Every farm has its own unique herd management style, and something that works well for them. Depending on the area you live and the agricultural practices in your area, it's quite likely your deficiencies will be different than ours, and so your practices might be different as well. We would like to share with you what works for us, but it is not the only way to do things, it's just the way we do!
Ample fresh water is an important part of our management program. We scrub the buckets daily, using a toilet bowl brush, purchased from the dollar store. Our water is filtered with an RV filter to minimize the iron content. In the winter months, we take warm water to the goats twice a day. They drink significantly more water when we do this. We add apple cider vinegar to the water buckets to aid in digestion and prevent urinary calculi. Only a small amount is needed, a couple times a week.
Our standard feed is an organically grown, alfalfa grass hay mix, provided free choice. In addition, the goats love to hike our property to forage for Cedar branches, yarrow and various other wild herbs.
We don't give our goats a lot of grain. We give them grain with their herbal wormer, and for an ocassional treat. They also get grain daily while they are in milk, because they need the extra calories for production. This is not something they would ever get in the wild, and if we could milk well without it we would probably try. We do love to spoil them though! Lol! We have tried many different things with feeding grain and will probably continue to mess with the process. We tried sprouting the grain for the does and chickens for a year or so, but it was just too time consuming for us. Right now we buy a locally made dairy goat grain mix from Woods Grain & Feed that is non-GMO, and mix it with Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS). Black oil sunflower seeds are a great natural source of selenium, so they get a couple tablespoons daily, even when they aren't getting grain. They eat their grain portion while on the milk stand, and we top it with TruCare trace mineral blend. We get this from Amazon and its about $20 a bag. This is in addition to their free choice mineral, and it supplies cobalt, copper, manganese and zinc. We had a couple fishtails that never seemed to grow in and we suspected it to be a zinc deficiency. It cleared up after we started using the true care. We are not bolusing for copper anymore.
We use a free choice mineral from New Country Organics, that is always out and available. We really like this brand. It is too expensive to ship, so we co-op with other local (ish) farmers to bring in a full pallet and divide it up that way. If this is something you are interested in let me know and I’ll share that info with you as well.
We also give our goats kelp free choice, and that we usually purchase through Azure Standard with free delivery. This is included in the mineral from New Country Organics, so not really needed, but we like to spoil the girls.
Chaffhaye is a bagged Non-GMO Alfalfa that goes through a natural fermentation that provides a very digestible forage. It is enhanced with yeast, enzymes and beneficial flora that aids in digestion. It can be used as a total feed, but we use it to supplement. It is a treat and no-waste food. It is a moist feed, and that allows the herbal wormers we use to stick to it, which is great, plus they love it! We don't use this all the time, but its a great product, so I thought I would put it in here.
We choose to raise our families and everything here on the farm in the most natural holistic way we can. We strive to breed for a naturally resistant, hardy, herd with strong immune systems. Vaccines compromise the immune system and often are not effective, so we treat our animals herbally instead, but you may choose to vaccinate and that is fine too. Here are some of the things we do on the farm and herbs we use.
We worm our goats with a formula from Land of Havilah Herbals. It is a great product that does much more than parasite control. It boosts immune function and we use it anytime a goat is looking unthrifty. For external parasites like lice we use a mixture of tea tree and lavender essential oils diluted in a carrier oil at the rate of 2% of each. *** Update... since a lot of people ask me about the diltuting ratio this is how I mix my oil. I use 16 ounces of carrier oil like coconut or almond, and then I add 2 teaspoons each of the essential oils*** (This is then dripped down the spine as close to the skin as possible, not on the hair itself. This really works fabulously, and we do it once every week or two. If we are already having problems with lice, I will use a couple drops tea tree straight as it is neat and safe for the skin, a few times over a week until resolved. On babies with lice I'll put it behind the ears and by the hairline on the hooves as well. That may be more than you want or need to use, again it's just what works for me.
When problems occur
Like people, goats can catch a cold or get pneumonia too. The first thing I do when a goat looks off is worm them with the parasite formula. We also make a garlic ginger paste with equal parts of fresh garlic cloves and ginger root. Peel and finely mince, then add to a sauté pan with a small amount of oil. Sauté gently on low until tender. Do not simmer. We then put it in a blender to create a paste. You can crush the mixture with a mortar and pestle also. It should be a paste. Just take a small amount on your finger and rub it up under the goat’s palette as many times a day as you can. Refrigerate the remainder. It keeps forever and the longer you have it the more potent it becomes.
Cayenne pepper is another go-to herb for us. It really is a little miracle worker, that is good for most things. Cayenne regulates body temperature, improves circulation, aids digestion, is antifungal, and can sooth your sore throat or cough. It breaks up mucous and congestion and can stop diarrhea. It puts your immune system into high gear and is a good addition to your protocol especially with a sick goat or newborn baby that isn't perking up quick enough. It can also work as a blood-stop if you cut your goat during hoof trimming.
Breeding & Pregnancy
We generally breed our does in the fall for an early spring kidding (which is really winter up here). When it's still cold enough that the ground is frozen hard, the risk for parasites like coccidia declines, and that is a good thing. We have no electricity or way to heat the barn and usually they do just fine! We do not feed our pregnant does grain unless they are still being milked, which is very rare here. We usually dry everyone off before breeding season, but it's not necessary to do that. They do need a 3-month break before kidding, however. Six weeks before kidding everyone gets a fresh trim on their hooves. It is hard on them to have a foot lifted for trimming in the last few weeks, so it should be done prior or if you forget, just wait until they have freshened. It's not going to kill them to put it off if need be. We give our girls a mixture of tonic herbs during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy as well. I mix this in bulk because we have a lot of goats here.
This is what we use...
Red raspberry leaves
Cinnamon and alfalfa, if they aren't getting it in their diet.
I mix equal parts and give each doe a few tablespoons every day on their Chaffehay.
The list of toxic plants for your goats is too large to put down here. I really recommend reaching out to your local extension office and discussing this topic with them. I will list a few at the bottom. We have a lot of native plants here that are considered toxic, and our goats have nibbled on them without issue from time to time. The babies will be more seriously affected of course. Our first year of kidding we had a very sad occurrence, that could have easily been remedied had we known and had a more knowledgeable vet. Having a good vet is essential and unfortunately not that easy to come by as most livestock vets don't treat a lot of goats. So... we had 6 beautiful babies our first year and after letting them forage with their dams for a few days they started to look unwell, standing hunchy and tail tucked. I called the vet and said I believed they were sick from eating the bracken fern (which at this point I didn't know was toxic), she confidently said it was coccidia. I told her I used an herbal wormer consistently, but she said those don't really work and gave corid for treatment. I asked for a fecal sample and administered the corid to 5 of the 6 babies. Within 12 hours they were all dead. Corid depletes the thiamine in a goat's body, which is essential for rumination and life, this is how it kills the coccidia. Unfortunately for us, bracken fern also depletes this vitamin and our babies died. Our fecal sample came back clean with no parasites at all, which is apparently unusual as most vets will tell you. The herbal wormer works! Know what is on your property and find a vet that will listen to you, because nobody knows your situation and your goats like you do. This is so important. Find a good goat group for support, and always contact your breeder if you have concerns!
Poisonous Plants: Brecken Fern, Buttercup, Common Milk Weed, Foxglove, Lantana, Loco Weed, Poke Weed, Water Hemlock, St. John’s Wart, cyanide producing trees like Cherry and Elderberry. Cultivated plants like Rhododendron, Azalea, and Rhubarb.