January 2017 Issue



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Several times each week, I receive calls from folks asking for help but unable to provide the information I needed to assist them. They've taken the goat to a vet who performed various services and gave medications, then left without asking what was done or why.

These are not stupid people. They've just let themselves be intimidated by persons with professional designations behind their names. They've assumed that professional advice is accurate and should always be followed without inquiry or question. They've taken their valued animals for help, paid their hard-earned money, and left without asking questions. They've not realized that care for the animal is the short-term reason for the trip to the vet, but learning what is happening and how to treat or prevent it in the future is the long-term goal.

These goat raisers have sometimes paid for unnecessary and expensive services that cost more than the value of the goat. One example is Urinary Calculi. This disease, if successfully treated, can be recurring (chronic) throughout the goat's life. Depending upon the location of the blockage and the speed with which treatment is started, Urinary Calculi may not be fixable. Sometimes it is better to put the animal out of its misery by euthanizing it. So-called "heroic" action may only be delaying the inevitable, prolonging the animal's pain, and costing lots of money. But you have to have the information needed to make that decision, which means asking questions that include why and how.

We Americans have developed too much deference towards people with education and skill levels in areas other than our own. This includes people running show-goat programs, extension agents, and ag teachers, in addition to veterinarians. We've been subtly indoctrinated into this mindset over the last 40 years by our public schools, media, entertainment, and culture. "Don't make waves or judgements." "Just try to get along." This is nonsense. Use your common sense. If something doesn't sound or look right, question it. Professionals put on their pants just like you and I do . . . one leg at a time. They aren't better than you, nor should they be unapproachable. They simply have skills different from you and me. Take this opportunity to expand your knowledge and develop some new skills that will help your goat-raising operation.

ASK questions. Ask about the pros and cons of the treatment being recommended. Ask the prices before you have incurred the costs and had the work done. Tell the vet every detail of the problem, beginning with the first time you saw it. Include information on what you feed, what management or weather changes have occurred, and every other thing you can think of that might have a bearing on this animal's health. Since not many vets know much about goats, you as a goat raiser may have information that the vet doesn't have. You may be able to contribute to the veterinarian's knowledge about goats. You may also choose to decline the services. Because something is a common practice doesn't mean it is correct. With goats, it is usually the simplest thing, so don't start looking for complexity until you've ruled out the obvious, like worms, pneumonia, and incorrect feeding.

Goats in particular are largely unknown to most vets. Most of them are caring people who really want to help but don't have the experience or knowledge that they need to treat goats. And there is more to treating goats than medications. That they live in herds and are easily stressed when away from their herdmates has a lot to do with how their medical care should be approached. Lack of knowledge of the species itself can be limiting to the vet's ability to help your animal. Being a vet is tough work. Unlike human doctors, they must have knowledge of multiple species. Goats are a minor livestock species which numbers are declining, so there isn't much incentive for vets to learn about them. It isn't a profit center for most vets.

Learn to say NO. It is easy to say 'yes.' 'No' is much more difficult but often so much wiser to say. There is societal pressure on all of us to say 'yes' about many things when we know we should say 'no.'

I recommend that you apply this policy to your entire life as you shop for products and services on all levels. Remember when you had two-year old children and every word out of their mouths was WHY or NO? Irritating, but it was how they learned. Get your curiosity back. We must all continue to learn every day of our lives. You will be a better goat raiser and more successful at every level of your life.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 1-8-17

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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