A New Year - A New Farm

Now that we are relatively settled and a new year has begun, it is probably time for an update. 

While the barns were setup pretty good at the new place, a few modifications were needed.  First was converting the saw mill building to a goat barn… no problem!  A few panels & calf huts and both the boys and girls had accommodations with indoor hay bunks. While a bit more work needs to be done (permanent posts with swing gates, proper hay feeders that don’t rub the hair off their neck, enclosing a few walls, and some outdoor paddocks), what is there is sufficient for winter… they don’t venture terribly far from the hay all winter, anyway.  BEST OF ALL, the barn can be CLEANED WITH A TRACTOR! Yes, no more shovels (except the corners)!

I hate shovels!

I hate shovels!

Boys to the left, Black & Blue (LGDs) to the back, girls to the right.

Boys to the left, Black & Blue (LGDs) to the back, girls to the right.

Next up was RITCHIE WATERERS! Pet peeve number 2 (after shoveling), is hoses and heating water. Not only are water tanks a pain to fill, especially in the winter, they are EXPENSIVE to keep thawed.  I went from 4500 W (4.5 kW) of heaters (between the horses and two goat pens) to 350 W (0.350 kW)… how could I afford NOT to install the automatic waterers!? Let’s figure the tank heaters run 12 hours a day (prob run more some days, less others), that’s 12 hrs * 4.5 kW =  54 kWhrs per day. Multiple that by a 30 day billing cycle for 1,620 kWhrs. Now multiply by your kWhr rate, $0.13 kWhr for me, for a grand total of $210.60 PER MONTH (once again, assuming the heaters run 12 hrs a day). Compare that to the Ritchies: since they heat WAY LESS water, less take the worst case of running 24hrs a day for the entire 30 days, THAT’S $32.76 FOR THE MONTH assuming they heat 24hrs a day for the entire month! Installing the waterers was no walk in the park, however.  Unfortunately the waterers were lost in shipment and needed to be reshipped.  This delayed the installation of the waterers and we were fighting snow and freezing conditions in addition to the constantly caving-in 6’ deep trench. Sand is good for drainage and easy digging, but bad for trenches. Due to the freezing conditions, temporary footings were installed (as the semi-frozen ground could not be properly compacted, nor would concrete cure well) and work will be completed when things thaw and dry. I cannot say enough about how great these waterers are!  These waterers will easily pay for themselves and are basically maintenance free.  My only regret is not installing another one in the area I plan to setup as a milker pen.

I LOVE RITCHIE AUTOMATIC WATETERS!

I LOVE RITCHIE AUTOMATIC WATETERS!

Don’t forget the yard birds! They too got semi-temporary accommodations. The coop within the tractor shed is permanent, but the run will be expanded. For now, they are happy with the fact they don’t have to trudge through snow in their temporary pen and their coop is well insulated enough that the water rarely freezes even without any supplemental heat.

Happy yard birds!

Happy yard birds!

With the majority of the the does bred, plans are underway to build an awesome HEATED kidding area up by the house… it only cost me a $1200 forced-air LP/NG heater to heat the hubby’s garage so that I can use the attached side-garage for a few months of the year.  I am excited to see many of the does freshen, although I know there will be disappointment and loses.  With 27 does currently bred and up to a dozen more will be bred, loses (doe or kids) are unfortunately inevitable, especially due to the advanced ages of some does.  But, that is just part of the game, even if it is hard sometimes.

Finally, I am greatly looking forward to 2019 Linear Appraisal and milk testing.  This will be my first year on OS-AR (owner sampler with advanced registration) so I’m sure there will be a bit of a learning curve.  In previous years, I tested through MN DHIA so someone did all the paperwork for me, all I had to do was milk.  As always, I am registered as a Linear Appraisal host herd.  Contact me if you are interested in participating or simply coming to learn.

Here’s to a new year!

 

Home

Some page updates are in order! Once details are settled, I’ll worry about that... busy, busy, busy for now.

Renegade North is MOVING! Goodbye Minnesota, hello Michigan! To be specific, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; to be more specific, outskirts of Marquette (crossroads vicinity). Being a full-blood Yooper, this move is the 5-year plan that took 12-years. I’m just a bit too dedicated to my career to settle for a less than ideal opportunity, after all, I spend a great deal of time there. I love what I do (engineer for the power company), so the right job was worth it waiting for. 

One thing I LOVE about the U.P. - roadside waterfalls!

One thing I LOVE about the U.P. - roadside waterfalls!

Folks ask: “are you moving ALL your goats?!” That’s an easy YES! I have way too much invested in my herd: years of LA & DHIR, clean disease tests, and MY herd name all over the papers. I am proud of what I’m seeing in every subsequent generation and the results of pairings are increasingly predictable. Starting over is not something I’m interested in. Sure, I could cut numbers further, but what is the difference in moving 47 instead of 37 animals? Plus, the stress of finding homes for what were ‘keepers’ is unneeded... it’s just easier to move them. We are very excited! 

I’m sure glad for our Anatolian shepherds, Black & Blue... while driving to work the other morning, a bear crossed the road a few miles from the new ‘pending’ homestead. Time to earn your keep boys! 

Mr. Black & trainee Blue

Mr. Black & trainee Blue

Clostridium strikes

*WARNING - at the bottom of the post is a somewhat graphic image - normal vs diseased intestine.*

In 11 years, I do not believe how have ever lost a goat to enterotoxemia - often refered to as ‘overeating disease’.  Enterotoxemia is caused Clostridium bacteria, Clostridium perfringens types C & D, most commonly.  These bacteria are ever present in the environment and are part of a normal gut microbiome.  Unfortunately, in some cases/conditions, these bacteria grow out of control and produce large amounts of toxins.  The toxins produced enterocolitis (inflammation of the intestines) which increases the permeability of the intestinal blood vessels, overloading the kidneys with bacterial toxins.  The signs of exterotoxemia include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhea  
  • Sudden death

It is the sudden death symptom that claimed one 4/13/18.  Hazel's 3 week old doe kid presented no other signs.  She was jumping and climbing me when I filled their milk bucket at 06:30... she was found dead at 17:00.

While adults are susceptible in extreme cases, goats develop immunity to the toxins.  We also have the benefit of vaccination in the form of the CD&T vaccine (clostridium perfringens type C & D and Tetanus).  

Upon finding the doe kid dead, I called my wonderful vet.  With the cause unknown at this point, I was worried my other kids were at risk. Hazel (and all other does) had received a CD&T booster 3 weeks prior to kidding (which should allow her to pass immunity via milk).  All kids receive their first CD&T vaccination at disbudding, so this doe kid had been vaccinated; however, the vaccination likely did not have time to be fully effective.  By most accounts, this kid should have had protection.  After talking to the vet, there were no obvious answers, so a necropsy was scheduled for the next day.  At the time, a heart defect seemed the most likely cause.

Results were in by the evening.  Inflamed intestinal tissue (see image below) made it clear clostridium bacteria were to blame.  While there is no way to know for sure, given the sudden mortality and vaccination of both dam & kid, Dr. Chris speculated that it could be Clostridium perfringens type A.  Type A is rare but present in cattle and is beginning to be seen in goats.  

So what now? After a quick review of what and how I am feeding my kids, Dr. Chris determined I should keep doing what I am doing but to remain vigilant of any behavioral changes.  All kids have been given the clostridium antitoxin, which will provide up to 3 weeks of protection to allow for their CD&T vaccination to take full effect.  He also recommended getting their CD&T booster into them when applicable (3 weeks post first vaccination).  If I should see a kid demonstrate any signs of discomfort, administer penicillin IM and orally for 5 days.  I will also bump my CD&T vaccination up to only a few days of age.

While this is a complete bummer, stuff happens.  I am glad to have learned something.  Anytime something crappy happens, I learn something: how to identify a specific issue, how to treat it, how to prevent it. These are lessons I do not forget and will benefit my animals for years/decades to come.  Further, if this kid had not passed, I would have sold her sister.  I guess it is fate that the sister, who is smaller than her deceased sister, is the one who will be retained.

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Black Ivy - on the bright side

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The good news is all ended well for Black Ivy, unless she takes a turn for the worst.

More good news, she will be joining the milk string to provide milk for the us & the bottle babies.

It could have been soooo worse, but the bad news is the single doe kid did not make it. In fact, she clearly passed a while ago.

My first clue something was off was when Black Ivy had some abnormal hind-end drainage this morning. It’s not really normal for a wet hind-end that early in the process. But I was optimistic. She had a soft udder and no indications of even starting labor the night prior. I was pleasantly surprised when I found that filling udder this morning. The discharge had a bit of a brownish blood tinge, coupled with the wet hind end,  I decided to stick a gloved finger in... all I felt was a mostly closed cervix.

Labor was very slow, I watched her on the camera all day, but no distress so I left it alone. Rarely do good things happen when you push for an outcome (pretty good overall life advise, not just in regards to goats). Still with no real contractions going on, I poked a gloved finger in again around 17:00. Nothing to feel but a half open cervix. That eased my mind. She ate some dinner, I forced her to eat 4 Tums and I kept watch on the camera. Contractions of some significance started around 19:00. Still no distress, just doing the stand up, paw, eat hay, paw, lay down, repeat, routine.

Around 20:30 things got more serious. I check her again, still nothing to feel but a now wide open cervix.  I milked her out a bit to stimulate natural oxytocin. She eagerly licked my hand, so odds are she’d clear the face of a kid if I was late to the party. 

At 22:00-ish, she’s consistently pushing and staying down so something is now clearly wrong. I went to the barn, gloved up, and did not like what I find. I can feel a nose... just a nose... and it’s upside down! I can just barely see the tongue, it’s a yellow brown. The fluid is brown red. The teeth wiggle as if they’ll easily fall out. I can feel sunken eye sockets and the skull is soft. I pushed the mess in and feel for legs... nope. Might be easier if it wasn’t dry and sticky inside. That made me nervous. Forcing your way around IN a goat is grounds for a fatal uterine tear. Meanwhile, Black Ivy is handling all this fairly well. The kid is not terribly big and Black Ivy got the head mostly out on her own prior to me pushing it in, so I decided to forgo trying to flip or find a leg. I figure, if I let her get the head clear, I can pull. I get her up, she obliges, and I milk her out. If this goes south at least I won’t have to milk colostrum out of a dead goat... much easier to do when they are standing.  

The bad bad news is, the doe kid was indeed dead. The good news is, all went as I anticipated. Shortly after milking Black Ivy out, she laid down & quickly pushed the kid out far enough that I could get a grip behind the skull. A bit of pulling and I found a leg. The kid stopped coming easy so I fished around for the other leg and found it up and over the shoulder... how, I’m not sure. I straightened it into ‘normal’ position and the rest came easy. I went back in to feel for another kid... nope. I got her up and bumped her abdomen to see if one might be low... nope.  I put a uterine bolus in and gave her a shot of LA200.

I’m fairly confident that this one turned out as well as it could have. The kid was dead, probably for a few days. If I went ram-jamming around in that goat, I probably would have killed her. I’ve already had one uterine tear this year and it’s a crappy deal. Nature has a way of resolving some situations. It’s hard to know when to intervene and when to leave stuff alone, but my gut served me well tonight. Still, I wonder every time something like this happens if I could have had a better outcome.  Was the kid alive that morning and the cervix still closed because the kid's position resulted in less pressure on the cervix causing it to not dilate?  If I worked to manually dilate her, would I have a live kid or just a stressed, possibly dead, doe? 

Frost Bite

2018 started cold, REALLY cold.  I don't recall the exact temperature, but it was certainly not only below freezing but well below zero.  I remember tossing the goats some pine bows to celebrate the new year.  I remember it being beautifully sunny, but with a fairly brisk wind.  While the sun makes you feel better, it doesn't do much to heat objects that time of year. Despite negative temperatures, the goats usually fair very well, surprisingly well.  All they need is plenty of good quality hay, a place to get out of the wind, and 'liquid' water.  Frost bite is fairly uncommon anywhere other than ear tips, and that is usually only newborn kids who are still wet.

I feed my goats everyday, with few exceptions.  Not because they need food, but because it is a good opportunity to give everyone a once over.  The key to keeping your goats alive is recognizing illness at the very first sign.  I toss food in the pans and then make the rounds to all the houses to make sure everyone is up.  Occasionally, I will find one dead-asleep, which causes brief panic. I then watch them for a few minutes to ensure everyone is greedily munching and exhibiting their normal behavior - some run from pan to pan somehow expecting to find 'the best' food, some angrily glare and nip at their compadres, others eat as much as quickly as they can (the smart ones).  I check rear ends for heat indications, poo issues, and/or uddering.  It was at this time on the 1st that Star's teat caught my eye and my heart sank. 

Star is a 2009 model so not exactly a spring chicken. Her November 2017 milk test revealed my first ever encounter with mastitis. Star had a somatic cell count (SCC - a marker of inflammation) of 2.4 million. She had no outright symptoms of mastitis. Her body and udder were normal temperature. One side had become slightly smaller than the other and had a bit of a lump. Nothing to raise concern, though. I would not have known there was a problem without the insight of milk testing. Being inexperienced in regards to mastitis, I did what I always do and called my wonderful vet, Dr. Chris. He came out a week or so later. He did a California milk test on her and confirmed subclinical mastitis in the slightly smaller side (other side tested normal). I discussed with him that after her October milk test, I changed her milker ration to strictly fiber as she was beginning to dry up. The high carb/sugar & moderate fat ration, needed to keep her body condition from declining severely due to high production, began resulting in acidosis as detected by protein inversion in the October milk test (protein inversion is more protein than butterfat and is often a marker of acidosis). I felt the acidosis likely caused the mastitis. He agreed with my conclusions and stated that the mastitis was subclinical and appeared to be resolving (as the amount of gelling in the California milk test reagent was more consistent with a SCC of 1 million versus the 2.4 million a week prior). He said to dry her up and then infuse the udder with a half tube of Tomorrow.  We had one last milk test on 12/11/17, mostly to just check her SCC, which had declined.  On December 15th, she was milked for the last time, the Tomorrow went in, and she was moved from the barn to the pen.  

The following pictures are the progression of Star's frost bite. Of course, I called the vet immediately. There was nothing that could be done aside getting her into a dry & warm (above freezing) environment and then controlling any infection that might arise.  My milk parlor became a stall for TWO, as I couldn’t leave her sleeping buddy in the cold nor Star alone in the barn.  It is/was crazy how the tissue damage progressed. We were hopeful with the bleeding, as bleeding indicated the vascular system wasn’t damaged beyond hope. Ultimately, she lost all the frozen tissue with no complications requiring tissue removal. 

Star is due to kid on 3/19/18. It is unclear if she will always leak or if that will cease after the last bit of tissue is healed. At this point, the leaking is good as it indicates the duct is open, which is better than healed shut.  As for her kids ability to nurse kids, well, she has never fed one in her life so that changes nothing. 

Some time last year, I had a gut feeling Star’s time on top was coming to an end. I hope to get these 2018 kids dry and standing because after that, she owes me nothing.

UPDATE: Star kidded without complication, crashed 12 hours later with milk fever or pneumonia, and then improved. She is doing well now. Due to the amount of leakage, I will be working with my veterinarian to kill off that half of Star’s udder. I can’t imagine things fairing well in fly season

UPDATE: On 5/1/18, the wonderful Dr. Chris was out to 'kill' the damaged half of Star's udder.  The leaking has not subsided and will clearly be a fly-strike issue this summer.  A solution of chlorhexide and iodine was infused into the udder and then the teat was plugged.  The plug did not stay in but an hour before she pulled or kicked it out.  I re-infused the udder, re-plugged, and tied Star comfortably in the barn so that she could lay down, eat and drink, but could not reach her hind end.  This morning the plug had once again been removed, probably via kicking, but the infusion seems to be doing its job.  The half is hot, hard, and swollen.  Banamine is keeping Star comfortable and we are hoping for the best.  While Dr. Chris has done this many times on cattle, this is the first goat he has done this with.  While I feel bad intentionally subjecting an animal to this procedure, it is clearly in Star's best interest to not leak milk everywhere.

UPDATE: Attempts to kill that side of the udder were NOT successful despite multiple attempts. We were able to slow production to the point that it did not leak substantially... really only when she jumped on the stand and I milked the other side. 

The calm before the storm

I can hear the wind blowing so it isn’t all that calm.... Although there is a winter storm blowing in, that’s not what I’m talking about.

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The first round of does have been moved to the barn (except Cadence, the other girls aren’t used to her company so she will go directly into a kidding stall when she gets a tad closer... can’t have preggos figuring out a new pecking order).  Kidding season is always a whirlwind of emotions. The excitement of new life, the inevitable losses. The hopes for pink (and occasionally blue), the resulting gratitude or disappointment. The anticipation, the exhaustion (when a doe decides midnight is a reasonable kidding hour). The stress of untangling a mess of kids or rearranging limbs, the relief of doing so successfully.

I’m hopeful for better luck than some fellow herdsmen. A surprising number have had terrible events such as uterine rupture. Even more have had a disproportionate number of bucklings (which isn’t the worst thing, at least everyone is healthy).  So fingers crossed for pink, health, and convenient kidding hours! 

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Ever wonder?

We drew blood the other day for pre-kidding CAE & Johne’s testing.  Felicia, being the pain in the butt that she is, grabbed a filled vial and I took off running (why, goat, why?!). When I put the vials in the fridge 30 minutes later (they need to sit a bit to clot & separate), I noticed the cap was jacked up on one, teeth marks indicating it was likely Felicia’s fault. I messed with the vial a bit to see how broken it was and it was clear it had lost its vacuum. Unsure if this would affect the results, I taped it up and tossed it in the garbage can. We drew new blood the next day, not much sense in paying $13 for junk results - false positives and/or false negatives happen enough, as is.

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As I tossed it in the garbage, I asked the hubby if he wonders if people (or whatever) will excavate landfills in the future... Will they find this vial of blood? (Maybe it won’t even make it to the landfill, ending up in Great River Energy’s garbage burner instead - ‘refuse-derived fuel’ being the technical term). What will they think?  What conclusions will they come to about why this vial of blood is in the landfill? Will they clone Black Ivy? Am I the only one who wonders about stuff like this?

New webpage... and a one-eyed goat

Looky-looky, I started a REAL webpage.

 ... and I have a fancy app for updating the blog.

 

I can even add photos to the blog. 

Such as, Greta... in the house... 

Greta had an incident and had to have her eye removed. Thanks to my AWESOME vet, Dr. Chris, it wasn’t even that ridiculous of a thing to do ($250 - which he joked I could easily recoup given the novelty of selling her as ‘a one-eyed goat’). 

 

Greta has given up her spot on the couch for a spot in the barn... although, she did get the luxury of an infrared heater as I worry she became acclimated after 2 weeks inside.