September 2016 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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WHAT ARE TEXMASTER™ MEAT GOATS?
The Superior Commercial Meat-Goat Breed

Four years after I had begun raising fullblood Myotonic meat goats and about nine months after I imported a trio of Boers from New Zealand, I began to wonder why people were so excited about Boers as "meat" goats. My Myotonics had far more meat on them, were much easier to manage, kidded easily, and were cheaper to feed. I asked myself this question: Why can't I take the more heavily muscled fullblood Myotonic bucks that I trademarked as Tennessee Meat Goats™, breed them to Boer does, and begin the development of a new meat goat breed that put more MEAT on the offspring (coming from the TMG sires) and with a bit faster growth rate and frame size (contributed by the Boer females)? So in 1995, I began the multi-year process of creating the superior commercial meat goat breed that I trademarked as TexMaster™. A new breed was in the making.

A minimum of seven generations of breeding is required to produce animals that breed "true." Breeding "true" means that breeding pairs reproduce offspring with consistent characteristics, i.e. they produce traits that replicate themselves from goat to goat enough to be called a BREED. I have been producing TexMasters™ since 1995. That's a lot of breedings and cullings.

Important: TexMasters™ are not simply a cross breed of Myotonics and Boers. TexMasters™ are the result of many years of crossing, evaluating, re-evaluating, re-crossing, and heavily culling in every generation. More importantly, TexMasters™ are the product of Onion Creek Ranch Tennessee Meat Goat™ genetics and specially-bred Boer and TMG-Boer cross does produced at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas. Over the years, I've improved the TexMaster™ breed by removing much Boer influence because I learned that it didn't take much "Boer" in the mix to reduce the meat produced on the offspring. Only Tennessee Meat Goat™ bucks were used as foundation sires. I used just enough of the Boer on the maternal side to increase slightly both the growth rate and frame size of the offspring. The precise formula is proprietary, i.e. Onion Creek Ranch's trade secret. The MEAT on the TexMaster™ comes from Onion Creek Ranch Tennessee Meat Goat™ sires; the meat does not come from the Boer females. The TexMaster™ breed retains the hardiness of the Tennessee Meat Goat™ with excellent mothering instincts, ease of kidding, lower maintenance, and most importantly higher meat-to-bone ratio than any breed other than fullblood TMGs. TexMasters™ are in use in many commercial herds across the USA. Go to www.texmastermeatgoats.com to read testimonials.

Pedigree International currently operates the TexMaster™ registry. You can breed and register percentage TexMasters™ by using fullblood TexMaster™ sires. You can breed up to purebred status but you cannot produce fullblood TexMasters™ without breeding fullblood TexMaster™ to fullblood TexMaster™ -- just like any other breed. I created TexMasters™ to be the meatiest commercial meat-goat breed by using specific genetics that I carefully selected and evaluated in every breeding. If you want to produce commercial goats, you should buy and use these specific genetics as herd sires. You should not use "bred-up" crosses as sires because you will be using genetics of other breeds and you will lose the MEAT advantage provided by Tennessee Meat Goat™ sires that make TexMasters™ so desirable as a terminal product. Example: If you buy a percentage TexMaster™ buck because a producer is close to you or it is cheaper than you can buy a fullblood TexMaster™ buck from Onion Creek Ranch genetics, you will be getting a goat that is the offspring of a TexMaster™ buck and does that are not the specially-developed Onion Creek Ranch genetics that produce superior meat-goat offspring. Such offspring would be a 50% TexMaster™ since the sire is a fullblood TexMaster™. But that 50% TexMaster™ isn't going to have anything close to the amount of meat on it that a fullblood TexMaster™ out of Onion Creek Ranch or Bending Tree Ranch genetics has on it. Crossing with other breeds decreases the "meatiness" of the offspring. This is acceptable for terminal animals but not for use as breeding stock.

Pat Cotten and I are constantly fine tuning the TexMaster™ breed, thereby improving it. You should buy your TexMaster™ herd sire out of genetics that we have developed to breed to your other breed does. Your buck is at least 50% of your herd and more likely 75% if you keep any replacement does. I recognize that costs and distances affect goat purchases but you should always be working towards acquiring better genetics, especially for your herd sires. Don't be cheap about buying your herd sire. Buy the best you can afford. Stretch a little financially and you will get more "bang for your buck." Quality never comes cheap.

If you are interested in purchasing fullblood TexMasters™, come to the source. Contact Suzanne W. Gasparotto at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas or Pat Cotten at Bending Tree Ranch in Arkansas. Suzanne can be reached at 325-344-5775 or email her at onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com, and Pat can be reach at 501-679-4936 or bendingtreeranch@cyberback.com. If you cannot reach one of us, contact the other. We are in contact daily, share information about inquiries, and work together to fill orders.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch

Consultation & Evaluation Services for Hire

I've decided to expand my business to include consultation & evaluation services for people who are either thinking about raising meat goats or are currently raising them and want to improve their operations

Please contact Suzanne W. Gasparotto at 324-344-5775 or email at onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com

HAY AND GRAIN TOXICITY

Although there are many kinds of hay and grain toxicity, I will concentrate on the most common forms with which goat breeders have to contend.

Prussic acid poisoning, nitrate-nitrite toxicity, and aflatoxin result from extreme changes in weather conditions. Specifically, periods of heavy rainfall that are followed by very dry heat (or vice-versa) stimulate the development of these toxins in hay and grains.

PRUSSIC ACID POISONING

Also known as cyanide poisoning, prussic acid toxicity comes on suddenly, usually within 15 minutes of the goats' ingesting the toxic plant material, and is characterized by slobbering or frothing at the mouth and an increase in respiratory rate. Mouth breathing develops within five to fifteen minutes. The heartbeat is rapid and weak. Muscle twitching occurs quickly and spasms precede death. Muscous membranes are bright red, indicating a lack of oxygen transfer throughout the body that is necessary for continued survival. Death from respiratory paralysis comes during severe convulsions. The heart continues to beat for several minutes after struggling ceases and breathing stops. Blood often passes from the nostrils and mouth near the time of death. This entire process seldom takes longer than 30 to 45 minutes. If animals survive for more than two hours after the onset of signs of this illness, a high percentage of them will recover.

Ruminants are more susceptible to prussic acid (cyanide) poisoning than non-ruminant species, probably because the rumen releases larger quantities of hydrocyanic acid.

Cyanide-containing plants include Gregg's catclaw, acacia, catclaw acacia, devil's catclaw, mountain mahogany, iris, blue flag, common flax, western choke cherry, pine cherry, wild red cherry, bird cherry, fire cherry, wild black cherry, apple, Johnson grass*, sudan grass*, common sorghum*, poison suckleya, white clover, arrow grass, goose grass, sour grass, pod grass, maize, corn*. The plants indicated by an asterisk (*) are most commonly encountered by goat breeders in my part of the United States (Texas). Several of these crops are used as hay or grain feed.

Intravenous administration of sodium nitrite in a 20% solution is the treatment of choice for prussic acid poisoning. Because of the importance of speed in treating cases of cyanide toxicity, sodium nitrite and sodium thiosulfate are usually administered together. Some success has occurred by using oral preparations of sodium thiosulfate.

If you think that the goat's problem is prussic acid/cyanide poisoning, it is time to call the vet!

The risk of prussic acid/cyanide toxicity may be decreased by feeding commercially-prepared sack goat feed before animals are turned out to graze. Do NOT ever feed wet or moldy hay or grain to goats. Wet grain must be thrown out, but wet bales of hay can be broken and aired out until thoroughly dry, then used as goat feed . . . . IF the bales are lightly wet and all mold and mildew has disappeared.

Prussic acid poisoning can and does occur in crops which have NEVER been fertilized.

NITRATE/NITRITE POISONING

Few plants ordinarily have high nitrate content, although small quantities of potassium nitrite are found naturally in many plants. Under certain conditions, however, plants have the ability to accumulate large quantities of nitrates which are potentially toxic to goats. Toxic levels of nitrate are found in common pasture grasses and plants during periods of rapid growth, particularly when warm rains follow a very dry summer. Since soluble sugars are low at this time, nitrite accumulates in the rumen by slowing up the rate of metabolism to ammonia. Drought increases nitrate concentration in plants.

Crops grown on summer-fallow land often have a higher concentration of nitrates than land which is in continous production, since the latter conditions result in absorption of nitrates as the crops grow.

Nitrate poisoning usually occurs within several days after the hay has been moistened by rain, snow, or excessive dampness. Plants containing more than 1.5% dry weight potassium nitrate are lethal to goats.

The amount and type of fertlizer used on a field, as well as soil type, influences nitrate accumulation.

Nitrate-accumulating plants and grasses include pigweed, redroot, oatgrass, goosefoots, lamb's-quarter, Canada thistle, jimsonweed, barnyard grass, cockspur, bursage, silver leaf, poverty weed, white ragweed, wild sunflower, fireweed, cheeseweed, sweet clover, smartweed, Russian thistle, Johnson grass*, oats*, beets, rape, soybean, flax, alfalfa*, rye, sudan grass*, wheat* and corn*. The asterisked (*) products are often used to feed goats in Texas and other parts of the United States.

Deaths have also occurred from animals consuming water from shallow wells in certain areas of the Great Plains. An increase in the concentration of nitrates in stock tanks above that of the well water's nitrate level happens, often during freezing weather, perhaps by ground-water's being contaminated from heavily-fertilized soil or by barnyard runoff.

Signs of nitrate/nitrite poisoning appear suddenly. Difficulty in breathing is usually the first sign. Mouth breathing, weak and rapid heartbeat, low body temperature, extreme apprehension, anxious behavior, muscular weakness, and foaming at the mouth are symptomatic of this illness. The blood is brown colored because of the presence of methemoglobin; methemoglobin cannot bind oxygen. Death usually occurs within three to four hours; in extreme cases, the goat dies in convulsions within an hour. Goats who survive nitrate poisoning may have continual health problems associated with this toxic reaction. Respiratory distress in the form of labored, heavy breathing and occurences of interstitial pneumonia often happen. For those goats who recover from nitrate poisoning, the timeframe is 10-14 days, but pregnant females usually abort following recovery.

The most sensitive and reliable simple test for nitrites is the dephenylamine blue (DPB) test. Treatment for the illness is best accomplished by the administration of a 2% solution of methylene blue, which through a series of chemical reactions, allows the toxic methemoglobin to be converted to hemoglobin. A vet is needed for these procedures, which can be combined with the oral introduction of mineral oil to protect irritated mucous membranes. Stimulants usually don't help.

Goats fed rations containing grain (processed sack goat feed) can survive higher level of nitrates than animals maintained on pasture alone. The soluble carbohydrates in processed grain feed permits metabolism of nitrates without harming the goats.

Both prussic acid poisoning and nitrate/nitrite toxicity have several items in common. First, symptoms are remarkably similar and overlapping, with few exceptions, making diagnosis by a veterinarian essential. Secondly, producers should feed dry roughage (grass hay - NO sileage) and supplement their goats with a formulated pelleted goat ration. Breeders who insist on making their animals survive without supplements are destined to lose goats to problems like those described in this article.

AFLATOXIN

Aflatoxin is a by-product of mold growth and is one of Nature's most potent carcinogens. When aflatoxin-contaminated feed is fed to goats, many health and performance problems result. Commodities in which aflatoxins have been detected include corn, peanuts, wheat, rice, cottonseed, tree nuts, milo, and milk. Corn is the crop that is most often associated with aflatoxins.

Once produced, aflatoxin does not go away, even if the molds die. There are two molds which are the major producers of aflatoxin, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These fungi are found everywhere in the world. They are soil-borne but like to grow on the rich nutrients of seeds. Their toxins occur both in the pasture and when the feed is in storage. Weather-created stress, such as drought changing to heavy moisture conditions, help the fungi invade the plants. The fungi require moisture above 14% and temperatures higher than 75 degrees Farenheit. Feed in storage in closed, poorly-ventilated areas creates and maintains this deadly environment.

Because aflatoxin does not result in distinct disease symptoms, it is often not even suspected as being the cause of poor caprine performance. Aflatoxin suppresses the immune system, thereby allowing the goat to develop diseases that it would not likely have succumbed to had aflatoxin-contaminated feed not been fed. Aflatoxins can also be passed into milk by dairy goats.

The most accurate and cost-effective method available to detect mycotoxins, including aflatoxin, is the ELISA test (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). Quanta Lab in Selma, Texas (north of San Antonio on IH35) does this testing. Quanta Lab also tests for Prussic Acid and Nitrate/Nitrite toxicity. 1-210-561-5799.

Young goats are most susceptible to the effects of aflatoxin, although all ages can be affected. In all animals, aflatoxin can cause liver damage, decreased reproductive performance, reduced milk production, death in utero, tumors, birth defects, and lowered immune system function.

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Periods of extreme weather conditions demand that goat producers keep a watchful eye on grain and roughages, whether they are out on pasture or being fed commercially-produced grain products. Extreme dry conditions interspersed with heavy rains should make you watch for toxic reactions of all types. When these conditions present themselves, testing of grains and hay must be done before feeding these products to goats. The cost of testing is minimal compared with the animal loss that may occur.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 9/11/16

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

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Breeding age TexMaster™ meat goats available for sale.

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Breeding age TexMaster™ meat goats available for sale.
For more information contact:

Pat Cotten 501-679-4936
Bending Tree Ranch
Damascus, Arkansas
www.bendingtreeranch.com
bendingtreeranch@cyberback.com

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