Goats - Are They As Hardy As They Used To Be?
As a child, I remember watching my dad milk our Nubian goat and watching her frolic and play afterwards. What I don't remember is my dad giving the goats a dewormer or minerals. Actually, he never did!
Let's fast forward a few years (we don't need to know how many, do we?) and here we are with our LaMancha goats. We have raised goats for about 8 years now and have learned quite a bit about these interesting creatures!
When we bought our first goats, my sister, who already had goats, recommended this great book, Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby. Hmmmm, I thought all I had to do was put them out on pasture and keep their water bucket full, right? That's what dad used to do.
Although dad's goat raising days weren't that long ago (ahem), times have changed a little on how to raise healthy goats. Yes, they do need extra minerals and, yes, they do need to be wormed (naturally and/or chemically).
Goat's are browsers, not necessarily grazers. God intended them to eat mineral rich leaves and brush. My dad had the goats on part pasture and part woods. So, they could graze and browse and get the minerals they needed.
One of the signs of a goat lacking minerals is it will eat the bark off of the trees. Our goats used to do this when we lived farther south. They were overcrowded with our two horses, therefore, they did not get enough to eat naturally.
We also had parasite problems because of the lack of space. The horses would eat the grass down low, and the closer the grass is to the ground, the greater chance a goat will get wormy. We tried natural dewormers at the time, but they did not work. We then had to revert to using chemical dewormers.
When we moved here with more acreage and sandy soil, our parasite problems became almost nonexistent. We usually deworm the goats in the spring, after they have their babies. Parasites usually come out of dormancy around this time.
You can check to see if a goat is wormy by pulling down the under eyelid and examining the color. If it is pale, than you probably have a wormy goat. You want a nice vibrant pink color. You can also look at the gums. Once again, look for a healthy pink color.
Another sign of parasites is the goat will not eat it's grain. You would think they would be starving and gobble it up like a wormy dog, but not in this case. When they get to this point, chemical wormers are probably needed. There are other natural wormers out there that might work. We have used copper sulfate with some success which is explained in Pat Coleby's book.
Here on our farm, the goats have more room to graze and eat fallen leaves. We give them broken branches and other brush that has been chopped down or blown down by a storm. Kind of like what dad used to do.
We also give them a goat mineral block and kelp (when we can afford it). The goat mineral block is specifically for goats, not sheep and goats. Goats need more copper, but this higher level could be toxic to sheep.
There are other problems that we have to deal with, mainly mastitis. We are learning some new things each year to help prevent this dreaded infection. I'll save that for another post!
So, are goat's less resistant than they used to be? Maybe. It seems we have to take extra measures to keep our goats healthy. Some of it is genetics, but, more importantly, we must do our job and give them the most natural environment possible.
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