August 2011 Issue

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ENVIRONMENTAL STRESSES AFFECTING GOATS

Many of us raising goats in the USA in 2010 and 2011 have been going through a tough couple of years. Much of this country is under a severe drought. In West Texas, where my ranch is located, we've had only 1-1/2 inches of rain in over a year. Some deserts get more rain. Other areas of the United States have experienced heavy rains and flooding.

Extreme environmental conditions translate into a very stressful life for goats. This situation is not limited to goats and other livestock. Farmers of small grains and hay lose their crops to these same stressors. Fish kills are occurring where water levels have dropped and oxygen levels in the water have been depleted. At Onion Creek Ranch, I've been going through the harrowing experience of losing kids and sometimes losing their dams to extreme heat stress. See the June 2011 issue of MeatGoatMania for details.

Since early May 2011, the daily temperatures have been running over 100*F, with 108*F and above and gusting hot winds. It has been like living in a blast furnace. In such an environment, does are not cycling into heat in their normal time frames. For those does that do cycle into heat and breed, it is likely that they will have singles rather than twins or twins rather than triplets. Instinct tells them that if they breed, there is nothing out there to eat to feed themselves and their kids, making starvation a real possibility. Instinct doesn't tell the goats that Suzanne is going to bring them hay or sacked feed. They sense and feel the impact of this extreme weather on their bodies and their bodies react to protect them.

These are survival-of-the-fittest conditions over which the producer has little control. Weaker goats, both older and younger, will die when that would not have happened under better environmental conditions. This paring down of the numbers leaves more for the surviving goats to eat. Just as an economic downturn clears out the weak and strengthens the strong to perform better, so are goat herds being culled. Nature is taking care of the overcrowding that humans have created.

Goats living under such stressful conditions are trying to survive. Goats do not gain weight in very hot or very cold weather. Feed consumption drops during stressed summers. Water consumption increases, but sometimes not enough to offset dehydration. Producers need to be aware of the need for additional water and the signs of dehydration. The rumen is 70% water. It doesn't take much dehydration to unbalance the pH of the rumen and cause life-threatening health problems. See my article on Dehydration on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and have the necessary supplies on hand to counteract the problem. Do not move goats from one location to another or even from herd to herd within your own property under environmentally-stressed conditions. I've long advised not to move heavily-pregnant does at all. Occasionally, I see an article where someone has done this successfully and I am amused. It is usually a "newbie" goat rancher who thinks he has beat the odds; the odds will catch up with him sooner rather than later. For every person who completes such a move successfully, there are literally dozens of others who have experienced the horrors that come from such an unwise decision and have contacted me about it. In fact, moving the goats is just part of that equation. Their lack of exposure to the bacteria and viruses on the new place and insufficient time to develop antibodies against them does not bode well for the health of the newborn kids. Better safe than sorry with live animals.

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

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Quality hay is extremely important to feed under drought conditions and during very cold weather. This is of course when such hay is the most difficult to find and expensive to buy and when producers should be buying supplies forward into the winter and following year to guarantee a constant source and a good level of nutrition. Drought-stricken or flooded land loses essential nutrients that are therefore unable to be passed along to the plant materials raised there. Producers must then figure out a way to provide those nutrients to their goats that hay and pastures are no longer providing. Sacked feed and/or protein blocks or tubs and loose minerals made for goats must be used to fill this nutritional gap. Goats cannot survive and thrive on plant materials that do nothing other than fill the empty spaces in their rumens.

As we go into the fall of 2011, I am already hearing of many cases of Listeriosis. This bacterium is in the soil and infects the brain stem of nutritionally-stressed goats on poor pasture or poor hay. Listeriosis is a very labor-intensive disease to cure, and many producers won't devote the time needed over 24 hours a day for multiple weeks to bring the goat back to health. Young kids may be subjected to Goat Polio (thiamine deficiency). See my article on Goat Polio and Listeriosis diagnosis and treatment on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com or in this issue of MGM.

Pasture plant toxicity is another concern. Aflatoxin poisoning, prussic acid (cyanide) and nitrate poisoning, and grass staggers can kill your goats. The August 2009 issue of MeatGoatMania has articles covering these toxicities. Some producers are reporting that sacked feed that they've been buying has turned toxic. Remember that sacked feed is made from plant materials that are trying to survive current environmental conditions and toxic ingredients can make their way into feed, no matter how careful the feed manufacturer is.

I am a firm believer that stressful conditions bring out illnesses in goats. I truly believe that if a goat has been infected with the bacteria that causes Caseous Lymphadenitis, then abscesses will appear when the goat is very stressed. The chance of goats contracting summer pneumonia is heightened. Tetanus is another infectious organism that appears under drought conditions. Laminitis-founder can occur when the producer is trying to make up for poor pastures by feeding sacked grains. Meningeal deerworm infection can surface when goats are grazing with populations of whitetail deer in wet and marshy areas. Copper, zinc, selenium, iodine, and other mineral deficiencies can occur when flooding and run-off has depleted the land of essential minerals.

Goat producers have their work cut out for them under normal conditions. In these environmentally-stressed areas, extra vigilance and preparation are required.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, 8/8/11

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WHEN MEAT MATTERS...

Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
325-344-5775 for prices and availability.

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SPECIAL MYOTONIC OFFER! Coming yearling Myotonic does
at Onion Creek Ranch
(These are not Tennessee Meat Goat™ quality Myotonics)

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are usually available year round. Contact us for ages and pricing by calling 325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com

 

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