Hobby Farms Magazine had an article recently titled “How Do You Make Money Farming? Raise Meat Goats.” If you saw it you might be wondering how our goat business is going.
You might say it hasn’t really gotten out of the box yet. If you are a long time reader you will recall that we started with 3 young female goats – Ginger, Nutmeg and Honey. They are all part Kiko (a meat goat breed from New Zealand). They are great goats – lots of personality and a very hardy breed. Because we were thinking of making goat’s milk soap, we decided to add a dairy goat to the herd and we acquired Tinker, a Toggenburg/Alpine mix who, in the vernacular of goat farming, had been exposed to a buck. Tinker was a bit more skittish than the hand raised Kiko does but a pleasant goat with a long beard (which the kids thought was pretty funny). We weren’t there when she gave birth and one twin was dead and the other barely holding on when we discovered that her time had come. We doted on the little survivor, a doeling we named Doty. And all seemed well.
We added a Kiko buckling to the herd – Hot Rod was going to be our herd sire and he grew nicely with large curling horns giving him a vigorously macho appearance. Next we added two full-blood proven Kiko does, Cotton and Cocoa. Cocoa had given birth to quadruplets in her first kidding and we were looking forward to seeing her next kids. Both does had been exposed to a full Kiko buck so their offspring would have been valuable additions to our herd. We had 8 goats, 3 part-Kiko, 3 full blood Kiko and two dairy goats. Now all we needed was for Hot Rod to do his part.
Then things started going downhill. Tinker developed symptoms of two goat diseases, Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE) and Caseous Lymphadinitis (CL), both fairly prevalent (I learned) among dairy goats, both potentially contagious to the other goats (and one to humans as well under certain circumstances). Our local rural vet tested Tinker for CAE with a positive result but felt that she didn’t have the more dangerous CL. I wasn’t convinced that he was correct but before I had a chance to do more testing Tinker unexpectedly and abruptly died. We were saddened but given the situation I also felt somewhat relieved.
That was until other goats became ill. Their condition deteriorated rapidly – they would seem fine in the morning, listless by evening and comatose by the next day. It was a mad scramble to try and figure out what was happening. We got little Doty to a large animal vet who was able to solve the puzzle – a fecal sample showed she had an infestation of the Barber Pole worm, a gastrointestinal blood sucking worm that can cause severe anemia, dehydration, loss of blood, diarrhea and internal fluid accumulation. This worm is resistant to all the over the counter dewormers (which we had been using) so the vet gave me syringes full of cattle dewormer and I raced home to inject the herd. We lost Hot Rod, then Cocoa (who was clearly pregnant) and then finally even little Doty. I don’t know whether the dewormer just didn’t work on those individuals or whether the infestation was too far along to be effective. It was a devastating loss.
So there were no new little kids in our barn this spring and until I have a job we can’t afford another buck. We think we will add one at some point and keep trying. We’ve put gutters on the barn, making the goat pen a lot less damp (barber pole worms thrive in damp conditions) and we’ve increased the grazing area so that we can rotate the goats (also supposed to cut down on worm exposure). We’ve added a herbal wormer to their routine as well. Some people swear by it, others poo-poo it but I figure it can’t hurt.
We are hoping that our goat farming will some day be profitable money-wise. In the meantime it’s been good for all of us to have something to care for and concentrate on – animals have a way of getting you to focus on the here and now. And they can be pretty funny as well – they often bring a smile to our faces with their antics!