Raising Goats - An Overview of the Management Practices on the Farm
Farms are unique, management practices diverse. For those in purchasing from my herd or for those simply curious, I would like to detail some of the management practices here. I believe that information is incredibly helpful when making purchasing decisions! For instance, I am always sure to inquire about parasite management before purchasing from other herds. I will explain why shortly...
Biosecurity Testing I do test for CAE and Johnes and have not had a positive of either. Most recently, the herd was tested in late 2018. I do not test for CL because the blood test is so inaccurate. The herd has always been abscess-free. The majority of animals I purchase are from long-time negative herds. Raising Kids For the most part, I dam-raise or co-raise if I would like to milk the dam. As of now, I do not pull kids at birth unless it is necessary for the health or safety of the kid(s) or dam. I prefer to feed raw goat milk, raw cow milk, or a quality milk replacer made for goats - my preference is Doe's Match - or a combination of those. I will not feed whole milk from the grocery store. I firmly believe the "friendly" factor in goats is determined by the goat's personality and socialization. I like to spend a lot of time with my dam-raised kids. I like my bottle kids to spend a lot of time with the rest of the herd to learn to properly goat.
Parasites I do not practice coccidia prevention. Why? I find it unnecessary to treat for coccidia when the herd simply doesn't have an issue with that particular parasite. Coccidiosis is more likely to occur at farms with indoor housing and high numbers of goats in a small area, especially in unsanitary, dim conditions. Not the conditions here! Did you know that sunlight can kill coccidia? Pretty cool, right? I do not deworm on a schedule, rotate dewormers, or use herbal dewormers. Read more about deworming practices at the blog post "Are You Deworming Your Goats Correctly?" and the website wormx.info. To summarize, both schedules and rotation leads to anthelmentic resistance in internal parasites. What does that mean? Those nasty little buggers become too tough to kill! Absolutely bad news. Additionally, even if your deworming practices are stellar, new goats can harbor resistant parasites and introduce them into your herd. This is why I ask about the deworming practices of other farms - I do not want to accidentally bring in parasites that are resistant to the dewormer class I use. I do not use herbal dewormers because I have yet to see a peer-reviewed, scientific study that proves herbal dewormers can match the efficacy of synthetic dewomers. Yes, I have read several studies in which different plants had anthelmentic properties. But none come close to that 97% efficacy that marks a synthetic dewormer as effective. I think herbal dewormers and other things like serecia lespedeza and copper oxide wire particles etc. need to be used as PART of a parasite management program, but not be the backbone of it. I have yet to see fecal egg count reduction tests from folks who do use herbal dewormers - hearing "it works great" is not good enough for me. I need to see egg counts before and after treatment. If you have those, send them my way! I always want to learn. I also speculate it would prove difficult to get consistency in herbal dewormers. Plants have a different nutritional value in different seasons, stages of growth, in different soils, different years - I imagine those factors would also change the amount of whatever compound has anthelmentic properties. I WILL treat an animal if it needs it. If I happen to have an animal that cannot handle a parasite burden or the foraging conditions at the farm, I will treat, supplement, and dry-lot, whatever I can do to get that animal healthy again. I do NOT ignore the health of the animal because I keep track of treatment averages and the parasite resilience and resistance of individual animals and the herd. As of now, I use Ivermectin and Valbazen combo when I need to deworm (unless it is a pregnant doe, then the Ivermectin is paired with Safeguard and/or a copper oxide wire particle bolus.)
Here at the holler, brush grows plenty. Slowly but surely, I am building up the soil and getting pastures established. The goats have 24/7 access to forage, with a few exceptions, such as does temporarily penned in kidding stalls. While I am not set up to rotate exactly, I do have several pastures so I can move goats around and let the forage recover. This also helps manage parasites - the taller the pasture and forage, the less likely your animals will pick up infective larvae. When the pasture is low in the summer, I often cut trees or brush to supplement their diet. Serecia Lespdeza grows naturally here and makes excellent summer forage but cannot take intensive grazing all year as it is the woody-stemmed variety. Mixed grass hay is offered usually free-choice all winter. I have been able to put up serecia lespedeza hay in the past - it is fed as a supplement to but not in place of grass hay. I try to feed Chaffhaye, but its use is limited here because of the heat and humidity of summer - I don't always have the freezer space to store it. I have only recently been able to get alfalfa or alfalfa and orchard grass mix. Since it is limited quantity, it is usually reserved for growing doelings or lactating does. When I feed grain (when the goats need a boost to their diet - growing, lactating, in rut etc.) I feed a pelleted goat ration or 18% dairy ration, both from my local feedstore. I often add dry shredded beet pulp to this. Many of my goats hate alfalfa pellets, but I do often offer them in the winter or during lactation. Bucks typically get 15% goat ration all year, since they are in a small pasture and then go into rut. Dry does get minimal or no grain, especially in summer to fall when forage is the most abundant. Of course, there are a few exceptions to all of this. I keep out free-choice loose mineral - Stockade Meat Maker 16:8, non-medicated. I have tried
several minerals and this has worked the best so far. In a recent (November 2020) experiment, I am offering kelp meal.