November 2015 Issue



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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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The Key to Raising Meat Goats

Good genetics will never overcome bad management.

Unfortunately for goats, there are too many people managing them very poorly.

I receive multiple calls and emails each day asking for help with or advice about goats. I am sad to report that some of these goats are living in the caprine equivalent of concentration camps. Neglect, as well as outright starvation, afflict more goats in this country than I'd ever want to contemplate. The worse part is that this neglect is occurring primarily because of ignorance about goats. People want good information, but it is difficult to sift through all of the bad stuff on the Internet. With the rise of social media, this information has become even worse, including some sites being represented as staffed by veterinarians.

Some examples, with the names withheld to protect the ignorant:

1) Person in NE USA says he has 135 acres on which he plans to raise 4000 goats. Primary concern is how much money he can extract for the sale of each goat. My lengthy conversation reveals that this person is not at all concerned that such intensive crowding will result in much illness and death. This person didn't want to learn anything about properly raising goats. He wanted the goats to bend to his requirements. Ignorance can be remedied but you "can't fix stupid."

2) Person in southern USA plans to buy goats that he knows have visible abscesses that he has been told by the seller are CL and wants to know how to handle them. While CL is a manageable disease and a CL vaccine exists for goats, no rational goat raiser should buy animals he already knows are infected with any disease. You get what you pay for; cheap goats will turn out to be the most expensive goats you ever own.

3) Person in cold mountainous part of USA has 600 goats on 100 acres. Lost 450 of them last winter to "freezing to death" (his words). Wanted to know how much and when to begin feeding them to be able to sell them next summer at a profit. After laborious questioning on my part, I determined that not only has he over-crowded them but he offered only winter pasture and minerals during the entire sub-freezing winter. No hay, no protein, no energy supplements. They froze to death because they were starved to death. I urged him to sell them now. Based upon my conversation with him, I decided he was unlikely to spend the money on feed to put weight on them to protect them through a hard winter and into next summer. He needed to cut his losses and give the goats a chance to belong to someone who would properly care for them. Nutrition is the hardest thing to get right in any goat herd. If you think goats eat tin cans, don't try to raise goats. Goats are very picky eaters.

4) Show goat folks. Where do I begin? Most of them with whom I speak have been taught to do everything wrong. They push grain -- feeding as much as three pounds of sacked feed per day to a 40-pound kid -- causing ruminal acidosis (overeating disease) or founder while putting on too much weight too fast, resulting in a breakdown of joints and skeletal structure. A young frame cannot carry that much weight put on that fast. The goats are simply OBESE. They restrict or completely eliminate hay (long fiber), which is essential to rumen function, food digestion, and body warmth. Most of these folks don't know any better. Their ag teachers and extension agents have taught them these feeding protocols, and they assume that these folks are knowledgeable. Goats die because of it. Over the last 20+ years, I've heard this story from hundreds of show goat folks.

5) Man and wife bought Spanish goats, took delivery, and immediately left on a month-long vacation because they told me that "Spanish goats take care of themselves." Folks, there is no such thing as vacations or holidays or week-ends off when you raise livestock of any kind. Time off is a mid- to late-20th century concept. Animals require attention seven days a week. Because hardly anyone, including vets, knows anything about goats, you will have to learn to be your own vet. Because hardly anyone wants to work anymore -- certainly not at a job that is of a lifestyle gone by -- you will get to be your own laborer. If you are unwilling to put in that amount of effort, don't raise goats. I get amused when I go to town and people tell me to "have a nice weekend." Weekends are the same as weekdays on a ranch.

6) Many people want to buy bred does or call after they've bought bred does and are having kidding problems, not understanding that newborns have zero immune system and the only protection from illnesses are the antibodies their dams' milk. If she was bred at one location and moved to another to kid, those antibodies are for the location she was moved from and not for the property on which she is giving birth, leaving her kids without any protection whatsoever. They have a kidding disaster on their hands.

These are but six examples of the rampant ignorance surrounding raising goats.

Since I began raising goats in January 1990, the knowledge level about goats has gotten worse rather than improved. (This parallels the decline of our public education system nationwide.) The Internet has vast amounts of information, but much of it is worthless and some is so bad as to be dangerous to goats' health. Most Americans now live in urban or suburban areas, although we are only about three generations away from America's being a largely agrarian country. Only two percent of Americans now live in rural areas. City life has eroded our knowledge of how Nature functions and how humans, animals, and Nature interact, survive, and thrive. I was born in an urban environment. I lived in Houston, Texas in a townhouse and sold real estate. I never owned a pet until I was 42 years old. But when I decided to live in the country, I went all out to learn everything I could as fast as possible. I did not apply human thought processes and behaviors to goats. I learned to THINK LIKE A GOAT. They are much smarter than we are in terms of living successfully within their environment.

You must choose your mentors carefully. Find someone and, using your common sense, determine if you believe they are knowledgeable. Then listen to them, but always evaluate what you hear to determine if it makes sense. It might need to be adapted to your particular goat raising operation. Join venues like ChevonTalk and MeatGoatMania on Yahoogroups. Both are free and have been around since 1998 and 2009 respectively. Plan on attending GoatCamp™ at Onion Creek Ranch in October of each year. Read articles I've written on the Articles page at Get proper supplies on hand. When you call, I cannot help you if you don't have basic medications. Start learning to THINK LIKE A GOAT.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 11-12-15

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

Beautiful group of yearling bucks at Bending Tree Ranch

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