Can Goats Eat Christmas Trees? and More Questions About Goat Health
Goat Diarrhea Begins in The Liver...
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Katherine Drovdahl MH CA CR CEIT DipHIr QTP answers your questions about winter bedding and goat diarrhea that won’t stop! Plus: can goats eat Christmas trees?
Q. I’ve heard that people let the bedding for their goats build up in their stalls. Is this true?
A. Yes, it is common for goat people to let bedding compost in the stalls. In dry weather, fresh straw bedding is usually added every one to two days to cover manure or wet areas. Add bedding whenever you believe your knee would get wet if you knelt in their stall. As long as there is plenty of overhead air to move out odors, this system does work well. Remove bedding once it’s too high. That could be once a month or just two to three times per year. Some people only keep a bit of bedding down and remove it daily during the warm months of the year, and let it sit during the cold months. This is one reason why our current barn has tractor accessible stalls. We put our forklift forks onto the bucket and use it to break up the old bedding, then remove them to drag it out, making a tough job much easier. Our fruit trees, garden, and fields recycle the bedding.
Q. I want to upcycle my Christmas tree. Can goats eat Christmas trees?
A. Maybe? While it’s such a romantic notion to turn your Christmas tree into goat rumen-boosting fodder, consider some things. Do you know the tree’s history? Has it been sprayed with preservatives or flocking? Were herbicides used around it? Did it grow next to a busy roadway and collect exhaust in its cells? Was your tree exposed to lead-based paint candles in the same room? Know what to feed goats vs what they shouldn’t eat: is it a toxic tree like yew (DEADLY!) or Ponderosa pine? Can you remove every last piece of tinsel, ornaments, and hangers so goats don’t have internal punctures or blockages? If you are not sure of your tree’s background or ability to get every single thing off it’s better to not feed it to your darling goats.
Q. I have two young nanny babies. They have running goat diarrhea. I’ve tried Pancure Liquid Wormer orally, Nuflor, and a third medicine but none of that worked. Can you help me with this problem?
A. From my training as Master of Herbology, I know that goat diarrhea is either liver sourced or intestine sourced. The bloodstream may be toxic from a plant or from ingesting a toxic substance like paint from a barn wall or moldy sunflower seeds. Or perhaps too many toxins in the air, such as in overspray from agricultural operations, which ends up in the bloodstream as the red blood cells drop off carbon dioxide and pick up the tainted oxygen. Anything in the bloodstream will be processed by the liver and/or kidneys. Kidney waste leaves the body via the urinary tract so doesn’t cause loose bowels. Liver waste gets dumped near the top of the small intestine and then travels to the anus. Liver toxins can and do produce diarrhea. If the problem is potentially in the liver, then I like to use herbs that help support the liver and enable it to focus on cleaning and healing itself. In this case, it’s not a bad idea to support the liver since the kids have had several drugs run through their bodies. If the diarrhea is sourced in the intestines from food poisoning, coccidia, goat worms or other parasites, or an enterotoxemia event, then I’m going to use herbs that help support the GI tract so that it may rise up to the challenge. Whichever area of the body is involved, it is good that you didn’t wait to take action, as diarrhea in kids can easily become life threatening. I like dandelion, plantain, and milk thistle seed for the liver. For the intestines, I favor cayenne, slippery elm, and turmeric. Whenever you work with an animal and they are not responding to what is being done, it is never a bad idea to get a veterinarian diagnosis. This will help to know what is being dealt with so you can get to cause quicker and more efficiently.
Q. Why do my myotonic does blow on me with their nostrils? If I blow back at them they seem to enjoy it.
A. You are a very perceptive goat keeper! I’m glad you also are blessed with some time to enjoy your goats! So while these animals are not horses, I’m going to lean that direction in my answer. Most mammals, including livestock, have a keen sense of smell. That sense of smell is used to identify food, the incoming weather, their location, their family, and predators or other threats to their well-being. You, my dear, are being accepted as family. By blowing back gently toward their nostrils, you are telling them in their language that you have accepted them as family. That makes for a happy goat! I do this with my goats, alpacas, and my horses. We used to have a yearling with a “type A” personality who went overboard on this. She would stuff her nose into our ears and blow and huff and puff every day! It was so incredibly comical!
Q. Should I take any plant precautions during the fall months?
A. Absolutely! Begin increasing hay feed as their pastures or favorite browse becomes depleted. That is when they are more likely to eat more of a poisonous plant for goats. Be diligent about oak leaves, which could dry your dairy stock up too soon. Also, be sure leaves don’t accumulate in their water to make a toxic tea. Prunus species fruit trees or natives such as choke cherry, apricot, cherry, plum, peach, or other pit fruits will start dropping cyanogenic leaves. They are dangerous in any stage of wilt. Completely wilted leaves are fine as long as goats don’t overindulge to the point of acidosis, which can happen any time they overeat anything. Watch for leaves blowing into pens or for leaf-covered branches breaking into fields. As the nights get crisper and Jack Frost visits, remember that frozen or frosted legumes such as alfalfa and clover will cause hard-to-battle, very dangerous frothy bloat. Never give your goats access to pastures containing legumes while there is frost — including any cold pockets or areas the sun doesn’t shine.
Originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.
Katherine and her beloved husband Jerry farm gardens, LaManchas, and other livestock, pets, and poultry in the Pacific Northwest. As a Master of Herbology she also owns and operates www.firmeadowllc.com which offers hope through herb products and consultations during wellness challenges in people and their beloved creatures. Signed copies of her book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal can also be obtained on her website.