After we returned from Red Gate Farm, I decided it was time to fully wean Lilly from Sara, and really focus on improving Sara’s health.  (You can read about her original issues when we first got her, here, and about her improvements a couple months later, here.)  Because she tends to be very nervous when away from other goats and I wanted to minimize her stress level, I built a new pen that was attached to the original.  Then, I seperated Lilly at night as usual, and put Sara and Lilac in with her in the daytime.  I gradually began taking Sara out earlier and earlier in the day, leaving Lilly and Lilac together.  After about 3 weeks, I stopped putting Sara in with them at all.  Now that they are semi-permanentaly seperated, I have been able to learn a bit more about Sara.

I just assumed the Lilac was being something of a bully and not letting Sara eat as much as I would like.  Once seperated though, I realized that Sara acts as though she has no appetite!  She refused to eat more than an occasional nibble.  So, I tried to examine all aspects of her health and what I have done with her so far.  The following are some conclusions I came up with:

When I got her, she had:

  • bent leg
  • solid, dog-like poop
  • rough, long hair coat
  • extra thin, despite being obviously pregnant
  • overgrown and misshapen hooves

My treatment plan, introduced gradually over 2 months, due to her pregnancy:

  • adding diatomaceous earth to her feed to act as a de-wormer
  • adding raw, organic, apple cider vinegar to her water weekly to aid in nutrient absorbancy
  • trimming her hooves on a 1-2 week basis
  • ensuring the goats had free-choice alfalfa pellets, grass hay, baking soda, and loose minerals at all times

3 months later:

  • legs totally straightened out
  • hooves drastically improved
  • hair coat shiny, but still long in most areas
  • poop increasingly normal goat-berries

At this point, Sara is acting like a normal, if timid and laid-back, goat.  She is alert, expressive, and is developing personality, which tells me she is likely free of common diseases (like “wasting” illnesses).  Her improved legs, hooves, and shinier coat, in addition to her approx. 3/4 gallon a day milk production tell me she is obviously getting SOME nutrition.  Her improved stools tell me that her digestive system is finally beginning to function more normally.  So, I feel safe ruling out major internal parasites and most nutrient deficiencies at this point.  That leaves me with the theory that she is just not a big eater.  How do you get a goat to eat when it doesn’t want to?

You can see she lacks the distinctive "wedge" shape of a healthy goat, and her hip and back bones are more apparent than they should be. But don't those front legs look great?!

 I bribed her with everything I could think of.  In addition to her free-choice grass hay, alfalfa pellets, baking soda, and minerals, I bribed with sweet molasses feed, dairy feed, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and more.  If I was lucky, she would eat her 50/50 mix of organic dairy pellets and sweet feed at milking time, but over the weeks, she has gotten to where she only nibbles at it.  On a good day, she will eat most of her alfalfa pellets, but that’s about it.  Ideally, I would allow a goat in this situation to dry up, but Lilac is only producing around a quart a day now, so Sara is our main family milker.  I am, however, happy with the amount she is producing.  While I feel like she may be capable of a good bit more, I am not pushing for increased production until I get her health straightened out.  I do need to keep her current production though, in addition to getting some weight on her.

So, I decided to step it up a notch.  I decided I was going to make her an irresistable diet from scratch!  I consulted my books, and came up with a mixture of whole grains, rolled grains, seeds, and whole feed corn, with a bit of molasses to top it off.  I offered it to the other 2 goats, who promptly devoured it, giving me terrific ratings.  Sara, on the other hand, took one nibble and promptly spit it out!  She then turned her tail to me and walked off, leaving me baffled!  Next, I tried eliminating the whole grains and using only rolled grains, cracking the corn, and adding more molasses.  Again, I let Lilly and Lilac have a go, and they strongly approved.  Sara, took one sniff, and wanted nothing to do with it!  I decided to dump it into her feeder and see if she would eventually nibble at it.  A daylater, there it sat, along with whatever alfalfa pellets had gotten mixed in with it.  This wasn’t working! 

I consulted my books once again to see if I could find any symptom I was overlooking.  The ONLY thing I could even REMOTELY come up with was a possible iron deficiency–symptom often being a simple lack of appetite.  An easy herbal solution was parsley.  Then, today, I had an epiphany.  I remembered that when she did eat her grain, she seemed to have a preference for the non-sweet dairy pellets over the sweet feed.  So, I got a big cupful of my organic 9-grain rolled grains, didn’t add any molasses this time, but added a large handful of freshly-dried parsley, and took it out to the goat pen.  Sara took one sniff, and couldn’t get enough of it!!  YIPEE!  You can imagine how I would have jumped for joy had it not been for the baby Ergo-ed to my back.  I feared it might be a fluke, so I returned to the house, got about a pound of the grains, threw on a couple of handfuls of the dried parsley, and returned to Sara.  I let her have one nibble, then proceeded to mix it into the grain and alfalfa concoction she already had in her feeder.  She immediately started chowing down. 

I am so excited that I finally seem to have found something she will eat!  I am hoping maybe her appetite will be related to something as simple as another nutrient deficiency, and that it can be corrected shortly.  I like low-maintence animals, and so far, Sara is hardly that!  She has, however, been a tremendous learning experience so far, and I have a few other things I plan to add to her diet over the next couple weeks, so we’ll see how it all goes.