Posts tagged as: goats



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.




Angora goats!

Marissa     Farm Happenings         1    

We have some more new critters on the farm. We traded one of our Alpine doelings for two woolly angoras! Angora goats produce the fiber called mohair (unlike Angora rabbits which produce…angora!). The two new girls are about the same age as our other goat kids but they are tanks – completely different build than the delicate dairy goats.

Astrid and Tess have adjusted well to their new surroundings. In fact, our oldest kid Chris has a definite crush on Astrid.

I’m convinced it’s her baby blue eyes…check them out!

We’ll shear these goats like we do the sheep and process the fiber into yarn. Eventually. I still have bags and bags of fleece from the last few shearings!




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!




Year of the Goat

Marissa     Animal Husbandry, Book Review         2    

Year of the Goat:  40,000 miles and the quest for the perfect cheese

Honestly, I expected a bit more about cheese.  But despite the fact that the title did not match what I thought the contents of the book would be, it did prove to be interesting.  Margaret Hathaway and her boyfriend Karl Schatz journey across the country to learn all things goat.  They’ve lived in New York and love the city hubbub but get the feeling that they are missing out on the important things in life. It’s an interesting journey and something that not everyone would have the chance to do. They do eventually settle down and start a small farm.

This is the author’s first foray into writing. So I can’t be in enough awe of her actually getting the book written and published. I truly commend her. Unfortunately, I found myself critiquing the clumsy style and flow of the story. I don’t usually notice things like that – I’ve often had people say “oh, didn’t you hate the way the author wrote?!” and I could see no shortcomings. So this was unusual.

I was also a bit taken aback at some of the tidbits present as fact in the book. For instance, the author claims (she was probably told) that since goats have a gestation of 5 months, you can breed them 3 times in 2 years. WHOA! Maybe in commercial dairy settings but I’ve never heard of small farm folks doing that. I may be the one misinformed, but at least on homesteads, it’s more reasonable to breed them 2 times in 3 years so as to give them some time off. Her description of milking also had several things described which I’ve always been told are no-nos (pulling down on the teats for instance). So I was a little disappointed there. But obviously, this book isn’t meant to be a guide to goat raising (her second book is…!).

So…I guess I have mixed feelings. I simply love the subject matter but was not impressed by the book. But I admit that I’ll enjoy nearly anything about goats.




Kidding season is over

Marissa     Animal Husbandry     ,     0    

The results are in – 10 kids, 6 doelings and 4 bucklings!

We have yet to decide if we are going to get licensed for milk/cheese sales or not so we aren’t sure how many of the girls we are going to keep.  But all the boys gotta go!  Our base herd is closely related so none of the kids from one goat can be used to breed another.  We typically sell the kids at 4 months old once they are weaned but will sell to folks experienced at bottle feeding at any time.

First, Shelli had the triplets Beatrice, Baxter, and Bartholomew. Bea is a delicate little thing and is already enjoying some hay!

Her brothers are a handful though.  Bunch of thugs always up to no good and rough housing the other goats.  Bart ended up with scurs – our first attempt at disbudding and it wasn’t entirely successful.  :(

Those three ruled the roost until Maxie gave birth over a week later.  She had one huge doeling and unfortunately a small stillborn buckling.  It’s life on a farm though dealing with things like that.  The big girl is healthy as a horse and earned the name Bertha.

Rabbit chimed in with her twins Bunny and Bergamot.  Bergie is our most handsome goat this year.  He is probably the only boy that will stay ‘all male’.  His sire is an American Alpine and from excellent lines.  He got his mom’s white blaze on his face too!

His sister Bunny is a cute little thing – even has “buck teeth” (markings on her chin that look like bunny teeth!).  I couldn’t quite get a picture to show it off though!  You can see the black mark that is the “gap” between them but the angle just isn’t right.  And she and her brother are never far from each other.

Savannah also had twins, both doelings, but unfortunately we lost Begonia at just a few days old.  It was the first time we lost a kid that was born alive.  Very sad but we are learning from our experiences.  Her sister Bianca is doing just fine and is the cutest of the bunch if you ask me!

The final kidding was one big ol’ buck from Elise named Beaux.  I could NOT get an isolated picture of that little beast as he was too busy jumping on me or running around like a wild child.  But surely he is one of the ones in this shot!

And we had other unexpected additions though.  We sold our doe Miranda a few months ago but received an email recently asking if we would take her back.  A bit miffed, Mom got in touch with the woman.  Turns out she was in a horrible car accident and has a spinal injury and a detached retina.  She has three young boys and a husband who works full time.  So she necessarily has to cut down on “extras” like goats.  We happily took Miranda back – and she had kidded just hours before we picked her up!  Her doelings Bijou and Button and nearly as cute as Bianca!