Sudden drop in milk production/appetite

I have a 2-year-old first freshener that I'm milking. She's at 156 days. Her normal morning milk weight has been between 1#4oz and 1#2oz for the last week. (Evening is always a little less; I'm a little too lazy to stick to a 12-hour schedule.) She was in heat on 12/24 and 12/25, and I saw a drop in production as usual for a few days after. She receives the same amount of grain and alfalfa pellets, by weight, every day, and always finishes it.

This morning she only gave 12 ounces, and was "done" with her grain/alfalfa after several mouthfuls. It looks like she left at least half.

Her appetite looks normal: she was as excited as ever to get on the stand and begin eating, and has been eating hay as usual with the others. At noon, I went back out to see if she'd be interested in eating more of her ration, and she was--but still didn't quite finish it up. I took what milk she had as well (5 oz).

Her temperature is normal: 102.1, and she's exactly like her normal self. Poops are normal. I freshened up the baking soda tub, and she didn't go for it.

I'm curious to hear similar experiences, and whether I should worry at all. Thanks in advance!

(Edited to indicate 156 days lactation, not the 117 previously stated)

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  • You're welcome! I'm so glad the goats are doing better now. That's awesome that this is only the second time you've had to deal with diarrhea in five years. That's what I love to hear. 

  • I'm so fortunate we've only had diarrhea once before, in 5+ years, but I felt like a jittery new parent these last few days! Thanks again for helping me talk and think through it.

  • With the poop going back and forth like that, it does sound like something they ate. Back when our chickens were close enough to our goats for the goats to bust into the chicken grain every now and then, their diarrhea would go away within a day, and I didn't need to do anything. I was always grateful that I had free choice baking soda available, which probably helped avoid any really bad rumen problems. 

  • Thank you for weighing in again, Deborah, and especially for the advice about the dewormer.

    This morning the boys (who live in separate quarters) also have diarrhea, but Mira's is clearing up (back to solid clumps). I think I'm going to let her stay home and I'll just take stool samples in before doing any medication.

    I do understand about the rumen sounds--I was trying to convey optimism when I wrote about hearing a good amount of noise. Guess that didn't come through. ;)

    And yes, I'm sure my low-quality thermometer isn't the most accurate. All temps today are just over 101, which is reassuring, but I guess I need to invest in better quality.

    Now that everyone has experienced/is experiencing the same thing, I'm wondering if it's just this bale of hay. The most basic/first question to ask when this sort of thing happens--has anything changed about diet?! I assumed I could ignore this question because they're still eating hay from the same farm, but it's variable from bale to bale. Maybe they just have a patchy field, and something yucky was in this one.

    (Since I began writing this morning, I've been out a few more times. When I offered the boys the special water, I saw their poop already beginning to clump up again.)

  • You should see an improvement within a day or two of giving a dewormer. I'm always fascinated by how quickly they improve. 

    I'm wondering how accurate your thermometer is. As I said earlier 102-103 is normal. I could even stretch that to 101.5 to 103.5 wouldn't have me worried with a goat that was acting normally. A temp of 100 or less is low and can be a symptom of milk fever (terrible name!), but that usually only happens towards the end of pregnancy or early lactation. 

    If Mira is pregnant and you give her a dewormer, do not use Valbazen or levamisole because they are not safe for pregnant goats. Other dewormers are fine. 

    I'm not sure what you're saying about the goats' rumen sounds ... it is normal for them to make lots of noise because they are working 24/7. Less noise is usually bad. If you have another goat that's totally fine, I'd suggest listening to its rumen to see what it sounds like. I think the textbooks say they should have something like a couple of sounds per minute minimum, but when I've listened to them just for fun, it's more like one sound every second or two. They are really noisy. 

  • Update with plot twist:

    This morning, Rain's temp was 99.9 and again, she ate very little. There was full-blown diarrhea on the barn floor, which I assumed was hers because she's the one acting weird. But then I saw her pooping, and hers is completely normal. (I'm going to use names now, as there's a new player.) I had given Rain baking soda yesterday, and this morning followed up with a dose of probiotic paste. I also made a warm water mixture with molasses, salt, and baking soda. She drank about a quart of it. Yesterday, her rumen was pretty quiet. Today when I listened, it was making lots of rumbling noises.

    Actually, it turns out the diarrhea belongs to her mom, Mira, who has a normal appetite and is acting just fine. (I'm not milking her, and she's 3 months pregnant.) Once I noticed it was Mira with the diarrhea, I offered her the same molasses concoction (she also eagerly drank a little over a quart), and took her temp (100.1). Her rumen was full of quiet activity.

    I just came in now from offering them more molasses-water; Rain drank about a pint, and Mira turned up her nose. When I go back out, I'll check their eyelids. Thanks, Deborah, for that good reminder.

    We've never had a worm overload problem here yet, so nobody has had a dewormer before. If I were to try that, how long should I expect to wait for improvement? I'm afraid of landing on the weekend with a serious problem, when the vet will be closed.

  • It's normal for a goat to have a temperature somewhere in the 102 to 103 range, so both are normal. 

    Clumpy poops often indicate a worm overload, and that can also cause a decrease in milk production. I don't usually get too worried about a sudden decrease unless it's very dramatic -- like a decrease in more than half or worse. That usually indicates a really sick goat, especially if the udder is also cold. I would suggest checking the goat's eyelids to see if they are pale, which would indicate a barber pole worm overload. If her body condition is going downhill, that would also indicate worms. Giving a dewormer is a fairly simple thing you could try to see if that helps. 

    I'm not very fast to give a dewormer to a goat unless they have multiple symptoms of a worm overload, such as decreased milk supply, pale eyelids, and reduced body condition or clumpy poop.

  • Update:
    Today, her temp was up 1 degree, 103.1
    Poops were clumping up.
    She again barely ate her grain, but let me milk her without a fuss (normally she is quite spirited on the milk stand once she finishes eating).
    She's always affectionate, but extremely so, wanting me to stick around for a long time.
    When I observed her eating, she seemed to be chewing slowly and carefully, so I wondered if something was wrong with her mouth. Looked carefully all around her mouth and tongue, and all looked pink and healthy.
    I'm reading that acidosis is common and that a baking soda/water drench can help, so I did that in the evening and didn't offer her grain, only alfalfa pellets. She took one bite and again let me milk her.
    Today's total milk weight was 1# 8oz, which is 4oz more than yesterday.

    Called our veterinarian to let him know what was going on, and he suggested a dewormer and probiotics.

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