"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Vet Visit (Separating the Sheep From the Goats)

My ongoing struggle with worms has not been going very well. Just to recap:

After the does kidded in late March, they were wormed with Ivermectin just because it's protocol; they weren't symptomatic, although Iris did have a lot of trouble keeping the weight on during her pregnancy. Within a week or two, the does developed icky diarrhea, which I brought in for testing. The testing showed a high load of stomach worms. Since they had already been wormed with Ivermectin, I used Panacur this time. Subsequent fecals showed a virtually unchanged worm load. So on the advice of the vet, I moved to Quest, a different category of drug.

Ten days later, the diarrhea was pretty much unchanged, although I have to say I did notice the goats seemed a little more perky and less zombie-like. But they had not yet begun to put on weight, and two of the does were so skinny they would put Kate Moss to shame. I had stopped milking them, because 1) Quest has a long withdrawal time, and 2) milking a goat that looks like a wire coat rack just seems wrong.

I decided it was time to ask the vet to come out for a farm visit. She had only seen fecal reports, not the animal themselves. I thought she should see them, and also cast a skeptical eye over my entire operations and maybe suggest improvements. I have been working with this vet for a couple of years now and I like her very much. She's young, but she comes from a vet family and she actually knows and cares about goats (rare in a vet.)

Promptly at 9 am she showed up and we went out to the barn together. She looked over the does, running her hand over their poor, sharp spinous processes, and flipped their eyelids inside out to check for anemia; took their temperatures and looked at their coats and hooves. She listened to their hearts, lungs, and rumens.

"You know," she said, "these goats don't look too bad."

"What are you talking about?" I exclaimed. "They look like they were just liberated from Dachau."

"Well, yeah, they are pretty skinny," she said. "But their color is good, they are strong, they have great appetites, and I think they are going to recover just fine."

"I'm ashamed to have you look at them," I said. "I'm afraid you'll think I'm starving them to death."

"Please," she answered, "You get an A+ as an animal owner. You keep a close eye on your animals and always bring problems to our attention promptly. I know you care about your goats and it's obvious how well you care for them. Don't worry about that."

That made me feel good.

Then we went over my nutritional regimen, which is free-choice local hay plus a flake or two of alfalfa daily; a pound and a half of grain on the milking stand each morning (even though I'm not milking I keep up the routine of making them jump on the stand to get the grain), and free choice baking soda and loose minerals.

"The minerals are formulated for sheep," I said. "I couldn't find any formulated for goats."

"OHHHHH," she replied, "well, I think that's your problem right there."

Turns out, that although sheep and goats are very similar in many respects, there is at least one in which they are very different. Sheep are highly intolerant of copper; it is toxic to them. Therefore sheep minerals are formulated without copper. Goats, however, need a fair amount of copper. Recent research has specifically linked parasite resistance to adequate copper levels. My goats were probably copper deficient.

She also had a few suggestions for rearranging things on the farm and in my daily routine:

1) Get some loose minerals for goats and put it out in small amounts. They will only eat it fresh and dry.

2) Make a fenceline feeder so that the goats are not stepping on, urinating on, and pooping on their hay. It will also save a lot in wasted hay. Obviously, I don't feed my goats on the ground: they have a hayrack inside the barn. But they hayrack allows them to pull a lot of hay through the slats and trample it. In general, they just shouldn't have their food in their bedding area at all. Below is an example of a fenceline feeder, though I don't know why it doesn't have a lid on it to protect the hay from rain. Mine will.


3) Feed grain in two separate feeding rather than one lump feeding in the morning. Goat rumens are so sensitive that a large amount of grain will actually create an environment so acidic, within a few hours, as to kill off many of the bacteria that digest cellulose, and the goats will not be able to fully digest their browse, which will lead to bloating and diarrhea. The answer is to break up the grain feeding into small amounts.

4) Start feeding some grain to the babies, using a creep feeder (I'm using a chicken tractor for this prupose) so that the adults can't get it. This will help them lay off the moms a little bit and not suck them dry like little caprine vampires.

5) Get a Sweetlix protein block. When they are lactating heavily, they need extra protein.

She took some fecal samples and later, she called me with the results and told me that the stomach worms are down to 2. That's from 69 last time. She said the diarrhea is most likely residual and will simply take a week or so to clear up. In the meantime, the measures she suggested should help keep them from getting reinfested, or from becoming so sick if they do.

Let's hope.


~Tonia said...

That is some of the main signs of copper deficiencies. I have been reading up on it and Goats almost cant be overdosed. I give Copasure divided down to a dose for them and they said goats have been given 4 times the recommended dose and show No side effects or toxicity. There have also been studies that show a Goat with Adequate copper in their system resist parasite overload more than others.
About 5 years ago I was having parasite trouble and I didnt know about feeding their hay up off the ground. I learned Not too! Which I feed it in the barn and they actually waste very little. I put bedding down.
Glad you found out what the problem is!It can be frustrating! I have went thru some of the same with the Selenium! Starting to see the upside of it now..

Michelle said...

thanks for this helpful post, aimee. I am still prepaaring a place for goats & know very little so some of the worm posts had me scared! I'm glad to read that you are resolving the issue & that it can be done. I know nothing about feed either so this has been a great lesson for me. I will bookmark this in my 'goats' pages. thanks again, Michelle

berryvine said...

You are lucky to have a vet that knows goats! By her recomendations I would say you have a good one. I check eyelids during the year but always worm after kidding with cydectin. I don't milk mine though so I don't have to worry about withdrawl. Good luck!

polly's path said...

I get the goat mineral bucket-the only thing available here, ours like it. It dries out a bit too quickly, but I wet it down and it looks like new. Some days the goats are all in it for hours, and have the brown faces to show for it. Other days they ignore it-I guess they know what they need. I too keep baking soda out there and my milking momma seems to just adore it.

Window On The Prairie said...

Hope the goats start to improve. We have a sick calf right now. My hubby took it to the vet this morning. We should have gotten it to the vet earlier, but with working cattle over the weekend, we didn't have time. Just so busy in the spring on a farm, as I'm sure you know all too well.

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