FIVE BASICS OF RAISING GOATS
Goats are the most difficult species of livestock to raise. Learning how to work with them can be a frustrating experience. You will better understand goats if you think of them as DEER. Once you learn to "think like a goat" -- to understand how they live, see, and interact with the world around them -- you will begin to recognize issues as they occur and even learn to anticipate problems. Your life will be easier and the lives of your goats will be healthier.
INTERNAL PARASITES: Goat health revolves around controlling the blood-sucking, anemia-causing barberpole stomach worm that kills them. An established deworming program that involves random monthly fecal egg counts using microscope and McMasters (gridded) slide is critical to the health of your goats.
Just because you dewormed does NOT mean that it worked. Only fecal egg counts provide that vital information. Do fecal egg counts before you deworm. Determine the number of eggs per gram. Choose a dewormer and give it ORALLY at goat-specific dosage. Seven (7) days after you have dewormed, do fecal egg counts again. If you didn't get a 95% reduction in the number of eggs ("kill rate"), then your dewormer didn't work. All it did was kill the susceptible worms while the resistant worms survived. You have to start all over with a new class of dewormer. In most parts of the USA, the "white-colored" dewormers (Safeguard, Panacur, and Valbazen) don't kill stomach worms anymore.
THE DEWORMER TO USE IS THE ONE THAT YOU DETERMINE WORKS WITH YOUR GOATS ON YOUR PROPERTY BY PERFORMING FECAL EGG COUNTS WITH A MICROSCOPE AND McMASTERS GRIDDED SLIDES. Use this dewormer until it quits working. Do not rotate dewormers. When it quits working, change to a different class of dewormer and continue random monthly fecal egg counts as well as fecal egg counts before and 7 days after deworming.
You can use FAMACHA eye membrane checks as a guideline to your goats' health, but only fecal egg counts tell you what is really going on inside the goat. Any color other than RED or BRIGHT RED is indicative of a wormload.
Go to the Articles page on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and read the article entitled HOW TO DO YOUR OWN FECALS. Buy the MSK-01L microscope with a movable stage, fecal floatation solution, gridded McMasters slides, pipettes, tubes/containers and other supplies and learn to do your own fecals. It isn't rocket science. At 2023 prices, you can likely buy all of these items for about $300 on Amazon.com. It doesn't take long to spend $300 having a vet do fecal counts (or lose $300 when a goat dies from worms). You will have firsthand knowledge of wormloads in your goats in the timeframe in which you need this information by performing your own fecals.
ACREAGE: Sufficient acreage is critical so the goats aren't in constant contact with worms, both in pasture and in feces. GOATS CANNOT BE FEED-LOTTED. They can't handle the stress (and disease) caused by living in close quarters and they can't overcome the worm load that builds up with constant exposure to fecal material in overcrowded conditions.
Raising 25 or 30 goats on 10 acres is a feedlot. Stocking rates for goats are all about reducing exposure to feces so that the wormload can be controlled. If your goats are wormy, you are overcrowded.
Goats live like DEER. They need space to roam over. They stress easily. They need low population density. They need to eat "from the top down" (leaves and weeds) to avoid microscopic stomach worms that live at ground level and on grass blades as tall as eight (8) inches above ground level. Worms can go into hypobiosis (hibernation) in pregnant does; when the doe goes into labor, the worms "wake up," re-start their life cycle, and are waiting on the ground for her kids to consume them when they take their first bite.
WORMS ALWAYS OUT-ADAPT GOATS. WORMS ALWAYS WIN if the conditions you provide do not allow goats enough space to prevail over the worms. This means lots of area over which to forage-browse.
Many people don't have enough land upon which to raise goats. WET equals WORMS. Much of the USA is too wet to raise goats successfully. Goats as a species are dry-land animals. If you insist on raising goats in wet environments, you must keep your stocking rates super low and put extra focus on fecal counts.
The worm to focus on controlling is the strongyle known as Haemonchus contortus, the barberpole stomach worm, which sucks blood, causes anemia, deoxygenates the body, and kills goats. The protozoan that you need to control is Coccidia. Detailed articles on worms, coccidia, stocking rates, nutrition, shelter, illnesses, and many other things goat related are available on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
SHELTER & WEATHER: Goats need protection from wind and rain. They also need shade, especially darker colored goats. Goats expel heat from their bodies through their horns. If disbudded or dehorned, goats can overheat and die. Goats, especially kids, have trouble maintaining internal body temperature during wide swings of temperatures. A goat that is mouth breathing is a goat in trouble.
NUTRITION: If your goats aren't properly fed, you will have problems. Proper goat nutrition is difficult to get right. Most people either overfeed or underfeed. You have to know what you are feeding nutrition-wise. If you mix your own feed or buy it from someone who does the same and isn't a trained goat nutritionist, then you have no idea what amount of protein, fat, fiber, energy, vitamins, and minerals you are feeding.
Goats as a species have a very fast rumen passage rate (11 to 15 hours). Whatever the goat eats, it must be palatable, easy to digest, and highly nutritious or the goat's digestive system won't have time to extract nutrients from it. Cattle can survive on dead grasses in poor pastures because their rumen passage rate is two-and-one-half to three days-- plenty of time to break out nutrients from poor-quality plant materials. Believing that goats can eat anything is 180* out of sync with reality. You can't "starve the profit" out of goats. i.e. cutting back on quality feed will do nothing but cause disaster. Properly-fed goats are healthy goats.
Develop a relationship with a goat nutritionist at the plant that produces your feed and have that professional analyze your particular needs. There is usually no charge for this valuable service if you are buying their feed. I am a believer in providing 3/16 inch pelleted feed. Textured (horse & mule-type) feed has a molasses base that molds easily. Mold kills goats in multiple ways, including but not limited to Listeriosis. I developed the protocol for treating Listeriosis years ago. The treatment regimen works, if diagnosed early, but it is time consuming, tedious, expensive, and exhausting. Avoid such problems by not feeding sacked or bulk feed that can easily mold. Keep the feed room securely locked and located away from the goats. Goats can overeat and founder, just like horses.
When buying hay, never tell the seller that you raise goats. Most hay raisers and sellers think goats can eat anything. Ignorance about goats is mind-boggling. Tell them you want to buy horse-quality hay. I never feed hay with mold on it. This includes silage, baleage, haylage, and alfalfa that has been packaged with high moisture content (Chaffhaye-type products).
Test your hay. Dairy One Lab in New York can provide a basic analysis via their postage-paid mail-in sampler for about $25 (2023 prices), or find a local lab through your livestock nutritionist or agricultural extension agent. You can't look at hay and determine if it is good quality. You (or your goat nutritionist) can take samples of plant materials in your pastures for nutritional analysis too. Spend the money necessary to buy good quality feed and hay for your goats. Don't buy all- stock feed or other species feed for goats. There is a good reason that bags of feed for goats say GOAT feed. PROPER NUTRITION HELPS PREVENT HEALTH PROBLEMS IN GOATS.
Get these five basics of raising goats right and managing your goats become much easier and your goats will be much healthier when you approach their world from the goats' point of view.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 2.1.23
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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
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