Tag Archive for goat

Goat or Cow? Choosing The Right Homestead Dairy Animal

Goat or cow? My husband and I have a mixed marriage. He’s a “goat person” and I’m not. He loves goats and if it were up to him this farm would be positively overrun with them.

I on the other hand don’t really like goats; either dairy goats or meat goats. My problem with dairy goats is that I can’t stand to drink the milk because of the taste. It’s a crying shame really. My aversion to goat’s milk colors my perspective on an entire species.  It’s a classic case of sour grapes; or goaty milk in this instance.

The photo below of me, and Katie the dairy goat, is a joke photo for my husband’s benefit. Katie loves me but she hasn’t figured out that I don’t love her back.

Alpine Dairy Goat

Me & Katie The Goat

To my way of thinking goats are more trouble than they’re worth. You need fences that will hold water to maintain goats. And when they escape (and they will!) you can be assured that they’ll head straight for the most valuable plants in the garden or clear out the window boxes. Not to mention that keeping a Billy goat can be a real challenge because of the way they smell. And they do smell! But what else would you expect from an animal who routinely and purposely pees on his beard to make himself attractive to the opposite sex?

I love writing about dairy goats because I’m guaranteed to get a knee jerk reaction from evangelical goat people who feel either misunderstood or called to preach the Gospel of Goats. From my point of view, goat people just don’t seem to appreciate that not everyone likes goats or cares for the taste of goat milk. The unsolicited advice that I’ve received over the years regarding goat milk has been endlessly entertaining.

Goat lovers will insist that goat milk is very fragile and must be handled with particular care to ensure that there’s no “off taste” to the milk. Well that’s actually true. Goat milk will readily pick up barn odors faster than cow’s milk.
In fact when it comes to handling fresh goat milk, I’ve found that the best way to cool down a small amount of milk fast is with a Cuisinart ice cream maker. The freezer bowl cools the milk quicker than a standard stainless steel bulk tank and results in perfect Grade “A” milk. A  Cuisinart ice cream maker is really a good investment if you milk just one goat. Not to mention that you can make ice cream with one.

I think there’s some type of genetic component in the ability to taste “goatieness” in fluid milk. It’s kind of like the ability to roll your tongue. Not everybody can roll their tongue. Maybe the goat milk taste thing is all in the genes. I’m not alone in objecting to the taste of goat milk. Many people can taste the difference between Grade “A” goat milk and cow’s milk.
I think in general, that if you are like me and hate goat milk, you may be better off with a very low producing family cow.

Kerry Dairy Cow

Olga – A Kerry Cow & A Low Producer

But a cow unlike a goat represents a very large financial investment and personal commitment. You’d be hard pressed in my part of Pennsylvania to pick up a dairy cow or young heifer for less than $900.
And once you have that cow she must be housed, fed, cleaned up after and she needs periodic veterinary care. A cow needs at least 2 to 4 acres of fenced pasture to be happy.
Not to mention she needs to be bred so that she can give milk. Most single cow families will elect to borrow a bull; or ship the cow to a neighbor who has a bull; or have the cow artificially inseminated.
Believe me all 3 of those options have benefits and drawbacks.

My advice to most people thinking about a home dairy animal is this:

Try fresh goat milk to see if you like it. If you do great! Get the nicest goat you can afford and enjoy her and her milk. Dairy goats range in price from upwards of $150, with about $180-$225 being the going rate at present. Be sure to taste the milk before buying a fresh goat. Sweet feed and good clean hay go a long way in making decent milk.

Hand Milking A Goat

Milking A Dairy Goat

A dairy goat is the almost always the best choice for a small homestead or backyard garden farm. A good dairy goat will often produce well over a gallon of milk a day. That’s plenty of milk for cheese, cooking and for table use.

All babies (human or animal) thrive on goat milk. Even chicks bloom and grow faster with a small amount of goat’s milk. And nothing I know of will fatten a pig faster than corn and goat milk. For years I kept dairy goats just to feed the milk to other livestock. Goat kidding was timed to occur about 2 weeks before lambing season. That way I never had to buy expensive milk replacer for orphan lambs and always had plenty of milk on hand if the opportunity arose to buy day old dairy calves or weaned piglets.

Lamb Drinking Goat Milk

Bottle Lamb Drinking Fresh Goat Milk

You may have some trouble making butter with goat milk because the cream doesn’t readily separate. But no matter. With a good homestead dairy goat, you’ll have the means to make the best feta cheese that you’ve ever eaten, and the resource  to create creamy skin soothing goat milk soaps.

But if you’re like me and can’t stand the taste of goat milk you really only have a couple of options for a homestead dairy animal. If you have  a large family and  good pasture; and have the time and inclination to make cheese and butter a cow is the way to go.
A popular way to keep a family cow is to buy a low producing cow, and let her keep her calf for half the day. That way you don’t have to milk twice a day and you still get lots of milk. You’ll have the benefit of a calf that will grow for meat. Or if it’s a heifer calf you can sell her once she’s weaned.

If money is no object and you already know something about cattle, Dexter and Kerry cows are popular with many homesteaders. Both breeds are extremely low milk producers and might be a good home dairy option if you can find them.
But be aware that often a Dexter cow will not give enough milk for kitchen and table use and still have enough milk for her calf. You might have to keep a dairy goat to feed the calf. It’s pretty much a case of either milk for your family – or milk for her calf. You probably won’t have milk enough both. Kerries are only a little better in terms of milk production but are frightfully scarce and not budget friendly.

Dairy Cows

A Commercial Dairy

I think a better option for a family cow is a commercial dairy cow that is being culled from a large herd. A cull dairy cow can often be found for a reasonable price. That’s what I most often recommend to people on a budget who want a family cow. Truth is many perfectly good dairy cows are culled because they are considered to be low commercial milk producers. But they work well as family milk cows. Just so you know, sometimes dairy cows are culled from commercial herds because they have one or two bad quarters or are susceptible to chronic mastitis. Both of those conditions can sometimes be made manageable on a small homestead with very careful attention.

Whatever animal you choose for your homestead or family, you can be assured she will give back more than she ever takes with good care and proper management. Not to mention all the cheese, ice cream and yogurt you can stand to eat!


How To Give Animal Injections

As a veterinarian, I’m always giving animals injections for one reason or another. I give vaccines, I give antibiotics, I give pain medications and other drugs.
Often when I’m treating an animal, I give owners instructions on how to administer the medication themselves so that they can continue the treatment. Many of my clients already know how to give injections, but sometimes I have to teach folks how to give injections.
Depending on what medication I’m giving the animal, the route of injection may vary.


2 Hereford Cross Pigs

What follows below are the two different types of injections I routinely have owners give to their animals.

SQ or Sub Q – This is short for subcutaneously. This means you give the shot under the skin.

IM – This is short for intramuscular. This means is a shot given in the muscle.

There are also IV (intravenous)injections. But I do not teach owners how to do these types.
Intravenous injections take a higher skill level to do. IV injections also carry a higher risk of complications especially if something goes wrong. Some drugs or medications will cause abscesses and extensive tissue damage if they leak out of the vein. If you should miss the vein and give a medication in the artery, the animal will go into seizures.

When giving SQ or IM injections, you must always draw back on the plunger to make sure you are not in a blood vessel and that you are not drawing air into the syringe.
If you do get air into the syringe, it means you’ve generally gone through the skin and back out again. You don’t have to draw the plunger back very far, just enough to know where you are.

Where to Give An Injection
Where to inject medication depends upon the species of animal and the preferred route for drug delivery.
Food animals tend to have injection guidelines based on meat and hide quality. Some medications can cause lots of muscle scarring which has to be later cut out of the carcass. Injections also may cause scarring in the skin which can devalue an animal hide.
Areas to inject are chosen for the ability of that particular spot to handle an injection.
The SQ space in some animals can handle quite a bit of drug volume. Muscles on the other hand can’t take as large an injection.
Muscle injection sites are chosen based on muscle size, animal comfort after the injection, and with consideration of the muscle value as a cut of meat.
Muscles should not be given more than 10 ccs (ml)of medication at one time.
Large volumes of medication for muscles need to be split into two or more injection sites.

What follows are the common farm animal species and where to give them injections.
I’ll try to hit the highlights and you can laugh and enjoy my drawing and tracing skills.

1. Horses – Many injections given to horses are IM. These injections are given either in the neck or less commonly in the muscles farthest towards the hind end. The neck is most often used because it is also safer for the person giving injection because they’re less likely to be kicked.

Horse Injection Site

Horse Injection Site

2. Small Ruminants – Sheep and Goats – Many injections given to small ruminants are SQ, but sometimes they are given IM. Small ruminants are considered food animals even though many people have them as pets.
The most common injection site for sheep or goats is right in front of the shoulder. This shoulder spot has loose skin which is good for SQ injections, as well as muscles for IM injections. Another spot for SQ injections in small ruminants is behind the elbow where the hair or fleece is thin. At this site it’s easier to find skin.

Sheep or Goat Injection Site

Sheep or Goat Injection Site

3. Cattle – Cattle are popular food animals. Even when a cow starts out in a dairy herd, she often ends up going to slaughter when her milk producing days are over. Because of this almost all cattle injections are given in the neck region. The neck region on cattle is a low value meat area and is not a valuable part of the hide. Both SQ and IM shots are given in this area. The one shot that is given differently is the antibiotic Excede which is given SQ at the base of the ear.

Cattle Injection Site

Cattle Injection Site

4. Swine – Pig and hogs are another popular food animal which some people also keep as pets. The ideal spot to inject a pig is in the neck, about 7 cm behind and below the base of the ear. Again, the area chosen for injections for pigs was decided based on meat quality and ability of the area to handle injections.

Pig Injection Site

Pig Injection Site

5. Camelids – Llamas and alpacas have gone up and down in popularity but are still quite numerous. Many folks have them as guardian animals or for fiber. Because camelids are fiber animals, injections can be a little interesting. There are a couple of places to give SQ injections. One is in front of the shoulder, and the other is behind the elbow, down where the thick fleece ends. Most injections in camelids are SQ. But should you have to give an IM injection, the recommended spot is in the muscles of the shoulder, above the elbow.

Camelids Injection Site

Camelids Injection Site

No matter what medication you are giving or where you are giving it, there are some things you should always do for cleanliness and animal safety.
1. Always use alcohol to clean off the tops of bottle. Use alcohol to clean a spot on the animal where you are giving the injection. This helps keep your medicines or vaccines uncontaminated, and it helps keep the needle from dragging dirt into the bottle or the animal.
2. Always use new needles going into a bottle (prevents contamination), and you should really only use one needle per animal. Sharp needles don’t hurt as much, and you won’t carry disease (like blood parasites) from one animal to the next.
3. Throw out contaminated bottles. This one can hurt, depending on the medication or vaccine. But what would hurt worse would be you injecting bacteria or fungus into your animals and causing abscesses or systemic disease.
So there are the main points about giving injections and where to give them. As always, if you have any questions, ask your local vet for help.
Dr. H

***Today’s post was authored by Dr. Risa Hanninen.
Dr. Hanninen is a 2013 graduate from Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.Her practice, Northwest PA Veterinary Service, is a mobile veterinary practice that stretches across seven counties in Pennsylvania and into eastern Ohio.

If you live in northwestern Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio you can contact Dr. Hanninen at (814) 573-7013

Pick The Time Of Day When Lambs or Kids Are Born

Did you know that the way a pregnant ewe or nanny goat is managed can influence when she will lamb or kid, and how quickly she’ll lamb or kid?
It’s true.

Sheep In The Snow

A Group Of Pregnant Border Cheviot Ewes

The time of day that a pregnant ewe or nanny goat is fed can influence when she will lamb or kid and how quickly she’ll lamb or kid.
Sheep and goats tend to lamb 6 hours prior and 6 hours after the time of their grain or main feeding. Knowing this can be of great benefit to those who would prefer to avoid late night or early morning lambing and kidding.

If you prefer lambing and kidding during daylight hours, feed your ewes and nannies around noon. It will result in most lambs and kids (70%) being born between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Also ewes and nannies tend to begin active labor when there is less human activity going on around them.
Human presence can slow down active labor so much that I personally make it a habit to leave the barn when I see an animal in labor.
Without me in the barn a ewe or nanny is able to get on with her business without the stress of the boss constantly watching over her.