Sunday, June 7, 2009

Workin' Goats

The Boer goat herd is very self-sufficient herd of goats. They get some grain once a day and fresh water, but other than that there's really not much to them this time of year. Of course, I spend a whole lot of time out there, but that's to cuddle babies, not "manage the livestock".

Once a month, though, we do spend a day "workin' the goats". I remember when we were going through the process to buy this place and Steve called and asked if we wanted to come "work the goats" with him. We were STOKED!! Of course we wanted to come work the goats! I remember that now and giggle a little bit at how cute and naive we were. It's hard work. Hot work. Painful, smelly and difficult work. The next day you feel as if you've been trampled by a herd of bison and drug through the mud. That's because basically you have been.

Today was the day for this month's goat rodeo. Sounds like a good time for a blogumentary.

"Workin' the Goats" consists of pedicures for all the goats, vaccinations when appropriate, worming when indicated (which is usually), a general health check and gathering poo berries for fecal exams. (I'll spare you any photos of poo.)

The goat yard layout is fantastic. There are two penned areas, one of which contains a "hitchin' post" and a shelf. The necessary supplies are gathered and laid out on this shelf to be within easy reach. In addition to frosty beverages, the supplies are, from left to right (skipping the thermos lid): CD&T vaccination bottle, an old coffee can of grain (for luring and catching goats until they wise up and figure out our tricks), a goat weigh tape, a notebook and pen to write down weights and anything we want to remember about the health and well-being of each goat, a jug of wormer (which is so expensive that I'm freaked out that it's going to fall off the shelf and spill), a rag-wrapped bottle of stinky messy Koppertox, and a drencher used to give the wormer. What you don't see in this photo (probably because they're scattered around on the ground after being tossed to catch a goat about to bolt away) is a pair of hoof trimmers, a hoof pick, a stiff brush and a rasp.

To get started, we pick up the goat's hoof and begin to trim. BWAH HA HA HA HA!!! The only goat in the whole wide world who is going to let you just pick up her hoof like Craig's doing in the photo below is Ruby...and that's only until she finishes the grain in the pan in front of her. If Craig still has hold of her hoof once she's done with that grain, she'll kick her leg with the power of 10 mules about 50 times real fast so that she jerks her foot away then flop down on her belly, tuck her feet under herself and look at you condescendingly. Ask me how I know.

In real life, we tie the goats to the hitchin' post with a rope around their horns. It doesn't hurt them. They certainly don't dig it, but it doesn't hurt. Here's Angel assuming the position. She looks horrible, I know. Normally she's not so incredibly thin, but she's nursing greedy babies and she definitely "milks off her back" as they say in the cow industry. Once she weans those babies she's back in top condition quickly. She really does get plenty to eat, I promise.

The position for doing baby hooves is quite a bit different. Usually to work the babies one person straddles and restrains and the other checks and trims the hooves. "Straddle" doesn't mean sit on them, mind you - that would be bad. Rather, you just squeeze your knees together and pretend that your super power is "form of... a squeeze chute!" Most of this year's babies are really tame (thank you, I've worked hard on that!), so one person can handle them.

Here's Elvis having his back feet done. (Pardon me for saying so, but that's an impressive set of jewels. He may have to keep those and become a daddy!)

And his front hooves:

I think Elvis actually enjoyed his pedicure. He wanted to pose for a photo when he was done. My goodness he's a good looking boy! The goats who haven't yet had their mani/pedi are waiting in the other side of the pen for their turn.

Here's a photo of a hoof before it's been trimmed. This has been a really rough season for goat hooves. It's been so wet that the hooves have stayed softer and haven't gotten the normal amount of wear from daily romping around. The rain and wet also causes some problems with "foot rot" that we have to keep an eye on.

Craig starts out his trimming by cutting the "sidewalls" of the hoof. There are two different "parts" of the hoof, a hard outer "sidewall", and a rubbery "insole". I just realized that there may actually be names for those hoof parts instead of the names we call them. If so, I dunno what they are, so I'll stick with "sidewall" and "insole".

The sidewall seems to me to be kind of like fingernails. As it grows longer, they walk on it and it folds over the insole. This has to be trimmed off. We just slide the trimmers under the folded over part and clip it off - just like cutting your fingernails with scissors.

Then the insole is also trimmed. It can actually get too long and fold over as well. That's bad. It has a "quick" just like our fingers and dog claws. And if you cut past the quick it hurts and bleeds and you end up getting kicked and screamed at. I can't stand it, so we make sure to stop if we see the slightest bit of pink. Sometimes we do accidentally cut too deep and make them bleed, but we sure try not to. I can't really describe the texture of the insole. It's kind of meaty, but firmer than meat. It's white unless you trim it too far.

The hooves should be trimmed so that they are parallel to the "coronet band", which is just a fancy way to say "the top of the hoof". Here Craig moves the foot hair out of the way to make sure that both the heel and toe are parallel to the top of the hoof. It's really easy to leave the toes too long or make the heels too short. This rocks the goat back on its heels which makes for weak ankles and stiff legs.

Angel waits patiently-ish for us to get done with her hooves. I sneak them some grain niblets every now and then while they have to stand tied. Poor things.

After the hoof has been thoroughly trimmed, it gets rasped to level it off and smooth it out. The goats hate this part. So does Craig because he's constantly rasping the skin off his knuckles. I try not to giggle, but he knows some really funny cuss words.

When the hooves are all done, the bottoms will be totally white. This goat is having some problems with foot rot, but we were about to make her bleed so we had to stop right here. This will get noted and we'll follow up with her frequently and trim more off a little at a time until we get her back in shape.

After the hooves are done they get coated with Koppertox. Koppertox is sticky, smelly and very messy. I've been wracking my brain trying to describe the smell, but words are failing me. It smells like wet copper that's dusty. Sort of a musty metallic smell. And it's very strong. You can still smell it on your skin after washing several times. Goat-workin' clothes have to go straight into the washing machine or the whole house will smell like Koppertox. And it stains everything. Moral: don't wear good clothes when you're workin' the goats. Koppertox is a fungicide, so it's great for foot rot. It's also like a liquid bandage to keep stuff out of any nicks.

Once the hooves are all done, it's vaccination time. Of course, we only vaccinate when it's appropriate. The babies get a course of three injections, and then all goats get an annual booster. We use an industry-standard "CD&T" shot, which is basically a Tetanus and Enterotoxemia vaccine. There are several other vaccinations that could be given, but it seems to me like they are mostly to allow for poor management. I don't think that's very cool. (I love Craig's Koppertox stained fingernails in this photo - very punk!)

After everything is done, we give the goats a dose of wormer. This is dependent on the last fecal analysis, of course, but it usually needs to be done. I'll do another fecal about 14 days after this worming and make sure we're doing ok on parasite prevention. Once all of this is done, the goat gets turned out into the pasture. Then we go catch another goat (which is a great aerobic exercise!) and start all over again.

We started at 9 this morning and finished hot, sweaty, aching and smelling like copper at around 2:30. Did anyone see the herd of bison that just ran over me?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Penny and Pru Perform

Each year our little town has a celebration called "Country Days". This year's theme was "Gettin' Down on the Farm". The Girl Scouts borrowed Penny and Prudence for their parade entry. We'd been working with the goat girls on their leads for a couple of weeks to make sure they'd do ok in the parade. BUT... once the parade got underway and moving, Penny and Pru were having none of it. Ever the troopers (get it?), the Girl Scouts put the stubborn goats on their float and carried on. It was cute to see all the town kids pet the goats! And don't they look sweet in the bandanas Tonica brought for them?