What’s up with the Goats?

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.

IMAG1592You 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.  IMG_0723

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!IMAG1385IMAG1593

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4 Responses to What’s up with the Goats?

  1. bogart says:

    I am sorry about your losses, and hope your herd will stay stable (or in time, grow) and that they will bring you lots of joy and funny moments.

  2. Emma says:

    I just plowed through your blog in two days, and wanted to let you know you are not alone. When my husband (and his four brothers who worked for the same company) was laid off in ’08, I was a stay at home mom/ full time college student, and we had 11 months left until we paid off our first home (a lease to own situation), and the same to pay off our car. Our savings was gone in about 5 months, and we had to leave our home and surrender our car, and were homeless in a van for 3 weeks before taking our one year old and going (along with 2 of his brothers) to stay with his parents. We slept in their living room floor for 6 months, before finally being able to rent a home again (with his brothers as room mates) and he was out of work for 14 months total before landing a 20 hour a week part time job.

    The second he was laid off I was out pounding the pavement and landed a job, but minimum wage at 40 hours a week is not enough for a family of three to survive on, especially as we were paying his parents rent (His mother was laid off at the time too, and his father had worked part time for the same plumbing firm as his sons to supplement the income from his full time job with the state.)

    Then suddenly, while working as a clerk on 3rd shift, I was grabbed by a customer, and had to switch jobs, fast. I was no longer in a safe situation and could not work in those conditions, especially as my male manager thought it was “Funny” that a customer tried to sexually assault me. My new job had an erratic schedule, did not allow full time work and did not always pay well, but at least I was never alone and was in a safer environment, even if the schedule did mean I had to give up college. We continued to scrimp and save and struggle, but several emergency health issues (appendicitis costing 40K for one) and car accidents (the last of which cost me a great job and left me in the ICU and my husband wondering if I was going to survive) led a relative to sit us down and say, “Why are you doing this? There are programs out there besides insurance for the kids to help you, and trying to scrape by without taking that help just makes things harder on you.” Then our relative, who is a social worker, set us down and showed us what we probably would have qualified for had we applied from the get go, how much we would have been able to put towards getting back on our feet, and how our determination to not take help made our situation far worse.

    It was a hard lesson to learn and harder pill to swallow, but the truth is had we applied for food stamps or found out what assistance we qualified for sooner, we would have had more resources to build up and get ourselves into a better situation sooner, instead of struggling for so long. We could have been back on solid ground years ago instead of “dirt poor but with pride” for the last 6 years. In fact, finding out that had we applied for food stamps and Medicaid to begin with, along with utility assistance we may have been able to hang on to the house and been on firmer ground far sooner.

    I hope you have not made the same mistake we have for as long, and are getting the help you qualify for (if you don’t qualify then you don’t get it, so there is no abuse in getting the help you qualify for that the state assess you to need). No one looks down on a corporation that takes a tax break or loophole to save a buck or keep going in hard times, they should not look down on people for taking the help they need to survive to get back on their feet and be self sufficient again.

  3. Linda P. says:

    You’ve probably already encountered this recommendation and perhaps have nixed it due to Internet accessibility, but, if not, have you considered educational writing? Particularly if you can write assessment and other materials for math and science, you can often find work quite readily. Search for “writing for the educational market” and you’ll see a “blogspot” entry that offers much help in beginning this work as well as possible markets. You can work from home (or the library, if that’s where your connection would be).

  4. Vesta says:

    You might want to read the goat stories on this blog –
    http://www.5acresandadream.com/

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