Prior to physically owning goats, we were somewhat, sort-of, mentally prepared for the idea that goats are easily stressed, and that they react poorly to stress, often by falling ill. We brought the does home on July 15, and most transitioned well, just had a few quiet days then perked up and went about their goat business.
Bean (so named because her original tag was BN and she’s the smallest of the 8), however, didn’t bounce back. First with parasites, then a fever. Between the vet and us, and the breeder and us, we opted to treated it like pneumonia: she didn’t want to eat, was losing energy, and just seemed depressed. In addition to deworming, Bean for courses of antibiotics and vitamin supplements, a couple days of what I’m calling a “beer smoothie” (a nutrient and liquid drench for sickly goats that has dark beer, yogurt, molasses, etc – my breeder told me about it, it’s on google), and probiotics.
However, at about day 2 of the antibiotics, the rest of the herd starting being real a-holes to Bean. Butting her around, both keeping her away from them, and keeping her from eating. She wasn’t in any shape to assert her place. So any progress she might have been making with the medications was drowned out by her lack of being able to eat. Still being new to goats, I put Bean into a seperate pen with fresh water, grain, hay, her own shelter…. and she escaped. Right back into the herd that started knocking her around again. So I added electric fence. She escaped again. I messaged the breeder… I wasn’t doing something right. Quickly figured out that she needed to be separate but with a herdmate. They are very social herd animals. Which I knew, but didn’t know, you know?
I got a quick and dirty lesson in goat social rules. We had an alpha/queen right off the bat – Sylvanas (she’s the black one with white belly band, and the largest) gets her way with the rest every single time. She is THE LEADER of the does, and they know it. But passed that? I didn’t really give much thought to there being betas and omegas, but there really is a strong social structure.
So, we put Alleria in with Bean. She had shown little aggression towards Bean so I hoped it was the right move. It worked. They got on well, and Bean was able to recover her health and strength. The test for that came when we brought our new buck home. We’ve been unable to source additional gates and so only have one quarantine pen, which means the buck went in there and Alleria and Bean went back with the herd.
It was hit and miss to start. I intervened now and then just to keep Bean from getting seriously injured. There were a few moments of doubt during this time if I wondered if she’d need to be put down. But she told me, not in so many words but by seeking me out, that she wanted to try, and slowly but surely, she has regained her strength and has fought her place back up in the herd. She doesn’t let the others push her around and she pushes back when she needs to assert herself.
So from the start of getting goats, I got a crash course in goat health and social structure. I learned a few things:
Check temperature early and daily. Watch temperament. Watch herd behaviour. Check poop and get fecal tests early. Be ready to give injections via subcutaneous and/or intramuscular. Be ready to give drenches. As with all things in life, especially farming, expect the unexpected. Laugh. Lots. Goats give plenty of opportunities.