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  • Writer's pictureTina

Herd Check

Our favorite veterinarian visited the farm on Tuesday for a whole-herd health check. I request a whole-herd annual check-up to stay abreast of any problems we are having or those that could develop. I have shared in past posts that we have been dealing with hoof rot and mites this year, which are both new issues. Israel, our vet, is always gentle, calm, and soft-spoken with our animals. I like Israel to do our herd checks because he is familiar with goats. His family has raised goats for years; that experience and knowledge are invaluable. We always look forward to annual check-ups and having Israel's input.

For approximately three years, I have thought my girl's body conditions and coats were in decline. I believe the problem began with inadequate minerals in the feed we purchased from a local mill. We have since changed feed mills and now use the high-quality feed from Drenkhan's Farm Supply. Michelle and her husband, Ken, are good people who take the same approach to their business as we do. They work tirelessly to provide top-quality products and outstanding service and are always willing to go the extra mile to help their customers. They are genuinely invested in the care and well-being of animals. Michelle is as smart as they come, always has sound advice, and if she doesn't know the answer to a question off-hand, she will work to find out the answer to help. I can't say enough good things about Drenkhan's Farm Supply. If you are local to Indiana, Pennsylvania, or the surrounding area, Drenkhan's Farm Supply is a wonderful option for all your farm and feed needs. Anyhow, I digress.

We changed the feed, and the younger girls improved. However, my older goats and my goats, who tend to be a bit more prone to issues, have not improved as much as I would like. Their problems are not life-threatening, but small things like not gaining weight as quickly once they have weaned their babies, the mites, the hoof rot, the dull coats, and the missing hair on their faces are all red flags that something is not quite right. With all his knowledge, wisdom, and experience, Israel offered us the insight we needed.

He looked at my "grannies" first. Of course, my greatest concern is my sweet girl, Big Red. Israel looked closely at Red, felt her hips, and explained that you could feel the grinding of bone on bone in her hips when she walked. Right now, using meloxicam keeps her comfortable, and she has a good quality of life. He agrees she is doing well considering the advanced stage of her arthritis but told me that we will need to keep an eye on her, and she will tell us when her condition deteriorates to the point that it is time to let her go. Israel said almost the same thing as my friend Jenna; he doesn't feel another winter will be good for her. This is hard news to hear, but I know it is the reality I must face. I asked him if he would be willing to come to the farm and gently put Red down when we reached that point. He told me absolutely and that it would be a peaceful, painless process...for Red. It is going to break my heart. Throughout the summer and fall, I plan to spend as much time with my dear girl as possible. I will keep her licorice treats on hand and meloxicam in stock, groom her, and give her all the extra attention she desires. I vow to make the most of our limited time together.

For the next few weeks, Red, Mama Boo, Lily, Merribelle, and Little Lester are in the pasture next to the pond, along with the weaned babies. Red likes to be once again large and in charge of the herd. She bites ears and tails, head butts with Lester, and oversees that the little ones are safe and not getting into mischief. She is the best herd nanny ever. She is also happy to be reunited with her BFF, Mama Boo. We will do all we can to ensure that Red's remaining time with us is as happy and fulfilling as possible. After he examined Red, Israel looked over our little ones and was pleased with their growth, body composition, and overall good health. A few of our babies have small goiters at the base of their jaws. He told us to rub them with iodine, and they should disappear. Our little ones are fat as fools and look great.

We then moved across the driveway, where most of our adults will stay for the next few weeks. Israel said the herd looks excellent overall. He explained that the issues we see with dull coats, hoof rot, and mites are caused by a lack of proper minerals. He explained that although we have switched feed, which has the appropriate mineral supplements added to it, it is not enough to make up for the depletion they suffered from the poor quality feed. Eric is feeding an all-species mineral supplement to the herd, but that is not concentrated enough. Israel suggests we switch to a goat-specific mineral supplement and add copper bolus to the girls showing signs of mites, hoof rot, and hair loss. He also shared that if our water is high in iron, which it is, the iron will act as a bonding agent and make it difficult for the girls to absorb the copper and selenium that they need. I found it fascinating that iron in our water could add to our issues with our girls' health. This visit with Israel reinforced that so much more goes into responsible stewardship of animals than simply turning them out on pasture and throwing some feed at them.

We now have a plan in place and the answers we need to address the pesky issues we are dealing with this season. Having a veterinarian come to the farm is an added expense. Still, if you keep animals, having an annual check-up is worthwhile rather than waiting until things have progressed and serious issues have developed. Eric plans to call Drenchak's Farm Supply to order the mineral supplements Israel suggested. We also purchased a large bottle of strong antibiotics to treat Merribelle's hoof rot, which never seems to clear up entirely. Although we don't overuse antibiotics, we believe some situations require their use, and it is good to have them on hand.

To finish the farm visit, Israel updated our senior pit bull, Chubby's vaccinations. Chubs got his rabies, distemper, Lyme's, and kennel cough vaccines on our driveway. He stood like a good boy, didn't have to be muzzled, and was not stressed out over leaving the farm. As Chubby ages, we have found that vaccinating him at the farm is easier for him and us. He is not a bad or mean boy, just a grumpy old man who dislikes being messed with. Eric held him still while Israel gave him his shots. Chubby was pleased as punch to get treats and scratches between injections. I feel relieved that everyone has now had their check-up for the year, is updated on shots, and medications are restocked. Having Israel look everyone over and give us seemingly simple fixes to minor problems to avoid significant issues is worth the time and money.

It's just another day in the life of a goat farmer. Sigh. On this pleasant summer day, stay safe, be smart, be proactive rather than reactive, appreciate the time you have with those you love, and keep washing your hands.

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