There is lots of information available on the internet. A lot of it is good information. There are a lot of passionate people that are confident in their points of view. When it comes to farming and managing animals, we must remember that there are unique management requirements and techniques at EVERY farm. My thought is, do your research, figure out what you think makes the most sense for you and your farm and then discuss your plan with your veterinarian. Or ask your veterinarian when you are getting very confident but conflicting information from trusted resources. For example, somebody out west might confidently not supplement their flock with selenium, whereas someone in Vermont may give annual selenium injections to their ewes. There are very good reasons for both practices, and the most basic reason for the difference is location.
There are 3 widespread goat husbandry myths that I would like to address right now:
- Do NOT decrease grain to decrease a goat’s milk production. A goat will starve herself and continue producing milk if the milking routine does not change. If you want to decrease milk production, wean her kids or decrease your milking (e.g. go from twice a day to once a day). With a decreased demand for milk, milk production will decrease.
- There is no scientific link between so-called “fish-tails” and copper deficiency in goats. Yes, goats do need copper in their diet, but there are very few cases of copper deficiency in goats in Vermont. Give them daily free-choice access to a trace mineral powder (granulated) made for goats. If housed with sheep, give them all daily free-choice access to a trace mineral powder made for sheep. Ideally do NOT top dress their feed. Put it in dish or in a container on a wall and let them self-administer.
- Body condition is NOT determined by the width of the abdomen nor by rib bone visualization. Also, dairy goats generally look thin compared to meat goats, but the technique to determine sheep and goat body condition is universal: We discern body condition by putting our hands on the animals in the hip region. We want to feel a nice pad of muscle over the pelvic bone that connects the hook of the hip to the spinal column. The hooks and the spine will usually have very little padding themselves, but in between those three points, we should be able to feel muscle. You should have to press significantly to feel the connecting bone there. If you feel muscle there, you can sometimes imagine an A-frame structure the hips, which is perfect. If all you feel is bone all the way across, that animal is too thin. If the A-frame structure has turned into an arc like a rainbow, that’s usually a layer of fat over the muscle and the animal is too fat. Nobody, unless the sheep were just shorn, can just look at a sheep or goat and accurately determine body condition. You must put your hands on the animal.
CALVS is owned and operated by Dr. Dianne Johnson. Dr. Johnson graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in May 2012. Dianne is thankful to be back in Vermont (the other “VT”), where she is close to her family and many friends.
Prior to establishing CALVS, Dr. Johnson did a 6-month internship at Cross-Border Equine in Springfield, VT. Dr. Johnson enjoys working with cattle, small ruminants, camelids, and horses, and will also work with swine and poultry on an as-needed basis. Dianne is especially interested in sustainable farming, pasture management, and preventative care.
In her spare time, Dianne enjoys reading, walking and hiking with her dog, and crafts.
Prior to studying veterinary medicine, Dianne studied psychology and worked as an outdoor education instructor. She enjoys teaching youth and adults husbandry and veterinary medical skills.