The day was cloudy, fifty degrees, with a slight breeze. I put my finger in my mouth to wet it and then stuck it up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing. Carefully I checked my equipment and glanced over at Lee. He was surveying the lay of the land as a hunter would do before approaching its prey. He nodded. It was time.
I picked up my small cooler full of ice packs, CD/T vaccines, needles, syringes. Grabbed up a jug of wormer and a drenching syringe, a couple of permanent markers, and a dog collar and out we walked into the lower herd.
To keep from spooking them since two of us appeared, I went to their protein/mineral block station and laid my cooler and wormer on its roof. I never put that on the ground any more. Some snoopy goat would have it spread all over the field or come over and walk through or stand on it. Hey, that doesnít have to happen but a couple of dozen times before I catch on.
Lee went to the round bales and started fussing around them, fluffing it up, arranging the hay. Some of the greedier, hard to catch goats came over to see what he was doing. He caught the hardest to catch one and hollered over he was ready.
We donít have catching chutes or anything like that. We seem to have decided a long time ago that anything worth doing was worth doing the hard way. So, we have to rely on skill, cunning, stealth, high intelligence and ..... Okay, okay, we rely on the snoopiness and greediness of the goats. And, it helps that a lot of the goats are big olí babies that will let us do anything to them. Some are slowly suspicious of us, and the twenty or so that are really hard to catch, we save for later that evening when they get grain and would go hog wild trying to get into the middle of the feed, and then we nailed them and would give them their shots and worming.
But till then, we had a lot of work to do. I drew up the amount of wormer needed for that particular goat, her CD/T shot, and brought the permanent marker over for Lee to carry. Some people have special marking "crayons" for working goats. Making sure to mark them so they wouldnít accidentally reworm them again, but I always seem to have on hand in the house permanent magic markers, and this works for us. We just have to remember to mark them on top of the back so we can see them, not on the left side or the right side, but square on top the back so its noticeable.
After doing as many of the hard to catch ones as we could by trickery, we started on the friendly ones lying around, chewing their cud, taking naps. Itís an art trying to drench a goat that is chewing a cud. Some goats get slightly perturbed when you get hold of them, and they know you are going to do something to them, so they immediately swallow their cud, making worming a lot easier. A lot of our girls were so unconcerned about us "catching" them, they continued chewing their cud. When you tried to drench them, the wormer got all hung up in the cud and then they would calmly spit that cud out, coated with the wormer they needed, and started another cud. Bummer.
Years ago I read an Australian research article on drenching sheep/goats. It said it was important to get the drench gun over the tongue, to the back of the throat before pushing the plunger down. Do it slowly so as not to shoot the drench straight into the lungs. By putting the drenching gun or syringe to the far back this way, the drench went to the proper stomach and you had a longer kill time for the dewormer to work. Putting the drench gun to the front of the mouth and simply giving them a mouthful of wormer and then they swallow it puts it in the stomach that would work too fast, and the dewormer would not have as long a kill time. Whether true or not, this is what we have been doing since I read that.
This also works great if you have a goat with a cud in her mouth. You get past that cud to put that drench down her throat and she canít mix it all in with her cud and then spit it back at you. So, we ended up worming a lot of goats with cuds in their mouths and none being spit back at us.
The dog collar is for putting on them while they are getting their shots and/or wormings. Remember, we disbud our goats at 7 days of age. Horns on a goat causes a lot of problems for us, so it is necessary to keep a couple of dog collars around when we need to hold onto a goat for a while.
Lee hollered over, "Was that the sixty-fifth or sixty-sixth one?" I also keep up with who all we worm or give shots to by already having written everyone down and then checking them off as we do them. Not only do we have a mark on their backs to show they have been done, but also a check by their name to show it too. That way if I forget to check a name or Lee forgets to put a mark down their back, we still know if that girl has been done or not. We rarely forget to do both.
We had been working solid until Lee had asked the number of goats we had done. "Seventy-two", I shouted back. He whistled at the number and looked around. We were finished. At least with this herd. We gathered up our stuff and headed for the next herd. Never a dull moment in the life of a goat farmer, I thought, as I stuck my wet finger up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing.