Friday, October 19, 2018

Goat Care

Goats are clever, inquisitive, sweet, and endlessly entertaining. Their natural curiosity and intelligence can sometimes make them challenging to keep as pets, but a little extra knowledge (and proper fencing!) will help you and your goats live harmoniously together. Read on for more information about how to keep your goats happy and healthy.

The average life span of a goat is about 12-14 years and their normal body temperature ranges from 101-102ºF. Size and weight vary broadly depending on breed and sex. The females of larger goat breeds (e.g. Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Saanen) range in weight from 125-175lbs, while males typically weigh between 150-225lbs. Females of smaller breeds (e.g. Nigerian dwarf, pygmy) weigh between 40-80lbs, while males range in weight from 60-90lbs. 

Goats are herd animals and require the company of other goats to be happy and healthy. By nature, goats are browsers, meaning that that tend to eat high-growing vegetation. This, combined with their innate curiosity and inclination to climb means that, if given the chance, goats will chew your trees, trample your garden, and dance on your car! Keep this in mind when determining how you’ll keep your goats in their space and out of yours.

Your goat herd will need an enclosed space that offers protection from the elements and predators, as well as room to run, jump, climb, play, and browse. Shelter structures should be waterproof (most goats hate getting wet!), well ventilated but free from drafts, and provide 15-20 square feet of space per goat. Your herd’s outdoor area should provide at least 30 square feet of space per goat and be securely enclosed. Goats are adept at climbing, jumping, and squeezing through surprisingly narrow openings, so be sure to fortify your standard post-and-plank fencing with strong wire mesh to prevent escapes. Yards should also provide shade, and if at all possible, elevated structures for climbing and play. The more space the better, obviously!

Goats are ruminants, meaning that instead of one simple stomach, they have four stomach chambers – the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum – each of which has a specialized purpose. The rumen is the largest chamber and fills virtually the entire left side of the body cavity. The rumen and reticulum together act as a fermentation vat where microbes start the digestive process. When a goat eats, partially chewed material is swallowed and sent to the rumen where it ferments. The goat then burps this material (“cud”) back into the mouth to chew and swallow it again. This process is repeated until the microbes in the rumen and reticulum have digested the material enough for it to pass to the omasum. The omasum further breaks down food particles and absorbs water and other nutrients. The abomasum is the final chamber, where digestive enzymes are produced and help prepare nutrients for absorption in the intestines.

The microbes in your goats’ guts require the cellulose fiber found in forage (i.e. browse, grass, and hay). We do not recommend commercial goat feeds because they often include corn and grain – these ferment faster than forage and disrupt normal digestive function (which can result in death). Access to adequate pasture and/or good quality grass hays such as timothy will help keep your goat happy and healthy (alfalfa and other high-protein hays can lead to health problems).

Goats also require mineral supplements which come loose or in block form, and can be free-fed. Note that mineral supplements formulated specifically for goats contain levels of copper toxic to sheep; if you house goats and sheep together, a multi-species formula without copper should be provided, but you’ll want to watch your goats for signs of copper deficiency and supplement them as needed.

Any changes to your goats’ diet should be made gradually over time, as a sudden switch can cause serious digestive issues. Clean, fresh water should always be available to your goats.

Health care and maintenance
Consult your local large animal veterinarian to determine the correct vaccines and vaccination schedule for your goat herd. Common vaccinations will protect against clostridium, tetanus, and rabies.

Internal parasites are common in goats, but some are more dangerous than others, especially in young, old, or sick individuals. Watch your herd for signs of parasitic infestation including anemia, diarrhea, fever, and weight loss. Work with your vet to establish a deworming schedule, and have fecal samples tested quarterly to monitor parasite load.

Hoof maintenance is simple, but very important. A vet can show you how to properly trim your goat’s hooves, and it should be done every four to six weeks to prevent infections (including hoof rot) and lameness.

We recommend castrating male goats in order to avoid the undesirable behaviors (and smells!) associated with amorous intact males. However, castration stops the development of the urinary tract and can leave males vulnerable to blockages caused by urinary calculi (bladder stones). Therefore, it is best to wait until your goat is at least a few months old before having them castrated.

Perform regular health checks on your goats! Start when they are young, so they get used to being handled and having all parts of their body touched. At Charlie’s Acres we check our goats head to tail once a month. Here’s what we look for:

Eyes: discharge, excessive tearing, foreign bodies
Ears: discharge (some wax is normal!), foreign bodies, odors
Nose: discharge, foreign bodies, sores
Mouth: cracked/missing teeth, odors, scabs/sores
Abdomen/udders:lumps/masses, fluid build-up, sensitivity, tautness, discharge/heat/swelling around teats
Penis/vulva: discharge, lumps/masses, discoloration, swelling, odors
Butt/tail: cleanliness, lumps/masses, discoloration
Legs: heat, swelling, joint enlargement/stiffness, sores
Hooves: cracks, heat, debris between toes, sores/wounds, odors, overgrown hooves

Common ailments
The ruminant digestive system supports a delicate balance of microbial life which can be easily upset. Bloat (also called grain poisoning) is a potentially fatal condition caused by overeating rich grain or new pasture. Prevention is key. Take time to gradually adjust your goats to new food including lush spring pastures, and especially those that are wet with dew, or growing alfalfa or clover. Be careful to store feed securely out of your goats’ reach as they will gorge themselves if given the opportunity. Signs of bloat include distention of the left side of the abdomen (indicating a buildup of gas in the rumen) and obvious discomfort – e.g. calling or crying, grinding teeth, kicking at the abdomen, salivation. Call your vet at the first indication of bloat, as it can kill animals quickly. Talk to your vet about bloat remedies that you can keep on hand in case help is not immediately available.

Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE) is a retrovirus usually transmitted vertically from mother to offspring, although it can also be transmitted horizontally among herd-mates through contact with infected bodily secretions such as blood or feces. CAE can manifest with very serious symptoms, but many infected goats can live their entire lives without showing signs. When symptoms are present, they can take many forms. The arthritic form is the most common. There can be an acute onset of symptoms – typically in older goats – including joint soreness, stiffness, and swelling, but more often the arthritis is chronic and progressive. The encephalitic form is less common and most often affects kids under six months of age. Neurological deficiencies may result in poor coordination, head tilt, tremors, twitches, and blindness. Progressive nerve damage leads to muscle weakness and then paralysis. The encephalitic form of CAE is fatal. CAE can also present as pneumonia including a chronic cough, rapid breathing, rough lung sounds, and enlarged lymph nodes. The mammary form of CAE presents as mastitis, where the udders become hard and unable to express milk. Goats infected with CAE will often exhibit slow progressive weight loss. Blood tests can determine whether or not your goat has CAE, and other tests can be performed to determine the specific form. Except in the encephalitic form, which is fatal, symptoms and any associated pain can be managed; discuss a treatment plan with your vet.

Caseous lymphadenitis (CL) is a contagious disease that causes large pus-filled abscess on the skin and/or lymph nodes and organs. The external abscesses are usually not painful to the affected goat, but if they burst or are ruptured, the pus can spread the disease to other members of the herd. The internal form of the disease can affect a goat’s lymphatic function and other organ systems. If you notice that one of your goats has an abscess you should isolate the individual and have a vet culture the pus, which can be tested for CL. Work with a goat-savvy veterinarian to put together a strategic treatment plan.

Friday, September 14, 2018

BBQ Pulled Jackfruit w/ Sautéed Potatoes

If you have never tried jackfruit, you are seriously missing out! Jackfruit is typically used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines, but is also a tasty substitute for traditional meat dishes. In this recipe, the jackfruit substitutes for pulled pork and will fool even the most stubborn carnivores! 

Ready in 40 minutes
Serves 6 people

- 2 20 oz. can of green jackfruit in brine 

- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups of your favorite bbq sauce
- 1 cup water
- 6 whole wheat buns
- 2 lbs fingerling potatoes halved (Charlotte preferred)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional: Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Slices, avocado, lettuce, spinach, coleslaw,  etc.

Prep.  Drain and rinse the jackfruit.  Make sure to wash off all of the brine.

Start the pulled jackfruit.  In a large saucepan or stock pot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until brown; 3-5 minutes.  Add the the garlic and cook until fragrant; another minute.

Simmer. Add the jackfruit and bbq sauce to the pot.  Stir until the jackfruit is completely coated and bring to a simmer.  Cover and reduce heat to low; let simmer for 30 minutes giving a good stir after the first 15.

Start the potatoes. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil.  Throw in the halved potatoes, cover, and boil until slightly tender; 4 to 5 minutes.  Place colander over a large bowl.  Drain potatoes into colander and allow them to steam over the hot water for 2-3 minutes. 

Sauté the potatoes. While potatoes are steaming, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat.  Lay the potatoes in the pan with the skin facing up, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook until beginning to brown; 2-3 minutes.  Flip the potatoes, season with another pinch of salt, and let them cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 more Tbsp of olive oil and the chopped rosemary to the potatoes; toss to coat.  Sauté for an additional minute until the potatoes have a nice brown finish.
Serve.   I recommend toasting the buns before plating.  Set the buns on a baking sheet with the insides facing up.  Place them under the broiler set on high for 45-90 seconds; to your desired level of toastiness. (Tip: whatever you do, do not take your eyes off the buns for too long.  They go from perfection to burnt toast in seconds.)  Plate up your sandwiches with whatever toppings you prefer and enjoy!

This is also a great recipe for the slow cooker.  Just put all of the pulled jackfruit ingredients in your slow cooker on low for 8 hours.                                   

Turkey Care

Turkeys are an often misunderstood and maligned creature, but anyone who has spent a little time with one knows how affectionate and wonderful they can be. In the proper setting, keeping pet turkeys can be a delightful and rewarding experience.

The average lifespan of a turkey ranges broadly depending on genetics and life history. Heritage or “fancy” breeds generally live between five and 12 years, while those bred commercially for meat typically only live three to five years. Size and body weight also vary depending on breed. Heritage breeds weigh in between 10 and 18 pounds, while commercial breeds can grow up to 30 pounds or more!

Martha (above), an adult broad-breasted white turkey raised for meat
– weighs more than twice as
much as Thelma (below).

Thelma is an adult lilac turkey – a heritage breed.
Turkeys are social birds and do best in groups. That being said, there are potential challenges to consider before adding birds to your flock. Turkeys can be territorial, and may fight over access to resources. Male turkeys (toms) can be particularly aggressive with each other, especially during the mating season, so it is best to wait until late fall or winter before introducing birds (cooler weather also helps to prevent additional stress). It is important to allow turkeys to work out dominance issues, but be available to break up fights if necessary (e.g. if one bird won’t back down after a few minutes, if there is bloodshed or other injury, etc.).

Another challenge to housing turkeys depends on breed. Commercially bred male and female turkeys may not be able to live together safely. Because birds bred for meat grow so large, males can inflict serious injuries to females during mating attempts. In the meat industry, reproduction is achieved via artificial insemination, but natural mating attempts can result in open skin wounds, ligament and joint damage, broken bones, or even death of female birds.

Most sources recommend at least five square feet of coop and run space per bird (larger breeds require more space). This may be adequate if your turkeys will be free-ranging during the day (i.e. have access to a backyard, pasture, or other open space to roam), but if they will be confined to a coop and run, you should provide a minimum of 12 square feet of space per bird. That being said, the more space your turkeys have, the happier they’ll be! Provide each female with an appropriately sized nesting box. Heritage breeds and younger commercial breeds will also need space to roost; for heavier birds or those that cannot perch, a bale of straw makes a good place to sleep.

Turkey coops can be purchased pre-made, constructed from kits, or custom built. No matter which way you go, there are several things to take into consideration. Your chicken coop and run should be absolutely safe from predators. If housed improperly, turkeys can be easy prey for raccoons, coyotes, and your household pets! Closures on doors and windows should be predator proof, and wire mesh should extend 12” down and 12” out from the bottom of the run to exclude burrowing predators. Coops should be relatively draft-free, but have proper ventilation to help maintain respiratory health. When choosing, designing, or building your coop, make sure it’s easily accessible for cleaning – a clean coop means happy, healthy turkeys!

If your turkeys will be free-ranging during the day, make sure you have appropriate fencing to contain them. Since most commercial breeds are too heavy to fly, fencing that is four to five feet high is adequate, but heritage turkeys can fly easily and high! Regular wing trims are an effective and painless solution, but keep in mind that while you are preventing them from escaping your yard, you are also preventing them from escaping potential predators! Therefore, use strong fencing and bury wire mesh to deter digging predators.

Commercial turkey or gamebird diets are readily available, but most are formulated for rapid growth; “maintenance” formulas (containing about 12% protein) are better, but you may need to special order them through your local feed store. Use a feed that is free of antibiotics and hormones (i.e. non-medicated). Some heritage turkeys can be free-fed, but commercial breeds are prone to compulsive overeating so feed should be restricted to ¼-¾ cup twice daily per bird. Fresh greens, such as finely chopped kale or romaine lettuce, make a good addition to your turkey’s diet and will help them feel satiated without adding excessive calories, especially if they are receiving only a small amount of commercial feed. Because they have no teeth, turkeys also require access to grit, which helps them break down and properly digest food. Grit can be purchased at your local feed store, or if your turkeys are free-range, they’ll pick up smalls stones and pieces of gravel to do the job! Clean, fresh water should always be accessible. Make sure you have enough feed and water stations that all turkeys in the flock (especially more subordinate individuals) have access.

Health care and maintenance
Turkeys rarely show obvious signs of illness, and by the time they do, it’s often too late. Therefore, it’s important to perform regular health checks on your flock so you can differentiate between what’s normal and what’s abnormal for your birds. Weighing your birds can also be helpful to track trends in weight gain or loss. When handling your birds, watch for signs of stress including open-mouth breathing or struggling to get free; if your turkey appears stressed, release them and try again later. At Charlie’s Acres we weigh and check our turkeys once a month, and do keel and foot checks on our heavier birds every two weeks. Here’s what we look for:

Discharge (may indicate respiratory infection), swelling (may indicate eye infection)
Debris, discharge (may indicate respiratory infection)
Gurgly/raspy breathing (indicates respiratory infection), sores, sour smell (indicates sour/impacted crop)
Thinness, wounds
Feather quality, parasites, wounds
Fluid, thickening, tumors
Breaks, bruising
Discharge (may indicate vent gleet/yeast infection), prolapse, smell, sores
Heat, raised scales (indicates mites), swelling, breaks; trim spurs if necessary
Heat, swelling, sores (indicates bumblefoot), wounds; trim nails if necessary

Common ailments
Avian health problems can be difficult to diagnose and treat, so it’s important to find a turkey-savvy veterinarian to help determine the best course of action. Below are a few things to watch for in your flock.

Part of a turkey’s digestive system is known as the crop. This is where food is stored during the initial stages of digestion. Crop stasis (also crop impaction and sour crop) occurs when the crop is blocked or otherwise not functioning properly. Watch your turkeys’ chests – a crop in stasis will be distended and may feel hard or full of liquid, like a water balloon. If the crop is not emptying, your turkey is not receiving nutrition, and needs to be seen by a vet as soon as possible to both remove the obstruction and determine its cause; the cause can be as dangerous as the obstruction itself.

Walking on hard, rough, or splintery surfaces can result in small wounds on the bottoms of your turkeys’ feet. These wounds may become infected and form pus-filled abscesses. Consult your local avian vet for treatment, which will vary depending on the severity of the bumblefoot – whether or not the wound is infected, and if so, the type of bacteria causing the infection.

Turkeys, especially heavier breeds, are at risk for joint problems including arthritis, as well as contact and pressure wounds on the keel, legs, and feet. It’s important to check these areas frequently as sores can quickly turn into open wounds that become infected. Help prevent pressure sores by providing thick bedding for your turkeys to rest. If scabs or sores do appear, consult a vet immediately to determine the best course of treatment. Older, heavier birds are particularly at risk for arthritis. Joint pain and swelling can be managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by your veterinarian.

Martha’s feet (left) in comparison to Thelma’s (right) –
Martha is an older, much heavier bird whose swollen leg and foot joints are evidence of arthritis.
In warm weather, turkeys are prone to heat stress. The best way to prevent heat stress is to provide your flock with plenty of cool, shaded areas to rest; fans and misters can also help. Make sure all turkeys have access to clean, fresh water, and that their coop is well-ventilated. Signs of heat stress include open-mouth breathing, drooping combs or heads, and collapse. If you notice any of these, work quickly but handle your turkey gently to avoid further stress. Move the bird to a shaded area and direct a fan toward it on a low setting. Mist the turkey lightly with cool water, focusing on the comb, wattles, legs, and under the wings; do not dunk your bird or pour cold water on it, as this could send it into shock. Continue to monitor your turkey until its behavior returns to normal. Consult your vet to ensure that your turkey recovers fully.

Check your turkeys regularly for lice and mites. Lice can be difficult to see, but you may observe clusters of lice eggs at the base of your turkeys’ feathers. You can help prevent lice infestations by making sure your turkeys have access to clean, dry areas in which to dust bathe. Lice infestations can also be treated topically with medicated liquids or powders; consult your avian vet for the best course of treatment. Mite infestations are treated similarly, but can be much harder to eradicate, as mites are able to live for weeks without a host. Therefore, mite infestations require that your turkeys’ living area be treated as well.

Turkeys naturally molt their feathers once a year, usually in spring or fall. During this time, your turkeys could lose a lot of their feathers and might look pretty raggedy. Molting typically takes one to three months, and is an energetically costly process, so it’s not uncommon for birds to act sick or otherwise “off”.
In addition to monthly health checks, we recommend that you have fecal samples from your flock analyzed at least twice a year to check for the presence of internal parasites. Signs of parasitic infestations may include increased feed consumption, weight loss, poor feather condition, lethargy, mouth gaping or gasping for breath, and diarrhea or dark or bloody stool. If fecal analyses reveal internal parasites within your flock, your vet can help you determine the correct medication and course of treatment.