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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Black fly and bottlejaw season 
25th-Jun-2013 07:21 am
Goldie pbhttt
We have had a lot of rain this spring, especially during the evenings and overnight. That rain has provided excellent habitat and conditions for both flies around the barns and worms in the fields. Flies are simple creatures. They like wet poop. Because the goats congregate around and in the barns, poop happens. With the rain, the goats are spending more time in the (dirt floor) barns, and bringing the rain in with them. So there is a large swath of mud and poop all around the barns. The joy I feel is endless.

Short, wet grass is the preferred climbing area for my constant enemies, Haemonchus contortus and Strongyloides papillosus. Newly-hatched parasites are naturally programmed to climb grass blades, which are consumed by the goats. Once inside the goat, the parasites go to work sucking blood out of the intestinal walls. Before the parasites die, they lay eggs which are carried out the other end of the goat's digestive system, ending up as poop in the wet grass. There the eggs hatch in the muddy poop, find a blade of grass, etc.

Bottlejaw is a condition where the goat starts retaining water from anemia. The lower skin areas on the goat start to get squishy and loose. The lower portions include the face (sample photo of puffy goat; not horrible) since goats usually have their heads down to graze. Other places that show water retention quickly are the chest and stomach, and around the ankles. During the late, wet spring, when there is plenty of food, a goat might evidence bottlejaw even while its skin is still pink with red blood cells. Whacky and frustrating, but true. When he was younger, Loki was a master at that.

One more advantage of having sheared at the beginning of summer is that I can judge macro animal condition at a glance. There isn't enough hair to hide bottlejaw and some of the other physical nutrition symptoms. Lack of copper causes baldness (never has happened on my farm!). Lack of food - or foot rot - causes skinniness. Lice and ticks are easier to spot, especially around the face.

Another thing that is caused by wet and mud is thrush, or foot rot. I call it athlete's foot when talking to non-goat people because "thrush" makes people think of mouths and "foot rot" sounds so dire. The cause is simple: muddy poop gets up between the goats' toes and causes a dermal infection. It digs under toenails and separates the nail from the toe wall. Left untreated, the goat will go lame. Lame goats don't like to stand much, so they don't eat as much. So thrush is a common cause of skinniness in goats in the late winter and spring. It's easy to treat, but the battle, once joined, is almost constant. (Here's a not so pretty sample photo.)

So, even while I love the lush green pastures, there is a battle going on out there.
28th-Jun-2013 10:49 am (UTC)
If they had a platform to get up on, and out of the damp pasture would that make any difference? I'm thinking something like a 1' tall deck.

I know the goats are naturally drawn to high places.

Ohhh I know, you need a big rock pile... build a mountain for them =)
28th-Jun-2013 12:15 pm (UTC)
While they would enjoy a platform, the return on investment for resolution of the issues listed above would be less than you'd think on a simple 1-inch raised area because then the goats would spend their time pooping up on that and squishing it in their toes. If it were slatted, the poop and dirt would fall through and for a while that would be a good thing, especially because of the drainage. Then the crud would build up and make the platform just as yucky as the ground around it. (We tried this up in the boy's yard.)

The rock pile idea is not a bad one. Wearing down their toenails would help with the thrush by giving it fewer places to live. We are considering making an area just gravel and sand, and putting the water buckets in it to make them walk on it.
28th-Jun-2013 02:04 pm (UTC)
I figured goat poo would make the platform idea non-viable, but had to ask... I'm a problem solver =).

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