For the Love of Goats
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Join me as I tell you my goat story in the first episode of my new podcast. I also explain why I decided to start a podcast and what you can expect in the coming weeks. In addition to doing a few solo episodes like this one, I’ll also be interviewing a lot of other goat lovers and experts.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Premier 1 Supplies, which I discovered all the way back in 2002 when we bought our first goats. I’ve been using their products all these years and never been disappointed, which is why I offered them the opportunity to be the sponsor of this first episode. They are a huge part of my life with goats.
And because their heat lamp is my absolute favorite — see my review here — I asked them if they’d give one to one of my podcast listeners to celebrate the launch of the new podcast, which they did. Sorry you missed it, but there will be more giveaways in the future.
For the love of goats, we are talking about everything goat, whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. Today’s episode is brought to you by Premier 1 Supplies – sheep and goat equipment that works, folks use it every day. Now, here’s Deborah Niemann.
Hello, everyone! And welcome to my very first podcast on For The Love Of Goats. The name of this seemed to be pretty obvious to me, because I really love goats. And it’s kind of crazy, because it all started back in 2002, when we moved to the country to start growing our own food organically, and I just thought the price of goat cheese was kind of ridiculous. And I thought I could get a couple of goats and make my own cheese. And we would all live happily ever after.
And it started out simple enough, I got some goats and I started making goat cheese. And it seemed really easy. And I even started making goat milk soap. And then the goat started dying, and they weren’t getting pregnant. And we had all kinds of problems. And it was a huge challenge for several years to get it figured out. In fact, for the first five years that we own goats, we never had a buck live past the age of three.
This does not sound like the beginning of a story of somebody who would ever write books about goats or speak in conferences across the United States and Canada about goats. And honestly, there were times that I wanted to give up. But these crazy creatures had completely stolen my heart. And giving up just wasn’t an option. I really wanted to make it work. And not just because I wanted the goat cheese. But because I really love the animals. And I wanted to figure it out.
And so that’s what we did. And along the way, I wound up doing so much research to save my own goats that by the time I was done, it honestly felt like I could write a whole book about it. And ultimately, that is what happened. After I wrote Homegrown and Handmade, my publisher heard me talking about goats at a conference one day, and came up to me and said, “Hey, have you ever thought about writing a book about goats?” And I was ecstatic.
I just jumped out of my skin, I was so excited about the idea of writing a book about goats. Because I had thought about it. And I was really excited about sharing all of my knowledge with other people. And that’s kind of the way that the whole thing started. If you’ve read my books or magazine articles that I’ve written or my website, or you’ve seen me speak at conferences, then you already know a couple things about me. One is I love research.
Research is what saved my goats’ lives. And also listening to other breeders. But another big, big thing with me is, I do not believe that there is one right way to do it. You have to know the WHY behind what works. So sure, there are certain things that work on my farm. But I will be the first person to tell you that not everyone should do what we do. Because nobody else has the exact same mix that we do of genetics and forage, and really horrendous well water that’s full of sulfur and iron and has caused so many problems for us. It’s all different.
When somebody tells you that they did something that solved all their problems, and now everything is great, there is so much information that you need to know about them and their farm and their water and their goats. All of that makes a difference.
I have a friend four miles away from me who raised nubians for 15 years. And she never needed to supplement with copper the way that I did and it was because she didn’t have the same horrible well water that I have.Their well actually ran dry and so they had to haul water from the city, which sounds like a really horrible thing. And it was, it was a huge pain. It was expensive.
But because their goats were getting city water it didn’t have all the sulfur and iron that was in our water. And all that sulfur and iron in our well water was binding with the copper and making our goats copper deficient. Her goats never had a problem with copper deficiency simply because her well water was different. So that’s the kind of thing that you really need to know.
I know two people who killed some of their goats accidentally, because they gave them multimin injections when they didn’t need them. And the reason they did that is because someone else told them that multimin injections had been a great thing for their herd, it helped them with so many different problems, because its got selenium in it and copper in it. So that helps with fertility and other things.
And so these other people thought, “Oh, I want my herd to have more fertility and to have fewer health problems and stuff. So I am going to give my goats the same thing.” And they wound up having some goats die. And they actually got the liver and kidney tests that showed that their goats died from toxicity from too much copper and too much selenium because both the injection is very high in both of those.
It’s a great thing for people who need it. But that’s why you have to know the why behind doing things. You can’t just do something because it worked for someone else. I feel like everybody has a valuable story to tell about their goats. And we can all learn a lot from listening to other people’s stories, from reading about them online from watching YouTube videos and things like that.
But the lessons that we have to learn may not necessarily be that we need to do the same thing that person is doing. What they’ve learned about their goats may not actually be relevant to our goats. Maybe what we learned from someone else’s story is what not to do, like those people who gave their goats injectable minerals when they didn’t actually need them.
So I guess what I’m telling you is, I’m not going to be telling you what to do. Basically, we all need to become our own personal expert on our own goat herd. And we do that by educating ourselves and learning as much as we can from a variety of people.
And that’s one of the reasons that I decided to start this podcast because there are actually a lot of areas about goats that I don’t know anything about. And a long time ago, back in the 90s, I used to be a newspaper reporter, and I loved interviewing people. And that is what I’m going to be doing here.
Some of my episodes are going to be solo, where I’m just going to talk about some basic things. But some of the episodes I’m going to be interviewing experts, and that will be people who started different goat businesses, or researchers or college professors, people like that, who can give you the information firsthand. So it’s not me reading the studies and digesting it and regurgitating it back to you.
I am really excited about reaching out to people who are actually in the trenches doing these things. Some of the upcoming interviews are going to be more science related like ruminant nutrition, and using lespedeza for worm and coccidia control, as well as infectious causes of abortion. And those are going to be the expert interviews. And then on the more business side of things, I’m going to talk to people who have pack goats and who are making a business with goat milk soap and goat dairies, and things like that.
I’m really excited about getting to talk about goats, with a lot of these people. But I want you to know that this show is totally for you. I’m not just doing this to listen to myself talk and have fun chatting about goats, although this is gonna be so much fun. If you have a suggestion for a topic that you want me to cover, then feel free to drop me a line by visiting my website at ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can click on the contact button and send me a message there. Or through the Facebook page ForTheLoveOfGoats, which you can find at facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast.
And now a word from our sponsor. Today’s episode is brought to you by Premier 1 Supplies. They make sheep and goat equipment that works from folks who use it every day. I specifically approached the wonderful people at Premier 1 and asked if they would sponsor my first podcast. I thought it was especially appropriate because I have been using Premiere 1 Supplies longer than any other company who makes anything for goats or sheep.
We had only been here for a couple of months when some propane was delivered one day and the man delivering it said to me, “I see you got goats. Do you know about Premier 1?” And I said, “No…”. And he wrote down their name and their phone number for me because it was 2002 so the internet was there but it wasn’t really big yet. And so he let me know about it. And I contacted them and I got their old fashion catalog back then in 2002.
And before you knew it, we were buying there. We bought heat lamp, we bought all sorts of stuff from them. Within a couple years, we bought our first rolls of electronet, which is actually it’s electric netting for sheep and goats. And it is absolutely wonderful. We bought a couple rolls of it. And we thought it was really super, and realized we needed more. So we bought a few more rolls of it, and realize that we needed more.
And so for years, it seemed like every year, we would say we need two or three more rolls of this. And now we have, we’re not really sure, honestly, we think we have 15 or 16 rolls of it. And that’s just for the sheep and goat. We also have three rolls of the poultry netting that we use with our chickens and our hen mobile.
So as with every single sponsor of every single podcast that you will hear from me, the products are ones that we have used and that we absolutely love, and that I have recommended for years long before I ever looked for a sponsor for anything. So Premiere 1 Supplies is a super awesome place to get all of your goat supplies. And you’ll find them at www.premier1supplies.com.
And now, back to my story. If you think I left out a few details when I jumped from goats dying to writing books, you would be correct. There were a lot of tears for quite a few years before we got things figured out. Unfortunately, there was not much research done on goats prior to the 2000s. So there was not a lot known about nutrition or parasites. And those were our two biggest problems.
Our goats became copper deficient for several reasons. First, our well water is very high in sulfur and iron. Sulfur and iron are copper antagonists – that means that they bind with the copper, which makes it unabsorbable by the body. Now it doesn’t mean they can’t absorb any copper, it just means they need a lot more.
Now this was a problem because I didn’t really take their needs for minerals very seriously. So I did have a free choice mineral for them. But if it was full, it was full. And if I forgot it for a while, I forgot it for a while and so they were not reliably getting their regular minerals. Now, once I discovered that this was like really important, and I put the minerals out there that did not help a lot, we still needed to supplement more with just the copper.
Another problem we had is that the goat feed that we were feeding only had 10 ppm copper in it, which is not nearly enough. We’ve learned a lot since then. And the goat feeds that you find in the store now are usually between 20 ppm, which is twice as much, or 40 ppm, which is four times as much. So you can see basically, our goats were suffering from primary and secondary copper deficiency, meaning they didn’t have enough copper in their diet.
And what little copper they did have was binding with the sulfur and iron in our well water, causing them to be deficient. This resulted in them not getting pregnant, not staying pregnant, aborting at all different stages of pregnancy, which was probably the most heartbreaking thing to go out to the barn, thinking that you don’t have any goats do for another month. And then to find these tiny little toothpick goats that were born way too young and too small to ever survive. So that was very heartbreaking.
The other problem that we had is that we wound up with total dewormer resistance, which means that none of the dewormers worked on the worms on our farm, because we had been using the dewormers incorrectly. But we didn’t know that. In fact, nobody knew that back in the early 2000s. After we had a goat die from parasites, the vet told me to deworm all of my bucks every month, and to rotate dewormer, which was very common advice back then that’s what people been doing for 10 or 20 years.
Unfortunately, the practice was not based on research. It was just what people thought was common sense, well like that just makes sense. Right? If you switch around the dewormer they can’t become resistant to it. And if you use it every month, you know, then you’ll be killing them all. Well, that’s just all wrong, which we know now but we didn’t then.
So anyway. The research on goat parasites was just getting started in the early 2000s. Another one of the old common sense ideas was that if one goat had worms, they all had them. So you needed to deworm everybody if one goat had worms. Well, we now know that that’s not right either. They’ve actually found vastly different worm loads in different goats in the same heard. And we’ve learned that if you rotate dewormers it actually causes dewormer resistance to happen faster than if you just kept using one until it no longer worked.
We also know that you should never deworm your goats on a schedule of any sort, not monthly, not quarterly, not even annually. You only need to deworm your goats when they are being negatively affected by the worm load. Think of them like you think of antibiotics, you don’t need to give antibiotics to your goats, just because you think maybe there’s a possibility that they might get sick. Or if one goat in your herd has an infection, you’re not going to give antibiotics to all of them.
We all understand that the issue with antibiotic resistance and the issue with dewormer resistance is similar. If we only had three different antibiotics, we would be really, really stingy with them. We wouldn’t use them unless we really really needed them. And that’s how we need to be thinking about dewormers.
So what happens when you wind up with dewormer resistance? To all the dewormers it means that you just sit there and you watch your goats die when they get a heavy load of worms. Yes, there were a lot of tears. It was horrible. And I was willing to try everything that anyone said might kill worms. I tried multiple herbal dewormer combinations that I found online. I tried individual herbs like wormwood and mugwort. I tried fresh herbs and dried herbs and herbal tinctures. I tried apple cider vinegar, and I even paid an astronomical amount of money for a garlic concoction. That didn’t work either. Nothing helped. The goats still died.
But then I started reading a research, it was just starting to surface back then. And that was when I learned about the importance of pasture rotation and how to do that correctly. And then doing everything possible to keep your goats worm loads low enough that they won’t get sick, and that it won’t kill them. And so this meant something new craziness.
If you live in Illinois, that meant we were going to be kidding in the middle of January. And that’s because goats can get a really high load of worms after they kid. If we kid in January, that was less likely because all the worms on the pasture were frozen. So all we saw there was no issues with reinfection whatsoever. The only worms those goats had to deal with are the ones that were inside their body. And most of my goats actually did really well with that.
When you don’t have a dewormer that works, this also means that you lose the least resistant goats because they die. And the goats that survived had a fairly high natural resistance to worms, or they were at least resilient, meaning that their worm load would get high, but they could handle it. I don’t want to get too far into the details because we will definitely be discussing parasites in future episodes with some of the experts in this field.
Ultimately, we overcame both of these problems, the problem with copper deficiency, and the problem with dewormer resistance. Today, we have a thriving healthy herd. Many of my goats today have never had a dewormer in their lives, we no longer have problems with fertility, or miscarriages. In fact, we’ve had five sets of quintuplets and more quadruplets than I can count. I’m actively working to retire a lot of the does that have a tendency to throw so many kids, because I just don’t like having multiples because it means you have to bottle feed two or three of them. I just like most of mine to be raised by mom, so they know they were goat.
Even though we went through a ton of heartache in the early years, it’s how I learned so much about goats. And I love sharing that information with people. So that hopefully we can shorten the learning curve for everyone else. Even though we also have cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, I don’t know nearly as much about them because they didn’t have any problems. So I didn’t have to learn that much to be able to keep them alive.
So that’s my goat story. Of course, it doesn’t end there. We’re still raising goats. And in fact, they’re due to start kidding at the end of March this year, which I am so excited about. And I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you better and I want to hear your goat stories. Be sure to share them on the Facebook page. That’s facebook.com/Love GoatsPodcast. And you can find show notes for today’s show at ForTheLoveOfGoats.com including a link to Premier1Supplies.com which is today’s show sponsor.
I hope you’ll join us for our next episode, where I’m talking to a ruminant nutritionist about the difference between alfalfa and timothy hay and hay pellets and when your goats may or may not need free choice baking soda, and we’re getting all nerdy about stuff like monogastric and ruminants and what all those stomachs do. So it’s really exciting.
Be sure to hit the subscribe button so that you’ll hear about future episodes. And please be sure to tell your goat friends about the show. Bye for now, and I’ll see you all next week.
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