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Goat Husbandry

FEED
WATER
SHELTER
FENCING
BREEDING
VITAMINS
INJECTIONS
SHEARING
HOOVES
EAR TAGS
PARASITES
POISONOUS PLANTS
CASTRATION
DEHORNING
SUPPLIES
REALLY GOOD BOOKS

 




FEED

As a general rule, we feed grain year around -l lb. pound per animal per day. If you choose not to feed grain throughout the year, begin feeding ½ lb. per day when pasture is no longer available (usually October through April). Growing kids need 1 lb. of grain a day until they are one year old. In severe cold weather, feed extra grain at night to provide energy . A handy measuring container is a margarine tub. One "fill" is a pound. Goats are fussy eaters when it comes to cleanliness - if their grain has been fouled in some way they will not touch it.

For pregnant does, we feed 1 lb. of grain per day until the last four weeks of gestation, at which time we gradually increase feed to 1½ lb. per day and keep them at that level until kids are weaned. (Do not overfeed during early gestation since this can result in kids that are too large boned to be delivered.) For does with twins or triplets, we increase grain to 2 lbs. per day and keep an eye on them. If they look like they are getting too thin, we increase the grain, or vice versa. You get the idea.

We have our grain ration mixed in 1,000 lb. lots. Here is the "formula" (with rounded percentages) for a 12% protein feed: 350 lb. (36%) cracked corn, 300 lb. (32%) rolled barley, 150 lb.(16%) whole oats, and 150 lb. (16%) 38% Dari Blend, which is cracked and mixed with 5 lb BioBaby Premix (kelp fortified with other plant based minerals), 5 lb. PYK (a yeast culture that feeds the rumen microbes), 10 lb. Icelandic kelp, 25-30 lb. diatomaceous earth, 160 lb. (17%) liquid molasses and .4% ammonium chloride (to prevent urinary calculi in males). The Biobaby Premix, PYK and Icelandic kelp are nutritional supplements that we buy from Midwestern Bio-Ag (as well as our diatomaceous earth) . We also feed kelp free choice. Kelp has just about every nutrient in it that a goat needs. You’ll be astounded how the animals fight over it.

When making any change in grain "formulas", or when beginning grain in the fall or ending grain in the spring, do so very slowly to allow the rumen to adjust. Similarly, introduce any new food very slowly.

As to hay, a mixed grass hay is best for goats. Alfalfa is too rich and will cause all kinds of health problems and diarrhea. During severe cold weather, feed the poorest hay you have—this stimulates the rumen, which acts as the goats’ "furnace"
.
Also, allow some bedding to build up during the coldest months of the year—the urine and feces provide healthy heat. Goat urine and feces do not smell — although you may notice an ammonia smell in the Spring just before you clean the barn. In this event, sprinkle a liberal amount of barn lime about and that will take care of it. Goat urine and feces do not contain urea, and for this reason the bedding can be used to directly on your garden for fertilizing and mulching and will not burn plants.  A healthy goat will produce feces that look like black, shiny marbles

.Make sure that your goats have mineralized salt (the kind sold for sheep—not the kind sold for cattle) available free choice. (It can be tricky figuring out where to put the mineralized salt feeder so they can’t poop in it!) We feed a salt/Icelandic kelp mix and have observed an increase in overall sturdiness as well as fleece quality since we added this to our nutritional regime. If you don’t have a source, ask us about it.

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WATER

Goats prefer warm water,  room temperature to 75° or thereabouts. You can go even warmer in the Winter. This is especially important, since goats can quickly become chilled drinking cold water. They can even get by with fresh water once a day in the winter if it is warm. Goats are persnickety - they will not touch water that has been fouled or if the bucket itself is dirty. We keep a large garbage can full with a bottom heater and then finish warming the water in the buckets with individual bucket heaters. Time consuming with the number of animals we have, but it pays off in animal health.

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SHELTER:

Goats do not like getting wet, which is good because it makes them vulnerable to illness, especially after shearing. Shelters need good ventilation to avoid a moisture buildup in the winter. A moisture buildup, the result of goat respiration, can cause of variety of respiratory problems which are difficult to treat. Prevention is the answer. Don't make your goat shelter too tight to allow good ventilation. Also, as mentioned above, allow some bedding to build up during the coldest months of the year provides heat.

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FENCING

There are two basic fencing issues we address: (a) a fencing material with small enough grids to keep the goats from getting their heads through and their horns stuck in the fence, and (b) enough strength and support to withstand the considerable pressure goats can put on a fence. We have tried various fencing materials, and have found that fencing with a small grid works best. We have used a lot of 12.5 gauge welded wire with a 2 X 4 inch grid, and it works well, except that the welds tend to break under pressure from the goats, and once the welds start to break, the fence is doomed. We have started using a fencing material that is called horse fencing; it is a little heavier gauge, has a small (2 X 6 inch) grid, and the wire is woven instead of welded. Avoid regular woven wire: it tends to have larger grids, which the goats are sure to get their heads stuck in. The fence should be at least 4 feet high, to goats from trying to jump over (a thing Pygoras are more likely to try than Angoras). We place fence posts about 8 feet apart, properly braced to keep the wire stretched. This is usually enough for a perimeter fence, where there are goats only on one side of the fence. For interior pens, where goats are on both sides, you will need some additional reinforcement. Because they tend to butt at each other through the fence, they can tear it up pretty fast. For these fences we have started using sections of old corn-cribs that we buy inexpensively, tear down, and transport to the farm. These are especially good for giving peace of mind when you have does on one side of the fence and bucks on the other! If you don’t have access to old corn cribs, put a "butting rail" about 20 inches from the ground – a 2 X 4 (or similar) board to take most of the butting pressure off the wire. (And don’t have does on one side and bucks on the other!) One additional thought: goats are pretty smart (they do have the intelligence of a seven year old), and sometimes they can figure out how to open a gate latch that seemed secure. Never underestimate the abilities of a determined goat! I hope this gives you some ideas for building fencing for goats. Good luck – it is not easy to do, but we think having reliable fences makes goat herding more fun.

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BREEDING

We breed for May kidding - when the weather is not so extreme. We pen breed our does so we know when they are due. Sort of. Since the doe can deliver three days one side or other of the due date according to the gestation table and seem to like to keep us on toes.

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VITAMINS

We have been conscientiously using vitamin supplementation for the past year and are now seeing the "return-on-investment" in increased sturdiness of animals and increased fineness of fleece.

Here are a few of the things we are doing.

  • Give a Vit B-complex and a Vit B12 shot whenever an antibiotic or anti-parasitic is used, since these products deplete B12 stores.
  • Use injectable Vit C or powdered Vit C (I crush Ester C caplets) instead of automatically reaching for an antibiotic. Injectable Vit C is what I start with if there is a major problem, then continue treatment with the crushed caplets. 
  • Give a shot of Livorex and/or Selenium/Vit E (Bo-Se) when an animal seems a bit off.
  • Add cider vinegar, non pasteurized if you can get it, to water once a month. Add to water buckets for two days running at the rate of 1 cup of vinegar to each 5 gal of water. Vinegar is an excellent source of natural potassium..
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INJECTIONS

We use 22x3/4" needles for injections and keep two sizes of syringes on hand - 3cc and 12cc. The syringes are also good for oral applications. We give injections subcutaneously unless the situation is an emergency (treating a respiratory problem, for example, when the antibiotic has to get into the blood stream as soon as possible). This is much less traumatic than intramuscular injections. The difference is that material injected intramuscular will kick in within 2 hours, whereas material injected subcutaneously can take up to 4 hours. Our preferred injection site is the chest area - easy to grasp enough loose skin for subcutaneous and strong muscling for intramuscular.

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SHEARING

Angoras are shorn twice a year - every six months. To ensure animal health and fleece quality, it is important to stay on schedule. We are "booked" with our shearer for the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October, rain or shine. When selecting a shearer, talk to other goat folk whose husbandry practices you respect - you want a shearer who is gentle with the animals, gives few nicks, and who understands how to shear for handspinners (if handspinners are part of your fiber market).

If the weather is cool to cold after shearing, it is important to keep your goats in the barn for two to three days to allow them to adjust to not having their long underwear to keep them warm. If the weather is really cold, as it can be in March, it is doubly important to provide only warm water for drinking.

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HOOVES

Hooves need to be trimmed every 8 weeks or so. Enclosed are some good illustrations of how to do this. If you need help the first time around, give us a call. Our experience is that hooves are the most frequently neglected health item. Neglected hooves can cause deformities that are not always correctable.

We recommend the "Shear Magic" hoof trimmer. It can be purchased from Caprine Supply or Hoeggers (see list of suppliers) for about $17.00. We've tried several and wish we had found this one first!


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EAR TAGS

We looked at a lot of tags before we found the nylon Dalton Standard Rototag (about 1 1/2"x3/8"), for sheep and small animals. You can buy these from NASCO, page 5 of their 1998 catalog. They cost about $4.00 in packages of 25. The applicator, which is quite easy to use, is $23.45.

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PARASITE CONTROL

Diatomaceous earth: We have been feeding diatomaceous earth (DE) as a natural worming product since November, 1999. This is livestock food grade DE. We have our mill mix 25-30 lbs. of DE in every 1000 lbs. of grain mix. This is fed every day. We run our own fecal tests every three weeks and immediately check any animal who looks "off" or has diarrhea. We are conscientious about this so we know what is going on with the herd. (We go through a lot of fecalyzers and flotation solution!) When we started doing this, we figured the "acid test" of effectiveness would be at kidding, when the hormone/parasite "bloom" takes place. We had no problems. And our goats are healthier and better bodied than ever.

We have not used a chemical wormer more than a dozen times since we started using the DE. The key factor is that the DE must be fed in the grain on a daily basis. Studies that I read about when I was researching DE only used it on a periodic basis in the same way a chemical wormer is used. This simply will not work because the amount you would have to feed is so unpalatable that the goats won’t eat it! This is the reason we use more molasses in the grain mix- to get the DE well mixed with everything else and taste good. (A word of caution - be very, very careful handling DE so as not to inhale any. It is very fine.) As well as controlling internal parasites, DE kills fly larva left in manure, parasites can not build up a resistance, it is purported to result in better feed conversion, and is non-toxic.

Traditional worming: As a general rule, goats should be wormed every 4 weeks June through September and again after the first hard frost. There are always exceptions to rules, of course, so watch your animals to see if they need worming even after that hard freeze. Does should always be wormed after kidding since hormonal changes during pregnancy and kidding cause a parasitic "bloom". Staying on top of worming is critical, especially for Angoras which are much more susceptible to internal parasites than Pygoras. For worming, we us alternate Panacur (paste), which we order from Mid-States Livestock Supply, and Valbazan, which we get from our vet. Because goats have a higher metabolism, they require more product per dose than the label dosages. We go with our vet’s recommendation of 2x the label dose. Some sources, however, recommend 4x the label dose. Confusing.

If you a drench, remember, when giving oral medication to keep the goats head level and dose from the left side into the inter-dental space. Doing this prevents liquid going into the airways.

For the treatment of sucking or biting lice, we use an ivermectin pour-on (5 mg ivermectin per mL). The brand we buy is Prozap from Loveland Industries - you can get it at Farm & Fleet.

For the treatment of coccidia, we use Corrid, which can be purchased in a powered form at Farm & Fleet. You can also obtain it in concentrated liquid form from your veterinarian..We do not use or recommend products, such as some of the block licks, that contain animal by-products. Kids are vulnerable to Coccidia - adults build up an immunity - and left untreated this protzoan parasite will result in death. If not treated properly, it will impair the ability of the gut to properly absorb nutrients. (We have had to treat a kid for coccidia only once since starting to use DE. Maybe coincidental. I don’t know.)

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POISONOUS PLANTS

In addition to using their mouths the way we use our sense of touch and smell, that is to check out interesting things, goats have a passion for food and will try anything. There are some plants that are poisonous to goats. Here are just a few of the most common dangers:

Milkweed - Datura - any member of the nightshade family - Buckthorn - Cowbane - Deadly Nightshade - Dog's Mercury - Foxglove - Greater Celandine - Hemlock (a fairly common tree in our area) - Henbane - Laburnum - Laurel - Privit - Ragwort -Rhododendron - Rhubarb leaves - Spindle - Water Dropwort - Water Hemlock - White Betony - Yew (another fairly common tree in our area) - Iris- Azalea - Beet leaves - Conifers (more of those darn common trees!)

If you think your goat has been poisoned, contact your vet and tell him the cause, if you can identify it, and then drench the goat with black coffee or tea; the tannic acid in the tea renders many poisons insoluble and tea and coffee are useful stimulants. Do not give tea in the case of acorn poisoning as tannic acid is the poison in acorns! Keep the animal moving to prevent it from chewing its cud until the vet arrives.

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CASTRATION

We castrate our bucklings within the first two weeks of birth using the elastic bands. We think that this minimizes discomfort for the goaties. To be on the safe side, we also administer Tetanus Toxoid prior to castration.

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DEHORNING

Angora goats are not dehorned. So, we can't help you on this one.

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SOME BASIC SUPPLIES TO HAVE ON HAND

Vi-Tal electrolyte and mineral supplement - Farm & Fleet. Add to drinking water for 3 to 4 days after moving animals (goats do not take change well!) or when they have been ill or have had diarrhea.

Goat Nutri-Drench - vitamin, mineral, amino acid and glucose formula, Hoegger Farm Supply

Procaine Penicillin G

Tetracycline Injectable (such as LA200)

Amoxyinject - for respiratory problems - you can get it from your vet

Tetanus Toxoid - for immediate protection "just to be safe"

CD/T Vaccine - Clostridium Perfingens Type D & Tetanus-carried by Farm & Fleet and your vet. This is an annual vaccination

Bo-Se - Vit B & selenium combination which you get from your vet. Give this as an annual vaccination or any time at goat seems off

Vitamin B complex injectable which you can get from your vet, sometimes at Farm & Fleet. Use any time a goat seems lacking in energy and when you use any harsh products, such as for worming. These products deplete the natural stores of Vit B.

Vit B12 injectable which you get from your vet. We give a shot whenever an animal is given antibiotics since antiobiotics upset the balance in the gut.

Vit C injectable which you can get from your vet

Beta Carotene caplets which you can get at any store that carries vitamin supplements

Ester C which you can get at any store that carries vitamin supplements

Small plain wooden (or fancy if you prefer) morter and pestle for pulverizing vitamins

Empty 35mm film containers - great for administering all those pulverized vitamins or putting iodine on navels

Livorex which you can get from your vet. This is an iron supplement and we give it when an animals seems off.

Blood stop powder - Farm & Fleet

Blue Kote & Red Kote Antiseptic sprays - Farm and Fleet. Great stuff that protects wounds from flies and infection while they heal.

Panacur PasteDewormer, Mid-States Livestock Supply

Syringes & needles - regardless what the bottles say, for goats we use a 22x3/4 needle. You can get these at Farm & Fleet. (We order them by the box of 100 from Dr's Foster & Smith, a veterinary mail order company based in Wisconsin.)

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GOOD GOAT BOOKS

Natural Goat & Alpaca Care, 2md Ed April 2000, Pat Coleby. Landlinks Press, P.O. Box 1139 , Collingwood, Vic 3066, Australia, $39.00 which includes shipping to the U.S. This is the updated version of Natural Goat Care and the book I refer to the most! It takes about 3 weeks to get it from Australia. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Goat Husbandry, David Mackenzie, Faber & Faber. This is one of my favorites. You can order it from Amazon.com.

Raising Milk Goats the Modern Way, Jerry Belanger, Storey Communications, Inc. Another useful goat book. You can find this at NASCO in Ft. Atkinson.

Nanny Manicures, Diane Gray, Stringalong Enterprises. An excellent primer on hoof anatomy and care available from Hoegger Supply Company, 160 Providence Rd, Fayetteville, GA 30215, 1-800-221-4628.

Goat Medicine, Smith and Sherman, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. A comprehensive book written by two veterinarians - expensive ($80), but worth it. Available from Hoegger Supply Company, 160 Providence Rd, Fayetteville, GA 30215,1-800-221-4628.


SUPPLIERS

Midwestern Bio-Ag, Hwy ID Box 160, Blue Mounds, WI 53517, 608-437-4994. The source for Biobaby Premix, PYK, Icelandic kelp and diatomaceous earth. They have distributors in Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan. They will ship the stuff to you.

NASCO, 901 Janesville Ave, Ft. Atkinson, WI. You can obtain a catalog by visiting the store or by calling 1-800-558-9595 (they run a little high price-wise but have some things you can’t find elsewhere). Farm & Fleet, for Corrid, vaccines, syringes, needles, etc.

Caprine Supply, 33001 West 83rd St, P.O. Box Y, DeSoto, Kansas 800-646-7736

Hoegger Supply Company, 160 Providence Road, Fayetteville, GA 30215. Their order line is 800-221-4628 and
their "help" line is 770-461-5398.
These people know goats and are always willing to answer questions.
 

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