Thursday, June 18, 2015

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ELMER? By Pat Hollister

This story is taken from
November 1979 from Dairy Goat Guide
Pages 9 & 10. . .
Written by Pat Hollister:
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ELMER?
Nanny and Flossie were pampered family milk goats that lived right outside of town. I didn't know the people who owned them, but whenever I drove by I always rejoiced to see two family milkers who were obviously so well cared for and happy. They were mostly Nubian but obviously grades, since their noses were more straight than curved and their ears were of the type known as "airplane". I would see the children petting them and watch the two does follow members of the family around the yard, and I knew that here was a place where the goats had found their true niche - lots of love and milk for the children, with the love returned.
I got acquainted with the family when Mrs. Smith discovered I had goats and called just to "talk goats" one day. I enjoyed talking to her. She was an intelligent woman with an inquiring mind, she obviously wanted the best for her animals.
She had bred them to a purebred Nubian buck in a program of up-grading, and of course I heartily approved. She was very excited about the approaching births since they had bought the does as milkers and this would be the first kids they had seen born.
Came the appointed day, and Nanny came through with twin doe kids to much rejoicing. Flossie, however, delivered herself a single buck kid. At my house a buck is not cause for joy, as a rule, but at the Smiths' any kid was welcome and they greeted him with as much enthusiasm as they had the does. They named him Elmer. Mrs. Smith called me "What do you do with buck kids?" she asked. "Elmer is only a grade," I told her
- I am not always tactful but I was trying to be gentle.
The best thing to do with him is destroy him, or wether him and butcher him later."
A stunned silence.
Finally - "Destroy Little Elmer? Eat Little Elmer? We couldn't We love him too much! Mindy (another goat breeder) told us to take him to the auction."
I always went to the auction in those days. I guess I was a masochist. I had even, in my early stupidity, sold a goat or two through the auction. It's something I don't like to remember. I went, though, and wept over the goats there, wishing I had an unlimited fortune so I could buy all of them and put them out of their misery...
"If you would like to bring him over here," I said as kindly as I could, "I will shoot him for you."
Heart attack!
"Wouldn't it be better to take him to the auction?" she begged.
I was firm. "No. You don't know what will happen to them once they are sold - maybe they will be eaten, maybe something else will happen to them, something not as nice as simply being eaten. Believe me, it's better to destroy him."
"I'm sorry, " she said, "I just can't destroy Little Elmer. I'll take him to the auction, maybe somebody will take him for a pet."
"Worst thing that could happen!" I shouted - but I had lost her.
She was polite but distant when she hung up the phone.
So I went again to the auction that week. In the pen with all the skinny, runny-nosed kids, the does with half an udder, the wethers with pinkeye and scabs, was a fat, slick, cunning black Nubian kid with a red ribbon around his neck. I looked for Mrs. Smith. She wasn't around but I found Mindy.
Is that Mrs. Smith's kid?" I asked her.
"Yes," she said, "isn't he darling?"
"Has he been castrated?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't know," she replied impatiently, and turned away. I checked. He hadn't been castrated. Nor had he been disbudded. I wrung my hands in despair.
Why hadn't I at least done this for Mrs. Smith?
I watched as Little Elmer was picked up by one hind leg and tossed over the barrier into the auction ring, and then poked with a long staff to keep him jumping around while the desultory bidding went on.
"Oh, Mama," from behind me - "buy me that, isn't he cute?" And a bid came - a pet goat for the child, how cute, how nice for the boy to have his own little pet goat.
Elmer left, cradled in the arms of a beaming child, his red ribbon perky but his eyes a little wild...
It was six months later when Elmer made his pre-ordained visit to the auction.
I recognized him immediately.
He was still fat and sleek looking, he had been getting enough to eat, but he was very large. Much too big for a small boy to play with. And it was worse because he now had very sharp horns about five inches long. He was alert and watched all the comings and goings with interest.
I came up to him and said, "Hello Elmer," and he gave me a soft "maa." I rubbed his head and he ached his neck in pleasure, which presented the sharp ends of the horns to me.
"Good luck this time around, Elmer," I whispered, and went up for the bidding.
"Short yearling billy goat here," the auctioneer informed the audience, as Elmer was dragged in by one horn.
"Strong rascal, ain't he?" as everyone laughed at the way his feet were planted and how it was difficult for the man dragging him to keep him going.
"Just what we need, hon," said a man beside me to his wife.
"Great for Jill to practice goat-tying." And the bidding started. Jill got her goat-tying practice animal and he was dragged out with a rope around his horns and thrown into the back of a pickup along with two pigs and a steer calf.
Another six months passed. As I came into the auction yard I recognized Jill - and there was Elmer again, sure enough. This time, though, he was tied to the tailgate of the pickup truck and nobody was getting too close to him.
"He stinks something terrible!" Jill was telling a teenaged friend. "I can't get near him. Horrible stinky thing. And the auction won't let us run him through because he smells so bad. I'm just hoping somebody will buy him from here."
A man approached. Jill's dad turned hopefully. "Breeding billy?" the man inquired laconically. "You bet," Jill's dad said, "can't you smell him?" Big laugh all round. The man hawked and spat. "I'll give you $15 for him."
"Done."
And Elmer was again dragged with a rope around his horns to another pickup truck where a thin, mangy dog was waiting patiently. I noticed this time Elmer's coat was rougher looking, and there were scabs and scraped places on his flanks. But he was still alert, and proud, still ready for whatever life would bring him.
I never went back to the auction again. A few months later a man came over to buy some milk from me.
He mentioned that his "billy" hadn't "caught" any of his "nannies" and he was pretty mad about it.
"Bought him for breeding," he said, "and he's no good."
I inquired. What kind of a buck? How did he handle his breeding program?
"Oh, he's a black billy with long ears - but he's got these huge horns so I keep him chained in the side yard, and if a nanny wants him she just comes up and gets it. Works out great - at least it always has before. Beggar sure smells bad enough, he ought to be potent!"
Could it be ...? I offered to come see the buck and give him my opinion.
He said, "Sure, I don't want to get rid of him unless I have too." I got directions to his house and drove out the next day.
There, in a field devoid of all but the most discouraged yellow grass, stood Elmer. His head was bowed as if the heavy horns were weighting it down. His bones stood out and there was a large suppuration sore on his left hip, where it looked as if the bone would surely show through, so thin was he.
"Dogs got in," the man informed me. "He fought them off, though." Elmer's chain was about ten feet long but it had got tangled up on the log it was hooked to so he only had a foot or two to move.
"Don't know if the kids gave him any water today or not, have to keep after them kids all the time," the man muttered.
I approached the buck. The chain had cut into the thick black hide on the back of his neck and scabbed over; the once sleek shiny black coat was thin from lice and rough from internal parasites and poor feeding; his feet were like clubs.
When I came up to him he didn't even raise his head. I didn't look at the man. "I don't think this buck is in any shape to breed," I told him. "Do you want me to take him off your hands?"
"Well," he said, "I paid $25 for him, I reckon he's got that much meat on him."
"Are you going to butcher him and eat him?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't know as I'd mess with that," he said quickly.
"I could let you have him for $20."
Money was never something I was very long on.
Elmer was sold the first time for $10 and I didn't have it to spend then - I surely didn't have $20 now. But what could I do?
"Look," I said, "unless you feed this buck, and unchain him, and give him some proper exercise and worm him, and delouse him and give him some vitamins and trim his feet, he's worthless to you. Take him right now off that chain and bring him into the barn and I will show you what you need to buy for him to get him back to health."
"Buy what?" he asked suspiciously.
"Well, hay and grain for a start."
"Don't have no money for grain, " he huffed. "Then, like I said, you need vitamins and worm pills, and louse powder ..."
"Oh, to heck wit it. Do you want him? You can have him, I don't care, he's no good to me."
So I drove home and got my trailer and came back to take Elmer on his last trip.
Carefully I took the chain from off his sore neck and used his beard to lead him, stumbling, into the trailer. Home again, Elmer and I went up deep into the woods. He stood unmoving, head down, as I stood him by a tree and cocked the pistol at the base of his ear.
"Good-bye, Elmer," I whispered, and at last he lifted his head and his eyes met mine. He was less than two years old. The coyotes feasted that night.
I met Mrs. Smith right before we moved away from there. We chatted, I told her we were moving, she asked about my goats, mentioned that she was lucky, only doe kids born this year ... and then she said, "I wonder whatever happened to Little Elmer? He was so cute - we were sure fond of him."
No you weren't fond of him, Mrs. Smith, I thought as I turned away.
You sure were not fond of him.
But I didn't tell her what had happened to him, not then. I couldn't find my voice.
I will tell her, though, someday, before her next Elmer is born.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I'm going to tell you a terrible story: One of an Idiot and Dairy Goats

I'm going to tell you a terrible story.

One of an Idiot and Dairy Goats.

I have considered sharing this many times over the years. It is embarrassing, frankly. The stupidity of it cannot be overstated, and that is a fact.

I've thought about sharing these photos, though I've told the story now and again, each time, I decided against using the photos.

No one wants to flaunt their mistakes. right?

Instead, I've just continued to explain the need for proper management, but I realize pictures are worth thousands of words.

Every kidding season, I continue to hear too much of this:

1. Why do your goat kids look so much healthier than mine?
2. Why do my goat kid only weigh 40 pounds at 6 months old?
3. Why do my goat kids keep diarrhea?

Etc. Etc. Etc

 So. . .



The first dairy goat kids I purchased 6 years ago were bottle kids, along with a dry yearling doe.

The 10 week old Buck and Doe kids were very healthy at purchase. The breeder had a lovely herd, but no one thought it imperative to make sure I knew what I was doing with these little ones. Not even me.

I did not use wisdom prior to the purchase and research common issues with goats, and I assumed as long as I have enough nourishment and shelter for them, like many creatures, they would grow and thrive.

How wrong I was.

How far I've come.

The photos you see above are of Candy and Bo.

Most of the Facebook page followers know Candy all too well. The sleek, plump doe with the socked on udder and sheen that will blind you.

Well, take a good look above, for the emaciated cream creature above shows two goat kids I owned, and the one is the Candy we all know so well at about 14 weeks old.

This is not how they came to me a few weeks prior.

The look you see there isn't from lack of food, living in unclean areas or a parasite burden already on the land.

This was before we had a herd of Dairy goats. This was land no livestock had ever been on.
This was a situation where feeding pans and water was very clean, and yet. . .

Though I didn't know it then, they were quickly and viciously being killed by coccidia, a parasite that you can almost not avoid if you raise goat kids. (Coccidia is not worms)

A parasite the uneducated find stall the growth of their kids, damage their intestinal tracks before they mature or kill them each year. Too many people never realize what is happening or how to prevent it.

Coccidia can destroy and kill so fast, while you think your lack of prevention or holistic stabs in the dark are working, you could find out too late you are very wrong, the end result an be dead or damaged kids.

Candy and Bo went from lovely conditioned goats to the above state in no time flat.

Before I continue. . .




These photos are Candy now. . .5 and 6 years later

No worse for the hard wear, as difficult as it is to believe. 

But most would not have recovered like this given how bad she was at the onset of treatment. It should have been too late. Most would at least have residual effects where they are rendered un-thrifty, have low parasite resistance and so forth. As for Bo, he recovered, as well, because once I learned what I had allowed to happen with poor management (the type of management too many new goat owners attempt), I corrected the mistake that very day. I started them on coccidia treatment (Dimethox), probiotics, feeding more milk and medicated pelleted feed. Before I knew it, literally overnight, the condition started to improve.

http://lucasfarmwv.com/parasites.html

Candy has proven to be hardy after recovery in all ways. That told me several years into raising goats that we weren't dealing with a goat with no ability to fight off the parasite on her own. . .we are dealing with a parasite that Production animals that do not exist in the wild at all which are not suited to these hot, humid and wet climates NEED management that helps protect them to what they do not have natural resistance to (and never will from the looks of things).

I have never again had a kid have condition loss from Coccidia. I have never operated without a management plan knowing that we will always deal with Coccidia in this area since that time, and I know if a handful of kids somehow management to make it and grown well without prevention or treatment, that is random luck that we cannot be sure to recreate with most kids.

The Thing I always stress during clinics I teach on goats. . .

People talk about Natural care, but you are taking an un-natural animal: A Dairy Goat that could never have existed without decades and decades of man-controlled selective breeding, asking for highly unnatural milk production for an excessive length of time. . .all the while placing them in a very unnatural environment (in terms of limited space even if you have 100 acres, weather and geography). . .and say: I want to raise them Naturally. 

How in the world can we ask this of these animals?

What you should attempt is create a system where intervention is as low as possible without ever sacrificing a lovely condition of the goat herd. If you have animals that take too much management, then do not pursue using them in a breeding / farm program, but no management and low management are two different things. It is the difference in feral living and farming, really.

Now I've shared my terrible mistake with you. You know better starting out than I did, and so you will hopefully not make these same blunders (the term blunder is really too kind).

And thanks to the journey, all of Candy's kids over the years have grown, without hindrance:



Pages

LUCAS FARM

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens

- Proverbs 27:23-27




"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman's cares."

- George Washington