Katherine’s Caprine Corner January/February 2020

Katherine’s Caprine Corner January/February 2020

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Q. How should I feed my bred does while they are pregnant? 

A. We want to feed according to the stage of pregnancy, also known as gestation in animals. There are three trimesters. The first trimester has the greatest risk of creating birth defects. The second trimester tends to be a slower but steady growth and more detailed formation of all the body parts and organs while the third trimester is mainly concerned with rapid growth of the kids in utero. Of course, that is very simplified but will work well for your feeding plans. The first trimester is the most critical for keeping your goats away from molds and other toxins. It also happens to coincide for many with the time period that molds are more likely to grow as weather changes toward fall and winter. If you feed black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) as I do, watch them very carefully for mold. They will mold inside of the seed before light graying shows on the outside. Be sure they are hole-free and don’t smell “off” as you open a bag. Always keep them and your other feeds in a dry place. Check every flake of hay before you toss it out. If it has “dust,” which is often mold spores, or other color or smell irregularities, check it carefully. Fresh clean water, without hard water minerals, goes without saying to ensure a good start on your next generation. I avoid corn, which now is allowed to have up to deadly levels of highly hepatotoxic aflatoxins for goats in them; or at the very least enough to impair them and the unborn on a cellular level. Watch for airborne and other chemical toxins as well. Also, clean-feed. I tend to feed half alfalfa and half quality grass hay first trimester if they are not lactating, and regular lactation feeds (alfalfa, rolled grains, BOSS, kelp, herbal supplements) if they are. The second trimester generally finds me just monitoring their weight and adjusting feed accordingly so that they have some fleshing through the winter. We don’t want weight loss while they are pregnant as that can create metabolic issues like ketosis, but we don’t want fat gain either as long as they have at least ½ inch of pinch below their elbows. The third trimester is a very important time to plan to introduce additional carbohydrates (grains) and plant-based minerals. Increase their feed every week over these last seven weeks until you have them at full milking ration at kidding time. 

Q. Why are mineral feeds important while my does are pregnant? 

A. Plant mineral feeds are VERY important during pregnancy AND lactation. So, for many milkers, especially dairy goats, that basically means most of their life. Think of a goat’s bones as their savings account for minerals. We need to provide enough minerals for the doe’s daily cellular use, for her pregnancy, for her growth if she is under about four years old, and for her lactation, if she is in milk. Wow! That’s a lot of work! We also want to remember that the first-trimester kid’s nervous system is very mineral-dependent along with their growth in the other two trimesters. Because of these considerations, I need enough plant minerals for her to have extra to store in her bones to build them up. She will need them to keep her pasterns strong through the third trimester and to be ready for milking to avoid milk fever. Plant minerals are readily available to your goat’s system to use and build bone with. Mineral-rich plant foods I like for my goats include alfalfa, kelp, comfrey, carrots, dandelions (if your soil is calcium-rich), some inner tree barks, and some plant roots. 

Katherine Drovdahl receives kisses from Royal Cedars Annie Oakley in Boise, Idaho. Photo by Laura Middleton.

Q. How do I keep my hay from molding in the winter months? 

A. Healthy hay is so important for a goat that we definitely want to protect it! You need to keep overhead and windblown precipitation off, keep it off of the ground and stack only dry hay. Vapor barriers are extremely important on metal roofing to avoid having condensation rain on your hay. We also keep it OFF of the ground by stacking it on pallets. Air movement around the hay helps avoid both molding and internal combustion. Bales can combust into fire if hay is baled too damp or damp hay is stacked too tightly. Any bales that feel “heavy” often are higher in moisture content and we don’t put them in the barn and feed them right away. If we have several then I’ll pull the hay ropes and separate the flakes to dry. Rock salt can also be sprinkled between rows of bales to help draw minor moisture out of them. To increase air movement around the hay, we keep a gap between our haystacks and the walls. We also stack bales about four high onto a pallet and then use our tractor to stack pallets so that air can move midway through the stacks. It also makes it handy for handling as we can pull a preloaded hay pallet with the tractor to move it to our livestock barn rather than moving it by hand. 

Q. I have a doeling that was accidentally bred at five months old. What can I do? 

A. Is the doeling moderate- to strong-boned as opposed to fine-boned? Is she otherwise growthy for her age? Is she in good health? Do we still have three or more months to work with? In those situations, I have had people carefully but on a weekly schedule increase the plant nutrition levels and calories (while watching her for proper weight) of the doeling to really support their ability to be well plant-mineralized and to encourage them to continue to grow well during pregnancy. This has resulted in normal kiddings. If they are much younger than that or are fine-boned, small, or not well, work with your veterinarian or a wellness professional to help you assess the situation. 

Happy New Year, everyone! May this one be your best ever! 

Katherine Drovdahl and husband Jerry keep LaManchas, horses, alpacas, and gardens in the Pacific Northwest. Her training includes Master of Herbology, International: Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Iridology, and Quantum-Touch Energy Medicine. Her herbal goat, animal, and human wellness products, consultation, and signed copies of The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal, are available at www.firmeadowllc.com. Also, check out the Fir Meadow LLC  Facebook page and blog. 

Originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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