A Crash Course in Goat Health Care

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I really thought that kidding would be the biggest learning curve in goat husbandry this year. I studied as much as I could prior to the big event. I collected supplies. I waited anxiously. But Serenade had her kids without a hitch. Everyone was fine. And then we started battling something, anything, non-stop ever since. Worms, anemia, hoof abscess, etc. The babies are just two months old, and I have had one heck of a crash course on goat health!

Four days after kidding, Serenade finally received a long overdue pedicure. I’m not sure when her last hoof trim was before she came to us, but this one was just over a month since coming to our farm. I was never able to get her on the milk stand for it and being seriously pregnant I was nervous to push too hard lest anyone get hurt. She had a slight limp prior, but it went away after kidding. The day after the hoof trim, it was back. I knew I was going to have to rehabilitate these hooves.

I got a FAMACHA card and she scored a 4 out of 5 on the day of her pedicure. Seriously anemic and likely a worm overload. I started reading everything I could on parasite control and the side effects from parasites – anemia, inefficient rumen function, thiamine deficiency…. There is a significant concern with building wormer resistance, so I chose to start by treating with herbs, which are not susceptible to resistance. In hindsight, as severe as it was, I should have immediately gone to Western medicine. I certainly am not against it, I just have no idea what I’m doing.

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I also made available loose minerals at this time, something I had wanted to do for a while but hadn’t yet figured out how to make them available in our barn. It was such an easy project (*see below). All my big girls immediately crowded around the new PVC feeder and lapped it up. They must have been deficient! As evidenced by chewing on the barn walls and the rough coats on two of them.

I ordered Molly’s Wormer combination and began treatment when it arrived a week later. Ten days later I wasn’t seeing improvement. I had continued my research on parasites and saw the telltale signs of barberpole worms – clumped together goat berries, instead of the loose pellets – in all three of my bigger goats. They also scored poorly on the FAMACHA scale again. I had Safeguard on hand, and knowing that it may or may not work, but assuming something was better than nothing, I began a three-day treatment. Serenade’s body condition was improving, but she was still very anemic. After another hoof trim her limp was gone again, and remained so for several weeks. She even jumped on the milk stand willingly, all by herself!

I changed my barn cleaning schedule around this time. The fly population had just gotten bad, our goat herd just doubled in size, and with all the worms, I needed a cleaner barn. I had been using some sort of deep bedding method, adding new hay on top each night and cleaning it out every week. It was a big job each week. I started cleaning out the bedding hay every morning, allowing the floor to dry with just a sprinkling of hay on the floor, and adding a flake of coastal to the floor each night for them to bed on. The chickens were just starting to free range and they loved to come in the barn each morning to find goodies on the floor. I rarely see a fly now. I still want to do a deeper clean with lime or something, but trying to decide the best course of action. I haven’t had as much time to research this since I’ve been busy learning everything else there is to know about goat health!

A week after the Safeguard, the clumpy poops had returned. It was time to try another anthelmintic (fancy word for wormer medication). My breeder recommended Valbazen. I started a round of three treatments, ten days apart. Valbazen has a seven-day milk withdrawal, so just as I was ready to start separating the kids from mama at night to get more milk for us, we couldn’t drink any of it. The dogs have been having wonderful breakfasts though, and I’m sure they don’t have intestinal worms. A few days after the first treatment of Valbazen body condition was visibly improving. Serenade was getting more meat on her bones again.

IMG_20170814_170703_288That same day I was petting Serenade and I noticed that what I thought was dandruff and had been trying to observe for days was in fact lice. (Reassuring fact: goat lice is host specific and is not transferable to humans. You should have seen Hubby’s face when I told him she had lice!) I also found lice on Matilda and Curry. No wonder they were all rubbing against all the fences so hard! And no wonder Serenade was so horribly anemic – the blood-suckers were both inside and out! Hubby bought a dog lice spray containing permethrin. I immediately sprayed all the goats down with it, brushed it into their coats with a wide-tooth dog brush, and haven’t seen the lice since. The fences are relieved.

A few days ago I discovered Curry has diarrhea. I’m assuming coccidia, since that is so common in a young kid. He isn’t showing any other symptoms though. I gave him Pepto Bismol that day and it got better, but it soon returned, obviously. I’m treating all the kids now with sulfamethazine sodium.

Serenade just got another pedicure this week, which is always a challenging work out for me. Even with regular (i.e. every 2 weeks) hoof trims since kidding, her feet were looking rough. The fronts are finally where I would want them to be, but the rear are just sad-looking. During the previous hoof trim I noted that her right hoof, the one she tends to favor when she limps, had a bit of swiss-cheese-type holes in the heel of one toe. I was so nervous to go too deep with it though. This time (after having read more about proper hoof trimming) I cut away all the swiss cheese to keep dirt and manure from compacting inside and discovered a big cavity inside. I looked up hoof rot, and it didn’t match those characteristics, but something was definitely going on. I called a vet. I am reaching my wits end with these goat problems.

I described what I had observed and he recommended treatment for a hoof abscess. Epsom salt and Betadine soak, and LA 200 antibiotic following the cattle dosage. He also recommended crushed limerock for the goats to walk on to keep their hooves dry, but that is simply not in the budget right now. I’d really like to get a giant limerock to place in the pen for the goats to jump and play on and wear their hooves out naturally a bit, but that’s just not in the foreseeable future.

IMG_20170827_182542364.jpgI found this website on how to soak and wrap a horse hoof while we were finishing up breakfast. Little Monster gave me a hard time about being on my Kindle at the table until I told her what I was trying to learn, then she came over so I could show her and read it to her. Suddenly she was engaged. She and Little Miss helped me gather supplies. They thought the band aid I was making out of duct tape was so sneat. I also gathered the LA 200 I had purchased and put the dose in an oral syringe. We all went out to the barn and got things set up. I got hay for Serenade in the milking parlor, and for the rest of the herd in the barn so we wouldn’t be interrupted. Little Man fell asleep on my back, so I quickly went back in the house and laid him down for his morning nap. Everything worked out beautifully and the girls were a huge help to me. I gave Serenade the antibiotics orally. It wasn’t until two hours later that I realized it should have been subcutaneously. I mean the packaging makes that obvious. But for some reason, and with everything else going on in my household, I thought I could get away with an oral dose. Afterall, the vet didn’t mention anything about shots. I soon determined that the medicine wouldn’t cause any harm by giving it orally, it just wouldn’t be effective and I should treat it like I hadn’t even given it to her. Goats have a much higher metabolism than most other livestock and medicine passes through quicker. By giving the medicine SubQ it is a slower release and so can fight infection better. Now I just have to get some needles and learn how to administer shots. This should be fun. I imagine I may be soaking and bandaging the other rear hoof once I’m done with this one for a week or so, I just can’t see doing both at the same time.

On a happy hoof note, I did Felicity’s hooves and hers look great! Matilda’s will be tomorrow, followed by the kids.

I have been giving extra B1 (thiamine) vitamins for several days with each round of medication. It helps regulate carbohydrate metabolism and supports neural health. Since we’re dealing with intestinal worms, and B vitamins are manufactured in the rumen, I want to help the rumen out while it’s under attack. Thiamine deficiency can be life-threatening in a goat. Since B vitamins are water-soluble, it would be hard to overdose, so I figure better safe than sorry. I offered baking soda free choice to the goats for a couple weeks as well. I figured it couldn’t hurt to offer something else that might help rumen function. They were very excited about it at first, then the excitement waned, chickens got in the feeder, goat kids knocked it over, human kids kept playing with it, etc. I’d like to start offering it again. It can’t hurt, but it could help. I’ll build another PVC feeder for it to go alongside the mineral feeder to avoid the mess and the waste I was dealing with.

If you’ve stuck with me for this long, congratulations. As you can see, we’ve been through the wringer these last two months. It seems like there is always something. I don’t know if it’s just the time of year, our management practices, a run of bad luck, or what. But I feel like we’re on the upswing. We have to be, right? If you have any wisdom you would like to impart on these newbie goat farmers, please leave a comment below!

 

*Loose mineral feeder: 4″ PVC pipe (mine was about 2 feet long), 45-degree WYE, DWV cleanout, a cap, and a plug. The only thing glued with PVC glue was the WYE to the cleanout, everything else just fit together. The whole thing is held onto the 2×6 portion of our pallet wall with two hose clamps. Since the minerals have been available no one is eating the barn walls anymore.

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