Molly the Goat & CL

Caseous Lymphadenitis, abbreviated CL, is a contagious disease that affects goats and sheep, and can even spread to humans (though this is exceptionally rare). It is an infection of the lymph nodes that causes external or internal abscesses which, when they burst, can spread the disease through cuts or bodily fluids.

While preparing for the new buck and giving our goats their daily cuddles, I found an unruptured abscess on Molly’s throat. It was in an area prone to CL abscesses, shown in this chart.

Related image

We isolated Molly immediately in the new buck pen (the buck was arriving the next day) and had the vet come the following morning. She punctured the abscess and took a sample of the fluid inside. CL usually manifests as a thick pus in the abscess, that ranges from white to yellow to slightly green. Unfortunately it tested positive for CL.

Fearing the worst, we had the vet draw blood from all our other goats (including the new buck). Over two weeks later, we fortunately learned that all the other goats had tested negative. We will test again in a few months to make sure, and then vaccinate the herd against CL.

Since our goats are for breeding and milking, we cannot keep a goat with CL on the premises. Baby goats are susceptible to the disease and should not nurse from a CL-positive dam, and any milk from a CL doe must be pasteurized to kill the pathogens. Molly is being re-homed and will no longer be bred or milked.

This was an incredibly hard decision because we absolutely wanted to keep Molly. She is a lovely goat, very friendly and great at keeping the other goats in line. If all our goats had tested positive, we’d likely keep them all as pets and abandon our plans to breed. Since that was not the case, the best thing to do for the health of the rest of the animals is to re-home her.

For more information about CL, please visit https://ontariogoat.ca/cl/.


Preparing for a New Goat

Something very exciting is happening at Rodrigues Farm – we’re getting a new goat! This time it’s a buck, who will (fingers crossed) breed our lovely does so they can make baby goats (for sale) and milk (for our own use)!

His name from his breeder is Chance, but we will be calling him Kingsley Shacklegoat in line with our Harry Potter theme. He will be bred to Ginny and Luna Lovegoat over the next month, which should give us adorable baby goats in August and September.

He is a registered Nigerian Dwarf, who is naturally polled (hornless) and blue-eyed, both of which are rare and desirable traits. Naturally we can’t guarantee the babies will be polled and blue-eyed, but it gives us a better shot. He comes from an excellent line of registered goats known for good milking. We are very excited.

Since bucks can’t be housed with does all the time, and we want to control the breeding to make sure we know when babies are due, we had to set up a special pen just for Peter. We looked at lots of fencing options and building something ourselves, but were pressed for time. Luckily, when we went to check out options at TSC, a 10’x10’x6′ kennel was on sale

Yvan’s made a lovely video of the pen assembly. We’ll be uploading lots of video of the goats as the weather gets better, so make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to get all the updates!


chickens in snow

Winter Wonderland = Winter Woes

It’s January 31, 2019, which may be known in history as the tail end of the “Polar Vortex” that has wreaked havoc on North American weather, causing record low temperatures across the Midwest United States and Canada. Here in Southern Ontario, we are experiencing lows of -25 degrees Celsius (-13 F), with windchill making it feel another 10-15 degrees colder.

Winter, even without this incomparable frigidity, brings some unique challenges for homesteaders. If you’re doing this part time, like us, you’ll find yourself doing chores in pitch darkness before and after work. Things that were so easy in spring and summer take longer or become downright impossible due to snow, ice, wind and cold.

For example, one of Y’s brilliant (not sarcasm, it’s genuinely awesome) projects this year was to get water running from our workshop building to a spigot in the barn. This made it easy to fill animal buckets on site. When temperatures started to dip, we shut that water off so it wouldn’t freeze and crack the pipes, and went back to lugging buckets to and from the workshop. Well, as temperatures dipped even further, the pipes in the workshop became frozen too. This means we now lug water from the house, leaving frozen buckets to thaw in the mud room and switching out for fresh, hot water at least once a day (twice when it is below -10).

Chickens

People have asked, with these temperatures, how the animals have managed to stay warm. In the case of the chickens, they continued to go outside, wandering in the snow, perching in the trees, until about -10 C, always wondering back inside at night. Below -10, we have been keeping the coop door closed (though, honestly, they’d still like to leave, and I had to climb on top of the run to rescue one in -20 winds, but that’s not the norm).

Our chicken coop is an old playhouse/dog kennel that we converted for their use. It was solidly built, with a shingled roof and insulation piped into the walls. It sits a bit off the ground and has windows for ventilation. Though it gets below freezing, it is noticeably warmer inside than out.

Generally speaking, chickens are fine in winter when the following conditions are met:

  • They have deep, dry straw bedding. If you are using a deep bedding method, turn the straw weekly to keep it clean, and remove any large frozen chunks.
  • They are able to get out of the wind and rain. Dry chickens can regulate their own temperature.
  • Their coop has sufficient ventilation. Moisture is more likely to cause chicken death than cold, dry air because it leads to frostbite, respiratory issues, and hypothermia. Heat from their breath, water, and manure can cause condensation which becomes dangerous when it freezes.
  • They have liquid water during the daytime. If the water is freezing it must be replaced in the morning.
  • They have high quality feed. Chickens will need more food to help keep them warm, and you can supplement with scratch and cracked corn for added nutrition.
  • They are active. During the daytime, your chickens should be behaving normally – eating, drinking, strutting about – and may continue to lay eggs. If your chickens are lethargic, there is likely something wrong.

Chickens can be brought indoors if your coop is not sufficient in winter, but they are very smelly! We do not recommend heat lamps for any barn or outbuilding except in extreme cases, as they are the number one cause of farm fires and animal deaths.

Exciting news for us though! We had essentially given up on our chickens laying eggs until spring. They hadn’t laid any at all, and we assumed they wouldn’t in winter because of the shorter days and cold weather. Well, when doing the weekly straw turnover, I discovered almost a dozen eggs in the nest boxes! Most were frozen as we had failed to collect them, but we have been getting 2-4 eggs every day since. Collect twice a day to keep eggs from freezing. Frozen eggs can be fed back to the chickens once thawed, as it gives them vital nutrients back!

Eggs of many colours from our “Easter egger” chickens!

Goats

People have been adorably concerned about the goats in this weather, and I don’t blame them! If Y didn’t insist against it, I definitely would have brought them inside by now, and they’d be destroying every inch of the garage.

If goats are left to their own devices, they will usually do fine. They grow thick winter coats, eat more to keep their rumens active for warmth, and shelter themselves from the wind. With appropriate wind breaks, shelters, and access to food and hot water, goats can manage at temperatures most humans run from.

I go into some detail in our YouTube video, “How cold is too cold for goats?” You’ll see our healthy, chubby active goats enjoying some food and attention in -23 C weather.

The general rule is, if you can stand to hang out with them where they are, all bundled up in your own winter gear, then they are probably fine. I was out in the barn with the goats for 20 minutes yesterday, and because I was playing with them and heaving water around, I was actually sweating a bit! They were a bit slow to get up this morning and out of their cozy beds, but frankly, so was I.

With a little more care and attention, winter doesn’t have to mean woes for your animals. It definitely presents unique challenges, but, as usual, nature seems to know best! That said, we are definitely looking forward to some warmer weather starting tomorrow!