I just got 4 new goats yesterday, they had not been cared for very well. They are just "brush" goats, I'm hoping to fatten them on grass and blackberries all summer and then butcher most of them this fall (all bucklings and any really poor specimens from the does). Anyway, these 4 new goats I have sequestered in a stall in the barn, separate from my existing herd. They are VERY thin - flat sides, hollows under the hip-bones, visible ribs. They were living full-time in a pen maybe 8'x10' - 4 of them - with a mud floor and a box to sleep under - no stall or bedding of any kind. I believe they were fed basically corn and hay, I really doubt any browse or pasture, lets just say that the previous owners didn't seem like the type to go to much effort (Ironically it would be so much easier and cheaper to turn them on pasture - with the horses they own! - than to pen them and hand-feed grain and hay!). I have been taking them out one at a time leashed, and letting them forage for about 10 minutes several times a day. I am worried if I give them very much they'll bloat, since I don't think they've had anything but grain and hay (and probably not much of either). I'm also giving them grain (sweetfeed, oats, corn, BOSS with lots of extra BOSS) dusted with baking soda (to help their digestion) - what they'll eat in 5-10 minutes, several times a day. They have free-feed hay and fresh grass cut yesterday from the field in their stall all day, but they don't seem to touch it. They were excited about the loose mineral I put out, though. When my husband gets home we're worming them. So, my questions are:
1. How long should I separate them from my other herd, and what am I looking for in the meantime?
2. Is there anything, besides grain - heavy on the BOSS - that I can do to put some meat back on these critters?
3. How much browse should I allow them right now, and over what time period should I increase to full, pastured browsing? Days, week, two weeks?
4. Can/should I give them a bath? They reek of urine (like I said, not cared for well! If so, use homemade soap/commercial shampoo/dish detergent, what?
5. At least 2 are pooping a couple tiny cowpies (golfball-sized) instead of numerous goatberries - is there anything I should do for that, or see how it goes with the better nutrition?
6. Any other concerns/recommendations?
Please answer in the spirit of fixing the mistreatment of these animals, I'm not looking for herd-improvement criticism or recommendations to slaughter them all - that's the plan for some of them anyway, but I'd like to get more than 10lbs out of them! Also, I think a couple of them could be pretty nice does if they could just put on some weight and don't have any unseen issues. Thanks in advance!
They may not be eating your hay because it's new to them. I would pull the grain for now and make them eat the hay. Once they start filling up on your hay you could let them out for an hour or 2 each day until you see they aren't going to gorge themselves. I wouldn't expect that to take more than a week or so.
You may also want to give them some AC since they were eating so much grain.
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I would worm them, delice them, trim their feet and never let them in with my goats. You need to be very very careful improving their diet quickly. Figure they have no rumen bugs to eat grain or they would not be in this condition. When starting on grain start with just a handful each and build slowly weekly from that. I would start with hay. Grass hay all they want 24/7. I bet just with that, clean water, wormings, they will be 50% better without grain. Grain is not your friend, in a rumen not used to eating it you can kill them.
Bathes are fine as long as you remember that soaking a goat to the skin with cold well water, lowers their core body temp right when they don't need that stress. Lowering the temp of the rumen make sit sluggish, right when they need it working well.
Good luck with them, you can't fix them overnight. Vicki
Thanks for the advice so far, just to clarify, I really got no clear info on what they'd been eating, but I know for sure they've been fed corn. So, they may not have had a grain mix, but then they may have, and they definitely can digest corn. I'm assuming that anyone that keeps goats in a pen (in this condition at least) is not going to either walk them to grass everyday, or hand cut fresh greens for them, so I'm guessing they've been kept on hay and some grain (corn for certain). My concern is that they've been on this "dry" diet - grain and hay - and have not had the lush pasture and browse that I have here. I don't want to switch straight from one to the other, everything I've read says the main cause of bloat is too much rich forage, which is exactly what I have, or any change not made gradually. So far, I've seen no signs of swelling sides or anything, so I'll keep them on what hay they'll eat (available all the time in the stall) and increasing times grazing. I thought BOSS would be good for them by adding fat that they could desperately use - but Vicki you think that's a bad idea? And yes, as soon as my husband's home to help, (these are pretty skittish/wild), then we're worming etc. They actually seem pretty clean parasite-wise, I haven't seen anything crawling on them and they haven't acted itchy or uncomfortable, but I'll treat anyway. And so far I'm dealing with my other goats first, and washing well after handling these. Thanks, anymore thoughts?
too much fat in the diet inhibits rumen "bugs". fat in the diet doesn't neccessarily equal more energy in the diet for a goat. I would give them pelleted hay for a while if you can swing it financially. it seems they can consume more in pellet form than in stem form and it will not mess with their tummies negatively.
A mystery is not an explanation..... on the contrary....no sooner is a myth forged than, in order to stand it needs another myth to support it.
I am not saying you can't move them to grain and Boss (which is simply a very expensive fat now, way to high to fatten butcher goats). Just do so slowly. If they were dry lotted where they were than limit their time out on your pasture. IF they came from the woods, they aren't used to eating on grass. They obviously have never had alfalfa anything so all moves should be slowly. I wouldn't assume anything with them. I would use grass hay, and move forward from there. vicki
Well, they're already smelling better just from being in a decent stall, and I've been onlly using grain to coax them somewhere, so a couple tablespoons a day. They've eaten a decent amount of hay overnight, and I let them out on pasture (separate from my others) for about an hour today, then gave them a big armful of grass clippings from yesterday - fresh, but already dried, so a nice cross between hay and forage I think - they seemed to really like that. They're already looking a lot better, they're slowly rounding out a little bit in the stomach. I'm keeping a close eye to make sure they're not rounding suspiciously (bloat) but so far so good. Lots of gurgly tummy noises Thanks for the info everyone!