I’m going to recap some of the things we’ve learned and done in the past three whirlwind weeks of having goats! About three weeks ago and for more than a year, our goat herd consisted of eight Nigerian Dwarf goats (who are our darlings). Since then, we have acquired seven Nubian goats – 4 milking does and 3 doelings.
Belle and Daisy (Belle is also the mom of Buttercup)
The biggest downer has been that Belle (the first milking doe) and her baby, Daisy, got sick. We think it is pneumonia resulting from Shipping Fever Complex, which unfortunately, I didn’t run across in any reading prior to getting the goats. I keep thinking, why didn’t anyone mention that goats often get sick with pneumonia when they are moved? Live and learn, I guess. Now I know that is likely any goat being moved will get sick and start getting sick the moment you load her in the vehicle to drive her away.
The way we’ve treated them both is through an antibiotic, a desperate last measure since we don’t know enough about natural goat care and also because we thought their lives hung in the balance. But this morning, I just read that Daisy should not have had this particular drug (LA-200 oxytetracycline) because 1) she is under 6 months old and 2) she is nursing – milk counteracts the drug’s effectiveness. Arrgh… This is rotten. I hate drugs.
We have not milked Belle for about four days. Since we were only getting 2 cups of milk each morning, we speculate that was half her milk supply – leaving only 2 cups for her two babies to share the rest of the day. Obviously, she is a sick goat. We stopped milking her so Daisy and Buttercup could have all the milk. But, 2 cups for each is not enough. So we’ve been bottle feeding the babies with the milk from the other milkers. We have to force Daisy to drink the milk. She is so weak – from the pneumonia or the lack of milk – that she has no interest in food. However, today my children saw her browsing and munching on pasture weeds – which is a wonderful sign! Yesterday, she sipped some water and chewed on bark. These little gestures mean much to us when we’ve seen her failing for days. As for Belle, her mom, she seems to be stable and eats much, but it is clear her respiratory symptoms are still present (congested and wheezy).
Bunny and Honey
We think Bunny (Honey’s baby) might be sick but we’re holding off until an order of Bovi Cera comes which a friend recommended to prevent the onset of shipping fever illnesses. She also recommended Nutri-Drench (it provides vitamins, nutrients, amino acids, and glucose), which I should have ordered also but forgot! We don’t like turning to products, but since we’re not there yet with food being the medicine, we don’t want any of our goats to die while we learn everything. This is definitely a balance.
We stopped milking Honey, so that Bunny could have all her mom’s milk, the best support for her health. Once we’re sure that Bunny is healthy, we’ll milk Honey again. Even though Honey is small and one of her teats wants to point backward, she was providing 3-1/2 cups of milk each morning and we hadn’t even begun encouraging more. Honey is such a strong goat. For being so little, she is strong enough to drag us all over the barn. I keep pulling on her collar and saying, “No, I’m going to lead YOU! You are NOT going to lead me!” But so far, she is doing the leading. Man, she is strong!
Gingham and Paisley (sisters, three years old)
The last two goats we got, Gingham and Paisley, are doing fantastic. We like them so much. They are strong and have excellent milking qualities. When they first got here, each would give about 4 cups of milk at a milking (down from the 5-6 the previous owner got, which is to be expected). The stress of moving and not eating so much made their milk drop to 2 to 3 cups at a milking. Our strategy for them has been to make sure they’re getting lots to eat to regain strength, and also, I have been milking them three times a day, to encourage their milk supply just as their babies would. I milk at 6am, 12pm, and 6pm. After 5 days of doing this, they are back up to around 4 cups at the morning milking and 2 cups each at the mid-day and evening milkings. So we are making progress. I’m glad. They are great goats. Just great. We know they’re happy here because they are playful. We don’t think they’re going to get sick. Two days ago, we worried that Paisley’s nose was running, but it hasn’t since then. During yesterday’s feeding, I squirted goldenseal drops in her feed as an antiobiotic, in case she was developing the pneumonia.
If I could do this all over again, I’m not sure I wouldn’t do it again the same way, but I for sure would be better prepared! Here are some recommendations I would make for anyone interested in raising goats, now that I know a little more.
First, I would recommend – for anyone who is considering getting milk goats – that if you have the time to wait to raise up your own milk goat from a baby or a dry doe, your milking and her lactation period will probably go better. We have experienced the Shipping Fever Complex in at least 2, maybe 4, of the 7 goats we brought home. In addition, all the milkers showed a 50% drop in milk supply. (Though we’re not sure about Honey – she’s stayed pretty steady from the get-go, with the exception of the nights that she and Bunny snuck in nursing through the fence!)
Second, I would recommend that you prepare yourself now for goats getting sick during moving. New owners, new feed, new location, it is all capable of stressing them, which results in a weakened immune system, and therefore, susceptibility to bacterial infections taking hold (pneumonia and pink eye, for just a couple).
So at this point, I look forward to milking Belle and Honey again, when all are returned to health. I don’t know if we can get Belle’s milk supply up. She needs 18 days off the antibiotic before we can drink the milk.
Gingham and Paisley give us just shy of a gallon a day between them – and I hope for more! I would like to see 1-1/2 gallons per day between both of them, at least.
We had an opportunity to purchase one more milking doe – we hoped for one per each of us – but we declined even though she is a fantastic goat. We would rather focus on the health of the herd we have now and be content with less milk, while we raise our three baby Nubian doelings up to give us more milk in the future.