Katherine’s Caprine Corner July/August 2020
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Q. It seems like my goat has allergies. Is this possible?
A. Yes, it certainly is possible for a goat (or any mammal) to have allergies. Allergies tend to be an overactive immune response to some substance in their environment. In people, there is a high correlation between allergies and tetanus vaccinations and I suspect that we may also see that link in livestock.* Goats being raised conventionally tend to get quite a bit of exposure through CD/T (the T being for tetanus) vaccinations. I like to direct people to supporting/cleaning the liver, which almost always has a positive effect long-term. I also use system-support herbs that have natural antihistamine qualities and upper respiratory support to get comfort now. We use herb blends such as ALG™, BreatheDeeple™, and Fresh Start ™ for those, but one can also use individual herbs with some success such as nettle, rooibos, thyme, and dandelion.
Q. When should I wean my kids?
A. This is a question people handle in many different ways. Dairies usually switch kids over to milk replacer fairly young. If you do this, buy the highest quality possible because it will have a direct impact on your kids’ immunity and longevity. I personally don’t like replacers because I don’t know how they can put in ingredients to be a milk “substitute” that we haven’t even discovered yet. Also, during a doe’s lactation her milk will change according to what the kids would need at that age and stage of growth. This can’t be duplicated with replacers. I was taught, when I first got into goats, to wean at eight weeks of age. This really is more for goat owner convenience than it is for the goat kids. It’s a tough time to stress kids with a change like weaning, because eight weeks is when most stop relying on antibodies from colostrum and rely on their own immune systems. I like to have them on milk for at least four months, which is the age many dams would be weaning their kids and some kids will self-wean. By then their rumens are functioning quite well to be on hay, pasture, forage, and concentrates (grains) and they have gotten used to them for some time. Now having said that, we often feed milk longer because we hand-raise (raise the kids separately from the dams). The milk provides more nutrition for them than grain does and why should I be buying them grain when I have excess milk? So, we often feed some milk into the fall as well as sharing it with old goats and our guardian dogs. We’ve also shared it with poultry, aged horses, and hogs. So when you wean is up to you; but I hope this gives you some things to think about as you develop your plan.
Q. How should I wean my hand-raised kids? What about dam-raised?
A. Weaning hand-raised kids is fairly easy. As mentioned above, I AVOID doing that at two months of age due to immunity switching in their bodies. If my kids are eating their hay, grain, pasture, and browse well and drinking water well, I start by eliminating one feeding per day: usually the evening feeding because they have been up eating all day. We give them a lambar of warm water to reduce stress and keep them well hydrated. I take them another lambar of water midday if it’s particularly hot. We continue to give milk in the morning and water in the evening for about two weeks. Then we cut off the evening water and just feed morning water in their lambar. We do not water down our milk, as kids need to curd the milk in their GI tract to fully utilize it. We continue the morning lambar water at least a week. Then as long as they are drinking water well from their stock tank or water buckets, you should be good to go.
Q. Should I do anything special for my bucks this time of year to be ready for breeding this fall?
A. Absolutely! Your buck’s body is preparing to be in rut come this fall (or perhaps all year if you have a breed that can breed year-round). Think of him as an athlete. If an athlete took time off to quit training and eating right, they wouldn’t be in such great shape when games begin. Giving your bucks pasture access if possible, quality hay, grain, and good quality mineral (I LOVE kelp!) and salt access is important for him year-round. I also love taking them prunings from shrubs, trees, and herbs a few times a week. We like to check feet monthly, which is also a great time to give him a haircut, which allows more sun and air to his skin. Make sure he has an adequate shelter to get out of the sun. Paying attention to him now will give you a buck that is likely to be healthier, have more weight, and can add to his longevity as well. His sperm can only be as healthy as the inputs that go into him year-round, not just six weeks before he starts breeding.
*Hurwitz, E.L., et al. “Effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or tetanus vaccination on allergies and allergy-related respiratory symptoms among children and adolescents in the United States.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2000;23:1-10
Katherine and her hubby farm LaManchas, fjord horses, and alpacas as well as herbs, veggies, berries, and orchards on their little piece of paradise in the Pacific Northwest. Katherine is also an author with a Master of Herbology degree and has also owned farm animals including horses for most of her life. You can find her goat and livestock herb products, signed copies of her herbal livestock book, and consultations at www.firmeadowllc.com.
Originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.