This book review was featured in Midwest Organic and Sustainable Educational Services (MOSES) Organic Broadcaster newsletter, November/December 2017 issue. Farmers can subscribe to mosesorganic.org/sign-up/this newsletter for free at https://mosesorganic.org/sign-up/.
Goat farmer finds new book a welcome resource
By Leslie Svacina
When it comes to goats, there’s not much research, health care products, equipment, reference books, or even veterinarians who have basic knowledge about or are willing to work with goats. Goat producers usually put on their “goat glasses” and adapt sheep or other ruminant information to manage the health needs of their herd.
That’s why Gianaclis Caldwell’s new book, Holistic Goat Care, is such a welcome resource. The book is a comprehensive guide to raising healthy goats, and solving health issues that arise. It’s well suited for both the new and experienced goat keeper, and covers all types of goats. Topics include:
Caldwell presents the content in an easy-to-read manner that flows well, whether one reads the book in its entirety or uses it as a reference guide. Throughout the book, she blends her practical experience with goats with science-based information. Caldwell also takes a broad holistic approach to health care for goats.
While the goat resources that do exist touch on many of the same topics, most do not have the depth of this book, nor recognize holistic management practices.
Since there are few veterinarians in our area who are knowledgeable on goats, I’ve added a goat veterinary textbook to my stack of resources. While Holistic Goat Care doesn’t dive deep into veterinary medical speak, it is a great resource for goat producers. It is much easier to read than the veterinary textbook, and explains terminology and practices for those who may not have formal training or background in animal science. The book also includes a variety of supply lists, check lists, terminology, signs/symptoms, resource lists, photos, troubleshooting guides, A-Z list of disorders, and a glossary. Additionally, the value of the content is more reasonable—about $40 versus $100 or more for a textbook.
I especially liked the feed choice section, which includes information about pasture, grazing, browse, and forages. Other feeding options were covered, but since I practice rotational grazing, I really appreciated the information in this section.
I also liked the information on the role of minerals, vitamins and supplements, covered both in the feed choice and nutritional needs chapters. The book covers how minerals interact with each other, their impact on a goat’s development, signs of deficiencies, risks of an overabundance of minerals, and approaches to supplement for minerals.
The step-by-step instructions on how to do your own fecal float test to look at parasite loads are good, too. She includes a supply list and instructional photos. There isn’t any information on what certain parasite eggs look like. However, that information is easily accessible online or through a consult with your vet.
I never want to lose one of my goats, but I also recognize the importance of continuing to learn how to care for my livestock. Over the years, I’ve had our veterinarian out to the farm to do necropsies. While observing live animal behavior and symptoms can help us draw conclusions to why a goat may have an ailment, it doesn’t always tell us what is actually happening or why. Necropsies have helped answer these questions and as a result I’ve made some adjustments on feeding and management practices. It’s not always feasible to get a vet out to our farm or bring the animal into the clinic. This guide helps solve this challenge by providing clear instructions on doing a necropsy.
If you’re getting started with goats, the first part of the book includes a variety of information on goat behavior, fencing, feeding, animal handling tips, and so on.
While this book isn’t a substitution for veterinary care, it is a very comprehensive holistic health care reference that all goat farmers should consider having on their bookshelf.
Leslie Svacina owns Cylon Rolling Acres in Deer Park, Wis. She raises meat goats on pasture.
Writer’s note: As a finalist in the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Excellence in Agriculture competition, I had the opportunity to share my background and contributions to agriculture, but also pressing issues I see impacting agriculture today. Over the next few weeks I’ll cover these issues in my blog.
While I’m getting closer to my projected size for my farm, I know it also wouldn’t be possible without programs and resources that support beginning farmers. Farming takes a lot of capitol (meaning money) and assets (meaning equipment, facilities, land and so on). It is a huge investment to get started, especially when you don’t have access to family land and/or assets. I’m not suggesting my farming friends who are farming with their families have it easy, nor am I wanting this to come across as "poor me." The reality is this is a huge hurtle for our next generation of farmers who don’t come from farming families or don’t have option of using family land/assets.
While this is my story, I know there are many others who want to get into farming that have similar stories or who are still trying to figure out how to break their way in through all the barriers. In agriculture we spend a lot of time talking about farm transition plans within families, but we also need to be thinking about how transition plans could work for those who want to retire without family and with those who want to begin farming without access to family land and assets and succeed in doing so.
This issue of accessibility to farm is a major issue for agriculture, when we start to think about the average age of today’s farmers, which is an average age of 57 and 30% are over the age of 75 (USDA). And, many of these farmers are starting or want to retire. I started to recognize this challenge when I was working for CHS and met young farmers while writing profile articles for the cooperative’s farmer magazine and working with its young farmer leadership program.
Through farm organizations, we need to be supporting and promoting programs for beginning farmers through
A few of the ways I’ve been helping raise awareness and address this issue is through sharing my voice as a beginning farmer with lawmakers and at our Farm Bureau district policy development meetings and with Congressional visits.
Additionally, while I’m by no means a seasoned farmer, I’ve been sharing my own advice with beginning farmers. This last summer I hosted a farm visit with a women’s conservation program, Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Women Caring for the Land program, and even helping share resources and facilitating networking with an informal farmer group I started and coordinate: the Wisconsin Meat Goat Producers Network because there is no formal state goat farmer organization.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (2017). Iowa Finance Authority. http://www.iowafinanceauthority.gov/Public/Pages/PC204LN48
Farm demographics (2015). USDA. http://www.start2farm.gov/usda/knowledge
Young farmers still concerned about adequate land. (2015). American Farm Bureau Federation. The Voice of Agriculture.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.