Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Why Did My Goat Die?"

Photo by Nancy Chandler via Droid

"People say you are the Goat Lady so I thought I'd call you"..... I hear this all the time and it's never good.  By the time I get this call, usually the poor goat is past saving.... at least by the likes of me trying to make a diagnosis or suggestion based on a bit of information on the phone.

I start out by asking some basic questions:

Is the goat "down"?  Standing, laying down, eating, drinking, making noises that indicate pain?
Is she warm to the touch?  Muscle twitches?  Snotty nose or gurgly sounding breathing?  Diarrhea?
Has it been wormed regularly or recently?  Yearly vaccinations?
Is there good adequate shelter in this bad weather?
What are you feeding?  Do they have access to minerals, salt and selenium?

Many times, by the time I get the call, the goat is "down", almost comatose.  I tell the person to call the vet.  Right away.  I must not communicate well because more times than not, the person calling waits another day or so and then is surprised when the goat dies.

Many times, there's no regular worming given.  High worm load robs the animal of nutrition and as the parasites multiply and consume the feed they poop and that's the problem.  That waste is toxic in extremely high levels. Selenium deficiency is also a problem in this area since our soils are selenium deficient which produces hay and pasture that is low in selenium.  We supplement in several ways.  I detailed this in the previous blog entry.  Mineral deficiency can cause digestive problems, muscle weakness and if severe can lead to the animal ceasing to eat.... which then leads quickly to death.

Late one January, I got a call from a neighbor who said her goat was depressed and had stopped eating.  It had rained for 29 days in a row.... not just a sprinkle but driving rain, every day with flooding and mud everywhere.  When I questioned her about the goat's shelter I found that it was a miniature goat that lived alone in a chain link dog run with a dogloo for shelter.  The dogloo was in the open, in the rain..... so that was the goats shelter.... for 29 days.... inside what basically became a little plastic drum. The poor thing had nowhere to get out of the rain except inside the drum and nowhere to get relief from the noise of the rain pelting nonstop.... for 29 days.  Of course the goat got depressed and stopped eating.  It went crazy waiting patiently for someone to figure out it was in distress.  I told her to call the vet.  She waited another day and by that time, the goat was dehydrated and beyond help.  The goat died.  A few months later she left a message about getting another kid and we avoided returning her call.

Goats are such sweet things.  The point of keeping goats is to have happy goats.  Any large herd will experience losses, particularly in the fall when the weather turns, during kidding season, and in the spring, usually just after the weather breaks.  But there are things to do to keep that number down.  Regular worming.  Yearly vaccinations.  Good nutrition including minerals.  Shelter to get them out of the rain, the wind, the sun.  Dry hay.  Good hoof care.  Diligent observation to find problems early.  Trips to the vet or a "ranch call" if the problems seem serious.....

We'll be having a whole new crop of kids beginning in March.  We'll be providing some free animals to a newly rejuvenated 4H dairy goat project here in Alsea and David has offered to train the leader and provide hands on experience to any of the kids who want to put in time to learn.  We'll have some other animals for sale.  We often have a waiting list of people who are interested in our kids, having heard that they are very healthy and have a high survival rate once in the hands of buyers.  Send us an email if you are interested in getting some kids.  We post on craigslist too, under the heading "GOATS! GOATS! GOATS!"

By the way, in response to the "Goat Lady" label, I usually tell people that I prefer Goat Goddess.


  1. Great post with great information.
    Goats are a lot of work but worth every minute,my nigerians are sweet and require the same kind of care as the big guys.
    People think that it's easy like taking care of a dog or cat but they don't realize it untill they come out and see first hand all the work involved.