Welcome to our blog. Check back often for official news and announcements from the KGBA and articles on various topics of Kinder goat care, raising, breeding, showing and more!
In the world of livestock and perhaps especially goats, numerous mineral programs exist. Most folks offer a pre-mixed mineral and supplement lack as needed in the form of additives like kelp or through injections, boluses, gels etc. Some goat owners offer individual minerals free choice. The individual, free-choice programs are based on the idea that goats are nutritionally wise and can select what they need and when they need it. But is that true? How DO ruminants learn what to eat? Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
Taste is the most important factor in deciding, followed by texture and odor. Both formal studies and simple observations have shown that ruminants learn what to eat through social learning (observing and copying dams and herdmates) as well as from biological feedback after consuming those foods. That means that the animal learns primarily through trial and error. If it eats this particular shrub and experiences negative consequences (rumen upset for example) the animal will then, in theory, associate the taste of that shrub with the rumen upset and not eat it again, or at least not eat large amounts of it.
In my research, Dr. Fred Provenza and Dr. Richard Holliday are among the most avid champions of free-choice, individual mineral feeding and nutritional wisdom. Even their observations and studies on the topic illustrated that the animals did not seek out certain minerals until they were deficient, sometimes severely deficient, or imbalanced. This suggests that animals eat to correct, not prevent deficiencies. In a goat-specific study, Provenza concluded “that the relative amounts of different foods ingested within a meal, and the salience of the flavors of those foods, are both important variables that cause goats to distinguish between novel foods that differ in postingestive consequences” (8). In this study, goats were ate a shrub called blackbrush, both old season growth and current season growth. The current season growth has much lower levels of condensed tannins than old season growth. The animals did not differentiate between the two until they ate more current season growth than old in a meal, enough to acquire an aversion. Yet, taste and odor were still important factors to that acquired aversion. Read the full summary of the study here https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24242115/.
Animals do not “instinctively” recognize nutrients, but sodium is dissolved and absorbed so quickly it does appear instinctual. In early studies on nutritional wisdom, sodium was mixed in every mineral that was offered cafeteria-style. Proponents of nutritional wisdom and cafeteria-style mineral programs note this as a flaw and argue that it made it impossible for the animal to “associate feedback from the mineral with its flavor.” – “On Pasture: Can Animals Figure Out What Minerals They Need”.
To date, there are no studies proving ruminants can recognize minerals other than calcium, sodium, and phosphorus. Phosphorus deficiency often results in pica, or a depraved appetite that results in eating odd things like wood, bones, rocks, and even feces. There’s several interesting studies on mineral deficient animals in the sources, including a study in which phosphorus-deficient steers were eating rabbits and one in which calcium-deficient sheep would lick up the urine and feces of the animals in the adjacent pen that were in the non-deficient control group.
In an interesting case I found online, a goat owner fed her animals a popular mineral mix that was very low in zinc and very high in copper (a zinc antagonist) for several years. Animals began dying and were necropsied. Copper toxicity was ruled as the cause of death. What was interesting was that her goats were attempting to eat raw meat that was being fed to her livestock guardian dogs. It was hypothesized the animals were doing so because they were starved for zinc and raw beef is an excellent source of that mineral. To date, I have found no formal study on animals being able to select to correct for zinc deficiency, but that fascinating anecdotal evidence certainly points that direction and is worthy of further study.
Many goat owners believe that perhaps too often in the case of goats, palpability and curiosity trump need – I’ve personally experienced goats developing a taste for toxic plants, including hemlock – goats that were healthy and well-fed with an abundance of other forage and hay available but simply liked the taste of the dangerous plant. The aforementioned research suggests that might be the case sometimes, perhaps especially in the case of concentrates or tasty treats. Dr. Holliday notes – “I realize mainstream nutritionists tend to downplay or totally reject the idea that animals can self-regulate their nutritional needs. I admit that this ability may not apply to all situations and to every type of feed. Some feed items (grains and concentrates) may be so tasty that most animals would overeat if fed free choice.”
Nutritional wisdom is a fascinating, complex subject worth studying more, but at the moment the evidence points out that the nutritional wisdom of ruminants is limited.
By Kenda Shatswell
- Provenza FD, Lynch JJ, Burritt EA, Scott CB. How goats learn to distinguish between novel foods that differ in postingestive consequences. J Chem Ecol. 1994 Mar;20(3):609-24.
My husband and I have a little hobby farm so that I can raise goats. At least that may be how he thinks of it. He doesn’t raise goats, although he has done a marvelous job of building things for the goats.
But I raise goats. It used to be that goats were the ugly step-children of farming but no more. Now the number of cute baby goat videos rivals cat videos.
But you can’t have cute baby goat videos without the romance of their parents. If you like baby goat videos, you need to know about goats in love.
In our goat herd, we usually keep our buck separated from the does so we can control when the babies come.
One bright fall morning, one of our girls had put on her high heels, lipstick, and Chanel perfume before sashaying along the fence line she shared with Rocket the buck.
Rocket got the message: she was in the mood. Rocket was always in the mood, so with great excitement, he pushed his manly head through the fence to sniff her fragrance.
Hearts were drifting above their heads like hot air balloons. Once I caught sight of a little cupid figure floating overhead, I collected Miss Elinore and brought her into Rocket’s pen. She wiggled her hips and lightly danced from the gate to the fence line so that she could lean against Rocket.
He raised his eyebrows in glee and snorted words of love in her ear. He’d have brought roses and chocolate if he’d known. This was just what he had hoped for. Love was in the air.
Except for one problem: Rocket’s massive head was stuck through the fence.
He pulled and twisted while Elinore was doing a pole dance beside him. She whispered in his ear, gave him little smoochies, leaned against his rippling muscles. More and more hearts floated past his eyes.
Rocket began straining against the fence. His front legs were like pile drivers pushing into the ground. His cheeks would have turned red from the exertion if not hidden by that masculine buck fur. The fence bowed with his manly strength.
No go. He was stuck.
The love of his life was slow-dancing at his side, and Rocket couldn’t get his head out of the wire.
I’m not without compassion. I only watched this display for fifteen minutes or so before I went in search of some wire cutters.
I think Rocket’s first lesson of love was to avoid putting your head through places where it doesn’t fit.
But I learned something that day, too: it is unbelievably challenging to cut wire when you’re laughing that hard.
By Kathy Brasby
Kinder Breeder Spotlight
First, what’s your farm name, and where is your farm?
Our farm name is Barker Kinder Gardens. We are located in Western Washington State.
How did you learn about Kinders?
We researched goats online, joining several goating groups on Facebook. One of which was called “Successful Goating with Rosie.” We put our feelers out on what would be a good dual-purpose goat for milk and meat and easy to handle. Kinders were the hands-down suggestion. From there, we continued to join Facebook groups specifically related to the Kinder Breed. After much research, we chose a local farm to buy our first Kinders from.
Can you tell me about your current herd and goals for the herd? Do you raise them for milk, meat, both etc.?
Our current herd consists of 11 does, 2 bucks, and 20 kids on the ground as of yesterday!
Our goal is to provide ourselves and our local community with a source of milk and meat during these uncertain times. Of course, we will are always willing to sell them as pets, too.
Tell me about your goat mentors! What’s the single best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I must mention Kirsten Simons of River Birch Farms. We purchased our first two does from her farm, and she is more than willing to offer help and advice for any concerns or questions that we may have. She came out to teach us about the basics of goat care, volunteered to be accessible during our first birth on the farm last year and has even disbudded kids for us.
Others that have been helpful include Violetta Laboranti from Autumn Rhapsody Farm and Jasmin Feist, DVM, of Feisty Acres Kinders.
I think the best advice, for us, has been to spend a little time each day with your herd, just observing. It makes it easy to spot changes in behavior that point out a problem. This way, we can address any issues that come up right away, before they get out of control.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you have faced raising your Kinders so far?
I think our biggest challenges have been shelter, fencing and the cost of grain/hay. We are still working on the fence repairs to our 8 acres of woods. Once that is finished, we can let the goats forage. They will be happier, and I think our wallet will certainly be happier. We have spent quite a bit of money on fencing and a new barn, but we are hoping to break even in a few years.
Which is your favorite doe to milk and why?
This is our second year milking. I milked my favorite doe last year, and I am milking her and another doe this year – River Birch Farms B&S’s Cleo and East Valley Kinders Blu Belle. We are hand-milking for now, but do hope to purchase a Simple Pulse very soon. Both the does I am milking this year are well-behaved on the stand. They have calm dispositions, and their teats are large, with large orifices that make milking much easier. We only milk for personal use here on the farm as Washington State has pretty restrictive laws regarding the sale of raw dairy. We may move towards soap and lotion making as the year progresses. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at cheesemaking. Our daughter has a milk allergy, but goat milk is no problem for her. We are hoping to milk enough to feed her AND the bottle babies. It’s exciting to think of all the possibilities farm fresh goat milk has to offer us.
I naively thought nothing bad would ever happen to my pair of does. I hate that it took a tragedy for me to face the reality and responsibility of goat care.
This summer in 2018, I lost my young doe, Scarlett, to listeriosis. Quick and aggressive treatment is critical to the survival of a sick goat. I believe that Scarlett would have had a better chance of surviving if I had started her treatment a day earlier when she just acted lethargic and was running a fever but was not yet “down”. My vet did not want to give antibiotics until she “knew what she was treating” and wanted to wait until Scarlett showed more specific symptoms. By the time Scarlett was drooling and staggering in circles it was too late. Recovery from listeriosis depends on early, aggressive antibiotic treatment. When signs of encephalitis are severe, death usually occurs despite treatment. Note: Scarlett had the encephalitic form of listeriosis, however there is also a form that causes abortion (miscarriage).
Here is the progress of her illness.
Tuesday, I noticed that Scarlett was sunning on the driveway while Belle was grazing in the backyard. Weird, because they almost always stay within sight of each other.
Wednesday, she was lethargic and would walk a while then lie down. When she walked her back leg(s) seemed to be a little weak. But she did eat some and drink water. By late afternoon she had gone to the barn and gotten weaker. I called the vet and was asked to get her temp but I didn’t even have a thermometer. I bought a thermometer and called a friend to help. Her temp was 103.8. The vet did not want to prescribe antibiotics without knowing what we were dealing with. BIG MISTAKE.
Thursday: By the time I woke up Scarlett was drooling profusely. When I was able to get her on her feet she pulled her head sharply to the left and just walked in a circle (hence, the name “Circling Disease). The listeria bacteria infect the brain and, among other effects, can cause paralysis on one side of the face. She was not blinking one eye.
To add to my frustration and panic, my phone reception was terrible, and I had to drive to a nearby restaurant parking lot to be understood. I finally got through to the vet. I had no way to transport Scarlett to her clinic, so she came by and gave her dexamethasone (steroid) for the inflammation in the brain, Banamine (flunixin meglumine) for fever and prescribed Procaine (antibiotic) every 12 hours. But by then it was too little, too late. Even with treatment, she continued to go downhill. I got the supplies to administer subcutaneous fluids, but since she still swallowed I just gave her electrolyte fluids by mouth. Looking back, I wish I had added the sub Q fluids.
Friday: Over the next 24 hours Scarlett grew weaker and weaker. It was heartbreaking to watch. Finally, by Friday afternoon she was almost totally unresponsive, and I accepted the fact that she was not going to make it. I decided to end her suffering. It had been only a little over 48 hours since I knew something was truly wrong with Scarlett. The vet came and put her down. She was very kind and reassured me that I was doing the right thing. She then told me that she had only seen 2 or 3 cases of Listeriosis where the goat survived, and in these cases, it took months of intensive medical care on the part of the owners for the goat to pull through. And, she added, those goats were left with neurological issues. She said she didn’t tell me this at the outset because she could tell I was determined to try to save Scarlett. And, who knows, Scarlett might have been the one goat to beat the odds. I felt guilty but, given that I had a full-time job, I knew I would not have been capable of that level of care.
Now, to be practical, I wanted to treat Scarlett’s body with respect and love. I anticipated that I might be dealing with this situation even before I had decided to put her down. I had no way to move or bury her by myself and calling friends to do it seemed too much to ask, so I went online and researched pet cremation services. I found one that would come pick her up anytime, not just during weekday working hours, and gave them a call to make sure they would handle a goat when needed. They were so kind and respectful and didn’t seem to think it odd that a woman would want to cremate her pet goat. I called after we put Scarlett down and a wonderful man drove 3 hours round trip to pick her up Friday night. It was an expensive solution, but I was comforted by his kindness.
What I learned from this tragedy:
- Have a plan for handling emergency situations so that you can be calm and rational if/when the time comes. Be prepared with a final plan in case the worst happens.
- Make a list of emergency supplies and keep them on hand.
- Find a vet who can make farm calls if necessary.
- Be informed about the varieties of illness and injury and be firm and proactive in demanding prompt and aggressive treatment.
- Learn what medications are best for treating Listeriosis and other illnesses or injury and plan on having as many of them on hand as you are allowed.
I researched the causes and prevention of listeria infections. For all goat owners I encourage you to do the same. For example, I had always heard not to let your goats eat moldy hay, which I certainly tried not to allow. I figured it might upset their stomachs. Now I have a greater understanding of the true dangers of that and other seemingly picky considerations. The bacteria are all around us can breed in any moist, organic environment, like hay, silage, even grain feed. Standing water can also pose a threat and lord knows we’ve had lots of that with all the rain we had in NC this spring. So far, I have not identified the specific source of Scarlett’s infection, so I am trying to deal with anything I can find.
I have read that there can repeated yearly outbreaks in the same herd during winter-spring when conditions are the most conducive to bacteria growth.
Some recommendations for the prevention of Listeriosis:
- Discard spoiled feed and hay.
- Improve sanitation of pens, water supply, pasture, and housing.
- Keep wild birds away from the herd as much as possible as these birds may serve as vectors for the disease.
- Identify the source of infection in order to help eliminate the causative agent.
By Sarah Simon
Here are some online references:
Listeriosis is an infection of the central nervous system and digestive system caused by the gram-positive bacterium listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria monocytogenes can live in:
- Animal intestinal tracts
- Spoiled or waste silage, hay, or grains.
- Troughs and bedding, especially in porous surfaces like wood
Listeriosis is zoonotic. In humans, listeriosis can be mild with symtoms such as headache, muscle aches, and diarrhea or very severe flu-like symptoms. Listeria infections in pregnant woman can be fatal to the unborn babies. Transfer to humans is possible through:
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products (listeria monocytogenes can survive some forms of pasteurization) and raw meat.
- Placenta, fetuses, or newborn kids of infected animals
- Dead animals or aborted fetuses
While listeriosis is not considered common, prevention is critical and early detection is key. Even with early detection and treatment, treatment might not be successful. Recommended treatment is large, initially frequent doses of an antibiotic such as penicillin, which is also gram positive, and fortified vitamin B (to replenish thiamine) until the animal shows significant improvement. Then the animal is gradually weaned from the antibiotic treatment, monitoring for relapse. For a full treatment regimen, check out Goat Vet Corner’s note “Listeriosis – Circling Disease.”
“Listeriosis in Small Ruminants: A Review” by Tewodros Fentahun and Atsedewoyne Fresebehat
Goat Vet Corner on Facebook.com
I really enjoy barn design, and I think a lot about the needs of my goats whenever I build. Here’s a sense of what I think about when I’m designing for buck housing. There are many, many ways to meet the needs of bucks, so this is just an example of how I do it. I live in the hills of western Massachusetts, so we have hot summers but not as hot as down south, and we are close to zero some winter nights.
I have a low tolerance for ongoing sexual harassment in my buck pen. I don’t want a buck to be harassed so much that he is constantly defending himself or hiding to avoid being mounted by other bucks instead of eating. There are a few ways I go about providing options to make life easier when bucks are housed together. I’m usually housing 2-3 bucks, and I think there is more jousting in this small herd than in larger buck herds.
Food access is important, so I have a few wall mounted small mangers as well as main manger in case there’s a buck that is low on the pecking order and needs to eat away from his stall mate(s).
I find it helpful to have platforms in many of my goat stalls. Platforms create small spaces underneath where goats can snuggle for warmth during cold spells and also create a space to jump up on to escape when being chased. A buck can avoid being mounted by another buck by retreating under the platform. I often use 4×4’’ posts for corners and 2x4s for the rest of the frame. I usually screw platforms to the wall using 4-6’’timberlocks so that goats rubbing against them don’t move them around.
Here’s what I chose to do for my recent buck stall redesign. Two bucks live in it, an older buck and a young buck. They take turns chasing each other but it’s mostly the young buck who is full of vim and vigor. I wanted to make sure that the older buck can find peace.
The main platform is 5×4’ and 30’’ high. This allows them to stand underneath it but not jump around under there. The platform is against the wall, and two sides are covered with pieces of OSB (oriented strand board). The open side of the platform is farthest away from the door to avoid winter drafts and summer bugs from bothering the bucks underneath it.
With a platform this high, I made a 24×24’’ step-up platform since my older buck would have trouble jumping up without it.
I tend to put water buckets up on a small platform so that it’s higher than butt height, and they can’t rub against it or poop into it. I have a full-size door to the outside but a small buck-sized door that can be used during cold/bug seasons.
By Kathrin Bateman
Every baby goat is perfectly adorable, but none are perfect, and some are more suited to be herd sires than others. Selling lots of bucklings as future sires is tempting. It is natural to want to recoup expenses after you’ve invested so much in buying, raising, and breeding your does. When 7 of your 10 kids are boys, what else can you do? Selling as many boys as possible as intact bucklings is definitely the easiest answer, but it is usually not the best for you or your buyers.
In order to continue to make advances within your herd and in the breed, only the best males should be used as breeding stock. Lesser-quality boys should ideally be culled, meaning that they should be wethered and sold as pets, weed-eaters, or go into the freezer. Selling lesser-quality bucks is never a good idea – it could set someone’s breeding program back years. Don’t forget that that poor quality buck and all of his offspring will have your name on their papers. If you are unsure of the quality of a buck, protect your reputation by erring on the side of caution and wethering him.
So, how do you decide which bucklings should be sold as breeding stock?
Promising bucklings, with good width, muscle, and rear arch.
First, make a list of your best does. These should be does that have evaluated as excellent, earned milk stars or have records of excellent milk production and long lactations, have performed well in the show ring, kid easily, maintain their weight well throughout pregnancy and lactation, and adhere closely to the breed standard. Yes, that is a lot of qualifications! Ideally, any bucklings you sell as breeding stock should be out of these does. As a general rule, only 10% of boys AT MOST should be kept intact. Since breeders with lots of experience and very high-quality lines often sell more than 10% of their males as breeding stock, new, inexperienced breeders should probably be selling less than 10% of theirs. This means that the bucklings you sell should only be from outstanding does and bucks.
Next, make a list of the bucklings out of the does you’ve designated as your best. Immediately remove any boys that have faults as described by the breed standard. Omit bucklings that are narrow, frail, or otherwise lacking qualities you look for in a buck. Now look at the boys left on your list. Determine which bucklings adhere most closely to the breed standard and embody the ideals of a quality Kinder buck – they should be reasonably big, well-developed kids that have good length of body, broad backs, good depth, and well-sprung rib cages. Overall, the bucklings on your list should have good, strong balance and already appear more masculine than your other kids. Watch them closely as they develop, noting which ones continue to impress you. Immediately rule out any kids that develop faults, grow more slowly, or loose width and muscling as they develop.
A buckling that should not be kept intact. Too narrow, leggy, and dairy.
Never keep a buckling intact based on color or because he is your sweet bottle baby!
While personality should definitely be considered when choosing who to keep intact – no one wants an aggressive buck – conformation and quality should always come first. Although everyone seems to love flashy kids, your buyers will appreciate that you sold them a quality buck instead of a just a colorful one in the long run.
By Sue Beck
Disclaimer: The opinions, views, and thoughts expressed by newsletter and blog contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the Kinder® Goat Breeders Association. Goat husbandry advice found in the newsletter and blog is not meant to substitute a valid veterinary relationship. Please request permission to share or reprint newsletter and blog posts.