"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hole in the Goat Update (When to Cull?)

The vet finally called me back. He said that while it was hard to tell from just a photo, the wound did not look like CL. Just as some of my readers commented, the lack of pus and the location both argued against it. He suggested, just as some of you did, that it was most likely a splinter of some sort that became infected and formed an abscess. He told me that that particular spot, at the end of the breastbone, is where the goat puts the most pressure when she lays down. He said that older goats or thin goats often wear down that spot and get pressure wounds. Most likely, my middle aged, thin goat laid on something sharp.

Nonetheless, I've decided I should have my entire herd tested for CAE and CL. Although I bought goats from tested herds, I have not done any testing myself and it's been over four years now. I can't advertise anything about the CAE or CL status of my goats truthfully at this point, and I do want to be able to say I have a clean herd. So, it's time to test. The vet is coming on thursday to take blood samples and at that time he will look at Django's chest as well. In the meantime, I am washing it out twice a day with a dilute iodine solution. It's pretty gross. We are also not using any of her milk at least until we know what we are dealing with.

Assuming that Django (and the rest) come back negative for CAE and CL, I still have a decision to make. Django is not a robust goat. She was perfectly healthy until, three years ago, she got into the grain and ate herself so sick that she almost died. Goats can quite easily die from overeating carbohydrate rich food - grains of any kind but most especially chicken food. Django was at death's door, and only recovered very slowly. For a whole year, she was very ill. She had a severely damaged rumen and was almost blind from the vitamin B deficiency that resulted. She became prone to infections and more vulnerable to worms. She hobbled slowly about, not keeping up with the herd and barely keeping herself alive.

I should have culled her.

I should have culled her then. I felt so guilty for leaving the grain unsecured, for not taking good care of her, for letting her get sick. The least I could do was give her a decent chance to recover... right? And she did recover, not wholly, and not quickly, but she came back. Her vision returned, with daily vitamin B shots. She keeps up with the herd now. And she has thrown triplets and successfully raised them two years in a row, which is not something a very weak goat can do. But she is not and never will be the glossy, plump, energetic animal she was before she got sick.

And now she has this ugly wound, which has clearly been around for a long time without healing. Again - she's not actually sick - no fever, no infection - but she isn't healthy, either. She could probably limp along for the natural lifespan of a goat, some six to eight more years, and have a middling quality of life. She would even continue to provide me with the benefit of more kids and more milk. But should she?

Or should she be culled? My herd would be healthier without her. Removing her would relieve some stress on the pasture. It's one less animal to buy hay, grain and medicine for. And there's another, unpleasant reason. She's embarrassing. Her gimpy, straggly presence in my herd is embarrassing. She makes it look like I don't have healthy animals, like I don't care well for them. This is an ego thing, I guess, but when people visit my far, (especially if they are coming to look at an animal I have for sale) I don't want them to see an old, skinny, scraggly goat. I want them to see a lot of fat, sassy, shiny animals leaping about.

When is it the right time to cull an animal? Is there ever a right time if the animal in question is not suffering? Should animals only be put down to put them out of misery, or does the goal of improving the herd justify the culling of any substandard animal?

What do you think?


Dr24Hours said...

My feeling is that if the goat is not suffering, and is capable of either raising kids or not being bred, and it isn't prohibitively expensive to keep her, don't cull. How much feed does a goat eat? Is is terrible to have a pet instead of a working goat?

Anonymous said...

We do not cull except for suffering by the animals or others (overly aggressive animal). But we do butcher some animals for meat. I am not sure what the difference is except I get attached to the animals that produce babies, milk and fiber for me and try to give them a good retirement. The animals for meat I never have that attachment with but give them a good life until then. And I explain to visitors that I have old retired animals.

Aimee said...

Bro - there's nothing wrong with having a pet goat, or a retired goat. But there is something wrong with having ten of them. My land can only support so many goats - because I want them on natural pasture, not intensively contained and fed purchased fodder year round. The maximum is somewhere around eight goats. I figure that might give me a margin to keep two or possibly three retired, un-useful animals around. The obvious answer would be to eat them but I can't do that. I get too attached to milkers and mothers, and besides, I want to eat healthy yearlings, not sickly old grandma goats. Because I've only been here for four years, I haven't yet had to face the problem of milkers who outlive their usefulness. But they will tend to accrue, and then what?

Laura said...

If you're having those thoughts, it's time to cull her. If you have kept kids out of her, you can send her down the road (euphemistically) with a clear conscience.

You're right - you should have culled her before, but hind sight is always 20:20!

Gail V said...

That CL is a scary, scary thing, isn't it? It's the reason I never got any goats! Didn't want to even possibly bring the disease here, to my sheep. To quiet your fear, testing is so smart. I like everyone else's answers, so far, about culling. But if you need to keep the numbers down, anyway, that's a good reason right there.

Tonia said...

I would give her a break from kidding and milking for a year. Let her get some meat back on her and have time to build up her system. They put a lot of energy into making milk and having kids. Vit C will help boost her system a couple of chewables a day. She will think its a treat.
I have a skinny old goat out here. She weighs about 165lbs max and that is about 30-40lbs less then some of my others. She produces more milk, has never lost a kid, given me more does than bucks but has gotten very ill twice once because of my ignorance other because she started going into milk fever. Quads and producing a gallon and a half of milk at each milking. Her kids are AWESOME though.
Nope I wouldnt cull yet.. Try a few things first.. I am not for testing because of the variables that can throw false neg/pos. If te blood has to wait to long ot be tested its more likely to through a false positive. Had a friend that sent off 2 samples per goat. One sample got to the testing lab the same day and the other was mailed to another reputable testing lab and had to sit over the weekend before testing. One that was tested the same day was Negative.. One that had to set was positive for CAE.
I let people know I dont test for it but I have no symptoms either and I have bought from Cae free herds.

Aimee said...

Tonia yes I'm planning on giving her a year off.

Anonymous said...

How healthy are her babies? If she's throwing *strong* kids, don't cull. If they're in the same shape she is, she's still not contributing to your herd.

Aimee said...

ECTH: she throws good strong kids, usually triplets. The doe from this years crop is so nice I'm keeping her as a milker. I guess that's my answer. Also, when the vet saw her he didn't seem to think she was in particularly bad shape. Maybe he sees a lot of really run down goats and mine looks good by comparison, i don't know. But in any case, he looked shocked when I talked about putting her down if she didn't recover from this wound quickly. So it looks like Django has earned a pass.