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chronically skinny but seemingly healthy goat

 
Annie Hope
Posts: 88
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Hi,

We have had trouble in the past (April) with worms, and selenium deficiency in goats, lost two and treated the rest with ivomectin. We stopped milking the remaining goat, have given selenium injection and fertilised with selenium prills.
We also now rotate them every 1-2 weeks in a electric netting fence and put cattle after them. It is 3ft fence but really needed to be 4 ft, the buck esp. kept jumping over it, till we learnt to put string and pegs on the corners to tension it.

We just lost our buck. He started to look weak and stumble, and have diarrhoea, when we picked him up to check him, his woolly coat also hid a loss of condition. We did a home fecal egg count, and it was 3000, we gave ivomectin, and quarantined/observed for a few days, and his feeces started to firm up. we put him back with the flock, but we found him dead a week later in the field (?maybe stumbled and could not get up to the hut and died in the rain overnight?).

The other 4 goats and 2 kids seem full of energy and no sign of diarrhoea. Maybe the buck got the worms from when he jumped outside and fed "behind" the rotation, but did not have time to spread them.

The oldest goat that we were milking last summer has been skinny since April. We thought she would get fatter after the worming and selenium injection, after winter (Jun-August here in New Zealand), even gave her additional corn in winter for warmth, though there was plenty of feed in the paddocks and a mild winter and it was not really necessary, after she gave birth, (the kid had a bent head and was stuck during birth, and was dead when I found it to intervene so she is not milking at all this spring), and after the selenium prills worked into the plants, but she is still very skinny, if anything getting skinnier and we can see her ribs. We tied her up to get a feeces sample today. The feeces is soft green with spring grass, but has clear "raisins" and only two eggs on the whole fecal slide (there were a few hundred on the slide of the one that died). Her eyelids are a healthy pink.

We are certified organic, so we can quarantine and treat for worms for welfare reasons but not routinely, and we don't want to treat unnecessarily and breed ivomectin resistant worms. Could it be worms despite lack of signs? Could it be Johnes disease with no diarrhoea, or other signs? Is there something else it could be? Could the worms in April have permanently damaged the intestinal tract and her digestion, even though they are now gone?
Does a goat really need a good level of fat to be healthy any more than a human does? Can it actually just be a healthy skinny goat that looks like its healthy skinny owner?

Annie
 
Dale Hodgins
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You haven't mentioned a veterinarian. Have you had any of the animals checked out by someone outside of the family? Do you have access to seaweed? They could either eat it directly or eat from a paddock that is heavily fertilized with it. This would give them access to a wide array of micro nutrients. It is good practice to include some seaweed on most soils, since it contains about 60 different nutrients. If the goats and other stock find it palatable, rich manure would seem a good way to spread it around.

In the wild, goats aren't big grass eaters and they are not native to places that have lush green grass all year. I had a nice green untreated lawn for goats to graze. They nibbled it a bit but preferred to eat salal, Oregon grape, alder leaves and twigs and dry grass seed heads from the ditch. You don't see runny poop coming from goats that get most of their diet from the growing tips of woody plants. They are browsers, and if forced to become grazers, they are not able to naturally regulate diet and digestion.

I believe that goats are smarter than sheep and cattle, based on their interaction with the family and the fun games they invent. A grassy paddock is not a very interesting place compared to the woods and meadows where mine fed. We had dozens of different food plants from small clovers to bushes to large trees. There was slope to the land and things to climb, places to hide, places to lounge in the sun and places to escape the wind and rain. A bright animal needs these things for their physical and mental well being.
 
Annie Hope
Posts: 88
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Hi,

We had a vets treat them back in April, and the bill was huge. We had to go to an university in a town 40kg away to find a vet with any knowledge of goats, and the advice was still contradictory between vets, and showed they had limited knowledge about goats. They said they needed protein to put on condition, and to get a bale of lucerne silage from an organic dairy farmer. The farmer was surprised at the request as asked why we wanted it, if we had no grass, and when I said the vet said they needed protein he scoffed, and said vets knew nothing about goats, that they did not need protein to fatten if they were not milking, that goats would probably not eat silage, there was not way we could even get a 700kg bale home, and with only 6 goats, most of it would rot before it was finished, even if we could get someone to take it to our place. He recommended cutting branches for them, which we gave them most days from overgrown bushes round the house, though this is running out now. Another organic farmer gave a similar response.

We would take them to the vet if we really could see a problem - but is just being skinny a problem?

We are trying to grow browsing for them - but it takes a few years to establish. We hope to at least have garden refuge by the end of this season - bean vines, cabbage leaves etc, and have bought plaintain chickory and lucerne,field peas etc to increase the pasture variety and tannin in the diet to deter worms. I have the Himalayan sea salt blocks for them, but need to try and find a source of sea weed.



 
Fred Morgan
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Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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Our goats are picky eaters, and they don't really do well on grass. If you don't have browse, perhaps you shouldn't have goats yet? I think I would sell off the goats till you are sure you have your food in place - and start small.

Goats don't eat like cows, nor sheep. We have our goats with a horse, and they really don't eat the same things.

Often, the reason for having worms in an animal is because of not enough variety in their diet. Our goats never have worms, because they browse. Their favorite plant is a brush they make brooms out of in Costa Rica, which no other animal will touch. And the favorite food of sheep on our place is a plant that the cattle farmers hate because nothing will eat it - except for sheep. (it has spines - but lots of protein)

 
wayne stephen
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Location: Western Kentucky-Climate Unpredictable Zone 6b
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Hello Annie ! Can you post pictures of your pasture and explain how you are doing your rotations . Include some close-ups of the forage so these folks can id your plant species . Post photos of your watering system . Also , where are you getting your stock ? Post photos of them . Your goats and cattle may have been sold to you as sound but possibly should have been culled ? If they were sound at purchase then something is seriously errant in your system . You need a diagnostician . Please catalog and post your whole process in photos and someone here can help I am sure. Also , have you had your soil tested for metals , toxins , mineral deficiencies ?
 
Burra Maluca
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Annie - I'm trying to get my head around your system so I can figure out what's going wrong here.

You say you have eight acres. How many animals are you keeping on these eight acres? You mention six goats, but you also have cattle and pigs, don't you?

What is the grazing like? (photo would help) How much land is available for grazing and how much is taken up by other things?

What is the stocking rate of those eight acres?

Is all their food coming from these eight acres? If so then it's possible that they are all just starving.

You mention that you have pigs to drink the surplus milk, yet in another post you say that you couldn't stop milking the cow with mastitis because you are short of money and needed every drop of milk to feed your child. So is the one producing surplus milk a new cow, or what? Also, you said that you were vegetarian, so I don't really understand the pigs. Are you keeping them for another reason? I just can't figure out what's going on here as it doesn't seem to all fit together.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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I don't know a lick about goats, but I have to imagine a pic would help determine the difference between 'normal range thin' and 'action needs taken.'
 
Annie Hope
Posts: 88
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Hi,

Sorry, don't know how to post pictures, it we basically just have flat land with rich pasture grass, our soil is a rich sandy-loam. Don't know why, but no trees/shade in most paddocks though that is usual for New Zealand (in Australia most paddocks have a shade tree or two). The stocking rate is very high in this area, retired diary farmer next door and other neighbours do 1 or more cattle per acre and cut their own hay from that as well. In April, the vets did a farm visit as a freebee student training outing and said our stocking rate was far to low, and that the grass was growing too fast and not having much nutritional value, and they said to get mature cattle to get the grass down. We borrowed money to do this and get the fertiliser, and now have two adult cattle, 3 year-old calves, the 6 goats, two pigs and a few sheep. Even with that stocking, we are having trouble keeping the grass down, and the cows are just getting fatter and fatter. All our animals came from different life-style farmers, and clearly well-loved.

It is one goat in particular that got very skinny last April and is staying that way. The others are not fat, but not really skinny like her. We have two kids that are growing well. The two goats with kids were born only a year before and still not full-grown, so we thought it best not to milk them this year.

We have 10 paddocks in the rotation. We rotate the goats around a paddock in a movable electric netting fence, but don't make them graze it too low, and then we graze the sheep directly behind them. We then let the grass grow, and let the cattle graze it, if possible we do this twice. Then we let the grass grow and put the goats back into it.

We did a soil test for chemicals and nutritional elements when we bought the place 22 months ago, but did not realise it did not test for trace minerals. The vets found the selenium deficiency but normal copper through blood test. We since have put on a custom organic fertiliser that is meant to have all the trace elements included, and also have available a salt mineral lick.

The two pigs were got as diggers to break in the land for gardens, and also to dig the pasture and plant a more versified pasture behind them, and because my husband always wanted a pet pig. Keeping them contained where we want them to dig has also been a 8 month battle, but we have finally worked out a movable mesh tractor that we weigh down with logs attached to the sides.

We have water troughs/baths in every paddock that refill automatically on a float system. If they can't reach that in the goat rotation, then I put out a car tyre with a water bucket in it.

I do the best to vary their diet They used to have branches daily, though not so much now. When their paddocks start to get lower, I do often also cut them more stalky grass from places they have not grazed, or if I think it may be contaminated, then I dry it and give it to them. They absolutely love the long orchard grass / cocksfoot. With spring here now, and the pigs digging where they should, hopefully we can have a more varied diet in the next few months. We planted a small section of chicken food /orchard lay including white radishes/kale last year, and the kids kept breaking in to eat these. If I was to sell them then I know that they would simply go somewhere else with mainly just pasture grass, ans that is the norm in this area.



 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1574
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Annie - it sounds like if you intend to keep goats long term you need to do more to establish the kind of forage they prefer. I don't know if you have black locust where you are, but I've heard that goats love it, it is nitrogen fixing and sprouts enthusiastically when browsed or cut. It also makes excellent firewood if you allow a few trees to grow tall.

They will definitely do better on a more mixed browse type diet that grazing on your meadows.

As far as your specific goat illnesses go - sorry, I'm no expert.
 
Annie Hope
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Hi,

Thanks for that. I have not heard of that, and have put it on "to buy list". I gathered tree lucerne / tagaste seeds off the side of the road last year to plant this spring which is sound like a similarly beneficial plant (good stock food and fire wood).

We have done two more feaces tests - one on the really thin one again, and also on another one that looks more thin than the others. It was the most shy one that we were trying to catch. We had it in a 50m perimeter fence, and my husband and I could not catch it between us, and finally pruned a few pear branches and enticed it, so there is definitely no sign of sickness. Both have just enough eggs on the slide (3-4) to let us know we can actually see the eggs clearly , and that their aren't many there.

I did more research and read this though: http://www.side.org.nz/IM_Custom/ContentStore/Assets/11/87/97f37363e9f28bbad1dd151cd49cdb8b/Mineral-Supplementation.pdf

It says that the peak benefit from selenium prills is a month after fertilisation, and pretty much all gone by six months. We had been trying to give the goats fields that had had a few months for the fertiliser to work - but obviously that is not the right thing to do. Where they have just been moved was the first paddock we fertilised back in June, and grazed a few times since then, so there is probably no selenium left in the feed there. There could be no harm in giving them all a dose of oral selenium supplement and I will try and find the bit of seaweed extract that is still not unpacked from the move a 1 1/2 years ago and see what happens over the next few weeks.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I see no problem with giving needed dietary supplements, but these problems aren't likely to be medicated away. Are you close enough to town that you might be able to entice an arborist to regularly dump tree waste for the goats to eat ? Given an abundance of choices, the goats will naturally choose what they need. As a bonus, you'll never lack for firewood, garden stakes or hugelkultur supplies.
 
Katy Whitby-last
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Location: North East Scotland
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Personally I would check for liver fluke - it doesn't always show up in standard FECs.

You definitely need to give more than just salt blocks to ensure that they get enough minerals as there is no way that they can get sufficient from grazing grass as their mineral requirements are high, which is usually provided by browsing. Make sure that in any supplements you are giving they are getting enough copper - many mineral supplements do not contain sufficient copper for goats as their requirements are very high. supplements designed for sheep will not provide enough but those designed for cattle may do.

Supplementing them with linseed can help them to gain condition. You should not feed them silage as goats are very susceptible to listeriosis but you could feed dried lucerne that is often sold as horse feed. When my girls are milking heavily and need the extra calories I will also feed sprouted grains.

One thing to consider also with the buck that was stumbling is CAE. Are your herd tested?
 
Flick Johnston
Posts: 10
Location: Western Australia
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I would warn against over supplementation with Selenium as it is possible to over supplement and cause toxicity. A broad mineral supplement with trace elements should cover everything. How long does the injectable selenium give them cover for? They can be short or long acting injections.

What are the clear "raisins" you are referring to? Something you saw on the faecal egg count? Also did you look for coccidial cysts and any other Protozoa like giardia? You wouldn't see bacteria like Salmonella on a faecal egg count either.

CAE or caprine arthritis encephalitis virus sounds possible, as does Johne's. You would need to test the entire herd though for these diseases and decide on a course of action.

How old is the goat that is skinny and what condition are her teeth and feet in? Chronic foot pain or poor dentition won't help in trying to put weight back on. Also is she actually getting access to enough feed or she now at the point where her food is being taken off her by the younger goats?

Tagasaste is good forage for goats and cattle, hope you get those growing quickly. Any way you can collect browse from the local area to support their diet?


 
Doug Mac
Posts: 79
Location: Humboldt County, California [9b]
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Many dairies around here keep their goats primarily on grass pasture and they do fine.

I would recommend a good loose goat mineral supplement. Goats don't have rough tongues so they may not get enough from blocks. Try to supplement the soil is not cost effective.

It sounds like everyone else is pretty healthy, right? You must be doing ok.

Figuring out why one goat isn't doing well is often expensive and sometimes impossible. It could be something like parasites that is fixable or it could be something like intestinal damage from coccidia which can't be fixed. If the other goats are fine, then your management is at least ok.

If one goat is skinny compared to others kept on the same farm, the goat is the problem. Time to cull. Did I mention that goat is delicious?
 
Heather Staas
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Location: Western MA, zone 5b
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Ivomectin doesn't work with my sheep. I lost 4 lambs when I switched to Ivomectin one spring. Very sad. Cydectin works well still for me. I think you can use FAMACHA on goats as well as sheep? Sorry, I've never had goats. But pulling down and checking the lower eye lid for anemia is a good quick check for barberpole parasite load, or other worms that are blood suckers.. color should look like ripe watermelon or strawberry, not pale or light pink. I think some older animals have a hard time. My first year with sheep I lost an older animal that just wasted away while everyone else was fine, in a very short period, even though her appetite seemed good and she was eating well. I had a necropsy done at a livestock university, and while she didn't have any high levels of parasites, she also tested negative for any usual wasting diseases (OPP, etc). Their diagnosis was malnutrition due to scarring and damage from "chronic parasitism" over her lifetime.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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