Monday, November 28, 2011

Gift of the Old One

This is a heartwarming tale that is often passed among goat owners around the holidays:

The young couple had made their usual hurried,
pre-Christmas visit to the little farm where dwelt
their elderly parents with their small herd of
goats. The farm had been named Lone Pine Farm
because of the huge pine that topped the hill behind
the farm, and through the years it had become a
talisman to the old man and his wife, and a landmark
in the countryside.

The old folks no longer showed their goats, for the
years had taken their toll, but they sold a little milk,
and a few kids each year, and the goats were their
reason for joy in the morning and contentment at day's

Crossly, as they prepared to leave, the young couple
confronted the old folks. "Why do you not at least dispose
of 'The Old One'?" She is no longer of use to you. It's been
years since you've had either kids or milk from her. You
should cut corners and save where you can. Why do you
keep her anyway?" The old man looked down as his
worn boot scuffed at the barn floor and his arm stole
defensively about the Old One's neck as he drew her to him
and rubbed her gently behind the ears. He replied softly,
"We keep her because of love. Only because of love."

Baffled and irritated, the young folks wished the old man
and his wife a Merry Christmas and headed back toward
the city as darkness stole through the valley.

So it was, that because of the leave-taking, no one noticed
the insulation smouldering on the frayed wires in the old
barn. None saw the first spark fall. None but the "Old One."

In a matter of minutes, the whole barn was ablaze and the
hungry flames were licking at the loft full of hay. With a
cry of horror and despair, the old man shouted to his wife
to call for help as he raced to the barn to save their beloved
goats. But the flames were roaring now, and the blazing
heat drove him back. He sank sobbing to the ground,
helpless before the fire's fury.

By the time the fire department arrived, only smoking,
glowing ruins were left, and the old man and his wife.
They thanked those who had come to their aid, and the
old man turned to his wife, resting her white head upon
his shoulders as he clumsily dried her tears with a frayed
red bandana. Brokenly he whispered, "We have lost much,
but God has spared our home on this eve of Christmas.
Let us, therefore, climb the hill to the old pine where we
have sought comfort in times of despair. We will look down
upon our home and give thanks that it has been spared."

And so, he took her by the hand and helped her up the
snowy hill as he brushed aside his own tears with the back
of his hand. As they stepped over the little knoll at the
crest of the hill, they looked up and gasped in amazement
at the incredible beauty before them. Seemingly, every
glorious, brilliant star in the heavens was caught up in
the glittering, snow-frosted branches of their beloved pine,
and it was aglow with heavenly candles. And poised on its
topmost bough, a crystal crescent moon glistened like
spun glass. Never had a mere mortal created a Christmas
tree such as this. Suddenly, the old man gave a cry of
wonder and incredible joy as he pulled his wife forward.
There, beneath the tree, was their Christmas gift.

Bedded down about the "Old One," close to the trunk of the
tree, was the entire herd, safe. At the first hint of smoke,
she had pushed the door ajar with her muzzle and had led
the goats through it. Slowly and with great dignity, never
looking back, she had led them up the hill, stepping daintily
through the snow. The kids were frightened and dashed
about. The skittish yearlings looked back at the crackling,
hungry flames, and tucked their tails under them as they
licked their lips and hopped like rabbits. The milkers
pressed uneasily against the "Old One" as she moved
calmly up the hill and to safety beneath the pine. And now,
she lay among them and gazed at the faces of those she
loved. Her body was brittle with years, but the golden eyes
were filled with devotion as she offered her gift--
because of love.

Only because of love.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hot weather and goats

With record-breaking heat across the US this summer, farmers have had to go to extra lengths to protect their animals. Thousands of cattle have been reported dead throughout the central US. Many goat owners are reporting that their goats have high body temperatures and symptoms of dehydration. So what can be done to keep your goats healthy in these conditions?

A goat's normal temperature can range from as low as 101.5 to as high as 105. It's good to take a goat's baseline temperature several times on normal days and on a hot day. That will give you a better idea of what is normal for that goat.

If the outdoor temperature gets too high, you can cool your goats down with a hose or sprayer. Start on the legs rather than drenching them with cold water all at once. Some people have found that their goats really like this and will line up to be cooled down. Other goats, like people, hate water and getting wet.

Always keep plenty of cool, clean drinking water available. You need to encourage drinking, to avoid dehydration, so if they don't seem to be interested in the water you can try adding some grape juice concentrate or electrolytes to make it taste better. Some goats also like a little apple cider vinegar in their water.

Make sure they have a shaded area to rest in during the heat of the day. This usually means access to the barn or a loafing area, or some large trees that get them out of the sun. Put a fan in the barn or loafing area for goats during the hottest time of the day. This will circulate the air and help them keep cooler.

Pages 4-5 of Goat Health Care tells how to evaluate your goats' health. You can check a goat for dehydration "by pinching the skin on the neck in front of the shoulder, using your thumb and forefinger. Note whether the skin snaps back to its normal position quickly or responds slowly and remains 'tented.' A slow return to normal can indicate that the goat is dehydrated."

If your goat is dehydrated, which can happen rather quickly, it is essential to get fluids into her. Getting her to drink is he best option. You can have some luck with injecting sterile water or lactated ringers solution subcutaneously, but a severely dehydrated goat (particularly one with diarrhea, too) will need an IV to survive.

I had a goat that needed an IV one time and the vet was kind enough to hook it up and show me how to change the bag. This allowed me to give her two bags of lactated ringers solution, solving the problem.

If you are home during the day, you can regularly check on your goats, but if you have to leave make sure that you leave plenty of water and have a shady area that all the goats can get to.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Q Fever found in Northwest

The Seattle PI reported on an outbreak of Q fever in Washington and Montana. This disease affects both humans, goats and other animals. Symptoms, which are like flu in humans, take about 20 days to occur after exposure and are particularly a problem for people with heart disease. If the disease becomes chronic, it must be treated with antibiotics. There is a vaccine recommended for people living in Australia.

To learn more about Q fever in goats, precautions against it, and treatment, read an excerpt from Goat Health Care.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Study shows healthful effects of goat milk

The research group AGR 206 at the University of Granada Department of Physiology and Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology "Jose Matáix", coordinated by professor Margarita Sánchez Campos, have proven that goat milk has nutritional characteristics beneficial to health.

The regular consumption of goat milk by individuals with iron deficiency anemia improves their recovery, since it enhances the nutritional use of iron and enhances the regeneration of hemoglobin; this means that this type of milk minimizes calcium and iron interactions. Conversely, this type of milk protects DNA stability, even in cases of iron overload caused by prolonged treatments with this mineral to treat anemia. Read rest of article here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Floppy Kid Syndrome

With goat kids still being born, this is the time of year that goat breeders may have to deal with Floppy Kid Syndrome (FKS). Here is an excerpt from page 85 of Goat Health Care that tells you how to recognize FKS and an easy, harmless treatment to reverse mild cases:

Floppy kid syndrome (FKS) is a sudden onset, in an otherwise healthy kid, of extreme weakness and inability to move the legs, associated with metabolic acidosis (increase in overall acid in the body) in which no specific organ systems are abnormally involved. No gastrointestinal or respiratory clinical signs, such as diarrhea, dehydration, or difficulty breathing, are seen. It usually occurs late in the kidding season, which is the time to be most alert to it.

FKS was first documented in 1987. Currently the cause is unknown and further research is needed. There is no difference in incidence between dam-raised and bottle-raised kids, or those given pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. It can spread rapidly among young kids. Unfortunately, in some cases, a number of kids die before the goat breeder determines what is going on.

Gastrointestinal disease is strongly suspected to be the cause for this syndrome since it is the most common cause of metabolic acidosis in goat kids. Early untreated cases, where death occurred, should be necropsied to help in determining the cause.

Affected kids are normal at birth and then develop sudden profound muscle weakness at 3 to 10 days of age. Kids are often reluctant to nurse, but can swallow. Biochemical findings include metabolic acidosis, decrease in bicarbonate, normal to increased chloride and occasional hypokalemia (low potassium). No gastrointestinal or respiratory dysfunction is apparent (i.e., diarrhea, dehydration, or breathing difficulties).

Diagnosis is made based on supportive clinical and laboratory findings. Any disease that can lead to a profoundly weak or acidotic kid, such as white muscle disease or enterotoxemia can be mistaken for this syndrome.

The best treatment depends on early detection of the problem. Less severe cases can be treated by giving the kid baking soda as soon as possible. The recommended dose is ½ tsp in cold water given orally. If a kid is unable to nurse or drink a bottle, he or she may have to be fed by stomach tube. You should see improvement within 2 hours, if the kid actually has FKS. In severe cases, intravenous fluid and bicarbonate administration will be required.

According to the literature, there is no association between treatment with antibiotics or vitamin/mineral supplements and recovery. In fact, in some cases kids recover with no treatment at all. In some cases kids may relapse or take up to a month to recover their neuromuscular function.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Goat Sales Contract

"The first step to keeping goats healthy is to start with disease-free, thriving goats.... Goat buyers should ask whether the goats being purchased have been tested for any diseases and/or whether their dam has, as well. Ask about overall herd health, how the goats' health care is managed and what kinds of veterinary problems they have had. Find out the breeder's philosophy on goat care.... Ask a lot of questions."
From the Introduction, Goat Health Care

Mystic Acres Oberian Mini Dairy Goats soon to be ready for sale

An enthusiastic newbie gets her first goats, only to have them develop abscesses, that turn out to be caseous lymphadenitis (CLA), a month later. She is irate, believing that the seller knowingly took advantage of her lack of knowledge. She asks around on some goat lists and is told that the seller should take back the diseased goats and give her money back. But there is no written agreement and this possibility hadn’t even been discussed.

Depending on the circumstances, an ethical breeder would take the goats back and refund the buyer. But if the seller refused—the buyer would likely have trouble getting her money back, would be stuck with sick and contagious goats, and might even decide that the universe is aligned against her dream of raising goats.

One way to help ensure that the goats you're getting are healthy is to have a contract that protects your rights and documents what you and the seller are agreeing to. If you just buy or sell a goat with a handshake and an oral agreement, one or both of you may think you have agreed to something you haven't.

A written contract is a legally binding agreement that can help protect both parties and prevent misunderstandings. Having a contract in writing becomes even more important when you are purchasing valuable or registered animals.

Some sellers have contracts they are already using, but it may fall to a buyer to write the contract if she wants one. If a seller refuses to sign a contract, be suspicious. Ask why. If it's because they don't want to have to do the work, here is a link to a Goat Sales Contract written in Word, which you can tailor to your situation.

One caveat: A contract won't prevent you from getting attached to the goat(s) you purchased. I once sold a goat that I guaranteed to be fertile, only to learn later that s/he was a hermaphrodite. The buyer was already attached to the goat (and I didn't particularly want a hermaphrodite in my working herd), so I gave her the replacement and let her keep the original. Think about this and other possibilities when writing your contract.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shipping Goats to another state

In my opinion, buying goats locally is the best way to go. You don't have to worry about them getting severely stressed from a long ride in a vehicle or a plane, you can check them, their surroundings and their herd mates out before buying them, and if, for some reason, they have to be returned you will have an easy time doing so.

However, sometimes you may need (or just really want) to buy a goat from out-of-state. Maybe finding a buck who is not related is impossible in your area, or you want to improve your herd with a special animal or two. Learning the requirements for importing into or exporting out of any state is only a click away with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Import and Export web page.This helpful site has links to regulations in all states and Guam, as well as international requirements.