Updated: Jul 2
I started interning at Flint Hill Farm in October of 2019. It's the perfect place to gain experience as a student who is majoring in animal and food science. Through this blog I'll go into the difference experiences and opportunities I've had.
The goats here are some of my favorite animals. We have a group of goats we use for dairy and breeding, as well as two groups of young goats that we can use for events. Some of the younger goats are also available to be purchased.
Some ways I've been involved with managing the herd is through milking, administering medicine, hoof trimming, checking FAMACHA scores, and performing fecal counts.
Below is an image of a young goat's hoof I treated. She was limping, so I checked out her hoof. I washed and cleaned it, after trimming her feet I realized that she had a fungal infection between her toes.
It had been raining a lot recently, so the wet conditions might be why her foot become infected. After thoroughly washing and drying her foot I treated it with this purple liquid generally called gentian violet. It's an antiseptic and can be used to treat fungus. It's also great because it will stay on in wet conditions.
I repeated this a few times over the course of a month. For her last treatment I soaked her foot in a salt and betadine bath.
A couple weeks later and she has been looking much better!
Recently I've been learning on how to perform fecal samples. We do this for the goats and sheep, and we're looking for different parasites. Mainly coccidia (a protozoa) and barber pole worms (Haemonchus contortus). Barber pole worms can be very threatening to goats and sheep, they attach to the stomach and drink their hosts' blood. This can result in anemia and a very weak animal.
The oval shape in the middle of the image is an egg of a barber pole worm. I took this image through the microscope while performing a fecal.
We have been using cydectin to treat our livestock for parasites. We will also give iron injections to the sheep/goats with a very high FAMACHA score.
These types of parasites are very common in livestock, and all livestock will harbor parasites. Issues occur when the parasite load is too high. This can happen with livestock because over time animals will be grazing the same area they drop feces. They consume the eggs of parasites, and repeatedly infect themselves this way. It's important to monitor iron levels, and watch for symptoms of parasites.
After treating our sheep and goats with Prohibit (a dewormer), we performed new fecals a couple weeks later. We couldn't find any barber pole worm eggs. We believe the parasites had built up a tolerance to Cydectin, so the new medication was a good choice.
On the right is an image that I took while checking the FAMACHA score of a sheep. FAMACHA stands for Faffa Malan Chart. It's one way to check for anemia. The mucous membranes of the eye should be a deep pink. The paler the membrane the more anemic the animal is. The scale ranges 1-5, 1 being perfect and 5 being extremely anemic.
It can take about 6 weeks for animals to recover from anemia. Some animals are chronically anemic, even if they have been treated.
One of the most interesting experiences I've had here is watching a goat give birth. This was the mom's first time giving birth, and she was pregnant with twins. Her first kid came out easily, however she was struggling with the second one. Twins are common in goat pregnancy. Unfortunately in this case, the second kid was pretty large.
She tried to birth the second kid for about 10 minutes with no success. We were able to see the start of a hoof but not much more. Kathy stepped in to check her progress. She noticed that although the front hooves were correctly positioned to come out first (before the back legs), the baby's head was tucked against his back with his shoulder going first. His head should have been positioned up front with his nose by the front hooves, almost like he was diving into the world.
This was a problem, the shoulder width is about equal to the head, so he was blocking himself. He was a large baby and didn't have the space to move around in the womb to position correctly. A volunteer restrained the doe as Kathy helped the doe birth her baby. Kathy had to physically pull the kid out of the mom, because mom wasn't able to do it herself.
In most cases livestock will have no problems giving birth. However when things go wrong, I've learned it's really important to know what you're doing. If the doe was by herself, there is a good chance she wouldn't have been able to push the kid out.
Thankfully mom and other baby are doing well. She is producing milk for two babies, and there's only one mouth. So it's important that we milk her to get rid of the excess milk. Too much milk can be bad for the baby, and it can put a strain on mom.
Below is the baby boy about 30 minutes after being born.
Below is mom and baby, about 15 minutes after baby was born.
Below are some of the babies that were born around March 2020. We had lambs and kids born. The babies stayed with their moms for 6 weeks before they were separated. It's important to socialize them and get them used to human interaction. We even train them to walk on a harness and halter.
On the left is one of the older goats that is currently trained on the halter.
On June 2nd 2020 we welcome our first baby jersey calf of the season. We named her Bonnie. Calves stay with their mothers for about 24 hours before they are separated. Dairy cows produce too much milk for just one baby. We will bottle feed the calf and the moms milk will go to our dairy.
Milking is one of the most important chores here (at least in my opinion). We currently have 4 cows, 2 sheep, and 12 goats that are actively getting milked. Milking happens in the morning, around 7 am, and in the afternoon around 2 pm.
Typically I start with the cows. We milk one at a time. All the animals know the schedule pretty well, and are used to the routine. They come when called, and usually enter and exit the milking parlor without much of a fuss.
It's important to set up everything you need and to get yourself prepared before you start milking. First, I set up the pulsator, claw, and the tank the milk will flow into. Cows have 4 teats, so the claw has 4 suction cups. When the cow walks into the dairy, we secure her in a headlock (totally painless), and feed her. This creates a positive association to milking for the cow, and makes it an easier job for us.
Before attaching the claw, I make sure her udders are clean. I wash off her udder with warm water, and clean towel that has udder wash or another santizing solution. I dip her teats in teat dip, then wipe that off with another clean towel. Cleaning her udder before milking is important, one, it allows me to feel her udder and check for any abnormalities. Second, by handling her teats, it helps stimulate her udder and prepares to drop milk. This makes milking easier on the teat.
I milk her until I can't see milking flowing into the tank anymore. It's important not to overmilk, this damages the mammary glands and tissues. I repeat this for the rest of the cows. In the morning the cows have more milk, I may need more than one container. Before moving onto our goats, I transfer the milking into a cooling tank. We keep the milk at 38 degrees F or lower. The tanks can hold up to 30 gallons, and have a temperature probe, as well as a large stirrer that keeps the milk moving and at a stable temperature.
Milking the goats is a little different, they only have 2 teats. This means the claw only has 2 suction cups. We also prepare 3 goats at a time. They're trained to jump onto a milking stand and enter a headlock (similar to the cows), where they also get fed. Again, I'll wash all their udders with a clean towel, warm water, and a sanitizing solution. The goats don't take as long as the cows, they don't have as much milk stored in their udders. Once I'm done with the goats, I transfer the milk to the goat milk cooling tank. Then I milk our sheep the same way as the goats. The sheep don't produce too much milk so I store their milk in container in the fridge.
After milking is completed, it's time to clean! Everything we used to milk gets sanitized. The claws get rinsed. and we pump bleach water through for about 10 minutes. The small tanks, any transferring tubes, the pulsator, all get rinsed with warm water, soap, and then rinsed again with bleach water. Or, in the case of the pulsator (which I can't submerge), I'll wash it and then spray a santizing solution on it.
We also sweep out the dairy after milking, and always check to make sure the animals have access to water in the pasture, and in the stalls for when they come back in. As for the milk, we store it until we need to make yogurt, ice cream, cheese, buttermilk, or kiefer! We will even sell it raw.