Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Goat Husbandry

            When I began working at Mountain Hollow Farm, I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about goats. I knew they were cute, and that I had almost passed out once in a vet tech class in which one was being operated on. That is as far as my experience went. Here I am roughly seven months later, and I feel pretty adept at caring for these fascinating creatures. Working here has also given me the confidence to delve into buying dairy goats of my own. However, none of this would be possible without hands on experience and a mentor.

            I can attest that there is nothing like doing it yourself. I could’ve read all the books in the world and not gained the sort of knowledge I did by actually being around and caring for the goats on a daily basis. One of the best ways to learn is by getting a goat on the stand. If we have to move all of our goats into a new pasture, it makes sense for us to catch them one at a time and get them up on the stand.
            We start out by weighing them, and checking their eyes according to the FAMACHA scale. Depending on their score, we may or may not worm them using an oral drench. We will check their hooves to see if they need trimming. And if there is any sign of hoof scald, we follow up by cleaning out the hoof and squirting penicillin between the toes. We conclude by checking them for mites and lice. If there is any evidence of either, we treat them with Cylence. Go through this routine enough, and you’ll know a lot about goat health!

            Hands on work is not all there is to it though. We try our best to use a rotational grazing system. Goats are browsers and prefer being in pasture that would be considered overgrown by most. Some people shoot for leaving their pastures fallow for a year. However, most farmers do not have enough land to make that practical. We aim to keep our goats in each pasture between 3 and 4 weeks. Keeping this schedule reduces the goat’s exposure to parasites, and also keeps us from feeding an abundance of hay.

            There are different husbandry techniques for different breeds as well. For instance, we are more diligent about checking our cashmere goats for mites and lice. These little critters damage the cashmere crop by chewing on it. Our dairy goats receive more grain than our cashmeres, due to their high milk production. Each breed has its individual quirks and requirements. If you spend enough time with any of them you’ll eventually get the hang of it, but it helps to have an expert around!

Thanks for reading,

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