Katherine’s Caprine Corner May/June 2020
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Q: What should I look for when I open a new field to my goats?
A: What a wise question that many people forget to ask. When I open a new field, I walk the perimeter to reinspect the fencing. Sometimes wire edges poke out or gates aren’t locked, or something has tried to dig in, or a tree or branch may have damaged fencing. Then I crisscross the field looking for holes that may catch legs, for bee/hornet nests or holes (or God forbid a snake den), and for anything else that may damage a goat, like that 80-year-old deteriorating car. I also watch for evidence of predators like scat, hair, or scratching, and I watch for vegetation that could be toxic. Some parts of the country also have sinking sand or very sticky/grabby mud bogs. It’s best to fence those areas off from any of your livestock.
Q: Can I turn my goats out onto their new field and walk away?
A: Wouldn’t that be efficient; but probably not. If a field has vegetation they are not currently used to, you don’t want them to overdo on their newfound foods and get acidosis (GI acidity imbalance that causes diarrhea) or worse yet: enterotoxemia. “Entero,” or overeating disease, happens when flora in the intestines become overwhelmed by foods they are not used to, die off, and create a systemic (bloodstream) toxicity in the goat, which will fatally damage the kidneys if not turned around quickly. To avoid this, be sure to give them their regular morning feeding. About an hour later, when they are starting to cud (with full tummies), is the best time to take them to a new pasture. Until they gain emotional confidence in the new pasture, you will probably have to take them for a walk around it, pausing to let them graze here and there. After about 20 minutes, I call it good and take them back to their pen/pasture that they’ve been in. That afternoon, you can repeat if you like. Every day, add about 10 minutes, twice a day. Once you are about 10 days in, you should be able to just turn them out after their morning feeding, assuming there aren’t toxic plants in the new pasture they would be drawn to.
Q. How expensive is a goat?
A. There are several factors behind the price of a goat. If they have show records on them or their parents (or their fiber), milk records, Linear Appraisal records, fiber histograms, rate of gain records, and/or disease negative blood work, expect to pay more. Some breeds also cost more than others due to popularity or rarity, and costs vary around the country. Just remember that getting a “cheap” goat isn’t necessarily a good idea. Cheap goats more often come without records and without disease testing, which may become expensive to maintain in the long run if major health issues show up. (One vet call erases a “good deal.”) We always say it’s cheaper to feed a well-bred goat with records than one without — because the feed costs the same but the price to sell kids is much better, and likely our production will be better (milk, meat, fiber, pack conformation). I don’t usually look at goats lower than $400 and I’ve paid over $3000 for one. Some have paid over $10,000 for a high-quality goat with sound records. Not to say that good deals can’t be found. But especially if you are newer to goats, well-established breeders generally don’t make deals with homes with an unknown track record. In my area, it costs me about $550 per year, per dairy goat, for feed and supplements. Well-cared-for goats are going to cost you something.
Q. How can I afford to upgrade my herd to higher-quality goats?
A. I love your thinking! The easiest is to sell two to four goats and invest all of that money into one of higher quality. That will be a win-win! You reduce numbers, reduce feet to trim each month, and reduce your feed bill. You also increase your herd quality immediately, rather than taking three or four generations of breeding, money, and years to breed up to the same quality. There is always the risk in breed-ups that kids will inherit traits you were hoping to breed out. This is another reason I work with goats from programs that have been solid for generations. Sell a few goats and get two or three nicer ones and watch your progress go much quicker. Be sure of your current herd’s disease status, as well as the new goats’ status, before bringing new, more expensive goats.
Q. What can I do about staph on udders?
A. Staphylococcus bacteria are a tenacious foe. They are usually picked up from the environment and especially so if you have a goat that likes to lie down on wet ground. My personal go-to is using herbal salves or essential oils. I like myrrh, ginger, and lavender for these. Tea tree and oregano can also be used. If you are using essential oils, be sure to dilute them properly; never use them straight or “neat” on the skin! I usually grab my jar of HerBiotic™ salve. It’s my favorite by far for skin support in situations like this.
I hope you all are enjoying your bouncing kids thoroughly this spring!
Katherine and her hubby divide their time between their LaManchas and livestock, herb and food gardens, and enjoying life in the Pacific Northwest. Katherine also has a livestock and human herb products business, with her Master of Herbology, formulated blends and consultations, available at www.firmeadowllc.com Signed copies of her book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal, are also available on her site.
Originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.