Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

Hello,

I am brand new to goats, and I have a lot of questions, but I will try to keep it to one topic. Mainly this is about diet. Some background: I've had my two does (4 yrs old & 5 mos old) for a couple months, and just acquired 2 bucklings (3 mos & 2 mos old).  Girls have their own pen. Boys have their own pen, good distance away from does. I am planting pasture this spring to rotate them on, but as for now, they are in their goat yards with their shelters. It's not tiny, but they can't run for acres if they wanted to. Anyway,  this whole time I feel like I am chasing my tail with trying to figure out how to balance their diets. We have hard well water (very high in iron and sulfur (stinky) and probably calcium too though we don't see a lot of build up of calcium on things around the water). This throws a wrench into everything I'm trying to do. My oldest doe I think is copper deficient. She has what I believe is a fishtail (It doesn't stick straight out and I can see the tip of her tail, the hair coming off of it is scarce and sporadic). She's supposed to be chocolate but some of her hair is so light it almost looks white where it should be brown, and her legs are real brassy colored and very rough/course looking. My younger doe is black and white and where she is black she was really red looking, now it is more on her legs but was almost everywhere she was black. My vet said it's not copper deficiency, he said our area is not copper deficient, and if I bolused he'd be worried about toxicity. He also doesn't believe that our well water would cause any problems for them. I didn't want to do anything wrong so I held off, but ended up bolusing them a small dose of COWP (1 g for the older doe, .5 g for the younger) almost a month ago. I was going to bolus again, but not sure what dose I should do at this point.

I think I need to figure out a better system for feeding the does. They get free choice timothy/orchard grass hay 24/7. I'm not sure what quality it is. It's not straw colored but it's not the darkest green either. It smells delicious to me though. The younger one gets alfalfa pellets. I feed the older one timothy pellets, but they switch bowls halfway through if I don't stand there and constantly redirect. I didn't want the older doe eating the alfalfa because it inhibits copper absorption, and does she need the calcium? Because I also worry she might be zinc deficient since her skin is dry and flaky and her coat is in such poor condition. So I have to come up with a way to separate them when they eat their pellets. 

Now, the bucklings. I believe they both were fed grain at their old homes. I was sure I didn't want to feed grain since they were boys and I wanted to avoid UC. But didn't realize they also need extra feed to grow properly? I am so so nervous about UC, I have ammonium chloride I can give them, but just learned that that has no affect on calcium stones, only stones caused by high phosphorus in the diet. (Did not realize there were two different kinds of stones). Since they get well water I'm having serious issues figuring out how to feed them so they grow properly and don't get either kind of stone. I could do a mix of timothy & alfalfa pellet, but should I add grain? How much? I considered a couple tablespoons of grain on top of 1 part timothy, 1/2 part alfalfa pellet 2x a day? But how much would 1 part to 1/2 part look like, especially if I have to do this slowly. They also get the same grass hay free choice 24/7 that the does get. But will the alfalfa pellet cause them copper deficiency? This is like a puzzle that I can't figure out for my herd. Because so many minerals and vitamins are important for health, but the most important ones all seem to hinder each other if everything isn't just right. I honestly wonder how some people are able to keep healthy goats at all. Or maybe this is just something I'm not cut out to do. I love them very much and was really wanting to be able to produce our own milk for our family. My management just seems to be all over the place and I want to bring it all together and for it to flow. 

For the water situation I looked at getting a hose filter that people have used for their horses at shows with success, but I don't know how that would work used daily on our outside hose. For our house water, we have an old water softener that has never seemed to function properly, and we put on an iron filter system, but never noticed a difference with the iron content in the water. We drink the tap water that is filtered through a reverse osmosis system through the sink, but still there is iron in it, and it's not feasible for me to fill several gallon buckets through that little faucet 2x a day.

As for worming, I'm also equally nervous and all over the place. I purchased a microscope and did my first FEC Feb 28. The older doe had 250 epg and younger one had nothing. I did them both twice and got the same result. I might have done something wrong? Before that the older doe was wormed when I brought her here per the breeders suggestion with the stress of moving. I also wormed her again about two weeks later when I checked her eyelids and they looked pale. But this isn't good because I don't want to breed resistant worms. It's possible I've done the FAMACHA wrong too. I get it when I'm learning how to do it, but then out on the field with the goat things go a lot differently, maybe I've messed that up. I've looked into lespedeza pellets and Bioworma, but cannot obtain those things right now as they're not available and they're not cheap. It's also adding more supplements to their diets. And I've invested so much money in supplements, feed, etc. in order to have everything they need, still I feel this hasn't been enough to ensure they're okay. 

I just worry and feel that no matter what I do here, (and it's not easy messing with rations and what I'm feeding them since you cannot just abruptly change their diet), I'm afraid they're going to die. My older doe eats, drinks, and has normal stool berries, but she holds her tail down practically all the time. I feel that she is just not happy. Yesterday she was eating dirt. So, still a mineral deficiency? Sorry for such a long post, just exhausted and concerned . 

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I also forgot to add, they all do get free choice loose mineral Sweetlix Meat Maker mineral. I also have baking soda out all the time, but read that you shouldn't leave it out free choice for bucklings/bucks. So don't know what to do there.

Hi Dacia- first thing...take a deep breath and relax =) Having goats is a wonderful and fun experience, I promise! You are doing all the things that I did when I first got goats and I was so overwhelmed that my head was spinning. I did soooo many extra things that I did not need to do, and it just made everything very complicated. I'm going to answer your questions in the order that you posted them...

Does with possible copper deficiency-shoot me a pic of the tail on your older doe and body shot of both girls so I can get a better understanding of your description, but it does sound like copper deficiency. The iron and sulfur in your water create an environment that decreases copper metabolism, so even if your area is not copper deficient, your water may be inhibiting the ability for the goats to absorb it. Another consideration is that heavily improved pastures, that have been fertilized, can reduce the amount of available copper in the forage because many fertilizers include molybdenum, which also inhibits copper uptake by the plants. My first vet was very anti-copper and my goats were very deficient by the time I started bolusing. I couldn't believe the difference in them once I started giving COWP. Did the goats look copper deficient when you got them? Do you know if the previous owner gave COWP or other mineral supplements, and if so when was the last dosage? How much does each goat weigh?

Why are you feeding the older doe Timothy pellets? Is it just for a routine? You are right that the older doe does not need alfalfa concentrate since she is not making milk, but I would not be concerned about alfalfa causing an issue with copper status. I'll have to ask Deborah again for the exact reason, but I am pretty sure she recently told me that feeding alfalfa does not impact copper absorption. Before you start worrying about Zinc being an issue for her skin, be sure to check closely for lice. They are a cold weather parasite and can cause flaky skin and poor coat condition. If she has them, you will see them moving near the skin, but you have to watch closely or even use a magnifying glass (you can find an app for one on your phone) Also on Zinc- I always try to treat with one thing, or one change at a time, so that I know what caused the improvement. Since you are giving copper and free choice minerals right now, I would wait to add zinc.

The little boys- they should have grain while they are still growing. Their growth is a huge demand on them nutritionally and they will use what you are giving them. I feed my bucklings grain until they are at least 6 months old and my doelings until they are closer to 12 months. UC are caused by an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous, which causes phosphorous to spill into the urine and stones to form. They are most common when people use high amounts of grain in comparison to the amount of roughage that a goat takes in. Less hay chewing=less salivation which also adds to the problem. Ammonium Chloride decreases the urine pH which makes it harder for a stone to form. You can buy goat grain (pellets) that has ammonium chloride mixed in at the concentrations recommended to help drop urinary pH for the boys. My bucklings, who are 8 weeks old, are currently eating about 3/4 cup of grain a day split into 2 feedings, have access to pasture during the day as well as grass hay, and get a flake of alfalfa hay plus unlimited grass hay in their stall at night, which is shared with siblings and their mother. Calcium in your water is not going to cause UC in your goats.

Deworming- Deborah has many articles and podcasts on worms and dewormers. SO I would definately start there to make you feel better about getting good info. Her Podcast is For the Love of Goats. (There are also several episodes about minerals.) If your FECs are coming back that low, that is awesome and I would not deworm again at this time. There are other things that can cause a lower than desirable FAMACHA, such as the possibility of lice that I mentioned above. What state do you live in? Did your vet say anything to you about prevalence of worms in your area?

Free choice baking soda is fine for your boys. All goats should have it available to them. We have taken them out of the wild where they can roam around and get the things that they need to keep their rumen stable and things that can help them when it is not. That is why it is so important for them to have it available at all times. I have seen people making claims on some FB groups about why it should not be used but have yet to see any evidence to back up their claims.

I hope these answers help ease your worries. Why are you worried that they are going to die? How do they look in general? Are they skinny and boney or do they have a good amount of cover on their ribs? Everyone eating, drinking, and pooping normal? I will tell you that I created so much anxiety for myself when I first got started because I got too much unreliable information (even from my vet, who I love to death)

If you haven't already, check out the 150+ articles Deborah has on raising goats at https://thriftyhomesteader.com/

 Tammy

Thank you for replying to me. I will get pictures of the girls today and attach them as soon as I can and answer the questions you asked. Thank you Tammy.

Tammy Gallagher said:

Hi Dacia- first thing...take a deep breath and relax =) Having goats is a wonderful and fun experience, I promise! You are doing all the things that I did when I first got goats and I was so overwhelmed that my head was spinning. I did soooo many extra things that I did not need to do, and it just made everything very complicated. I'm going to answer your questions in the order that you posted them...

Does with possible copper deficiency-shoot me a pic of the tail on your older doe and body shot of both girls so I can get a better understanding of your description, but it does sound like copper deficiency. The iron and sulfur in your water create an environment that decreases copper metabolism, so even if your area is not copper deficient, your water may be inhibiting the ability for the goats to absorb it. Another consideration is that heavily improved pastures, that have been fertilized, can reduce the amount of available copper in the forage because many fertilizers include molybdenum, which also inhibits copper uptake by the plants. My first vet was very anti-copper and my goats were very deficient by the time I started bolusing. I couldn't believe the difference in them once I started giving COWP. Did the goats look copper deficient when you got them? Do you know if the previous owner gave COWP or other mineral supplements, and if so when was the last dosage? How much does each goat weigh?

Why are you feeding the older doe Timothy pellets? Is it just for a routine? You are right that the older doe does not need alfalfa concentrate since she is not making milk, but I would not be concerned about alfalfa causing an issue with copper status. I'll have to ask Deborah again for the exact reason, but I am pretty sure she recently told me that feeding alfalfa does not impact copper absorption. Before you start worrying about Zinc being an issue for her skin, be sure to check closely for lice. They are a cold weather parasite and can cause flaky skin and poor coat condition. If she has them, you will see them moving near the skin, but you have to watch closely or even use a magnifying glass (you can find an app for one on your phone) Also on Zinc- I always try to treat with one thing, or one change at a time, so that I know what caused the improvement. Since you are giving copper and free choice minerals right now, I would wait to add zinc.

The little boys- they should have grain while they are still growing. Their growth is a huge demand on them nutritionally and they will use what you are giving them. I feed my bucklings grain until they are at least 6 months old and my doelings until they are closer to 12 months. UC are caused by an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous, which causes phosphorous to spill into the urine and stones to form. They are most common when people use high amounts of grain in comparison to the amount of roughage that a goat takes in. Less hay chewing=less salivation which also adds to the problem. Ammonium Chloride decreases the urine pH which makes it harder for a stone to form. You can buy goat grain (pellets) that has ammonium chloride mixed in at the concentrations recommended to help drop urinary pH for the boys. My bucklings, who are 8 weeks old, are currently eating about 3/4 cup of grain a day split into 2 feedings, have access to pasture during the day as well as grass hay, and get a flake of alfalfa hay plus unlimited grass hay in their stall at night, which is shared with siblings and their mother. Calcium in your water is not going to cause UC in your goats.

Deworming- Deborah has many articles and podcasts on worms and dewormers. SO I would definately start there to make you feel better about getting good info. Her Podcast is For the Love of Goats. (There are also several episodes about minerals.) If your FECs are coming back that low, that is awesome and I would not deworm again at this time. There are other things that can cause a lower than desirable FAMACHA, such as the possibility of lice that I mentioned above. What state do you live in? Did your vet say anything to you about prevalence of worms in your area?

Free choice baking soda is fine for your boys. All goats should have it available to them. We have taken them out of the wild where they can roam around and get the things that they need to keep their rumen stable and things that can help them when it is not. That is why it is so important for them to have it available at all times. I have seen people making claims on some FB groups about why it should not be used but have yet to see any evidence to back up their claims.

I hope these answers help ease your worries. Why are you worried that they are going to die? How do they look in general? Are they skinny and boney or do they have a good amount of cover on their ribs? Everyone eating, drinking, and pooping normal? I will tell you that I created so much anxiety for myself when I first got started because I got too much unreliable information (even from my vet, who I love to death)

If you haven't already, check out the 150+ articles Deborah has on raising goats at https://thriftyhomesteader.com/

 Tammy

I just spent 42 minutes adding pictures and typing out a reply and it did not go through :( I will try again later.

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