Category: Husbandry

Tail Ligaments

Tail Ligaments

Will She Kid Tomorrow?
or…
How to Check Tail Ligaments

pictured above is Maggie (Jasper Farm FG’s La Gazzaladra) moments before kidding, 2016

In watching for kiddings,  I have certainly spent my fair share of time running back and forth to the barn, and on pins and needles every time I have to leave the house.  Early on, my sweet non-complaining does (hmmm…) have spent days and even a couple weeks in their kidding stall prior to kidding because I just wanted to be on the safe side.  This is even when I had a firm breeding date – somehow I always seem to be expecting them a few days ahead.  With the exception of 2014, when the babies all surprised me one breeding cycle earlier…and in that case, only the first set of twins surprised me as after that I knew it was time to start checking tail ligaments!

I can’t say enough how much smoother kidding season is for us now that I check tail ligaments on a regular basis.  It is useful if you have a firm breeding date, but it is also useful if you just have a vague idea of the breeding date.  I don’t know why I felt that this skill was beyond me in our first couple years with goats, but I’m glad I moved past that silliness and figured it out!

Checking the tail ligaments has allowed me to consistently predict when kidding is imminent, within the next 24 hours.  Unless for some reason I am going to be gone overnight, I don’t even move my does into their maternity stalls until we are in that 24-hr time period, which allows them to stay with the herd and feel relaxed until just before kidding (at which point, they are pretty distracted by the whole process and I think they like having their own “room” then!)

Next time you go out to the pasture, go ahead and check some tail ligaments, even on the boys, it doesn’t matter, just so you can find them and see what they feel like when they are nowhere near kidding (with the boys, seriously nowhere near kidding!).  I like to start checking them daily at least 2 weeks out from the expected kidding date, and I usually feel subtle changes in the softening and widening out of the ligaments at various points throughout that period of time.  When the doe is pretty close, the softening becomes more noticeable, and then when the doe is really close, there is a dramatic opening up of that whole area and I either can’t find the ligaments at all, or they are so very soft that they have almost disappeared completely.

Here’s what you do:

  •  Hold the fingers of your hand (I use my right hand) in a V shape.  Let’s say that the top (widest part of the V) is North, and the bottom (point) is South.
  •  Place the point of the V over the doe’s tail bone, with the V opening up so that the tail is a bit north of the North end of your V.  (Tail above the wide opening).
  •  Now resting the point (South) of the V on that tail bone, use your V fingers to press along either side of the tail bone, feeling for the tail ligaments.  For me, I usually find them while my fingers are in a fairly normal V-shape, so if you find that you are really stretching them out or making any unusual shapes, get back to the normal V.
  •  Normal tail ligaments will feel much like pencils…as kidding approaches, they soften and finally melt away.

It’s just a great way to take away any guess work and really get in touch with how your doe’s body is really progressing towards the big moment.  It has consistently put me on the 24-hr alert!

A good video:

Signs of Labor in Goats – Tail Ligaments by the Goat Mentor
She doesn’t do the V with her fingers but it’s absolutely a great visual, and the demonstration itself is less than 2 minutes.

The Medicine Cabinet

The Medicine Cabinet

At your fingertips for quick treatment

From my years of experience, these are the items that I recommend to have on hand. Isn’t it always true that if something is going to go wrong, it will happen on the weekend? I’ve had the vet out here on more than one emergency trip, but having these items for treatment will save you money and vitally, the time saved procuring what you need may make the difference in your goat’s recovery.

If stored properly (some in a dark place, some in the fridge), these can have a long shelf life.  I thought about going through the list and “starring” the really vital ones…but then I had a hard time doing that, feeling I may steer someone wrong by implying something else is less important.  Certainly the vet items (items that are only available from the vet) are crucial to have on hand so you aren’t frantically trying to find CD Antitoxin after the office is closed. Both the antitoxin and the epinepherine can make the difference between saving your goat or a swift death.  I also can’t stress enough the importance of having a good quantity of thiamin on hand for treatment of goat polio.

Over-the-Counter General Supportives

For more info on these supplies and dosages, visit the Fias Co Farm by clicking on the silly goat.

Vitamin B complex
Stimulates appetite

Probios (or yogurt or kefir)
Maintains/revives healthy rumen

Red Cell
Iron supplement

CMPK
Calcium supplement

For Specific Concerns

Toltrazuril (my usual choice) or Di-Methox
Coccidia treatment

Oxytetracycline (LA-200) or Biomycin
Penicillin G Procaine
Excenel
3 different types of antibiotics each with effectiveness for different problems

CD&T vaccine or one that includes CD&T plus others (Cavalry-9)

White dewormer (Valbazen – NOT for use during pregnancy!)

Clear dewormer (Quest – my back-up to Valbazen)

Bloat Stop

Pepto Bismol or KaoPectate
Scours/diarrhea control

Wound Care

Iodine 7%
Sanitizing, also dipping umbilical cords

Betadine
Especially assisting in delivery

Blu-Kote or Wound Kote
Antifungal, antiseptic protective spray

Triple antibiotic ointment

Bag Balm

Gauze

Vet wrap tape (get a fun color!)

From Your Vet’s Office

BoSE
Immune system, selenium  

Banamine
Pain control

Vitamin B12
Stimulates/revives appetite

Thiamin
Immune support/ goat polio

Epinepherine
Revive from shock

Excenel
Strong overall antibiotic

CD Antitoxin
Protects against enterotoxemia

Tetanus Antitoxin
Protects against tetanus

Weak Kid Recipe

2 parts Magic
to 1 part strong coffee

Mix well and do warm this a bit.  Give 10-12 cc every 45 minutes or so, being sure that they are swallowing. (If they are not swallowing, STOP – they need to be tubed.)

Also, in one SubQ shot:

BoSE (1 cc/40 lbs – do not overdose)
1 cc Vit B 12
1 cc Vit B complex

Magic Recipe

For any goat that needs a boost in energy and to use at night when treating for Ketosis.  Use the Revive during the day and the Magic at night as it will hold the animal over night.1 part corn oil (has to be corn oil)1 part Molasses2 parts Karo Syrup

Mix well, you can warm it a little before giving it. Give 3 to 4 ounces twice during the night.  This also tastes good to the goats so it is easy to administer.

Revive Recipe

1 bottle 50% Dextrose
20 cc B complex
5 cc B12
2 cc 500 mg/ml thiamin.

If you have supplies on hand, this will make a little more than 500 cc ofRevive. If this is intended for pregnancy toxemia does, you need to add a bottle of Amino Acid solution (not the concentrate, it has too much potassium), and 2 grams of Ascorbic Acid.

50% Dextrose is very concentrated sugar, and is metabolized instantly by the goat. Propylene glycol doesn’t work well on goats. If you drench with this the goat feels better almost instantly, and will eat and drink. I use it on newborns with floppy kid, or kids that are chilled.
These supplies can be bought almost anywhere. The B Complex can be bought anywhere, but B 12, Thiamin and Ascorbic Acid are vet items.

Mix in an amber colored quart jar and keep in under the sink, anywhere it is dark and a little cooler. Make sure when you mix it, you keep it as sterile as possible so you don’t get any unwanted bacteria in the bottle.

Our Breeding Direction

Our Breeding Direction

BREEDING DIRECTION

decisions and goals

If you’ve read my page on Getting Started you already know that the first goats I brought home were grade – one being a Nubian doeling, and the other a mature Alpine doe (my Larissa pictured on our home page).  While their presence in my life was as valued as any of the goats I have now, I quickly realized that I had to reconcile my aversion to being a breeder (my impression of a breeder was shaped by the puppy mills in our state) with the fact that if I wanted milk, I was going to have to breed them.  And along with the milk comes kids, kids that I am responsible for.

And sure, I’d love to keep all the kids, grade or purebred.  I’d do it in a heart beat if I was assured that the facilities, finances, and manpower to care for them would grow proportionately.  But of course eventually things would get to a point that keeping more animals would be inhumane rather than humane.  So if all the kids can’t stay, I need them to have qualities that people would not only want, but would truly value.

This is why I shifted to purebred Nubians – tho I have to point out that I really love all the breeds, and would happily raise them all, once again, given the above infinitely expanding conditions!  I believe the foundation of any fine genetics is good health, hence my testing and careful biosecurity.  Reconciling the biosecurity with the need to have the goats evaluated on a national basis, rather than in a vacuum where I just say they are good with no accountability, is crucial.  It is important to me to participate in ADGA’s milk test (checking quantity and protein & butterfat percentages) and linear appraisal (evaluated annually by top-tier dairy goat judges/assessors).

Genetic testing has opened up a world of knowledge, not just with the somewhat-recently popular G6S screening in Nubians, but especially with the testing for the Alpha S1 Casein variant.  I do screen my goats for G6S, and have yet to have a carrier.  I do have carriers in my tank, and believe it would be a shame if those genetics were lost, so I will not hesitate to use them when the time is right, but I appreciate knowing so I can follow up with the kids.  However, my breeding decisions are much more driven by the Alpha S1 Casein genetic testing, as I breed towards high variables throughout the herd.

I like to know what I am working with so I know what to improve.  I have kept my genetic lines fairly focused in order to develop consistency and give me more grounded knowledge and a more transparent view of what out-crosses benefit my bloodlines, and also to aid in selecting the out-crosses that I do bring in.

Chi-Oak Lucky Lucinda
Chi-Oak Lucky Lucinda

I have an image of my ideal goat, based on Chi-Oak Lucky Lucinda who is now deceased, that guides me as I make my breeding decisions.  Her udder is actually a mystery so I insert my own ideal of great capacity, smooth fore udder, rounded and held high in the rear with a strong medial ligament.  She was never on milk test; her dam was and had above-average production but nothing to get very excited about.  So it’s purely on her image – I expect that every fine breeder has some kind of image, as chasing the latest big names in the show ring do not necessarily add up to great kids, and what works in one herd may not work in another.  Lucy has inspired me to gather some particular Fra-Jac and related genetics in my tank, none of which have I put to work yet!

My passion is for the older genetics.  Time I spent in the United Kingdom opened my eyes to the Anglo-Nubians, where I got to visit with the Wayward Anglo-Nubian herd, one of the premier and long-standing Anglo-Nubian breeders there.  While Nubians in the US have made some improvements, we have lost a tremendous amount in milk production particularly, not to mention strength and stature.  Commercial goat dairies tend to shy away from Nubians as many have become so known for low production, and on top of that have lost the higher components (butterfat and protein) that was traditionally one of the special qualities that Nubians brought to the table – take a look at the Anglo-Nubian milk stats.  If we want our breed to succeed, we can’t rely on hobbyists to keep it alive – a passionate few are not enough.  I believe we need to have stronger selection towards milk production and quality.

All of these components come together as a variation on a theme that I believe are an important investment towards the future success of the Nubian breed.  I am working towards something special here using genetics that have been lost in some ways, though I am happy to see them making a return in some of the biggest herd names!  Our Nubian breed continues to improve in many ways, sometimes tho at the sacrifice of other aspects. It is my goal to play my part in strengthening the genetics of my priorities:  milk production (quantity and quality – high protein and butterfat), udder capacity and attachment, strong legs, feet, and body needed to support a large udder, healthy constitutions, and pleasant demeanors.

Our Husbandry Practices

Our Husbandry Practices

THE BIG PICTURE

Our Husbandry Practices

This is an overview of how I take care of my goats.  While there are a lot of similarities in how people care for them, there are differences from farm to farm as well.  What works for one person may not work for another, so you need to be flexible and in tune with how your herd is doing.  At the same time, if you’re just starting out, it’s helpful to have some basis of comparison, everyone needs a solid starting point that they can adjust.  In the early years after we brought home our first goats in 2003, I certainly did some experimentation and found some practices that helped my goats, and some that didn’t.

Feed

The adults – 6 months and older

I feed for longevity and milk.  Which for my herd means an emphasis on alfalfa and browse (seasonally) and less grain.  I do feed a non-medicated grain mix on the milking stand and occasionally supplement their alfalfa/grass mix hay with a top dressing of grain, especially on brutally cold winter days.  On the milking stand, my does eat about 2 cups of grain per milking, on average – I just keep their feeder full of grain so I don’t have exact amounts for each, I just let them eat what they want while I am milking them.  I do not push my goats to grow fast, as I don’t find that fast growth leads to a larger goat in the end, and is more likely to cause them problems.  I let them be slow but steady bloomers.

This is the grain mix I use, mixed by Story Ag LLC in Grinnell, IA:

300 lbs Kent Milk Goat Feed
200 lbs alfalfa pellets
40 lbs plain beet pulp
25 lbs Equigizer (a vitamin/yeast supplement for horses)
10 lbs black oil sunflower seeds
10 lbs molasses
top-dressed with a scattering of chia seeds

The kids – less than 6 months

Bottle-fed or shared dam-raising/bottle-fed until a minimum of 12 weeks but not past 20.  Hay available free-choice from day one and at about one week, Kent Kid Developer (medicated for coccidia prevention) is also available free-choice.

Supplements

Let’s assume that fresh water and a salt block are understood.  🙂

Minerals:  Currently the most effective mineral mix for my herd has been Cargill Right Now Onyx.  In the summer I offer the Kent Goat Mineral instead, which they consume at a much slower rate.  I had originally used only the Kent Goat Mineral but found that after a few months they would ignore it.  I always use loose minerals rather than the block.  For us, the block tends to just end up a sticky mess that no one wants anything to do with.

Copper:  It took me a few years to realize this, but my goats need a copper supplement and I have seen clear benefits to the shininess of their coats, which is so often a barometer of the goat’s health.  I don’t bolus our herds and can’t really comment on the effectiveness of that.  What works for us is a monthly copper treat. Mmm…peanut butter and copper on bread…not always as much of a hit as I’d like but they all get it!  I have opted to give our goats 6 months and older monthly doses based on research done by the Cornell Sheep and Goat Program, 1 gram for the adults, less depending on size for the younger ones.  The study indicates that the potential worm control benefit of giving copper is most effective when given a smaller dose monthly, rather than larger doses less frequently.

Protein supplement:  In the winter they have access to a pail of Kent Feeds EnergiLass Goat which is a molasses-based protein and mineral mix supplement.  (I balance this with very little molasses in their grain mix as iron inhibits copper absorption.)

Worm Control

The only automatic deworming that happens at Jasper Farm is the annual complementary post-partum deworming and pedicure (as I try not to drag them up on the milking stand during their last month or more of pregnancy).  Often this is the only deworming a goat in our herd gets in a year.  We try to feed hay off the ground and not let them eat pastures down close to the earth, to keep their exposure to worms down.

Otherwise I rely on checking fecals, which I do at home, with occasional checks by our vet to be sure I am accurate in what I’m looking at.  So far I have been accurate, but as worms are a serious killer, I need to know if any one of the goats is having a flare-up for any reason, usually stress or when their system is compromised by an illness, and I need to know that my own home checks are giving me the information I need.  When Naomi had goat polio (a thiamin deficiency) and her body was using all its energy to fight and recover from that, she had quite a worm flare-up.

What I do and what I use:  When I deworm, I do it 3 times, 10 days to 2 weeks apart, to catch subsequent worms as they hatch from the eggs.  I have used Valbazen for the last 3 years, and I keep Quest on hand just in case one of the does needs to be dewormed during pregnancy.  I make no recommendation as to what dewormer to use, other than, of course, be sure it is effective.  It is wise to start with the mildest dewormer and only move to stronger families of dewormers if you find a resistance to the mild dewormer.  I am saving the stronger dewormers in case all else fails…I don’t want our local worms to have developed a resistance to the big guns before I really need them.

My general deworming advice is simple: when you deworm, use something effective for your herd, and do it 3 times, 10 days to 2 weeks apart.  Always deworm does after kidding.  Learn how to check fecals or plan on taking fecals to your vet.  We do not use herbal dewormers as I feel that they are both more toxic and harder on a goat’s system than the chemical dewormers are, and I do not trust their efficacy. This is my own opinion, and not to say that herds can’t have success with them.  People who use herbal dewormers tend to fall into two categories: experienced goatkeepers who really understand the herbs, their goats, and their herd’s environment, and new goatkeepers who can have a year or two of the herbal dewormer seeming to work, and then tragedy strikes.  Unless you are in that first category, I advise against herbal dewormers.

Copper:  Research has indicated that copper is beneficial in fighting worms in goats (and sheep) and/or in helping a goat to be resistant to worms.  So starting at 6 months, we use our monthly dose of copper in hopes of a double benefit, overall health and worm control.

Diatomaceous Earth:  Since 2012, I’ve been adding it to their grain mix at the rate of approximately 1-2 tablespoons per goat.  Does it make a difference?  Honestly, I really don’t know.  But we are in the routine, they’re used to the powder on their grain, and based on what I’ve researched about DE, it’s worth it to me.

Coccidia Control

Kids are given Toltrazuril at 1cc/5 lbs starting at 4 weeks and continuing once a month until 6 months of age.  We never keep kids (or any of our goats) in confined, dirty areas.  We maintain a clean, uncrowded living area as our best natural coccidia preventative.

Vaccines

Our goats get Cavalry-9 at 4 weeks of age, boosted at 7 weeks and 6 months, and then boosted annually, one month prior to kidding.  The bucks usually get theirs at the same time that the earliest kidders do.

In 2015, I started also vaccinating with J-Vac and Lysigin.  Not sure if in 5 years we’ll still be using them, but I decided to give them a trial run here.  Similar to the DE…how will I know if they are needed and/or working?  I don’t know, but I will keep an eye on things!

In Summary

Remember, this is just what works for us, this is not a commentary on what works for another herd.  I have tried to be thorough but concise here but likely I have forgotten something so I will update this page as needed.  As always, feel free to get in touch with me if you think I may be of assistance!

Getting Started – Our Start

Getting Started – Our Start

GETTING STARTED

The choices (& blunders) I made
and how I handled them

    This is the story of our early years with dairy goats, what I encountered, and how I chose to deal with problems.  I share this in case it is helpful to anyone else starting out, not as a guideline or even suggestions – the choices I made fit my approach and my goals for the herd, and that is unique to every person and their own herds.

Larissa
Larissa

First of all, I did very little research on-line.  I thought I had researched, but looking back I tended to research on an as-needed basis.  I went to our local county fair and watched the Nubian show, and approached the breeders of the winning and healthier-looking herd.  We ended up buying an adult grade Alpine doe (Larissa, pictured right) and a grade Nubian doeling. The breeders were very nice people, cared about their goats, and helped us whenever we asked, including bringing our goats back to breed.  On the other hand, they knew nothing about CAE or CL (and when informed how to prevent CAE, decided it was too much work), and were frequent shoppers at the sale barn (a huge risk for bringing home sick animals).  We ended up being very very lucky that we didn’t bring home any number of diseases, as they and we did no testing.  This was a still a BLUNDER despite the fact that it ended up all right.

Would you believe that one of the things I learned before we got dairy goats was that you had to breed them and have kids in order to get milk?  I had thought “dairy” somehow just meant milk, maybe through hormones or something, who knows! Anyway having always been a sincere animal lover (and eventually becoming quite active in puppy mill rescue), the thought of bringing lives into this world so I can have milk to play with was very concerning.  Our first year Larissa gave us one buckling and we were immediately faced with the difficulties of placing a grade mixed breed buckling or wether into a good home.  This, combined with reading Molly Bunton’s information on selling goats on her excellent Fias Co Farm website, led me towards a purebred herd.  Sure, our grade animals could give us wonderful milk, but at what cost to their kids?  I see too many goats kept in awful conditions with owners who do not love and value them.

Raising purebred Nubians, and beyond that very importantly, high quality goats that truly make a contribution to the breed, is the best insurance I can give the kids. There are no guarantees, but I believe that someone who researches, makes careful selections, and is willing to travel to bring home the right kid is someone who will give them a good long-term home.

So…to bring home my first purebred Nubians!  You would think that my aforementioned puppy mill rescue experience would have taught me that just because someone raises purebred (of any animal) does not mean that they are responsible!  Major BLUNDER: I brought home my first purebred animals with no testing and assumed they were clean.  Major Major BLUNDER: the next spring, I pooled the milk for my bottle-fed kids.

Then at some point not long after that, I got the bright idea to test my herd, thinking of course it will be a nice clean report.  But EVERY GOAT (with the exception of my Larissa, tremendous relief) tested positive for CAE.  And while the kids were too young to test…they’d been drinking the tainted milk.  It was a horrible situation. And what an irony it was that the purebred “good” goats had brought this in, while my other high-risk goats had been clean (again, by sheer luck).  If Larissa had tested positive, I may have made a different choice, but as she was clean, my decision was to say good-bye to every goat except her (the grade Nubian doeling we brought home with Larissa had prolapsed and hemorrhaged internally at her 2nd kidding).  I looked into maintaining 2 herds, one clean and one infected, but still the possibilities for cross-contamination were too substantial and risky for me.  Also there can be a margin of human error in heat-treating colostrum and pasteurizing infected milk.

Some goatherds have had to make the difficult decision to euthanize and I have to say I understand and respect their decision.  I was able to find 2 homes who with full disclosure were willing to take the positive goats, so they were divided between the 2 farms.  They were quite some distance away but I was so grateful to find people who were already dealing with this problem in their own herds and were willing to take my goats in as well.  I don’t think I’ve stated clearly that, despite the problems they brought, I loved those goats as I have loved every goat here.  It may go without saying, but I gave them away for free, with extreme thankfulness, and sadness, on my part.

The exodus occurred in the spring, and things sure felt lonely here with only Larissa and our llama.  I took a couple months to clean everything, practically dismantling the milking house for thorough disinfection.  I know CAE can be transferred only through fluid, but after what we’d just gone through, I had learned not to assume anything.  For the next year, I also had to handle Larissa as if she had CAE.  Due to that and her mounting years, I opted not to breed her anymore (she continued to test CAE negative for the rest of her life).

In July we began picking up our new, carefully researched and tested, goats. Unlike my first purebred purchase and from experience now having more opinions about what qualities were important to me, I took the time to research far and wide. So we had a couple long drives, and also a substantial investment with Ron Keener transport to bring goats from my mentor Naomi in Idaho.  Overall this all went quite well with the exception of a smaller BLUNDER: bringing home goats that in person were not what I expected.  That was the first farm we went to, so perhaps if we had gone to the 2nd farm first, having seen their extremely strong-looking animals, I would have had the confidence to say “Wow, beautiful, but now that I’m here, just not what I had in mind.”  Most likely kissing my deposit good-bye, but it would have been smarter to say no and perhaps be able to bring home a goat closer to my goals from elsewhere.  Instead I watched the 2 goats with concern and hope, and eventually sold them a year later (to a wonderful home).

I’d say from that point on, things have been pretty quiet, no major activity – tho there is never a dull moment with goats!  I test annually now and am, if anything, a bit overboard about biosecurity.  I believe it is my responsibility to my goats to keep them safe in every respect.  There are enough things that can go wrong raising any type of livestock that allowing a known problem to exist and perhaps spread is not being a good mother to my goats. Just as with my human children, at the end of the day I need to know they are healthy and that I am doing everything in my power to ensure that.

Do your research!  Ask for test results!
You will love your goats no matter what.
Starting out clean saves you heartache and money.