Country World Archives 2001-2008


Nutrition, exercise, healthcare for goats detailed


By LORI COPE | East Texas Edition

Jeff Ripley stresses good physical condition for goats can be achieved with good nutrition and exercise.
-Staff photo by Cope

October 4, 2001 -- Proper nutrition, supplements, exercise tips - could be what you'd expect to discuss with your personal health trainer - until the topics of dehorning and castration come up.

Actually, these were all topics covered during the recent Meat Goat Clinic in Denton County. Jeff Ripley, experienced goat raiser and national show judge, and Dr. Laird Lawrence, Hill County Veterinary Clinic, were two of the speakers during the event - a goat's personal trainer and doctor, respectively.

When it comes to determining how much, or how little, feed a goat needs, Ripley said a hands-on approach is essential. "If you feel right behind their front ribs, they always feel fat there. You should feel the middle of the rib cage to check their fat coverage."

Using his fist as a visual aid, Ripley said if the rib cage feels like you are rubbing across your knuckles, the goat is too thin. The rib cage should feel like it does when you rub across your fingers (between the knuckles and first joint).

"If it feels like the top of your hand, he's too fat," he said.

He suggested the goat's condition should be checked only once a week, and not every day. A change in appearance will be more noticeable in this time frame.

Ripley, currently the county Extension director for Travis County, was an Extension agent in San Angelo for many years where the sheep and goat is a huge industry.

A good feeding program rule of thumb: feed 3 percent of the goat's body weight. It's also good to break this up into two feedings per day.

The exception is fresh-weaned goats which can be fed free-choice.

One mistake goat owners, who are seeking a quick condition change, should avoid is changing the feed too often. "The worst thing you can do is the constantly switch feed," Ripley said. "If he's on it, and is doing well, leave them on it and give it a chance."

When it comes to feed additives, Ripley advised using an easy hand. "Feed companies have nutritionists creating that feed, and when you start adding a lot of additives, that messes with the balance."

There are many supplements or additives on the market. The agent noted there is "no absolute best ration" and that "many are effective." The key is to learn the animal's weakness and learn what supplement or additive would best help the situation.

Ripley cautioned goat owners about the supplement called Red Cell. "This is a horse supplement that many people use with goats," he said. "(The product) is very high in copper, and copper is very deadly to goats."

He noted that goats' threshold for copper is very low and when feeding the supplement "you're going to go over that threshold and kill that goat."

For those determined to use the product, Ripley said to "shake it, and shake it, and shake it" to thoroughly mix the ingredients within the supplement. ... "If you don't, you may be giving straight copper."

Ripley also noted he feeds alfalfa hay (about a double handful) once a week, such as the evening feeding on a Sunday. No feed is fed when hay is given.

To build muscle in goats, Ripley promoted the aerobic exercise of running.

Playing in the pen is not enough exercise, he added. Hard running (sprints) is key to

building muscle in goats.

"Think about the difference in a sprinter's body and a long-distance runner's body. The sprinter is thick and hard, and the long-distance runner is long and lean. We want our goats to be thick and hard."

Ripley said using dogs to chase the goats is one good way to achieve this type exercise. Not only are the goats running hard, but the adrenaline released from the excitement of the dogs, helps build muscle.

"I'd run harder with a dog behind me too," he said. "In fact, my wife is looking for one now."

Ripley said goats can also be chased with a four-wheeler or with horses. "It becomes a game to them," he said.

"We also like to run sheep and goats together," he added. "Because sheep are stupid and will run real hard and the goats will try to keep up."

Running them on a track is ideal, but a long driveway (250 to 300 yards, one-quarter mile at most) will work too. "You can take them to the end of it and chase them back. It may be difficult the first time to get them back, but feed them when you get them back to the barn and they'll figure out (where to go)."

Ripley concluded that exercising the goats every other day is sufficient.

Castrating and dehorning goats is a one-time process that can be done easily on bigger goats with a method offered by Lawrence, a veterinarian.

"I've got a recipe you can take to your vet; and it's safe if it's done right," he said. The recipe, or combination, of drugs will put the animal to sleep for about 20 minutes so the castration, and even dehorning, can be done.

The drugs used are Ketamine and Rombum. Inject 7/10s of a cc of 100-mg Rombum into a bottle of Ketamine. Then give the goat 1 cc per 100 pounds in the vein. (An example would be a 60-pound goat would get 6/10s cc.)

If the 20-minute window is closing and the tasks are incomplete, Lawrence said the goat can be re-dosed with 1/2 cc per 100 pounds. (The 60-pound goat would get 3/10s cc.) Lawrence also advised it is time to re-dose if the goat starts making noise and trying to get up.

The veterinarian also advised the "golden rule for castration is the sooner the better. We usually physically castrate (without the drugs) at 6- or 8-days-old." He said he prefers to physically do the chore instead of using bands, because the bands can make them sore and stiff-legged for several days.

Lawrence addressed another common medical concern for the goat owners. "The number one question I get is 'my goat is coughing, what antibiotic should I give it?' I tell them, if the goat is eating, don't do anything."

The veterinarian said antibiotics should not be given unless fever is present. Normal temperature is 100 to 103 degrees.

To get fever down, Lawrence said he prefers Benamine given at 3 cc per 100 pounds, morning and night. LA200 is a tetracycline drug that can be given at 5 cc per 100 pounds. But because it goes in the muscle, it can make them sore.

"If you give (a drug) in the muscle," Lawrence said, "give it straight back of the leg; not in the ham of the leg. ... You might think you're going to hit bone, but you won't."

When it comes to dehorning young goats, Lawrence said he prefers using an iron. At 3-days-old, the hair in the horn area can be shaved and the iron used "until the skin looks like football leather."

He cautioned that each iron heats differently, so the iron should be held to the area only 15 seconds, then the area checked. "On average, it takes about 30 to 45 seconds," he said.