Learning through the school of hard knocks is not always the best way. As with most of the things I will write about on this site, I have learned through many failures, hard times, and of course, successes. With animals, it is very difficult to have failures and keep going. So, I am hoping to pass along some of the information I have learned over the years to give you the shortcut and minimize the pain of learning the hard way.
Illness in animals is very frustrating. If you think getting a child through the croup or sore throat is tough, try working with a calf, lamb, or kid. They can’t tell you what is wrong and they won’t show symptoms until they are very sick. So you need to be diligent about looking and noticing your animals and their behaviors. Make sure you are checking to learn what is normal behavior for your animals. Then when they act differently you are able to notice.
Young animals are like children in that if they are off their feed, they are sick! If they are sleeping when they should be eating or playing, they’re sick. Are their ears droopy, their eyes not so bright, then they aren’t feeling well?
Knowing their normal temperature is essential also so when you notice something wrong you can take their temperature and have an idea of which way to go and what to tell the Veterinarian. A livestock thermometer is essential.
Most young animals have some immunity because of the colostrum from mom. If you have vaccinated the mother while pregnant there is that added protection.
We vaccinate our babies at three days old or when they no longer are able to absorb the colostrum. A nutritionist explained to me that a baby’s system will only absorb colostrum for a certain length of time. He said to wait until that time frame (24 hours) has closed before giving vaccines. Somehow the colostrum interferes with the medicine.
There are a couple of things to watch for when they are very young, pneumonia, naval/joint ill, and over-eating disease. Pneumonia is a sneaky devil, especially with baby goats. They have a great tolerance for illnesses. Usually, they don’t show signs until they are at death’s door. Here is a website with more information on pneumonia in your goats. https://goats.extension.org/pneumonia/
If you’ve ever wondered why you put iodine on umbilical sites after birth, it is to stop the development of Nave-ill or Joint-ill. Bacteria will move up the umbilical site and go into the system. It starts with a high temp of 106, limbs become warm and stiff, and the kid begins to get wobbly. Here is a link to more information: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/musculoskeletal-system/lameness-in-goats/joint-ill-in-goats
Overeating disease is the reason we began vaccinating on the third day of life. One year my sister and I were raising bummer lambs (orphaned) and had 60 of them. We were still learning and hadn’t vaccinated yet. All of a sudden we started losing lambs left and right. We finally found out it was an overeating disease and our feed supplier introduced us to a remedy. When we were done, we lost 2/3’s of our lambs. Now we vaccinate on the third day and have not had a case since. For more information on this and more: https://vet.uga.edu/enterotoxemia-in-sheep-and-goats/#:~:text=Enterotoxemia%2C%20also%20known%20as%20overeating,of%20healthy%20sheep%20and%20goats.
These are just a few of the diseases a baby animal can acquire in the first months of life. If you are a conscientious rancher and pay attention to your stock, this should not be a problem. If you do notice something off with your stock, don’t panic. Watch and see what is going on. Then fix it the best you can or call the Vet. That’s all you can do.
As with all livestock, be prepared and make sure you give this new purchase enough room to exercise. Have good fences to keep them, and you safe, and good food and water to help them grow. Sometimes this is not as easy as it sounds. Especially, as they get older and more active.
I would advise anyone who is planning to start raising any livestock to research that animal thoroughly. Read books, talk to people near you that raise what you want. Everyone that raises animals has lots of information and they usually love to share. This is definitely one area where there are no dumb questions. There is nothing as great as watching new life emerge into this world.
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