Katherine’s Caprine Corner March/April 2019
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Katherine Drovdahl MH CA CR DipHIr CEIT QTP answers your questions about pasture management, kelp for goats, deworming pregnant does, disbudding kids, and when to take kids home.
When should I deworm my pregnant does and my kids?
Since most goats reinfect themselves from their pasture, pens, and facilities on a regular basis, they should be dewormed every three weeks to break parasite life cycles. For those that use chemical dewormers, this presents a couple of issues. One is parasites building resistance to products. The other is increased toxicity of the liver, any unborn kids, and cells in your goats. The awesome thing about quality herbal deworming products (which the FDA doesn’t allow us to label as dewormers) is that those problems become non-issues. Because of that, I prefer to have my herd on a twice-a-week herbal program to deal with parasites long before they become system-damaging adolescents or adults.
I start kids the day they enter the barn. In my herd that’s at four to five days of age because, at that point, they are exposed to parasites in their environment. The result? Strong, growthy kids. Our LaManchas often hit 80 lbs at just five to six months of age; 30-60 days ahead of schedule. Many get close to 100 lbs when I breed them at seven months of age.
What is the best pasture management for goats?
In general on my farm, we’d like a pasture with grass and browse at least four inches in height. That is because most parasite larvae hang around at the one to two-inch level of the plant. Once the pasture is shorter, it’s ideal to then move to another that isn’t that short or to dry lot them until the pasture regains its height. We also like brush or browse access for the mineral density and for the woody material to encourage a healthy caprine rumen environment.
Why do some herd keepers feed their goats kelp?
I’m convinced that if everyone fed kelp there would be fewer wellness issues in their herds. Kelp is the most mineral-dense plant that we currently are aware of on the planet. Animals that grow fast or are used for milk production require a large amount of mineral-rich plants. These plants will not build to excess in their systems as rock-based or synthetic sources will. I look for cold-water-sourced kelps and I also taste it to be sure it hasn’t been cut with salt to increase manufacturer profits. Good kelp should just barely taste salty. You will also want to provide access to sea salt or another good quality salt. Organic sea salt is less expensive than the fad types from different regions of the world and is just as good.
What age should my kids be to disbud them?
It depends. Our standard-size Swiss, LaMancha, and Boer breeds normally get disbudded at three to five days of age unless under five lbs, weak or ill, or their horn buds are slow to present. Many people with Nubian types and mini breeds have more time before they need to disbud. The ideal time is when the horn bud is up about a millimeter, just enough to hold the disbudding iron in place if the kid moves its head. The head also needs to be large enough that the disbudder stays away from the eye area. Nearly all bucklings benefit from being done sooner than the doe kids, because of their oval-shaped horn buds grow faster. Please do not let the horns get even ½ inch tall. That is much too tall to do a fast and through disbudding.
When can I take my new kid home?
That depends on your experience level. I prefer to keep kids here for at least ten days before I’ll let them go to an experienced goat keeper that provides real goat milk for them (not replacer). I want to make sure my babies are off to a good start and that there are no visible abnormal issues. They are still a bit fragile at that point but are much more likely to move forward when released to expert care. For those that are newer to goats, I prefer to hold kids for four weeks to get them past the most fragile stages. By this point, they readily consume hay and move toward rumen development. Also at a month old, their tails are larger to take a tattoo. I avoid moving kids at the two-month-old mark as this is when they are switched from antibodies consumed at birth to their own immune systems. This time period, they are at an increased likelihood of getting sick.
Do you have questions for Katherine’s Caprine Corner? Email email@example.com and your questions may be answered in a future issue.
Katherine and her husband Jerry continue to be managed by their ever crafty herds of LaManchas, Fjords, and alpacas on their farm with gardens, orchards, and hay in the Pacific Northwest. She also offers hope through herbal products and wellness consultations for people and their beloved creatures at www.firmeadowllc.com as well as signed copies of her book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal.
Originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy