Tip of the Month
This month, we're going to cover a few basics which might help us to recognize an impending health problem in one of our beloved goats. As old Ben used to say - "A stitch in time saves nine." Or in our case, a timely observation might save a life. So lets make an observation checklist:
- First and foremost, is the animal cudding? This is critical. A healthy animal will be relaxed and working that cud.
- Can you see that rumen working? This, too, is important. A healthy animal has that rumen just a rumblin - as it were.
- Is your doe breathing normally, or is she laboring for breath?
- Is all the plumbing functioning like normal? Have you seen her pass berries and urine lately? Are the berries normal-sized or little bitty, dry things? Or worse yet, does she have diarrhea?
- Is the animal in good condition? Is she carrying a normal amount of flesh? Or is she losing weight? Does she eat with gusto, or pick at her food? A healthy animal looks forward to her daily groceries, and eats with relish.
- If the doe is not eating, is she bloated? Does she appear to be uncomfortable? Is she grinding her teeth? These may be indicative of indigestion - among other things - and you might want to dose her with milk of magnesia, or Pepto Bismol, or mineral oil - whichever is appropriate.
- What is the condition of the haircoat? A rough, dull coat may be indicative of a vitamin deficiency. You might want to add some vitamin E oil to the grain ration. Or it may be nothing more than normal shedding in the Spring.
- Are the eyes bright and alert? A goat is a lively, crafty animal, and disinterest in her surroundings can indicate a health problem.
- Is the animal moving in a normal fashion, or does she move with some difficulty or pain? Is she limping? These symptoms can signal hoof or leg problems.
- When you milk a doe, is the udder a nice, normal warm, or is it hot to the touch? A hot, swollen udder can indicate mastitis.
- How about the feet - are they hot to the touch? This can signal impending founder.
- How about that vulva? Is it swollen and red? Does she have a discharge? If so, what is the color and thickness of that discharge? Could she be in heat or might she have a vaginal infection? Does the discharge have blood in it? Could she be aborting?
- Does she have any wounds or scratches? If so, where the heck did she get them? Is there a sharp wire in her fencing or perhaps a rough place in her feeder?
- Does her breath smell normal? A sweetish breath might signal ketosis. Do you have propylene glycol on hand? That could be the difference between life and death.
- Is the animal trembling? She might be cold - or it could be something more serious - say magnesium deficiency, for example.
If you spy some of these symptoms, you may be able to treat the animal and cure the problem before it reaches "critical mass". On the other hand, you might wish to consult your veterinarian. He/she might be able to pinpoint the problem and give you some treatment options you had failed to consider. In any case, the importance of knowing your animals and of keen observation cannot be overemphasized. You must be able to really "see" your charges. You must be able to recognize behavior that is not normal for that particular animal. If you can do this, you'll save yourself some fat vet bills and your animals some major grief.
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