The best part of ranch life is the animals you care for. They become a part of your life. Having animals has always been a lifelong dream. Caring for them, new life entering the world, and knowing you are responsible for them is a wonderful experience. The cuddling, playing, watching them grow and play. Unfortunately, they grow up, and the work begins.
Often I am asked how I do things with my animals, so I decided to put together some of the most asked about situations and their resolutions.
For the most part, I do the procedures by myself. So I have figured out how to do them easily for one person. Sometimes I do need help and get my husband or sister to assist. The first procedure we will look at is castration or banding.
When our male kid goats are three months old, we “band” (castration with rubber type bands) them. This is our preferred method to the cutting or biting methods.
An instrument called a bander, is made to hold the rubber band. You then place it above the testicles, making sure you have both below the band. I just put the kid between my legs, but facing forward, and grab what I need. Sometimes it is difficult to get both of them to come down. The band will cut the circulation, making them die and fall off. If you want to take extra precautions banding goats, you can use a spray antiseptic before you start, Caltron IV. It works very well.
We’ve only had one buck have a small problem. We treated it with antibiotics. As with any procedure, you need to keep an eye on them for a while until the testicle drops off, as it can turn gangrenous.
Usually, we sell the ones we aren’t keeping at about six months or 60-70 lbs. The goats usually go to a livestock buyer instead of taking them to the auction. We try to sell them to private buyers if we can. We prefer to sell to 4-H kids or people who want to raise goats, but that doesn’t always happen.
Goats’ feet are strange compared to other animals. They have split toes with heals. Getting them even if they haven’t had them trimmed in a while is a job. They aren’t real appreciative of this procedure either. There’s that to contend with also.
As they are growing, we try to watch their hooves, and when they become long, we trim them. It isn’t as difficult as it seems if you have the right tools and some help. Here is a helpful site to see what they are supposed to look like. Goathoof
I use rose pruners and horse hoof trimming nippers. I like to use the nippers as they have a long handle and a very sharp edge. The extra leverage they provide make trimming easier on my hands. The older you get, the more leverage you need. Try to trim them either in the spring or fall when the ground is wetter. Trimming when their hooves are softer is always easier.
Oh, and make sure you have either iodine or corn starch close by especially, in the beginning. You will probably make them bleed. I still do on occasion. Their feet bleed like scalp wounds, lots of blood from a small spot. Don’t worry, it will stop, and they won’t bleed to death!
If you need to work on the goat’s feet by yourself, there are several ways you can do this. I have a milk stanchion which makes working on them so much easier. If you don’t have a stanchion, you can either throw them on the ground and kind of sit on them or tie them to a fence.
One rope around their head like a halter, then another rope around their hips, so they stay horizontal to the fence. For sheep, they have a hammock-style holder you can use. They lie on their back at an angle with their feet up. You have easier access to do the job.
If still don’t feel confident enough to do it yet, here is my favorite book to help. Hobby Farms, Goats, Small-Scale Herding for Pleasure & Profit, by Sue Weaver, 2006. It shows all the “how to’s” for anything you need.
If you don’t want to always call the vet or it’s in the middle of the night, you should keep a stocked vet first aid kit. It should have a suture kit. Even if you don’t think you will use it, someone else might save an animal for you. You can get one at your local Farm & Ranch store or veterinarian’s office. Always have iodine, alcohol, peroxide, and a blood stop. Gauze, vet wrap, duct tape, syringes, needles, scissors, and even feminine hygiene pads. They work great for a pressure bandage. There are all kinds of YouTube videos for stitching up a wound.
There have been two of our does who had a sort of growth between their toes that was very sore.
After finding out what it would cost for a veterinarian, we decided we would do it ourselves. We had some lidocaine we were able to use. We surgically removed the growth. Treated it with iodine, antibiotics, and wrapped it. She survived the surgery and never had another problem. It did take three of us to get it done.
The next one, we just cleaned it, cut it out, put iodine on it, and gave antibiotics. She was also fine. A lot cheaper too. We love veterinarians, but if you don’t have to use them, it sure helps the pocketbook!
We’re great at improvising. Broken leg? Toilet paper roll, cotton bandaging, and duck tape will do the job just fine for a kid. For the adult goats, you might want to use PVC pipe, cut to size, split down the middle, add the cotton bandaging and duck tape. Just make sure it’s not too tight and check it often.
Then there is always that one baby who only wants to eat off one teat. You can duck tape that one teat to make the kid eat off the other one. Take the duck tape off after a couple of days, and voila, it will eat off both.
I had something happen today that is probably worth talking about. My goats are supposed to kid before my sheep ewes lamb. Well, as usual, they made a liar out of me. I was out feeding the herd, and one of the ewes was standing back. They never do. I walked over and she had had a lamb a little while before I came out. It was dry but cold. The ewe is skitzy and ran over to the feed. I couldn’t get her to come back so I took the lamb to the house, got a thermometer, took his temperature, and started warming.
The best way I know of it to fill up a sink with hot water and put the lamb in, not their head, of course. It took about twenty minutes to bring his temp. from 98.5 to 102, where it is supposed to be. Some owners like to put them in a plastic bag before they put them in the water. That eliminates the need to use the hairdryer. When I took him out of the water, I dried him off. I then made a tent with a towel and used the hairdryer underneath until he was dry.
When he was warm and dry, I fixed him a 10 oz. colostrum bottle and he ate it up. I was able to put him back with mom later, but she was still leary. If you can make the pen smaller and force the ewe to stand, she will usually end up taking the lamb.
There’s always something happening on a ranch when you have animals. Looks like now I’m going to be very busy with new babies.
We have so much fun with our sheep and goats.
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Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian nor do I claim to be one. These are just some simple home remedies that have worked for me and I wanted to share.