Category: Husbandry

Assessing Body Condition

Assessing Body Condition

by Donna Meyers-Raybon

printed here with kind permission of Donna Meyers-Raybon

   Keeping animals in top condition can sometimes be a challenge. To begin with, how do you know what “top condition” really is? That ideal can vary according to sex and age of the animal. For example, when discussing bucks, being in or out of rut is going to have a lot to do with his condition. And with a doe, stage of gestation and lactation will greatly influence how she appears. Finally, you have to take into account individual differences! Goats are just like people; they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some can be very long bodied and others can be very wide but shorter coupled. Even with this variety of parameters, there are certain guidelines or “rules of thumb” which can help any breeder evaluate his or her own goats.

Like anything else, learning the system of body scoring takes a bit of practice and honest effort to make it second nature. Nothing can substitute for getting out there and laying your hands on a lot of goats and practicing. Though a bit confusing at first, nothing I have to share about body scoring is really new or original, it is simply revisiting and reviewing a helpful herd management tool that often gets overlooked.

Two things that certainly help me assess an animal’s condition are an accurate weight tape and basic body condition scoring techniques. Both have been around for a long time and have proven themselves again and again in use on the farm.

A weight tape is nothing more than a flexible measuring tape that is marked off in both inches and in pounds to give you a fairly accurate conversion of the animal’s heart girth in inches into pounds of weight. Studies done to develop these scales show that they are accurate to plus/minus five pounds if used properly. These tapes are widely available through livestock supply catalogs.

Three things are vital to ensure accuracy using a tape. First make certain you use the correct style of tape for your breed of goat. For instance if you raise Alpines and use a Pygmy weigh tape, you will not get accurate results! Second, ensure you are measuring at the heart girth, just behind but not including the shoulder blades. By placing your hand at the top of the shoulders (the withers) and tracing the bones backward towards the chine you can determine just where the rear of the shoulder bones are and place your tape correctly. And, finally, be consistent with your technique. By that I mean try to pull the tape just as snug on the first goat you tape as the last goat you tape.

It is a good management practice to tape each goat once a month and record that information to readily see a pattern as it emerges. I fail miserably on my older animals, but I do try to be consistent with my young stock. My doelings are bred at about seven to eight months of age. In order for them to be large enough I want them to be gaining 10 pounds a month throughout that first year of life. I find that taping them once a month is the best way for me to spot trends and to respond by tweaking the ration to ensure that rate of gain.

I have found a weight tape to work great on my animals under a year old. Once they kid and begin production, adding body condition scoring on a monthly basis along with taping presents me with a better picture of what is really going on.

Body condition scoring has been around a long time on commercial dairy cow and beef cow operations. The first reference I found for body condition scoring dairy goats was in Goat Husbandry by David MacKenzie. This is a classic work that every goatkeeper should have in their library. While the weight tape gets used a lot on my young stock, it is the body condition scoring that benefits my older animals.

This technique is very simple, straightforward and easy to use, though it does require some practice to get consistent results. So, every time you are around a goat, open your eyes, reach out and practice! That is all you need to do-reach out and put your hands on the goat and think about what you are feeling.

To begin with, just step back and look at the overall condition of the animal. Can you see any ribs showing? Notice the backbone, hips, and tail head, are they extremely well defined? Note that any doe just prior to and just after kidding will often have a very “boney” appearance about the hips and tail head due to labor and delivery. But, ribs and backbone should not be boney looking.

Also, understand that a big belly doesn’t mean a fat goat! A goat is a ruminant and needs a huge body capacity to house all her digestive system. Goats also tend to not store body fat evenly all over their body. Instead they concentrate body fat in specific areas internally first, where you can’t see it, and then externally later, where you can see it. So, by the time you see signs of fat visible externally, you can have a really, really, really fat goat!

Next you have got to get your hands on that goat. Run your fingers lightly along the ribs and note how that feels. Find the last rib and follow it up to the spine and feel that section of spine just behind that last rib. You will also notice that is over the area where rumen fullness and motion can be detected. I will refer to this region of the spine as the lumbar region. Next, bend over and feel the bottom of the brisket, between the goat’s front legs. I will refer to this region as the sternal region and the covering of the sternum bone as the sternal fat pad.

Too many times, especially in bucks, a long hair coat can hide a very skinny animal’s condition until too late and health is impacted seriously. I heard an extension agent one time describe a management technique of “manage by walking around and touching.” You have got to lay your hands on your animals on a regular basis to ensure they are not a rack of bones under all that hair.

Grade 1: This animal is truly emaciated and close to death. The ribs, backbone, and tailhead are very sharp and very visible. You can easily feel the spinal processes along the side of the backbone as being very sharp. You can literally put your fingers almost all the way around the lumbar region. The flanks will be quite hollow. When you put your hand between the goat’s front legs to feel the sternal region, the end of the sternum will feel like a sharp pencil point with almost no fat covering the bone. Running your hand further back along side the sternum, you can very easily feel the ribs coming off the sternum at each joint. Up along the animal’s side the ribs can be seen with very clear definition between them due to being sunken in between each rib.

Grade 2: The backbone is still going to be quite well defined, but won’t have quite as sharp a feel to it due to having some fat covering. You can still put your fingers around the lumbar region but your fingers won’t be as near to meeting under spine. When you put your hand between the goat’s front legs to feel the sternal region, the underside of the sternum will have an actual fat pad attached, but easily moved when you grasp it. The point of the sternum will feel more like the eraser end of the pencil rather than the pointed end. Down at sides of the sternum you can’t quite feel each rib joint as it comes off the sternum. Up on the animal’s side, the ribs will still show, but you won’t have the sunken-in appearance between each rib.

Grade 3: The backbone is no longer prominent. When you touch the backbone it is well covered with fat and you won’t feel any sharpness at all of spinal processes. Grasping the lumbar region will be difficult, as your fingers won’t be anywhere meeting underneath the spine. When you reach down between the goat’s front legs to feel the sternal region, the sternum is well covered with a fat pad that is not going to move much at all. You can’t feel the ribs coming off the sides of the sternum without really pressing hard and searching for them. Up on the goat’s side, the ribs are only barely visible, but can still be felt with a light touch.

Grade 4: Backbone is no longer visible as separate joints and is very well covered with fat. You can’t feel any of the spinal process at all, no sharp boney projections. You can’t get your fingers under the lumbar region at all. When you reach down between the goat’s front legs check the sternal region the fat pad covering the sternum it is very thick and nearly unmovable when you try to shake it. Along side the sternum, you can’t feel any rib bone at all. The ribs where they come off the sternum are much too thickly covered to be felt. Up on the goat’s side, you have to really search for the ribs with your fingers and you can’t see them at all.

Grade 5: There are dimples in the rump and a channel along top of the backbone as the fat covering it is so thick! You can’t even begin to get your fingers around the lumbar region. Up on the goat’s side, even with heavy pressure you can’t find a rib. When you reach between the goat’s front legs to feel the sternal region, fat pad is huge and massive and you can’t move it. Where the ribs leave the sternum will be fat pads covering them. Animal may look like it has “saddlebags” hanging at sides near the elbow where sternal fat pad is so large.

Here are some suggested general benchmarks to use to guide you. Animals who grade less than 2.0 are in need of immediate medical intervention as they are at great risk of chilling and dying quickly. And likewise, animals that are a 5.0 risk all sorts of metabolic problems due to being so obese. A doe should be in the 2.25 to a 3.5 range at dry off. She should be about a 2.75 to a 3.5 at kidding. And, she needs to be at least a 2.0 or more at 45 days into lactation. This is the bare minimum and really she needs to be closer to 3.0 in order to maintain proper condition through a 305 day lactation. A buck should be at least a 3.0 at the beginning of rut in order to carry any condition at all throughout the breeding season. Be especially vigilant about laying your hands upon your bucks on a regular basis. A buck tends to have a thicker, coarser hair coat that can really hide extreme weight loss until too late and they end up sick or dead.

Now, get out there and start practicing on every goat you can lay your hands upon. You will, in short order, find yourself a much better manager and getting better results for the amount of feed you put into your animals. And, it is always nice to be able to tell those non-farming types who pass through the barns during fair season that dairy goats are NOT too skinny, they are supposed to look that way, and here is how to judge an animal’s body condition!

Floppy Kid Syndrome

Floppy Kid Syndrome

Sue Reith
Carmelita Toggs
Bainbridge, WA

published here with kind permission of Sue Reith

FKS… How it happens… (a detailed scientific explanation of the process…)

For those that find this stuff interesting, this info on how FKS comes about in goat birthing originated, with some species transfer from canine to caprine to help us understand how it happens in goats as well, from notes taken at a veterinary seminar by Jacob Mosier DVM, a well respected canine veterinarian at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.  His research on the phenomenon concluded that: At birth a newborn puppy should have a pH level of 7.4.  A puppy can be hung up in the birth canal for too long or the bitch might not remove the sac, causing delayed breathing.  We need to be sure it breathes fairly soon because the longer it doesn’t, the more its blood pH level drops, the more acidotic it becomes. During the time it’s still wet (about 20 minutes), the pH drops to about 7.1. If it drops to 6.6 the heart will stop.  Despite the delay in the birth process, once revived and breathing FPS pups appear healthy and strong.  But then around the 36th to 72nd hour they begin to fade and lose vigor, and the tongue is pale.  By the 96th hour, without correction of the pH balance (that’s where Baking Soda comes into the picture!), thus reversing the acid condition that has begun, they become flaccid and die.

Treating FLOPPY KID SYNDROME

[Note from Guinevere McIntyre:  Take the kid off mother’s milk!  They have been over-doing it and they will not suffer from not having milk for a couple days, and they will die if you insist they drink more milk.  Instead of milk, bottle-feeding water with baking soda is most crucial.  No milk until their behavior is back to normal.]

I have found, in treating several FKS kids in this community over the past few years, (all of which had successful outcomes) that I did three things not listed in either FKS posts… I did those 3 things, noted below, because with the first kid, brought to me fairly late in the game, I was not getting good results with treatment until I did so, and found the results so remarkably quick when I did apply them that I used them the rest of the time on the FKS kids.

  1. I gave a dose of Enterotoxemia Antitoxin (NOT the TOXOID!) because while the stomach was not digesting food it was a perfect setup for Enterotoxemia, which is always present in a goat’s gut unless it has been properly vaccinated, and which is opportunistic and flourishes the minute the stomach does not digest its contents. That first FKS kid rather quickly indicated problems with abdominal pain, classic for Enterotoxemia. The Entero Antitoxin reversed that.
  2. I gave SQ doses of BoSe (1cc/40lbs) every 2nd day for the first 6 days, and continued weekly for 2 more times after that.
  3. I gave SQ doses of inj. Fortified B-Complex every day for the first 4 days.

The FKS kids were so weak when they were brought to me that I had to tube Pedialyte into them, and then began to tube combinations of oral amino acids and electrolytes, dextrose, and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) into them 3x daily for about 3 days until they could once again take a bottle.

I also gave oral doses of Pepto Bismol intermittently throughout the day, and of course Probios, which is essential as well.

The improvement was remarkable once I established that formula of treatment. All of those kids I treated are doing fine today.

One caveat should be offered here, however. It is possible to have a combination of troubles all at once in a single kid! One of the kids I treated was discovered, as soon as I brought it around from the FKS, to be suffering from Joint Ill at the same time! We then had to start on a whole different regimen of treatment with which we finally got that under control as well.

How to Tube Feed a Weak Kid

How to Tube Feed a Weak Kid

Sue Reith
Carmelita Toggs
Bainbridge, WA

published here with kind permission of Sue Reith

The prospect of tubing a weak kid probably sounds pretty frightening if you have never tried it.  Perhaps it’s because I have been doing it for so long, but I find the procedure very comfortable.  I’d like to share with you what I have found works simply and quickly for me.

Having prepared in advance for the possibility that at some point I may need to tube a kid, I have on hand a “Sovereign” brand #10 French Feeding Tube/Urethral Catheter.  A #8 tube is smaller (good for tiny puppies) but will do the job, and a #12, though it is a bit larger in diameter than the #10, will work also if the kid is fairly good sized (i.e., a dairy goat kid as opposed to a Pygmy kid).  These tubes are often available from veterinarians, kept on hand by them for tubing weak puppies. But if you cannot obtain one locally I will be happy to email information on where to order one from a catalog.  This small, semi-rigid #10 catheter is 16″ long and 1/8″ in diameter.  Unlike the supple, pliable rubber tubing I have seen in most catheters intended for human use, this tube is semi-rigid, so while I can bend it into a coil for storage, it won’t collapse easily like a rubberband does.  In my view, the semi-rigidness of this particular catheter is largely what makes the tubing process so easy.  I’d like to reiterate to the reader that a feeding tube is best obtained before it is actually needed, to be kept on hand for emergencies.  To wait until the last minute to search for one might prove disastrous.

Now to the process

The first step in tubing a weak kid is to stretch the little guy out flat on its side on a table or other flat surface, with its neck and jaw in a straight line stretching forward as though, if the kid were standing up instead of lying down, it might be looking up at the stars.  This allows me to measure accurately from the kid’s mouth clear back to its very last rib, which is how far the tube must be inserted in order to tube the contents into the stomach.  I mark that distance with a magic-marker on the tube itself, so when I am inserting it I will know when it has reached the correct point. Keep in mind that since the kid’s lungs are much closer to the mouth than is the stomach, if the tube inserts easily until it reaches the mark you have made, you can be confident that it is safely in the stomach.

Having determined the type and amount of fluid I want to tube into the kid, and pre-warmed it to normal body temperature (generally by placing the prepared syringe into a container of very warm water), I attach this syringe of warmed fluid to the end of the catheter.  I use cooking oil on a cotton ball to coat the tube so it is very slick.

Next, I have a choice of two approaches that can be used for positioning the kid for this procedure:

  1. If the kid is pretty flaccid (weak) I lay it down on that table or other flat surface on its side on a towel and have an assistant hold it flat, with its neck and jawline in the same position it was in while I was measuring the distance to the last rib.  Then I gently open its mouth with a forefinger and thumb, and start sliding the semi-rigid tube smoothly and slowly in, along the right side of the throat.
  2. For a sturdier kid, an alternative to lying it on its right side would be to sit it in my lap, facing forward in the same direction I am facing, as though it were a child and we were watching tv together.  I elevate the head and neck gently upward towards the ceiling, and then slowly slide the tube down the inside of the baby’s mouth on the right side.

In either position I find that the tube slides down the right side of the throat (I am left-handed) easily, with the kid swallowing co-operatively as I do so.  Occasionally, if the kid struggles in annoyance at this invasive procedure, its head will move and the tube will start down the left side of the throat.  When that happens I know about it right away, because it is headed for the lungs and the kid reacts by starting to cough instantly.  The tube itself will irritate the lung area, causing a cough response, so no other test is needed to determine this.  In addition, a tube accidentally headed for the lungs will not slide smoothly.  If I see these signs, I immediately pull it back out and start over.  (By the way, this happens very rarely.)

When the tube is going where it should, the entire length of it will slide easily for the full distance to the place I have already pre-marked on it.  When first learning this procedure, if unsure that the tube has actually gone into the stomach it’s okay to wait until after it is in place before attaching the filled syringe, so as to be able to blow some air into the open end of the catheter.  With one hand gently resting on the kid’s stomach it is easy to feel and sense the air being blown into it. Comfortable that the tube is indeed in the stomach, I slowly plunge the liquid contents from the syringe smoothly into it, and if I have chosen the “lying down” position for this procedure, the moment I finish tubing the liquid into the stomach I pull the tube back out rapidly, and quickly move the kid into an upright position, and that’s that.

One of the amazing things that I notice upon completion of this process is that the kid, generally fretting and struggling throughout this experience, suddenly takes on a quiet, contented demeanor.  It’s really quite precious.

I suspect that by now many novices, and perhaps lots of long-time goat owners as well, will be gasping in anxiety over the prospect of performing this procedure.  But tubing is really not all that scary!  And when you see that little kid take on a new, brighter and more alert expression shortly after having received that dose of nutrition and its accompanying increase in energy level, you will “feel 10 feet tall” and be glad that you have learned this new management procedure.

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!