Most people concerned about animal welfare are aware of the horrors of factory farming, as are people concerned with eating food that is healthy and free of dangerous chemicals, medications, and toxins. What I think I did not realize myself until I began farming, was that factory farming practices can be practiced on small scale farms.
This is a lesson I have learned through pain and anguish. It all began with goats. When last I wrote (and it has been terribly long, but such is the busy life of farming,) I had just helped bring into the world our first kids. Phoebe and Phoibos were a joy to behold, but poor Phoebe was born with a cleft palate, and had to be euthanized after a few weeks due to infection and failure to thrive. I did this act myself, determined to not shy away from the more unfortunate sides of life on a farm, and actually life altogether.
The twins were born to Umbra, whom was pregnant when we got her. She had been fed GMO grains, and though she was allowed to browse, I cannot be certain if the GMO contributed to the birth defect, though I would expect it may. Phoibos, however, was dam raised and is vigorous, healthy, and strong. Despite all the warnings that a kid not raised on a bottle would be wild and unruly, Phoibos is a big baby who is very affectionate and responsive.
The most important thing is that Phoibos has never received any medication including medicated feed, and has never had even a hint of Coccidosis. Why is this important?
I have purchased three bottle bucklings in the past year. All three were ill with Coccidosis. Two of them died, despite veterinary care and medication given in an attempt to save their lives. Their deaths were gut wrenching and tragic. They cried out in pain and suffered terribly, despite our efforts to save them. There is a wealth of information on the internet about Cocci-preventatives. My question is: why is this considered normal, and why does no one question the fact that most kids are sickly?
There are many cultures in the world who raise goats. These vast herds are not medicated, but live a natural life on browse, for the main part. If kids were so sickly, domesticated goats would not be thriving around the world. Therefore, there must be something wrong with the practices so common in the U.S.
It does not take long to compare the differences between natural rearing practices and artificial practices. When a kid is allowed to drink his mother’s milk he is exposed to the immunities given by this process. When a kid is fed bottled milk, usually a pastured dead non-food, his gut flora do not develop properly in order to counteract the bad bacteria including the Coccidosis. Therefore, the Coccidosis flourishes. Then, when treated with antibiotics any healthy gut flora is then assaulted even further, leaving a vicious cycle. Hence the use of medicated food.
There is no way a chronically medicated goat is a healthy, thrifty goat. In fact, dams fed medicated feed are passing these medications to their kids, thereby counteracting any benefits of feeding raw milk either by teat or by bottle.
This is factory farming. This is the model set forth by Big Ag: Poison animals, then medicate them until slaughter. For small scale operations, it is done for efficiency, over-crowding, and profit maximization. Their gain, my loss.
All of the kids born on our farm are dam raised, and have healthy, well developed rumens before they are weaned, as Nature intended. They are spunky, vital little animals. Not the shaky, sickly kids I purchased from these other farms. The kids born on our farm have never scoured, have never been ill, and have never been vaccinated. They are free of diseases, including CAE.
This is already a lengthy article, but I have to raise another issue while we are discussing the factory-farming of goats: de-horning.
There are a lot of people who raise goats for show. For some reason, this includes mandated de-horning, shaving the animal, and high prices for sickly kids. I do not understand why people would want to show animals in a state that is so unnatural, nor do I condone or support the deliberate maiming and vulgar practice of mutilation of animals for show and profit.
It makes no sense to show goats according to a standard so removed from the natural state of the animal. This is one reason we will not register our animals. We do not want to support this practice. Goats are great animals. They look great with their fur, and with their horns.
People are quick to jump in and claim that it is less dangerous to take the horns off of goats. They have small children, etc. Or, the goats get caught in the fencing if they have horns. My response is: why on Earth are you letting your children in with large animals? That is crazy. And, use smaller fencing. Let a goat be a goat. We use field fence and have little trouble with stuck heads. A few times we have had to free a goat, but once they have their full set of horns, it does not seem to be an issue because the horns seem to prevent them from getting their heads through, or else they just don’t feel a need to do so. I would suggest, in a small enclosure, to use smaller fencing, or chicken wire over larger holed fencing.
I have been butted by my goats with horns. They love to get you behind the knees (I have Nigerian Dwarfs.) The quickest way to cure this is to take your foot, and stomp them on the top of the head/horns as if you are head-butting them back. This is goat language. What you are saying is: “I am dominate, don’t do that.” They listen. Does this hurt them? My Alpha goat constantly slams her head into trees to mark territory. I don’t think my little foot hurts too badly. But it does tell her to knock it off.
Of the three bottle babies that I bought, Avie survived. He was sick when I got him, and he did not develop as quickly as my naturally raised kids. He is a wonderful buck—very sweet and healthy now, but he is a bit on the small side. He is at a disadvantage now, though because he was de-horned before I got him, and the farm would not leave his horns despite my asking them to, which I think was terrible.
Aster and Rocky both died only a week or two after I got them. Both were subdued when I got them, not very active, shy and though sweet, they were not nearly as thrifty and vigorous as the two bucklings born this past month. They also both ground their teeth, a sign of pain. Rocky did this when I brought him home, another reason I know he was sick when I got him.
Magnus and Titus were Avie’s first kids. They started trying to nibble alongside their mom after only a few days of life. Much sooner then the bottle kids, as they watch and study the other goats constantly. They both grew faster and seemed stronger and are much more outgoing then the bottle kids. In fact, Avie had the pleasure of playing with them and teaching them how to do bucky things. Titus followed him around with glee and headbutted Avie whenever he got the chance. Avie was gentle with him, letting him learn how to face off.
We have added five more kids to our goat family since. Magnus and Titus found a wonderful home together. We have Diana, Caspian, Chloris, Zephrus, and Nantus. Zephrus and Nantus (both bucklings) are available for sale. We will not sell to show homes. We will make exceptions to 4H kids if they do not de-horn. We are also very happy to share how we feed our goats and maintain their health with new owners.
Meanwhile, the boys will live out on pasture, browse, and woods. The bucks all get along, and I would rather they live with their horns here, then without them elsewhere.