Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Milk Pail Diaries
A Doctor Visit

My day started by taking the rectal temperature of a goat. We were in the barn, Bonita and I, and she was already in her stanchion chomping into a feeder tray of Dairy Goat Ration drizzled with molasses. I added the molasses at the last minute, hoping its deliciousness would distract her from what I was about to do. I was equal parts nervous and concerned. I braced myself for the big show, thermometer in my left hand and her tail held up by my right. Here we go...

It easily slipped it in without a fuss. Bonita kept chewing, totally focused on her sugared breakfast cereal as the device calibrated her body heat. Cheap date.

The thermometer buzzed and I slid it out. The temperature was a solid 100.3 degrees, good news! Yesterday it was 103 and her udders felt warmer than usual to the touch. Between the heat of her udders and the engorged teats I was worried about these early signs of infection or mastitis. I'm new to goats and wasn't sure if I was playing with fire or over-reacting. My books seemed to suggest many reasons for the weirdness - from congestion in the milk path to a sore on the outside of the teat. I opted on the side of safety and called Common Sense Farm immediately. Yesheva would know what to do.

She's as good as any vet, better even. Around here most vets do not have a lot of experience with sheep or goats since small ruminant farmers can't justify the vet bills for a $200.00 animal. Common Sense can't either, so they have learned nearly everything there is to know about goat care over the decades, absorbing everything they can get their hands on in books, pamphlets, and online. Partner that book learnin' with constant daily experience and you have Yesheva, a 28-year old natural beauty and walking goat encyclopedia and medic. She has been through it all, from diagnosing and curing Floppy Kid Syndrome to Still Born deliveries to extreme cases of mastitis—all of which she has seen the best and worst of. And that is why I called her over to my farm yesterday. It's also why before my first cup of coffee I was inserting technology into goat orifices.

Yesheva came right up to my farm armored with thermometer, a strip cup, and her kind and gentle manner. We got Bonita on the stand for evening milking and with the ease and unabashed technique of an Old Hand, she took Bonita's temperature. After she saw the low-grade fever she milked a few squirts into the strip cup. I watched all this new stuff in awe. The new tools, the eyes on her udder, the way she talked and massaged the calm animal.

If you are confused about what was going on, let me explain. Strip cups are tools used in dairies for observation of the milk. They are 1-cup sized stainless steel containers with a fine mess screen that you milk right into. This screens shows you any strings or clots in the milk. If the milk passed through the screen without any weird residue or color, she was okay. Her milk came out normal as always, no glop on the screen at all. So Yesheva said she didn't think it was mastitis, as much as stress from adapting to the new farm and owner. She went about massaging the udders, feeling for lumps or other signs, and spoke softly to Bonita. Bonita was her goat for years, and they knew each other well. I think the Alpine was just relieved to have someone good milk her for once.

And she did. With skill I can't fathom Yesh milked the doe in 3 minutes flat, and when the udders stopped giving she massaged a bit more and Bonita let down a bit more milk. After that passed through the strip cup again without residue, Yesheva explained what she thought the high temperature was for. On her right udder there was a scab, small but right where the hands milk. She explained what to do to treat it, how important it was to keep her clean and her bedding pristine, and to wait till after milking to give hay. Apparently it takes about 30 minutes for the valves to shut in the udder that block off access to her milk, as well as infection. A just-milked goat that slumped down on dirty bedding after a milking was asking for trouble. So if they are standing up eating from a hay feeder after milking they are more likely to be up and off the ground while the udders close up, stopping foreign dirt and bacteria from getting inside.

I thanked her, and we went inside for tea. There she told me stories, terrible and wonderful about her years with goats. She talked about cheeses, yogurt, desserts and quiches. She talked about her farm, the goats in another Community in Belows Falls. And she talked about her experience with the Bovine vets around here. She felt most just handed over penicilin and were too rough. They were used to different dairy animals, and the techniques needed for 2,000 lbs of animal. She wasn't anti-vet, but she preferred to treat her own goats 90% of the time. When you see her herd, you understand. They are amazingly healthy. Bonita was just adapting, and needed some extra grain to put back on the weight she had loss in the move. Goats are not into change, she explained. But they are into sweet feed, so offer a little more to fatten her up a bit.

This has been the only bump in the road so far, and it wasn't the big deal at all. Onward to the milk pail, friends. Onward with cream on the top and goat nickering in the yard.


Blogger Ann said...

I love how you are on top of everything with your animals. I doubt that I could keep up with all of that.

April 22, 2012 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

That is such a blessing to have a vet who KNOWS goats... Treat her like gold! She is correct in stating that most vets are used to handling/treating 2,000 lbs. of animal; not 200 lbs.

There are no goat vets in my area... I have to treat my own. The livestock vet told me he wouldn't treat my goats because they're a "small animal" (yet he does sheep everyday!). Yet the small animal vet cast me aside saying that goats belonged at the livestock clinic! Aargh!!

but finding a vet who really knows goats is a treasure indeed... Glad to hear Bonita's doing okay!

April 22, 2012 at 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Took notes, put in CAF folder, filed under goats. Waiting for the next lesson.

I've read of the shortage of vets for livestock. Maybe there will be a resurgence of people wanting to be vets like there are of small farmers/homesteaders.

April 22, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Trekout2 said...

You have me totally interested in Goats any thoughts on good books you could recommend about raising them. I would like to add. Them to my five year plan

April 22, 2012 at 11:47 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

Well not to burst your bubble but a temperature of 103 for a goat is not high, it's high normal. Your goat did not have a fever. I question your friend's diagnosis...
Normal goat temp runs about 102-104
here's a great site for info

I have almost 28 years of experience with dairy goats.

April 22, 2012 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Must've heard the numbers wrong then. I trust Yesheva very much.

April 22, 2012 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

Yep, 103 is not high. 100.3 is kind of low. But always trust your goat mentor. They are worth their weight in gold.

April 22, 2012 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

Yep, 103 is not high. 100.3 is kind of low. But always trust your goat mentor. They are worth their weight in gold.

April 22, 2012 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...

Has Bonita met Jasper yet? How do they get on?

April 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Is Bonita making any "friends" at your farm? I think they are no too "into" sheep... maybe Jasper? Aren't goats herd animals and like their buddies around? Maybe a wether to keep her company? :-) Goat BFF

April 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Is Bonita making any "friends" at your farm? I think they are no too "into" sheep... maybe Jasper? Aren't goats herd animals and like their buddies around? Maybe a wether to keep her company? :-) Goat BFF

April 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would like for Yeshiva to move in with me pleas! We just lost a doe today. There are no vets in our area who treat goats...I am happy you decided to try your luck with a dairy goat, Jenna. Isn't the fresh milk to die for?

April 22, 2012 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

Well that's just taught me a little more about goats. In fact, reading about Bonita has inspired me to consider adding a milk goat to our small farm. After all, what's one more chore around the place? Now I'll know to watch out for stress-induced illness if we do make the investment. Thanks.

April 22, 2012 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger ~ Janis said...

I was at the Bellows Falls Community last week.
Photos of the 17 'Kids" are on my blog, about 5 posts down. They are a handful!

April 22, 2012 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

It's good to have someone like Yesheva around. And one minor correction... goats only have 1 udder. Their udder has 2 halves, and a teat on each half. So, 1 udder, and 2 teats. :-)

April 23, 2012 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

I love gentle souls like Yeshiva who know and love their animals so "naturally". What a treat to have her as a friend and mentor!

April 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Cait said...

We have a book called "Managing Your Ewe" by Laura Lawson that we use when diagnosing all sorts of problems with our flock. I do know many dairy goat farms who use it too though as there doesn't seem to be a goat equivalent - this book discusses symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention. It especially helpful during kidding and over the milking season. Might be handy to keep around!

April 24, 2012 at 8:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home