goatwisdom

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Behavior

9000

3/23/03

Buck problems

Don't play with buck kids or they will continue this activity when they are large enough to do injury as adults.

We have always kept a wether who grew up with the buck in the same pen with him for companionship. This probably helps to keep him a little happier than if he was alone, since he is always kept separate from the does.

Always dehorn buck kids. Males with horns seem to know what to do with them and, in our experience, seem more apt to be agressive toward people.

Buck odors can be greatly reduced by descenting at the same time that the dehorning is done. [See the link to our dehorning page on the main page.]

Sometimes a buck will become a little too aggressive. This can range from gently or playfully pushing against you to violent butting which can lead to serious pain or injury. You can try various responses: ignoring him, striking him on the head with an empty plastic pop bottle, sitting down, screaming at him, biting him on the ear, leaving the area, selling him. However, these suggestions usually don't work (except for the plan to sell the problem to someone else). The technique that does seem to work was contributed by a "goatwisdom" visitor. After a few carefully aimed shots of water (nothing stronger) between the eyes from a squirtgun or water bottle accompanied by a firm command of "No!" the culprit learns that this behavior will no longer be tolerated; he will then learn to back off just by hearing "No." [Thanks Anne, you're a real hero!]

Fighting

Does kept together will sometimes fight. Some seem more apt to fight than others. Generally, unless they are pregnant, the damage is not too severe...bruising on the head to the point of bleeding. These areas can become infected.

One of the most causative agents that may lead to increased fighting in does is alfalfa, because of its estrogenic properties. This seems to be particularly true in the pregnant and/or dried up doe. Since you don't need to give the dry doe a lot of alfalfa anyhow, cut back on it a little if notice a lot of fighting. Also, we have found that Vitamin B complex injections will help to mitigate alfalfa-induced fighting. None of this, of course, has any scientific backing.

The noisy goat

In some ways, a mouthy goat is a people problem more than a goat problem. Some goats, especially Nubians, will scream at you when they see you at a distance. I think they associate it with feeding and/or milking. You can try NOT feeding them every time you go toward the barn or in some other way breaking up the routine.

Frequently, there are complaints from neighbors, hence my reference to people problems.

Bob's humourous solutions for noisy goats:

Bring her into the house to live
Loan her to a friend that you really dislike
Go away on vacation for three weeks and ask the complaining neighbor to baby sit
Move into the barn with her
Stop feeding her and she will get too weak to make noise
Be thankful that you only have one that makes noise

Training and tricks

Goats enjoy learning to shake hands and give kisses. These seem to be natural behaviors that, with a little bit of rewarding, can be elicited upon request. If you have a lot of does, you will notice that they readily learn their names and will come in for milking when called by name. Some of our also will answer when their names are called. (See "Sounds".)

You can train a doe to stand up on her back legs (don't do it with bucks!) by placing your hand on her head and pressing backwards and then letting go and stepping back. If you repeat this over and over, most does will imitate the fighting posture and try to drop down and butt you. By stepping toward her before she can drop down, she will tend to stay up on her back legs for a long time. Some does, no matter how hard you try, do not seem to be able to master this; I don't know why. There is a picture of this on one of our "Picture" pages.

Milking problems

Be sure to build a milk stand and train the doe to use it long before her first freshening. We use it for hoof trimming, worming and all "doctoring" activities. They know that they will alwyas be fed if they get up there. Handle the udder area frequently when they are young. If you have a reluctant milker, and you will sooner or later, one thing which helps is to tie one of the back legs to the ceiling (or roof rafter, etc.). Establish a set routine with firmly regimented activities, including feed presentation, washing, drying so that she will have let down her milk by the time you start. Then, get down to business and get it done before she runs out of feed or has time to get restless. If she develops mastitis or sores, has been injured, has the congestion of a newly freshened doe or some other painful problem, be patient with her. Even the best milkers will kick at times like this. Some do better with the kids nearby and others just go completely nuts. Some are "one-person" milkers and resent being milked by someone other than their trusted friend. (Some cows prefer men or women as milkers.)

Another trick from milking cows: If nothing else works, get one of the kids to work on one teat while you milk the other. Sometimes they are reluctant to kick their own kid.

MilkHere's a short video showing me milking a reluctant doe. I'm milking into a people baby bottle and then pouring the milk into a small bucket placed nearby. This is helpful when you need to get just a small amount of milk out and you don't want to get into a big fight with the doe.

Pica (Eating what they’re not supposed to eat)

Sometimes, dear Suzy Q will take to eating wooden fences, her feeder, or even the barn. This is naturally a matter of concern. It is not the same as eating trees, bushes or your favorite flowers, which is considered "normal" behavior in goats.

Many "experts" will tell you that this is a sign of mineral deficiency, such as phosphorus. While this may be true in some cases, there are a lot of other causes to consider as well. If she has acces to and is consuming a trace mineral salt bloc or loose mineralized salt of the type intended for cattle (NOT sheep) and is receiving a diet containing a commercial goat or dairy concentrate and good grass-alfalfa hay, it is unlikely that she is suffering from one of the common defiencies. The most common exception to this is if you live in an area where there is a confirmed deficiency in the feed-producing soil. You can easily check with your local agricultural extension agent to see if this might be true. Furthermore, many of the common deficiencies will cause some very noticeable syptoms (hair, bones, etc.).

Not only will you have to replace the fence which she has consumed, the material that she has eaten could be harmful to her. Many wood products are treated with presrvative which are highly toxic (penta, creosote, etc.). Also, the little pieces of wood tend to come off in splinters, which may perferate the digestive tract and, possibly, other organs causing some very serious problems which can be readily fatal. Therefore, it is important that this behavior be stopped as soon as possible. Don’t consider it "cute." There ARE some things which you can do to discourage this behavior:

--Move her to a different location.

--Hang chicken wire 4 to 8 inches away from the object of her attention.

--Provide her with lots of "browse", especially heavy branches that she can spend a lot of time working on.

--Provide her with some toys to play on. Goats love to climb on things and this may offer some distraction.

--Bring more does into the area with her to help ease her boredom, especially if she is alone or with just one other animal.

--If the object has been rubbed on by other animals, it may contain some residual salt which may prove tasty to her. Give it a good scrubbing.

--Make up a spray of cayenne pepper and apply it to the area that she is working on. DON’T treat the wood with distasteful preparations that could be toxic. Be sure to observe her carefully so that she just doesn’t just eat the pepper along with the wood.

Maternal aggression

One of the most bewildering things that happens to goat risers is to have one of the does take an instant and life-threatening dislike for one of her newborns. About as soon as the poor little thing hits the ground, mother goes after it, butting it ferociously with her head, especially when it tries to nurse. She will tend to do this to only one of the group and let the others nurse without difficulty. It has been our experience that it is usually the first-born that becomes the victim of this aggression, leading me to wonder if perhaps she considers this one to be the cause of all her delivery pain.

There really isn't one perfect way in which to deal with this problem. Some mothers will respond differently to various approaches and, frankly, some just never get the picture. Don't let it become a cause for a bad guilt trip on your part. "It happens."

Consider trying some of the following:

The first thing to try is to vigorously rub some of the birthing fluids from a subsequent kid all over the rejected one. Roll the two together and really try to confuse her. This technique has greatly varying degrees of success and I'm sure no one knows why.

At the first sign of this activity, put all the kids in a low box or bucket and place it nearby so that she can see them but can't hurt them. Sometimes after the afterbirth is passed, she will suddenly accept them.

Keep the rejected kid separate from mom, but let it nurse off her (several times per day at first) while she's restrained on the milk stand. You may have to do this until weaning.

Just forget it and raise the kid on a bottle. At first thought, this may seem strange but in the long run, it may save a lot of anxiety. One easy way is to just fill a bottle when you milk and feed the kid directly; this avoids having to heat a bottle.

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