Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Our Start With Dairy Goats: What We've Learned So Far

 

 These goats are funny. Their antics are entertaining, they're really soft and fluffy, they never bite or act mean, and they can leap into the air with all four hooves at once. I really can't find anything not to like about them. Even their poop is inoffensive.

We chose to raise Nigerian Dwarf goats because they are small (adult does are about 60-70 lbs), they produce lots of milk relative to their size, and their milk is high in butterfat. Our little ladies, Kiki and Clementine, are four months old now and will be ready to breed when they reach about 9-12 months of age

I got our doelings from another homesteader in the Austin area who raises Nigerians. I brought them home in my minivan when they were six weeks old. They had spent the first six weeks of their lives with their mamas and had never taken a bottle before. That was the first challenge. Despite my best efforts that first week they would not drink from a bottle. Luckily, they were already ruminating (eating hay and grass and digesting it) so they just moved right to hay and a small amount of sweet feed (a sweet grain-based pellet feed for goats). If I were to ever buy kids again I'd wait until 8-10 weeks of age to bring them home. That said, my goaties seem to be doing fine and they are growing well.

 The other challenge I've had is parasites. Goats, like all mammals (including us), are prone to parasites. Clementine got sick shortly after I brought her home and tested positive for strongyles and coccidia. Strongyles are a parasitic roundworm common in goats, horses, and other animals. As long as the goats don't have an overload of them, I'm not too worried about them. The coccidia, which is a protozoal parasite, is more worrisome. Goat kids can die of coccidiosis pretty quickly.After their initial parasite treatment back in November I made the mistake of not retesting them 10 days later. I waited until January to retest and Clementine tested positive for strongyles and coccidia again. Here's where I have lots to think about.

First off, there is the issue of drug resistance to the dewormer drugs. I do not want to deworm my animals willy-nilly because of the very dangerous prospect of drug resistance. On the other hand, I want to keep my animals in great health and don't want them to suffer with parasites. Clementine has not been sick lately, despite her parasites, but she is considerably smaller than Kiki and her coat is "rougher" looking. Kiki's coat is glossy and smooth and Clementine's is dryer and rougher. This alone can be one sign of parasites.

So I treated for strongyles and coccidia again and then ran another fecal test two weeks later. (It's $15 for a fecal test at the large-animal hospital down the highway.) The coccidia were gone (YAY!) but there were still a couple of stronglyes. I'll keep an eye on them but because neither of the goats appears sick I will not treat for strongyles again at this time.

Coccidia are spread in feces and once you have them in your soil they are very hard to get rid of. I hate that I've inoculated my property with coccidia and I'm hoping like mad that this won't be an ongoing problem for us. I suspect it will. The vet tech recommended sweeping up all the goat poops in the yard. What???? There are thousands of goat pellets in the yard and sweeping them all up would be a Sisyphean task (picture the goats pooping as I rake).

One note: neither strongyles nor coccidia are transmissable to humans so at least I don't have that worry. Chickens can get coccidiosis but it is not caused by the same type of coccidia. (WHEW.)

I'm considering buying a microscope so I can run fecal tests on the goats myself. Apparently it's not hard to do. I used to be a biologist so surely I could learn to do that, right? 

DIY fecal tests. Ruminate on that for awhile!




10 comments:

  1. I find it humorous that you're researching parasites and your menagerie of livestock, yet you comment that you "used to be a biologist." Ha! You still are sister...your lab just got bigger!

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    1. I know. I just can't cure myself of the scientist.

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  2. Of course you'll do DIY fecal tests! Have you looked into food grade diatomaceous earth and put it in their water?

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    1. I have looked into that, actually. Reports of effectiveness vary widely but I may give it a try.

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  3. I find that since having kids (the human type), I'm much less bothered by dealing with bodily fluids and excrement of any type. Which is probably a good thing for DIY fecal tests. I suspect you're the same.

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  4. You are a better woman than I. And with a much stronger stomach.
    I have absolutely zero tolerance for parasites - in humans or animals. I also don't do fleas, bed bugs or mites. I am actually bordering on phobic when it comes to parasites and intestinal worms in animals or humans. I work really hard to eradicate these pests from my home and yard. Except for Coccidia - which just seems hard to control sometimes.
    I couldn't test for it myself. I would throw a clot out of sheer nerves.
    It's so dumb. I won't use anti-biotics unless truly seriously necessary but I will use anti-parasitics prophylactically. HA!

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    1. Haha! Fleas and lice and stuff don't bug me that much. And I've had some experience with both. They are infuriating but they don't *disgust* me, you know? You really think you couldn't do the fecal test?? You could!

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  5. How strong a microscope would you need? I have extras!

    Nancy

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    1. I would be THRILLED! I just need a simple scope- one with 4x,10x, and 40x power and a built-in light. Kid stuff.

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