Katherine’s Caprine Corner November/December 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Katherine Drovdahl MH CA CR CEIT DipHIr QTP answers your questions about treats, nutritional deficiencies, and scheduling around holidays when caring for goats.
Q. Can goats have any holiday treats?
A. This is a great place for common sense to come into play. If it’s something we really shouldn’t be eating, it’s something our goats also shouldn’t be eating. Be sure to avoid anything with caffeine in it (like cocoa or chocolate), animal products such as cream cheeses, meats, meat juices, etc., high-sugar products, or products that contain chemicals. (You know, all those things on the back of a label that you can’t pronounce.) An occasional cookie or stick of red licorice isn’t horrid but not something we want to do every day. I’d prefer the veggie tray for them; those carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, and radishes are great but slice everything that is round so that no one chokes on it. Apple and orange slices, banana pieces, or their organic peels will be relished by many.
Q. How do you work holidays with having goat chores, especially milking chores?
A. That is one of the great commitments we make with pets and animals: that we’re going to care for them 365 days a year, no matter if we feel good or whether there is a holiday, vacation, or birthday involved. But you can do several things to make it work better. First of all, we try to never be out of town on a holiday, because we want our helpers to be able to join their families for the holidays rather than look after somebody else’s responsibilities. If you’re having a holiday celebration at home, tweak your schedule so it works around your chores. Stagger chore time where you feed all the animals at dark, saving just the milking itself for later, which will take less time then. We like to do short milkings: less than a 12-hour span between milkings. For example, say we’re going to leave for dinner at 3 p.m. We would milk that morning on normal schedule, then milk again around 1:30 in the afternoon. That gives us until night to get back and do a third milking, which would end up being not more than 12 hours after the previous one. The next morning, we either have the liberty to milk a little later than normal (such as on Christmas morning) or to put them back on their normal schedule.
Q. Can I milk just once a day? How do I know when I can do that?
A. The every-12-hour milk schedule which is one of the difficult things about having dairy goats and why many people do not keep them longer than three years after starting in them. This year, we started leaving our kids on our does. (Only do this if you have a CAE- and Johnes-negative herd.) That allows us to milk just once, in the afternoon or evening, to work around the rest of our schedule. Most goats do milk more than their kids can utilize. For all of those years when we were milking every 12 hours, we could shift them to once a day milking when they were below half of their peak production. For some goats, that was in October and for some not until December. Some herds, depending on when you freshen, may be able to start once a day milking in the summer. So, if she was milking 10 pounds a day in a twice-a-day schedule (meaning that there were no more than five pounds of milk in her udder), I would shift her to once a day when she was below five pounds a day. Then you can set that milking time for whatever is most convenient to you.
Q. What are some signs of mineral or nutritional deficiencies in my herd?
A. The list is ongoing. Some of the things I look for are loss of hair coat color, loss of shine, rough edges on the individual hairs, loss of hair on the bridge of the nose or at the end of a tail (making a forktail), hair loss around the eyes and sometimes around the ears. If I see any of these, I suspect either a copper and or zinc deficiency or parasites consuming too many nutrients. If they seem a little weak on their pasterns or their udder isn’t held up as high, meaning the tendons are weakening, then I consider selenium as a possible deficiency. Goats that go down can also be suffering from metabolic issues caused by calorie deficiencies or deficiencies in calcium in their feed. This is a very abbreviated list. To learn more, consult with your veterinarian or a local goat mentor as to problems common in your area. The best way to avoid these problems is to be proactive. I always keep my goats on kelp mixed with herbal products; then I just don’t have to deal with any of these issues. We also make sure we stay ahead of the game on parasites, which is also easy to do with herbals because I can just keep them on a routine program instead of waiting for a lot of parasite overgrowth then attack with chemicals because by that time we’ve already had parasite damage and nutritional deficiencies.
Q. How do I dry up my goat?
A. The easiest way is to use herbs, and of course, my website has products for that. The next easiest is to first go to once-a-day milking. Then gradually lengthen the amount of time between milkings. Usually for me, once we go to once-a-day and my production goes down again by about another half, I switch milkings to every day and a half. Once I have done that for a few days, assuming the goat continues to back off on her lactation, I just stop milking altogether. I still monitor her to make sure she’s not getting too full or having other issues. Once I can go a whole week without milking her, she probably will be dry. She needs to not be milked for a week before her pituitary gland tells her body do quit making milk. I like using herbs, as it really speeds up the process, especially when you have those that are very determined to make milk.
Blessed holidays to all of you, from us and ours!
Katherine and her beloved hubby keep busy with their LaManchas, livestock, and gardens beneath the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Her Master of Herbology degree as well as other alternative degrees and her lifelong love of livestock combine in her over-500-page book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal. Her popular herbal products and signed copies of her book can be purchased at firmeadowllc.com. You can follow her at facebook.com/FirMeadowLLC.
Originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.