • However, Propylene Glycol is an appetite suppressant and it inhibits rumen bacteria, so do not use unless the doe is off her feed.
    • Also, Propylene Glycol is extremely similar in composition to Anti-Freeze, which makes me feel a little weird giving them to my goats. There are other, less harmful sugars.
  • Nutridrench, Goatdrench: 2 oz. 2 times a day
  • Children’s chewable vitamins with extra calcium, or even Tums, are great to give to a goat who is still interested in eating. These are also an excellent thing to hand out in the barn as a preventative for Hypocalcemia.
  • An oral probiotic, like Probios, will stimulate the appetite and keep the rumen functioning as it should.
  • B-Complex injections will stimulate the appetite and give energy.

There are also a few aromatherapy things you can do to help with the stress aspect if you feel that is a factor:

  • Rescue Remedy can help calm.
  • Lavender Essential Oil also can help with stress and depression. Lavender has a calming and mood lifting effect. Place 4 drops of oil in three different places in the doe’s stall twice a day.

 

Once the doe has regained her appetite, make sure to increase her grain ration so that a relapse doesn’t occur. Also make sure she has access to enough alfalfa, and isn’t being bullied by other goats away from the feed.

(As a final note I’d like to add that I’ve had a goat who suffered from hypocalcemia and wasn’t pregnant. If you ever see a sick-looking goat who isn’t pregnant and is suffering from muscle tremors, I’d really advise you take her to the vet and test her calcium level! This lady of mine recovered with a heavy CMPK regime, and I gave her calcium supplements and treats pretty much the rest of her life, as she had other health problems that probably inhibited her ability to absorb calcium.)

 

Any questions? Any other methods you’ve used to help combat/prevent Ketosis or Hypocalcemia (Milk Fever)?

Raising Kids: The First Year of a Goat’s Life

I thought summarizing information on raising kids, instead of forcing you to jump between several posts to put it all together, would be a good idea.

There are several things to pay attention to before a goat turns a year old. Particular attention needs to be paid to feeding. It’s also when some diseases will make themselves apparent. Their bodies grow fast. They grow teeth and personalities. They hit puberty.

Heck, think of a 16-year-old, and shove all the previous 16 years into one year, and then put it inside a goat body.

First off, you’ll want to decide if you’re going to dam-raise or bottle-raise. My post here highlights the considerations to take into account. The different ways will add certain factors into their care.

Secondly, you’ll want to decide if you are de-horning or not. If you want to show, you’ll need to dehorn. If you have already de-horned goats, it’s GREATLY advised you de-horn going forward. Mixing horned and non-horned animals is generally a bad idea and results in moderate to severe injuries. The On Disbudding Kids post can help.

We’ll start with feeding. If you’ve read through my feeding posts you’ll know some of this already, but I’ll put it all together here.

Newborn babies should get as much colostrum as they want. Colostrum, or the mother’s first milk, is packed full of vitamins, minerals, antibodies, and immune system helpers that kick-start a babies growth and health. If you’re bottle raising, the best idea is to try to find (or have) colostrum directly from the source. If you’re bottle raising to prevent CAE infection, make sure you heat-treat the colostrum to kill any virus in the milk. Otherwise, there are colostrum replacements available that you can order. Try to find one specifically for goats.

After about a week dams will no longer produce colostrum but straight milk, and babies will have had enough to kick start their health. At this point, if you’re bottle raising and are using milk replacer, I highly recommend you mix the replacer with cows milk. There have been instances of baby goats getting bloat from being on straight milk replacer.

By a week or two babies will already be interested in eating solids. You can offer a little bit of alfalfa and they may start trying to eat. Dam-raised babies will naturally be interested in whatever mom is eating and they’ll nibble on things by even just a few days old!

By a month, they should be eating alfalfa. If they’re interested and eating some beforehand, great! Alfalfa has all the good things that kids need to grow up big and strong.

Feeding a little bit of grain by 1 1/2 – 2 months is all right, but too much can cause problems, and many breeders don’t like to “growthy” kids that come out of that. Minimize grain intake until about 4-6 months old, when they should be getting a handful or two. You can slowly increase this amount, but do not exceed 1 1/2 lbs a day.

Offer minerals, too, starting at a few months of age. Either a block or loose. They’ll like that.

Technically doelings can be bred at 7 months of age. I don’t know anyone who recommends this. It is best if you wait until they are at least a year old, and have gotten all their growth and maturity, before you expose them to bucks.

This also means that bucks can breed at 7 months. Make sure they’re separated from their female companions by that time!

By the time they’ve hit a year old, they don’t need alfalfa or grain. You can switch over their feeding regime (remember, slowly!) to a quality grass hay, and pasture if that’s available. If you’re breeding your doelings around this time, it’s best to just continue feeding alfalfa, but you may want to decrease how much grain you’re feeding until the last couple weeks of their pregnancy. This will help prevent pregnancy ketosis and hypocalcemia, a topic that I will explain in an upcoming post.

Bucks can stop receiving grain after a year and rut is over with, and you probably won’t need to feed them grain after that (though, if they’re struggling to keep up weight, you can feed them some). Alfalfa can be important during winter months and rut, as well as a quality grass hay to make sure they’re getting enough roughage and staying warm (since goats gain heat from the movement of their stomachs).

Any questions? Comments? Anything to add?

Poisonous Plants to Goats

 

 

When it comes to plants that are poisonous to goats, if you do even just a quick Google search on common poisonous plants (to goats) that might grow in your pasture or backyard, you’re going to find a list similar to this:

Weed-types:

  • Bracken fern

  • Buttercup

  • Common milkweed (tansy weed)

  • Foxglove

  • Lantana

  • Locoweed

  • Poke weed

  • Spurge

  • St. John’s Wort

  • Water hemlock and poison hemlock

Tree-types:

  • Cyanide-producing trees such as cherry, chokecherry, elderberry, and plum (especially the wilted leaves from these trees)

  • Ponderosa pine

  • Yew

Cultivated Plants:

  • Azalea

  • Kale

  • Lily of the valley

  • Oleander

  • Poppy

  • Potato

  • Rhododendron

  • Rhubarb

Most of the property I’ve lived on didn’t naturally have these. I have, however, dealt with rhododendron poisoning a few times, which is one of the worst.

Goats are smart and really stupid at the same time. I’ve seen my goats eat right next to rhododendrons and completely avoid them. And another time they broke into the backyard and ate a bunch of it, which resulted in very sick goats and a veterinary visit.

I think the logic behind it is that goats will avoid poisonous plants as long as they have lots of other brush to eat. If they’re hungry, or don’t have a variety of things to eat, I think they’ll get bored and curious and suck down a bunch of poison.

But, needless to say, if you have any of the above plants in an area where goats can reach, you’re going to want to remove or transplant those plants. And if your neighbor likes to bring treats to the goats, you’ll want to give them a quick education on things they shouldn’t bring.

If you think your goats have consumed something poisonous, it’ll be pretty obvious. They’re going to stand away from the herd, back hunched as their stomachs really hurt, and they’re probably puking. I had a mild case of rhododendron poisoning in one of my does that ended up okay, we just had to wait it out. But I had another, awful case that resulted in a vet visit. I haven’t wrote that post yet, but will post it here when I do.

I’ve been reading up and have been hearing a lot of good things about Milk of Magnesium and Activated Charcoal. Basically, you can mix this with olive or vegetable oil and turn it into a liquid to give to them. It helps detoxify and calm their stomachs. The bonus is that it won’t hurt them at all if poisoning isn’t the case, so if you want to give them about a quart every couple hours if you see these symptoms, you’re going to go a long way to helping them out.

My vet also recommends this a rhododendron drench to give your goats if they have a severe case, taken from here:

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This will help calm the goat’s stomach, or make them puke. Both are usually good. You need to get that plant OUT of their system!

However. From my trusted vet, the rule is, if your goat has been puking for more than 24 hours, she needs medical attention. In these severe cases you’ll need to go to a vet and get their stomach pumped. I would not advise to do this at home, because they can asphyxiate if you do it wrong, and watching your goat suffocate is a horrifying experience.

I would still consult a vet if you suspect a severe case of poisoning. I may be a bit gun shy about it because of my experience with it, but plant poisoning is nothing to mess around with in goats!

The best thing you can do, of course, is prevention. If you have poisonous plants on your property somewhere and you’re indifferent to their existence, take them out!

Any questions? Advice?

Fun Facts about Herd Dynamics

Goats are social creatures, just like people, and they have somewhat complex hierarchy structures that accompany this. The hierarchy part is pretty straight forward, with each goat having a place in the herd that’s above someone else and below another (unless you’re herd boss or at the bottom of the herd, of course).

Firstly, there is the herd boss, who runs the operations in the herd.

How exactly this plays out depends on her personality. A herd boss has the basic role of watching out for the herd and leading them to where she’d like the herd to be.Some boss’ will be more jealous about the food, only allowing her favorites and her daughters the tasty bits. Some boss’ will be more generous, leading the whole herd to the best spots and showing everyone how to go about it.

The temperament of the herd boss really affects how the rest of the herd behaves, since they’re all supposed to follow her lead. For example, Cocoa was pretty anxious and nervous about everything. It took a bit of encouragement for the herd to want to venture outside.

It seems like Sari is the herd boss at this particular time. She seems to be calling the shots. She’s a lot more stubborn and in your face about going places, and in this sense, the herd moves in and out of the barn all the time now. She’s also much more of the jealous type, and likes to hoard the food for her favorites. Blackberry complains about it all the time.

Then there’s the herd uh, well, my name isn’t exactly appropriate for polite company, so let’s call it the herd second

Her job, besides helping the herd boss out with leading and watching duties, is to keep everybody in line and to keep any challengers from pestering the herd boss too much. She’s the badass of the group.

Phe seems to have that place in the herd at the moment. And she’s definitely a butthead about it.

Daughters fit into the hierarchy directly below the dam, as opposed to starting off at the bottom. I’m not exactly sure how that works out for the herd boss — with Sari’s babies, I wonder if Phe will need prove to Beltane and Inanna that she’s above them (and herd second).

And just because daughters are automatically placed in the hierarchy doesn’t mean that this doesn’t change. If goats are butting heads, they’re often working out who’s on top. I’m pretty sure that Duchess is going to give Maggie a run for her money, as soon as she’s old enough to defend (or lose) her place in the herd.

For fun I’ve created a picture hierarchy of what my herd looks like at the moment. You can see I’m not sure how Beltane and Inanna are fitting in there yet! I’m selling Aztec hopefully soon, so he won’t be there long term, and is still technically in with the girls at the moment. He’s very interested in trying to fight the bucks through the fence; though, Duchess took him on the other day and they had a giant battle throughout the barn. That might have been her teaching him a lesson on how rude it is to try to hump everyone, however (even if he’s not old enough to be viable yet).

Bucks, actually, have a hierarchy that is a little removed from the females. I don’t have my bucks in with my girls (for obvious reasons), but in a ‘wild’ situation where they might be, bucks have the primary job of protecting the herd and listening to the herd boss. They don’t necessarily fit into the same structure at the females, but have their own straightforward hierarchy.

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What do you think? Anything to add in your observations of herd interactions?