The thing about goats is just when you think you’ve got it all under control, somebody looks at you funny. By this I mean one of your special favorites (because they are all your favorites) gives you the “I’m not quite myself” look which translates into, “Chances are I’m fine but then again I could be dead by morning so you had better do something about it.” The other thing about goats is, there isn’t much practical information out there on goat husbandry, especially dairy goat care, unless you consider “Consult your veterinarian” practical advice which I do not and neither does my vet.

So late last winter I had a goat, Trudy (a large, beautiful, expensive, senior doe and of course my favorite) giving me the look, but not a clue what could be the matter. She had kidded a couple months before and had a single doeling. I have to admit I was expecting twins due to her large size and over all capacity. So it was kind of strange that she only had one baby. The kid was healthy and there were no problems until about 6-7 weeks out when I noticed Trudy’s eyes looking slightly weird. The bones around her eye socket seemed to protrude and the eye itself looked sunken, just a bit. Her eyelids look pale so I treated her for worms. In a few days she had scours so I treated her for coccidia. I followed up on her wormer and was hopeful she was on the road to recovery. But her milk production took a plunge and she became anorexic. The only thing Trudy would eat was leaves. Did I mention this was In January? I had to let her out into my yard to eat the Japanese honeysuckle and privet bushes.

One by one my largest, oldest does began to exhibit the same symptoms and all the milk was drying up! The kids were gorgeous but the moms looked ragged and skinny with dull coats and the sunken eye thing but no worms. Turns out they had a Magnesium deficiency! What the heck?

I was feeding grain and hay all winter plus minerals but the thing was, I was feeding “foraging” goat minerals, which are for meat goats not dairy goats. I had no idea how important this little difference is. The reason I hadn’t noticed a problem before was that my field had once been full of more browse than any goat could hope for. I had dandelion, plantains, privet, mock orange, sumac, mimosa, honey suckle, blackberry and thistle. But over the years, I let the goats eat it all away. Now I’ve got the perfect pasture for cows: fescue, orchard grass and clover. Poor Trudy!

Today, nearly 4 months later, Trudy is on the mend but I did lose one doe to milk fever as a result of the magnesium problem. So the lesson is, make sure you supplement with the right minerals. My next move is going to rotational paddocks with movable electric fencing so I can bring the browse level of my pasture back. I’ve also started mixing beet pulp and sunflower seeds into the grain. Trudy LOVES her sunflower seeds.

If any of yall have suggestions or similar experiences please comment here. I could talk about goats til the cows come home.

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