Herd Management and Health at Parham Farms
This page will feature information on how we manage our herd. I will work on it as I get
a free moment here and there.
DiseasesWe test annually for CAE (Caprine arthritis encephalitis), a virus which lieads to chronic
disease of the joints and in rare cases, encephalitis. It is a blood borne virus and can be
transmitted thru blood and bodily fluids, including milk. CAE doesn't have
a cure, and it can be passed from dam to kid in the milk while nursing. Washington Animal
Disease Diagnostics lab has a wonderful page of information about it here: WADDL-CAE
Our animals have come from herds that are historically negative for CAE and we have blood drawn and
tested annually to be certain our herd stays free of this disease.
We have never had a case of CL nor have we purchased from a herd that we know to have had CL.
CL or Caseous Lymphadenitis is a bacteria spread through contact with infected animals,
specifically, material from infected abscesses. CL can be spread to humans. This bacteria
can survive month in the soil and on surfaces, making eradication of the disease a challenge
once it has presented. Infected abscesses can form anywhere along the lymph system, subcutaneously
or in the lungs or abdominal organisms and sometimes present in the bloodstream, but not
always. Testing for CL is controversial because the results are not definitive for a single
animal, the only way to rule out CL is to have the exudate from an abcess tested Blood testing.
is done largely as a whole herd screening method, the test doesnt measure specifically
if an animal has CL bacteria or not but the level of immune response to a toxin produced by
the bacteria. It is assumed that if an entire herd has a measured response that the bacteria
is present somewhere in the herd. Likewise animals without CL can have a response to the
toxin, particularly if they have a challenged immune system or have recently been unwell.
Likewise a single animal carry CL bacteria that is well and not experiencing a current abscess,
may test normal, even though they have been exposed to the bacteria and may in the future develop
abscesses. Thus CL blood screening for very small herds is ineffective while CL blood screening
for larger herds is a good management tool in context.
More information about CL is available from WADDL-CL
We have never had a case of Scrapiue nor do we know anyone who has, but it's an important disease
to learn about. Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep
and goats. There are no tests available to determine genetic resistance/susceptibility to scrapie in
goats. Keeping sheep on the same property with goats can increase the risk of goats becoming infected
with scrapie; however, not all scrapie cases in goats have been linked to exposure to sheep, so
there may be the possibility of transmission of the disease between goats. The best way to protect a
herd from disease introduction, including scrapie, is to limit exposure to outside animals.
We have never had a case of Johne's nor do we know anyone who has, but this is another important
disease to be aware of. Johne's or MAP (Mycobacterium avium ss. paratuberculosis) is a chronic
wasting disease that primarily effects cattle and sheep, but can effect all ruminants. The disease
is thought to be contracted while the animal is young and the animal may remain healthy much of it's
life as the disease is dormant. The disease can lay dormant for years before active symptoms appear.
Diarrhea and wasting despite adequate caloric intake are the only external symptoms. Internally, the
animal's intestinal wall is thickening and preventing absorption of nutrients.
More info on Johnes is available here: Johnes Info
Brucellosis is a disease that APHIS says is not present in United Stated Goat herds - APHIS-Brucellosis
Milking HygieneSome people think goats milk tastes "goaty" but with proper milking hygiene
and diet it should taste like milk! Allowing the bucks to run with the does
will also contribute to a musky taste and smell in your milk. At Parham Farms
we keep our bucks in a separate pen with a 6' alley between the bucks and does pen.
This allows us to walk between the pens and prevents fenceline breeding and keeps
our milk from smelling or tasting like "buck".
Proper hygiene starts with a clean udder before each milking. Our does udders are
clipped before kidding and kept clipped throughout their lactation. This allows us
to easily clean the entire udder well before milking. There are several options for
cleaning the udder. We like to use wipes. We purchase baby wipe refill packs, and add
about 1/4 cup of 2% Chlorhexadine Solution or Udder Wash to each packet of wipes and
squish it around well. We clean the teats and the entire udder using wipes (as many
as it takes) and dry off using a clean paper towel. If the paper towel isn't clean
after drying off, we go back and clean the udder again until a fresh paper towel is
still white after drying off the teats.
We have milked both by hand and using a milking machine. When there are more than
3 goats to milk we use the machine. I like that it is a closed system, but it does
require it's own special cleaning of the milk lines and receptacle after each milking.
When milking, we suggest using nitrile gloves as our hands have lots of hiding places
places for germs. If you can't wear gloves, please wash well using a betadine scrub before
milking each doe. If you are wearing gloves and using an udder wash, your gloves will
receive the same antibacterial benefit of the udder wash as the does udder.
After milking it is important to use a teat spray or dip to help prevent bacteria from
entering the orifice while it is open. Fight Bac spray is great if you only have a couple
of milkers. It is chlorhexadine based and has an added benefit of coming out really cold
which helps to close the orifice quickly. If you have many milkers you will probably prefer
a teat dip product. Iodine based teat dips are easy to use and provide a wonderful barrier
against mastitis causing bacteria. There are a few chlorhexadine based products out there as well,
just be sure that the product is a teat dip or barrier rather than a detergent or udder wash as
there is a difference in drying time.
Diet has a HUGE impact on the quality, makeup and taste of the milk. Certain plants give
scents and flavors to the milk. We have a native plant that give the milk the scent of
naptha (mothballs) to the milk. It's really tough to drink something that smells of naptha
even if it doesn't affect the taste! SO you'll have to learn about native plants and grasses
be sure to know what plants are toxic and should NEVER be available to goats - like azalea,
oleander, and nandina to name a few. If you notice an off taste to the milk, go in search of
plants in the grazing area. We had a tough time finding and removing the plant that gives the
off odor to our milk. So don't get discouraged, just do lots of research and contact your local
extension office for help, anyone familiar with dairy animals can help you ID plants that can
give an off taste to your milk.
We feed free choice, horse quality Vaughn's Hybrid Bermuda hay grown locally and tested to provide
at least 16% protein. We'd love to feed an alfalfa blend, but alfalfa doesn't grow in our soil and
isn't easy to purchase locally unless we order and store an entire container full. Our milking
does and kids also receive a ration of pellets. Bucks receive pellets during the rut, otherwise
our bucks are fed based upon their condition, but always have free choice grass hay available.
We've hand blended our own ration and we've purchased balanced preblended rations. Since we don't
have the laboratory equipment to allow me to test the nutritional value of our own blend (the
nutrients in the ingredients do vary), I have chosen to feed a commercially available balanced ration
formulated specifically for dairy goats containing 16% protein. We are currently feeding Tennessee Co-Op
Dairy Goat Milk Enhancer. We have also fed Dumor pellets, and Noble Goats Dairy Parlor 16. My milkers
are fed their ration while on the milkstand. It gives them a reward for the wonderful milk they are
giving me. If I have a doe that eats too fast, but doesn't need more pellets, I will strategially
place a couple of large rocks in the bowl before I put her ration in so that she has to slow down
and work around the rocks to eat it all.
Dry does in proper condition are not given grain, only free choice bermuda hay. Growing kids are given
a grain ration based on their condition for the first year. At about a year old they are assessed and
we determine if they are ready to go on grass hay alone, or if we need to keep supplementing with grain.
Their primary sustenance needs to be grass and leaves, not grain, it should only be used as a supplement
to help add condition, support milk production, or growth.
Our bucks are always given grain during the rut. The remainder of the year we feed them based on condition.
Our boys stay active and when they are leaner than we'd like we supplement with a little grain shared
amonngst them once a day. Again, their primary sustenance should be grass hay and leaves.
Kids are fed a grain ration after weaning to supplement their hay intake as they grow. The ration is
adjusted based on the kids condition and rate of growth.
We also provide free choice loose mineral (Sweet-Lix Copperhead or MeatMaker, a cobalt salt block (it's blue),
and free choice baking soda to all of our goats.
Coccidia, Prevention and Treatment
Intestinal Worms, Prevention and Treatment
Diarrhea can be deadly
BreedingWe hand breed each of our does. What this means is that we watch them for signs of estrus (heat) and when
they display flagging tails, and are calling out to the boys, we take them out into the common area on a lead
for a date with the chosen buck. If the doe is in standing heat (fertile) she will not fight the buck's advances
but rather will stand and let him mount her. IF the buck is overly excited and gets too aggressive she may protest
but generally speaking the doe will let you know when she is ready. Not every doe likes every buck. Some does seem
to have a preference for certain bucks, or at least, an aversion to the buck you wanted to breed her to. This
does happen and one of the ways around it is to take the doe to the fenceline of the buck she likes, let her be
face to face with him, while the "chosen" buck is allowed around back to do his deed. You will know if the deed
was accomplished because the buck will thrust and the doe will hunch up her back like a cat. We try to let the
buck inseminate the doe two to three times in about 30 minutes before we return them to their respective pens.
Then we make a note on our dry erase board as to the date and the mating and watch carefully 18-22 days later for
signs of estrus. If the doe does not come back into heat the breeding was likely successful. Gestation is
officially 150 days, Here at Parham Farms, we have a lot of kids born at 147 days gestation.
Bottle Feeding or Dam Raising KidsYou have three options for raising kids. Dam raising, bottle raising and half-time
dam raising. Dam raising simply means that you leave the kids with mom to nurse at will
according to God's perfect design. The down side of that is that it's more complicated to
have milk for your family while the kids are on the dam 100% of the time. Also as the dam
begins to wean the kids, her production may begin to dwindle before you realize that you should
be milking for your own family, and unless you separate the kids fromt he dam at some point,
they are likely to steal milk even after they are weaned. Trust me, a 4 month old kid who was
dam raised, can empty mom's udder in a matter of seconds!
Bottle raising kids is a round the clock endeavor for the first week, and then a full time
job after that. There are all sorts of nifty inventions & ideas to help you out with this, and
each person eventually figures out what is the best match for them and the kids they are raising.
At Parham Farms, we've learned that our Nigerian kids are pigs! There's no polite way to say it.
These kids will slurp down as much milk as they can to the point it makes them sick. A kid can
easily get enterotoxemia and be deathly ill before you realize what is wrong. So we have chosen
not to make lambars available to our Nigerian kids before they are a month old. They simply
do not know how to back away once their tummy is filled and let the next kid have some. We
have chosen to individually bottle feed each kid. This allows us to chart the intake of each
kid, gives us more one on one time to handle and get to know each kid and gives these kids a
strong sense of confidence that humans are providers rather than predators to be feared.
We recycle the small plastic soda bottles for use in bottle feeding our kids and we train
the kids from the start to use the gray caprine pull on nipples.
Only rarely is a kid too small to learn to use the caprine nipple and in those cases we use a
Pritchard teat which screws onto a soda bottle. One reason we choose to train them to the
caprine nipples from the start is that the nipples are easier to clean than the Pritchard teats
they last longer, and if we do choose to go to a lambar system for feeding when the kids are
older, they will already be accustomed to the nipple they will be using. If we have trouble
with a kid sucking down to much or being unable to regulate flow thru the caprine nipple, we
can insert 1/4" tubing into the nipple and allow it to hang down into the milk supply like a
straw and keep the bottle more upright allowing the kid to use the sucking reflex to pull the
milk up into the nipple, much like they would do later on a lambar. Speaking of the lambar
we make our own lambars using plastic containers, a drill bit, caprine nipples and 1/4" tubing.
the tubing feeds down into individual bottles or jars of milk to make sure that one animal on one
nipple doesn't drink it all dry at one time. If there is a down side to bottle raising it is that
the dams no longer recognize their own children and don't have that mother/child bond with them later.
On a positive note though, the dams also won't allow those kids to steal milk and the kids are unlikely
to even try because they don't see milk as coming from an udder, they think it comes from you!
Half-time dam raising is a hybrid of these methods and allows for the most flexibility. The kids
are allowed to live with and nurse from their dam free choice for 12 hours a day. During the other
12 hour period they are penned separately from their dam while she produces enough milk for
you to milk out for yourself at the end of the 12 hours. We gave the babies access to water while
they were penned away from their dam and after a few days they learned to drink the water. After you
milk out the dam, you return the babies to her to nurse for another 12 hours. The advantage of this
system is that it is not as labor intensive as bottle raising, and depending on how you schedule it,
you can choose to have the babies separately when you'd have the most time to interact with them
personally. The down side is that the kids quickly figure this out, they learn the schedule
and are sure to be hidden or trying to hide when it is time to gather them and pen them away
from mom. When you return the kids to mom, she will be dry because you have just milked her.
Though this seems harsh or mean to some, it is actually an advantage, because the demanding kids
signal her udder to increase production even more and in no time she will be making enough to feed
her kids and have a nice bounty for you too. The downside to this is weaning. The kids know where
milk comes from and are not likely to give up trying to get it as long as they have access to the
the dam. I have tried separating them for 4-6 weeks, but they remember and will still go back
and try to nurse, sometimes the dam lets them and if she does... you'll not have much milk for yourself.