Posts in category: Animal Husbandry



Vaccinate your goat

Marissa     Animal Husbandry         2    

Having a couple of pets in the city means at least yearly visits to the vet. But having livestock is different. Most farmers do a fair bit of their own vetting. The easiest of which is giving vaccinations. It’s not cost effective to have a vet out to give shots to your whole herd so it is one of the first vetting skills you should master. Plus, it’s easy!

This is about one particular vaccine – CD/T – that we give subcutaneously (subQ).

To give vaccinations, you first need to know what your goats (or other livestock) needs. There are a lot of possibilities out there and your choice will depend on your area as well as your own personal opinions. The one vaccine we give to our goats without fail every year is called CD/T (or CD&T or CD-T). It stands for Clostridium perfringinstypes types C and D and tetanus toxoid. The first is what causes ‘enterotoxemia’ or over-eating disease. And tetanus is the same thing as in humans and can be quite fatal. So we vaccinate.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to do your own vaccines. In fact, you really only need 4 things – the vaccine, an alcohol wipe, the needle and the syringe. For our adult goats, we use an 18 gauge needle. They are sized like piercing or wire – the bigger the number, the smaller the size. For babies, we use 22 gauge. Here are all the supplies you need…plus a curious goat schnoz. (I narrowly missed catching the goat pick up the needle in her mouth! Good thing it was still in the sleeve and she didn’t swallow…)


When you purchase new vaccines (or other meds sold in these types of bottles) there is usually a metal ring around the whole top with a ‘button’ in the middle. Just pop the button off and leave the metal around the rubber stopper. You will put the needle through the rubber part, so you don’t need to open the whole bottle up. The alcohol wipe is to clean the top of the bottle. I have to admit that I don’t always do this. But with a new bottle or one that is stored out in the open, I always do. This particular vaccine we store in the fridge which is pretty clean, but I wiped it anyway. Just a simple swipe to get anything off that you might otherwise push into the sterile contents of the container with the needle.


With that done, it’s time to actually draw the medicine. Open the syringe (they come in either the paper/plastic package as shown or a hard plastic tube. I prefer the pictured packaging because it seems like less waste). Attach the needle to the syringe. There are two attachment methods – lure-slip and lure-lock. I prefer the lock – you turn the base of the needle about a half turn into threads on the syringe. I have found that most vets prefer the slip – you just push the base of the needle onto the end of the syringe. Either is fine, it’s just a preference. Just be sure you get needles and syringes that match as they aren’t interchangeable.

The first step of drawing the vaccine is to pull the syringe plunger back to the amount you want. This vaccine is 2 cc for any goat, no matter the size or age. So I pull the plunger back to 2 cc, filling the syringe with air.


Then stick the needle into the bottle of medicine and push the air in. Hold the bottle upside down and make sure the needle is still in the liquid – when a bottle is partially empty, you don’t want the needle in the air above. All of this allows the liquid to flow easily – otherwise, you would be pulling a vacuum in the container and it would be difficult to draw. In fact, after you push in the air, you can let go of the plunger and the syringe will start filling without much effort from you. Go ahead and pull back to the 2 cc line again.


Even with this method, you will end up with some air in the syringe. For this type of shot it won’t kill the animal to have a tiny air bubble in there but you might as well get it out. After you pull the needle out, hold the syringe perfectly upright and tap a bit to get any bubbles in the middle. BARELY squeeze the plunger in until you get a drop from the needle. Of course, you will frequently squirt a bit out instead of one drop. Don’t worry – it won’t be too much so you won’t need to refill unless you really squeezed hard. The whole needle will be full so your plunger might not read exactly 2 cc anymore, but it should be close.


Now the real fun begins. Sometimes we give shots in the milk room with a goat in the stanchion, other times I give them shots “in the field”. I actually prefer the later because the light is better and I have more freedom to get into position. But if it’s a difficult or very large goat, they go into the stanchion.

The first, and most important, step of giving shots in the field is to PUT THE CAP ON THE NEEDLE. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled with a goat with the needle hanging out and me terrified I’m going to stab something I shouldn’t. So get the cap on until you have the goat in position.

I prefer the method of forming a stanchion with my legs. I face the goat and move the goat’s head between my legs until the shoulders are against my thighs. Squeeze enough so that when the goat’s natural instinct to flee kicks in, he or she is pushing on your legs with the shoulders and doesn’t simply slip between your legs. Bend your knees some too so you can brace yourself!


Once you are in position, pull the cap off the needle (I use my mouth…and yes the vaccine tastes bad!). This vaccine (most vaccines) are injected subcutaneously (subQ), meaning underneath the skin and not in the muscle. There are several places to do this but I have found the easiest to be right behind where the front leg meets the body. Pull the skin up into a ‘tent’ – find the loosest section of skin you can. You can poke one finger onto the skin tent to get a good idea of where the needle will go. Goats are hairy so sometimes you need to use feel more than look.


Once the tent is pulled up, just stick the stick the needle in and push the plunger! Make sure you only go through one layer of skin – it’s the first ‘pop’. You’ll know if you go through two – the liquid will run down the goat’s leg. I’ve also had goats squirm enough that the needle comes out and again the liquid goes down the leg. Just take a deep breath and do it again! You will know when you did it right when there is a small lump under the skin. You can use the same needle a few times but it gets more dull with every poke, making it harder to insert and hurting the animal more.

That’s it! You will save a lot of time and money learning to do simple shots like this yourself. Shots in the muscle are only a wee but harder so don’t feel apprehensive about learning that either.




Protecting the poultry

Marissa     Animal Husbandry         1    

One day about two weeks ago we awoke to bad news. One of the 60+ ducks had died in the night. There didn’t appear to be anything wrong with her, but ants were covering her neck and busily going about their undertaker duties. I decided it was a freak accident. Just one of those things. The next morning there was another dead duck! No chance of two freak accidents. This one also didn’t seem to have any major damage except that which may have been caused by ants. She also was about to lay an egg and sick poultry don’t lay, so we just couldn’t figure out what was going on. We’ve had an awful year with the fire ants. They are EVERYWHERE. I have the bites to prove it. I actually wondered if the ants could be killing the ducks in their sleep…

Well, the third morning and we had another big piece to the puzzle. There was yet another dead duck, but this time all that was left was bones and feathers. There was extensive digging under the walls and the wire floor was exposed. Let me describe the duck house a bit. It’s mostly just a rectangular structure that is completely covered in 2″ x 4″ welded wire mesh – walls, ceiling and floor (which then has several inches of dirt on top). On one side of this run are low nesting areas. They have solid metal walls to keep it dark and a slanted roof at about waist height that is hinged from the outside so you can reach in and grab the eggs. This is the area that the last two ducks were found. Here’s the best shot I have of the low nesting area off the run. It’s the all metal part.

Duck Nesting Area

We’ve had them for several years in this enclosure with no predator problems before. We scratched our heads and just couldn’t figure out what was getting in there. Scott spent much of the day adding 7 inches of metal skirting into the ground around the nest area. We didn’t know if this would be enough, but weren’t sure what else to do without knowing what exactly was going on.

That night, we went out for a check once it was fully dark. We snuck out there and turned on the flashlights to see a teenage raccoon at the feed trough – outside the duck house. The raccoon slowly ambled off and we checked the perimeter for any signs of digging. It all looked safe. I decided to open up the nest area since with the solid metal walls, you can’t see in. There are two flaps to the roof and I opened the nearest one. All looked fine. Except…what was that?

“Hey Pa, does that look like a wet foot print to you?”

It must have been from one of the ducks we decided…though it looked odd. We were about to head in for the night, figuring that we had done what we could. I took one last look in the nest area but decided to peer under the other flap. WHAT?!?!? There was a raccoon, just hanging out IN THE NEST AREA! I couldn’t believe it. By this time Kevin and Leslie had joined us and we all stood around coming up with crazy theories on how the raccoon got in there (he must have been hiding out in there during the day, waiting to be closed in, etc). We wanted to see what he would do so we watched as he came out from the nesting area into the main wire run. He just went over the the mesh and squuueeezzzed and squiiiirrrmmmed and somehow got his fat little body through 2″ x 4″ mesh! He wasn’t a full grown raccoon, but it was still a feat to behold. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself.  We concluded the previous two ducks had likely had their necks wrung through the wire mesh before one of the teenage raccoons realized he could squeeze in. That’s why the ants were concentrated on the necks of the birds.

Wire mesh on duck enclosure

We couldn’t do much that night – it was nearly 11:00 and we had nothing we could really do. Fortunately, there is one section of the poultry housing that only has 1″ chicken wire and the rest is solid walls. We herded all 60+ ducks into the tiny brooder house. They had room to move but it looked more like a “cage free” commercial poultry operation with each bird having just a square foot to be in. But it was only for the night and it would save their lives.

We spent the next few days madly installing 1″ x 2″ mesh over the entire run. Scott even had bronchitis and was out there working on this! Finally the last few pieces went up and the ducks were free to spread out in their enclosure each night. Whew. It’s been a week and no new predation. I think we finally have this one licked. The chicken coop still has some exposed areas of 2″ x 4″ mesh but they are on windows high up so hopefully the coons don’t discover them until we get around to covering those too!

Installing smaller mesh on duck enclosure

The ducks are back to happy critters and are producing lots and lots of delicious eggs. We no longer supply eggs to the restaurant we originally contracted with (and the reason we got the 60 ducks in the first place!) so we are looking around for more customers. If you know of a restaurant/caterer that is interested in pastured duck eggs, send them our way!

Duck Eggs





Introducing Cocoa

Marissa     Animal Husbandry         1    

Last week, while very very sick with the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had, I got a call from an old friend needing a favor. I asked a million questions and finally couldn’t help but say yes. I had agreed to take on an elderly miniature horse!


We are not horse people – never had them, not really even had a desire to have them. Honestly, horses kinda scare me. I love having our neighbor’s horses in our big wooded pasture because I can visit them over the fence and don’t have to deal with them at all except to watch them be big beautiful creatures. But having our own horse? Well, there’s no time like the present! Once I told Willa that we were getting a little horse just her size, I could barely get her away from the front window, waiting to see when the trailer would pull up…

Willa waiting at the window

Cocoa’s history isn’t entirely known. Her owner passed away and she and the other minis in the herd saw hard times. She was rescued by a lady and has been moved several times over the last year, not having a forever home. She regained her condition but obviously never lost her calm, gentle demeanor. This little gal, about 19 years old, is completely unphased by what life throws at her. She stood grazing perfectly calmly as Willa came crying and screaming up to me after getting bitten by ants. I was sure Cocoa would bolt. She hardly batted an eyelash!


Not all went completely smoothly. By the next morning, the neighbor’s stallion had discovered this ‘young’ new beauty in our pasture. I had asked specifically about it being an issue with the stallion but my friend didn’t think it would be a problem due to Cocoa’s age and the fact that she hadn’t come into heat in the last year. Well, heat or no, Cocoa was impressed by the big boy over the fence. After a few hours of him showing off – racing the fence line, rolling in the dirt, bouncing around, etc – she finally decided she liked what he had to offer and began to tease him through the fence. WELL, that got Doc really excited. I thought Doc put on a good show for our pretty donkey. But he was positively about to jump the fence to get at Cocoa. We had to move her for every one’s sake. Not only do we not want her to have a baby period, but not out of a huge horse like Doc, plus he could easily have hurt her in his over zealous state!


So Cocoa is chilling with the goat kids for the time being. We are working on a better solution but this at least keeps the love birds apart until we can work out how to handle things. In the meantime, she is getting lots of love, plenty of walks around the farm and learning to become friends with Willa Mae the donkey whom we hope to pasture her with in the future. Never a dull moment!




2012 Kidding Season

Marissa     Animal Husbandry, Farm Happenings     ,     0    

Whew, it’s over. We’ve had two rough kidding seasons and we were all apprehensive about this year. We don’t know why we are having so many problems, but we’ve had goats with bad presentations (the babies are ‘jumbled’ or just not coming out the right way), babies with mysterious diseases and mothers who had hard recoveries. And sadly, this has lead to the loss of a few babies over the last 2 years. So you can understand why we were anxious before the season started this year.

And of course, things started off on a bad note. We recently sold Dahlia, heavy bred, to a nearby experienced goatherd. She went into labor and things didn’t go well. Mom spent a lot of time giving advice/consoling her new owner after the vet had to remove two dead babies from Dahlia…and Dahlia wasn’t looking good herself. During the stress and turmoil of that situation, our first goat went into labor. But fortunately, we got the call that Dahlia had miraculously pulled through and our goat, Shelli easily gave birth to a single big buckling. Whew.

Or so we thought. An entire day later, Shelli passed a small, decomposing fetus. This meant she needed extra care, namely uterine flushes, to ensure she didn’t get an infection. It was a bit touch and go, but she pulled through like a champ. And her buckling, Chris, has some of the coolest markings we’ve seen on the farm! We hope to keep him as a breeding buck this year as he comes from one of our ‘milkiest’ does.

Pretty much everything after that was smooth sailing. Maxie was next, about 3 weeks later. She had no trouble despite both babies having one leg back. Baby goats usually ‘dive’ into the world with both hooves forward and their heads tucked on top of them. Usually, you have to assist to get the other leg forward, but Maxie just powered through…and has some pretty bad bruising to show for it! But the labor was so quick, there was no time to help. She had two bucklings, so ALL boys at this point. Ugh. But at least they are cute! One of hers was the typical black and white we have in our herd, and the other was a deer looking coloration called chamoisee. They have since been named Charlie and Chester (sensing a theme yet?).

Rabbit, our bouncy goat who was dry the first year and earned this named (her real name is Evie – way too sophisticated for her), chimed in with two of her own. Again, both boys! Arg. And also again, one was black and white and the other chamoisee. However, a WEEK later, Mom noticed that one of the babies was squatting to pee. That could only mean one thing – a GIRL! Not sure how that went unnoticed, but finally, a little doeling! Meet Charlotte and Chadwick.

And our final doe, Elise, again had two. And once again, black and white and chamoisee! It’s funny that 3 of the goats had matching pairs of babies. Sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart until you see them with the right mama! Elise was kind enough to also give us a doeling, Chloe, as well as a buckling, Chance.

So now we are finished and can relax into the milking season. Goats produce colostrum in their milk for at least the first week, but we can usually detect the taste (metallic or bitter) for several weeks, so we don’t even try the milk until 2 weeks after kidding. We are already getting delicious milk from Shelli and Rabbit’s is starting to taste sweet (Maxie’s is being used to feed the kids in the morning after being separated from the dams all night). That means cheese making soon! In fact, I’m going to try a batch of feta today. Yum!




More and more ducks

Marissa     Animal Husbandry     ,     7    

Speaking of ducks (the last blog post was about our duck eggs at Hickory Street), we have TONS more now! When Hickory Street first casually asked for a CASE of eggs a week (that’s 30 dozen…), we had to sadly reply that we simply couldn’t provide that many. We only produce about 10 dozen on a really good week. So with a ready customer, we sent in an order for more ducklings! They arrived about 6 weeks ago…all SIXTY of them. Fortunately for the farm staff, Dion at Chicken Valley Farm, just down the road, took on the task of raising the little messy buggers from fluff balls to fully feathered birds that can live outside full time with no heat lamp. Raising baby poultry can be a time consuming task (there’s so much cuddling and watching their antics to be done!) and ducks especially can be difficult because they are the messiest, stinkiest creatures ever (and I have a toddler…). So last week the whole lot came back to Sand Holler to take up residence in the new extension to the duck house.

A picture of the new flock of ducks

Unfortunately, the new birds are quite distraught by human attention! We usually raise such small batches that they get lots of people time. So it can be a bit nerve wracking going near their enclosure. You notice what direction they are all going in? And you should hear the noise! Hopefully they will settle down to the more intimate life of Sand Holler soon. And hopefully they will start supplying us with lots and lots of eggs as well!

Duck eggs are great. I really miss them now that Hickory Street is getting most of them. They used to be the ‘shunned’ egg on the farm as we didn’t have any standing orders for them so when I needed eggs, it was invariably duck eggs. But they make the BEST hard boiled eggs – the yolk is so perfectly creamy. Everything else about them is basically the same. Chad claims they have more of that sometimes-unpleasant ‘eggy’ smell when you are scrambling or frying them. And they are bigger than the chicken eggs so they matched better with most of my baking recipes. But other than those minor differences, there’s not much more to them. I was truly disappointed the first time I ate one. I don’t know what I expected, but I expected *something* to be different! But I do miss ultra-creamy deviled eggs. These ducks have a few more months before they start laying. Can’t wait!

A picture of duck eggs

Oh, and one more thing. Yes, I’m whining. Early Sunday morning, 4 AM to be exact, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a new resident in my house. His tenure wasn’t a long one, let me tell you. And my ankle took nearly 24 hours to stop burning. Ugh.

A picture of the scorpion