Using the 5-Point Health Check in Angora Goats

As stewards of the land and the animals who call the farm home, we must strive to ensure the health and vitality of our caprine partners. One way we do this is by routinely checking the herd for signs of parasitism, both internal and external. The 5-point check is a method developed in South Africa by the Boer Farmers to ensure that their stock remained healthy and hardy in a harsh environment.  The check includes specific areas of the goat: eyes, jaw, coat, back, and butt. Let’s get into the importance of each and what we’re looking for.

The eyes play a major role in the 5-point check and we’re looking for two things specifically. Externally you want to be looking for bright, clear eyes free of discharge. If there’s a discharge, is it cloudy, sticky, or clear? Just as humans suffer occasionally from seasonal irritants, so too can our goats. Along with a quick check of the eyes themselves, an understanding of FAMACHA is helpful. In reviewing the state of the mucous membranes of the eyes, a herdsman can decide whether there is a need to treat barber pole, or Haemonchus contortus, a particularly nasty internal parasite which can cause severe anemia in it’s host.

 While in the vicinity of the eyes, take a look at your goat’s jawline. Here we are specifically looking for any edema or “bottle jaw.” This is interstitial fluid, an indicator of anemia, and is generally caused by internal parasites including liver flukes.

In checking the coat of an Angora or any other goat we are looking for a healthy luster to the fiber, as well as parting the fibers and checking for hidden hitchhikers. Dull, flaky hair may indicate internal parasitism which can draw down the goat’s nutritional plane. Hitchhikers like lice and mites can lead to bloodborne illnesses and general ill-health.

Moving on to the back, or more specifically, the loin area of our goats, we want to consider the overall body condition score. This is an area of interest on the goat for a number of reasons, but for our purposes, it may be helpful in deciding whether we are going to deworm or not based on other things we’ve seen in our progressive review of the goat. A goat that scores a “3” via FAMACHA may not need to be treated if she is in good flesh, but if she seems to be losing condition, we may opt to treat.

The last step in the 5 Point check is to take a look at the goat’s rear. Here we are looking for dags, or fecal material around the bum, which may indicate a current or recent bought of diarrhea in the individual. This is of greater concern in young kids as they can become severely dehydrated very quickly if left untreated. Reasons for diarrhea could be a simple as a recent change in diet, or as troubling as an outbreak of coccidia.

After reviewing and carefully recording the observations an educated decision can be made in regards to treatment going forward. A bright-eyed, vibrant goat, with a FAMACHA score of 1, a healthy degree of condition, and no dags can be sent on their merry way, while the dull-eyed, skinny goat with a dirty rear can be properly treated.

The Livestock Guardians of Pure American Naturals

In traditional agriculture, one of the biggest concerns facing livestock producers is predation of the flock. In ancient times, as today, one of the methods used to protect the flock was livestock guardian animals. From the common to uncommon, we’ll take a look at some of the animals used on the farm to protect the Angora herd of Pure American Naturals.
At least as far back as 6,000 years ago, the shepherds and goat herdsmen of what is now known as Turkey have been using dogs to protect their precious flocks. From that time gone by, the Anatolian Shepherd has been developed to safeguard his flock from bears, roving dogs, and wolves. Other breeds developed with the purpose of safeguarding livestock include the fluffy white Great Pyrenees and Italian Maremma, but don’t let those puffy coats fool you; these dogs are all business. While Collies and Australian Shepherds are commonly known to drive herds and flocks for the stockman, Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) are bred with the sole intent of protecting their furry or wooly charges from predation, whether two-legged or four. In my own experience with LGDs I have seen two adolescent female Maremma, weighing a stout 80 pounds each, drive off a pack of coyotes with single-minded efficiency. At PAN we have employed Great Pyrenees guardians with great success.


In more recent years, research has shown that using lethal force (guns or traps) against predators, and particularly coyotes, has a staggering reverse effect on the population.  While the immediate drop in numbers provides a momentary lull in predator attacks, the wild dogs themselves rapidly reproduce to fill the void in the ecosystem.  For this reason a small but rising number of producers throughout the United States have turned to less commonplace means of protecting their stock and livelihoods.  Among the less common livestock protection animals to see a rise in popularity are llamas and donkeys.  These two animals have an instinctual hatred of dogs and will not hesitate to drive off a pack of coyotes in order to protect their smaller herd-mates.   When our last elderly LGD passed on, Glen researched and brought in two rescue llamas; Ms. Scarlet and Mr. White.  Since joining the herd, they’ve done a phenomenal job of patrolling and protecting the herds and remain ever vigilant in their duties.
From a home front standpoint, we also employ a rather odd looking creature as guardian of the gate.  Guinness the Guinea, who seems to have experienced an identity crisis, roosts with the Peafowl and will raise the alarm like the best guard dog at the approach of cars, delivery trucks, and errant falling leaves.  If his stunning good looks don’t attract your attention, his screech of alarm will most certainly turn your head.
From dogs to dodos, nee guinea fowl, we have employed a host of livestock guardians at Pure American Naturals to ensure the safety and sustainability of the herd.  As stewards of the land, we also take the guardians’ care very seriously. Just as we provide the highest level of caring for the herd of capricious goats they protect, we provide the fowl and llamas with the same level of holistic care.  If you are interested in learning more about livestock guardians, feel free to contact Christina or check out the following links.

http://www.lgd.org/

Do You Need a Livestock Guardian Animal? Here’s What to Consider

Got Predators? Don’t Shoot. Get a Llama.

PA Preferred: A Collaborative Endeavor

Recently Pure American Naturals has been accepted for inclusion under the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s PA Preferred brand.  PA Preferred is the officially recognized branding program of products grown or made in Pennsylvania. Originally designed to help consumers easily identify products produced in Pennsylvania, the program has grown to include thousands of companies across the Commonwealth. From fresh fruits and vegetables to farmers’ markets, plant nurseries, fiber mills, restaurants, hardwood products, wineries, and Christmas trees, PA Preferred represents the dynamic diversity of the Keystone state’s agriculture.

The program is a collaborative effort between the State’s Department of Agriculture, its several thousand members, and the conscientious consumers who support the shop local, support local initiative.  With its bright blue and gold labeling, Pennsylvanians are able to shop for affordable, locally produced fruits and vegetables, wines, cheeses, and so much more.  This is where PAN comes in; our friendly little goats grow their lush mohair locks on little more than the high quality forages native to Pennsylvania, which is in turn milled into sustainably produced fashion items.  Our Pure American Naturals products are grown, milled, and produced all within the Commonwealth.  There are guidelines that allow the inclusion of a limited percentage of outside materials; the luxurious Merino wool used in our socks is produced in Texas, as part of our partnership with Hillingdon Ranch, however this is a minor percentage in the finished product.

For more information about the PA Preferred program, or to see if you may qualify as a PA Preferred Member, click here.

Mani/Pedi Day at the Farm

 

Just as with other hooved creatures, goat hooves grow continuously throughout their lifetime.  Due to a multitude of factors, including but not limited to nutrition, genetics, and environment, some goats naturally retain better hoof health than others.  Just as humans with poor posture experience aches and pains, goats that do not have proper hoof angles and maintenance can experience a decrease in their overall wellbeing.  When their hooves are misshapen they can lose condition, experience decreased appetite, and even risk becoming unhealthy.  We know from experience that the socks made from our goats’ lovely mohair help our feet feel amazing, we want to return the favor in ensuring our goats’ foot comfort, continued health and vitality.  For these reasons, we as stewards of the farm must strive to maintain optimum health of our cloven hooved friends.

About a month ago, in early December, a group of dedicated handlers came together at the Glen Cauffman Farm to provide manicures and pedicures for the Angora goats that make up the Pure American Naturals herd.  Among the group were farm owner Glen Cauffman, our favorite Holistic Veterinarian Dr. Judith Shoemaker, Herdsman Wyett Johnson, his lovely assistant Emily D, and yours truly.  I have found over the course of nearly two decades of experience with these capricious creatures, there are almost as many ways to trim the hooves on a goat as there are goat enthusiasts in the world.  From the tools used, to the method of restraint, the old adage about there being more than one way to accomplish a task certainly holds true to trimming goat hooves.  As owner and herdsman to a small dairy herd, I train my does to jump up onto their milking stand twice a day for milking.  This method enables me to comfortably examine them for body condition, coat condition, and overall health.  Because they know they’ll get a little grain for cooperating, hoof trimming is generally a relaxed, pleasant experience with my small, mixed herd.  On a larger scale operation, such as the Pure American Naturals herd of over 150 Angora goats; visually inspecting and manually trimming hooves requires a slightly different tactic.  Here, we use a mechanical device which safely and securely lifts and flips each goat into a cradle so that they may have their hooves trimmed in a calm, relaxed manner.  This device, which was specifically designed for the safety and wellbeing of sheep and goats, also ensures that the handlers involved with hoof trimming aren’t sporting aching backs at the end of the day.

Once in position, each hoof is visually inspected to determine how much overgrowth may need to be removed.  The goats here typically only require quarterly hoof trimmings, though some do receive more frequent maintenance.  Hoof trimming for the entire herd is usually broken up over a series of days, allowing the handlers to work at a comfortable pace and avoiding over exertion.  A full grown Angora buck (male) can weigh in the neighborhood of 200 pounds, does (females) tend to range between 80 to 150 pounds, depending on stage of life.  Using the hi-roller apparatus for all but the largest bucks allows the handlers to easily restrain each goat, without fear of back strains or danger to the animal.

The actual trimming process is completed with specialized hoof trimming shears, which are carefully maintained to ensure a sharp edge. This in turn ensures each trim is done quickly and with minimal trauma to the goat or handler.  Dull blades can lead to improper hoof angle due to irregular cuts, strained hand and wrist from struggling to trim the hard hoof material, and overall undue stress to the handler and goat as dull blades slow the process.  With the sharp shears in hand, the handlers carefully remove any debris from the hoof and trim excess growth to maintain proper hoof and leg angle (see images below).  With practice and patience, we routinely trim roughly 50 goats in a single day, with little to no stress to our beloved Angoras or ourselves.

At the time of trimming, each goat is also checked for body condition, FAMACHA score, and weight.  These factors all play a part in the maintenance and selection process of the herd; goats with chronic hoof issues, as well as those individuals with chronic immune defficiency, are considered for removal from the breeding herd as these concerns correlate to subpar mohair production and decreased reproductive vigor.  The timing of hoof trimming and overall herd health checks is also carefully planned; the next trimming will be due prior to the time the does are due to start kidding.  At that time, they will have been shorn of their winter locks and will be ready to be mothers and venture out into the spring pastures with their kids and begin growing their luxurious summer attire while teaching the newest members of the herd which forages are the most delicious.

Love Is In The Air, But Not For Long!

A handsome young buck and his lady love slip away from the herd for a little romance.

Fall has given way to winter here in central Pennsylvania, and with that the breeding season has come and gone.  Here at Pure American Naturals we employ a short, 4-6 week breeding period to ensure that our lovely matriarchs are kidding, or giving birth, during the verdant month of April. With its gentler weather, green grass and sunshine, April breathes new life into all members of the farm. The main goal of Pure American Naturals is to maintain a sustainable symbiosis between the herd and the land on which it grazes.  By maintaining a short window of breeding opportunity, we are creating natural selection for high reproductive efficiency and ease of management.  And we are able to reduce the strain placed on the handlers during kidding time by reducing the number of nights they have to monitor the moms, so that mothers can give birth safely and the kids can be assisted, if necessary, in getting their first meals of colostrum and in staying  warm in the nursery.

A mature buck surveying his harem.

In the two weeks prior to being introduced to their intended suitors, each doe, or female goat, is given a pre-breeding diet of increased grains, in addition to the nutrient rich Alfalfa hay and mixed pasture forage she enjoys. This improved nutritional plane tends to improve overall productivity and has even increased the rate of twinning in some herds.  Each step in the process is taken with a keen eye towards sustainability; we want our herd to remain happy and healthy as they bring new life to the farm, in turn they can put their energy towards growing the luscious locks of fiber that our partners have come to know and appreciate. Furthermore, by maintaining a high level of breeding efficiency, we are reducing the amount of stress placed on the does by the exuberant advances of the breeding bucks, which also benefit by not being allowed to wear themselves out chasing the ladies!