Goats: What We Have Learned So Far
It is hard to believe it has been only two weeks since we brought home our goats. We did our best to prepare ourselves for all things goats. Somehow we still felt terrified bringing 5 new lives into our care. Change has a way of creating all sorts of emotions. The first few days were a blend of joy, fear, and pride. I think there is always an aspect of expectation versus reality from the research that you do. So far, I think that goats have exceeded our expectation for the joy that they bring to the farm.
First, they are so fun! I knew I loved them but they are way more interactive than I anticipated. There is nothing quite like walking outside and seeing the goats running over to greet you. They love being with us. Every time we are outside, they are close by. We have become part of their herd or I suppose they have become part of ours. The amount of affection that they show is so amazing.
The goats have also exceeded our expectations with how they graze. From everything we have read, we knew the goats would be excellent co-grazers with our cows. But seeing them in action is honestly awesome. The cows go straight for grass, the goats go straight to the brush, woody plants, and weeds that the cows won't touch. They don't eat "everything" like some people may think. They are very particular about what plants they eat, and even what part of the plant they eat. Watching them browse around the pasture for their perfect meal is quite a calming experience.
On the other hand, I think that goats have continued to expand our expectations of how important a good nutritious diet is. We have noticed that changes to diet and treatment are much more noticeable in a shorter period of time in comparison to cattle. We started the does on grain, lespedeza pellets, and black oil sunflower seeds. The grain added some weight to the does in just a couple of days. The lespedeza pellets are a natural way to combat parasites, and the sunflower seeds help with the goat's coats.
We learned quite quickly about the risks of grain intake and dehydration with male goats though. Just two days after being on the farm I had to take ChaseTheDream to the emergency vet because he developed a urinary calculi, which can be deadly in goats. This is commonly caused when bucks are fed grain without ammonium chloride. Chase had no access to grain on our farm and his previous owner was very diligent about his food, so we were both shocked to see this happen. I think the stress from transporting him from his previous farm to our was a contributor to the urinary calculi. Thankfully the vet was able to perform a procedure that cleared the blockage and he has recovered nicely. It's also quite a bit easier to handle a 120 pound animal when giving treatment compared to a 700 pound animal. After Chase's procedure, we gave daily shots of anti-inflammatory for 3 days. It is way easier giving shots to goats than cows.
After we knew Chase was going to be okay, we did some additional research on urinary calculi. The only other potential causes are genetics or dehydration. Not really knowing what caused it, we decided to remove any grain from his diet in hopes to prevent any repeat episodes. We have also learned a lot about watching for parasites. Using the FAMACHA score, we can easily check the goats parasite load and determine if they need to be dewormed. The FAMACHA score uses a scale 1-5 based on the color of the mucous membrane of their eye. If the color of the membrane is pink, the goat doesn't have a lot of parasites. If the color is white, it indicates that the goat is anemic from the parasites. We will do this every two weeks or if we suspect something is going on. We gave dewormer to Chase based on his scoring and within just a few days, he is already showing progress in his body weight and coat condition.
Caring for the goats is definitely more time consuming and involved. We muck the barn twice as often because they poop a lot, and we house them in the stalls overnight for their protection. Our cows usually like to sleep outside and do their business outside, so we didn't have to clean up after them as frequently. So if you know anyone selling a UTV with a dump bed... send them our way. Hauling 15 wheelbarrow loads of straw, hay, and manure through 1/2 acre of hilly pasture is not for the faint of heart.
The goats sure have taught us a lot these past two weeks. We have enjoyed all the craziness, well maybe not the emergency part, but truly the goat have been an amazing addition to our farm. We look forward to learning more each day, especially as we get close to kidding season!
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