Kat’s Corner: Ear Tattoos and Sore Mouth in Goats
And Can You Use Rainwater for Your Goat's Water Trough?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Katherine Drovdahl MH CA CEIT DipHIr QTP answers your questions about sore mouth in goats, the best ink for goat tattoos, bringing kids home, and sourcing pure contents for your goat water trough.
Q: We have both a well and city water hookups on our place. Which water is better for my goats?
A: Possibly your well water. While I’m never a fan of city water with all of the toxic additives and unfiltered pharmaceutical drugs put in the water, there are also wells that produce salt water, arsenic, sulphur, iron, boron, agricultural or industrial chemicals, nitrates, and other unhealthy or even dangerous problems. Your best bet is to have your water tested for a top 50 to 100 substances. Your county health department will be able to tell you what problems are common in your area as well as places where water samples can be sent. We ALWAYS have water tested before we’ve purchased a place and that is a condition of the fact-finding stage of our real estate contracts.
Q: How can I filter water for my goats’ water trough?
A: There are several ways to provide good water for your goats. My favorite is collecting roof water from clean metal roofs and having that go into my goat’s water trough. This is known as rain barreling and provides distilled water for your herd. If you have problems with dirty roofs from bird waste, you’ll have to skip this easy choice. If you live in an air-polluted area or it’s illegal to collect water where you live, this won’t be a good option for you. My second choice is to have access to a clean creek, spring, irrigation, or stream. Remember that anything upstream including giardia, livestock waste, industry, towns, homes, or agriculture may have a negative impact on that resource. Salt or chemical based water softener systems can often cause mineral imbalances or deficiencies so are not a preferred way to deal with problem water. RV filters are available at many hardware, RV, and variety stores and are a great place to start if you have problematic water. They attach to your faucet and then you can attach your hose onto that. Many people use those when at shows to improve the fairground’s water quality. Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems work real well and would be the best way to go for the long run. Ideally, you would have a system in your pump house before water gets distributed to your farm or home. Do remember to check any filtration system periodically to be sure they are functioning properly and check manufacturer recommendations for filter or item replacement.
Q: How old does a kid need to be for me to take it home?
A: What is your experience with goats? I’m assuming you will have a similar-aged goat buddy, grandma-aged doe, or gentle wether for its company. That aside, if you are new to caring for goats it’s best wait until they are at least four to six weeks old before considering bringing them home. This gives them the opportunity to have a good start to life and it gives you time to learn more about raising a kid. Also, at this age, you can keep them on a bottle and it will help them transition to you and their new home easier. Changing their home, environment, buddies, smells, sounds, and people is always stressful to their hearts and minds. For people that are already experienced in successfully raising kids, I will let them go to a new home as young as 10 days old, which is fairly young but gives us enough time to be sure they are doing well and everything appears normal. For air shipping, we like them four to five weeks old. We try to avoid them moving at two months of age, which is the time the average kid is switching over from antibodies to their own immune system, which is a more fragile time for them. If you move kids at that age, please always compensate the challenge by providing additional immune system support.
Q: What color and type of ink is best for tattooing goats and when do you do them?
A: In my experience, I find the green ink the best for leaving a tattoo that is easy to read for years on end. It seems to hold the best, and is visible whether the tails or ears have black or white skin. For ears, many like the roll-on ink the best. Since I’m almost always doing tail webs on LaManchas, I prefer the paste to get deeper into that fleshy part of the body. For those doing ears, it’s often easiest to do them at the same time you are disbudding. Those of us trying to fit into tails when doing LaMancha standards, ideally I wait until they are a month old. I use a rabbit tattoo gun to have smaller digits to work with that don’t spread as far apart as the kid matures. They can be done at a younger age if needed.
Q: What are the crusty scabs around my goats’ lips and the corner of their mouths?
A: Without being a vet, the very first thing I would suspect is a viral issue called sore mouth in goats. It’s also known as “orf” in the United Kingdom. This painful condition occurs in goats and sheep and can be spread to you, so be careful handling goats with this problem. It most commonly shows up around the lips, nostrils, udder, and teats from nursing kids, and sometimes even between the hooves on goats that itch the scabs on their face with their feet. Sore mouth in goats can be anywhere from a mild nuisance to a big problem. We got this goat illness in our herd from showing exposure about 15 years ago. Kids or goats can have such problems that they can’t nurse or eat due to pain in their mouths, which can cause them to go downhill within a day or two. They also can get a secondary infection present in the area from scratching their face with a dirty hoof, so watch all those scabbed areas to make sure they aren’t swelling or forming pus. Once they have had orf, they tend to be immune to it and often will pass the immunity on to their next litter of kids. Antiviral and astringent/drying herbs/herb salves can be put on the lesions to help the body to speed up the healing process. Falling scabs will infect your property for sore mouth in goats that come new to your place. You can don gloves and scrape under tail skin and use a swab (or better some scabbing) and rub it on the scraped tail to give it to goats if it’s just starting in your herd. That way you are controlling WHERE they get it will likely go through the herd. This goat care helps protect faces and udders, and keeps babies from being unable to nurse. It also helps you get it through the herd much quicker.
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Katherine and her beloved husband Jerry are owned by their LaManchas, horses, alpacas, and gardens on a small piece of Washington State paradise. Her varied international alternative degrees and certifications, including Master of Herbology, and lifelong experience with creatures of many kinds give her unique insight into guiding others through human or creature wellness problems. Her wellness products and consultations, as well as signed copies of her book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal, are available at www.firmeadowllc.com.