Kid Care

After a 5 month gestation, moms may give birth to one, two (most common) or three kids (very rarely 4). Large babies, many babies and the ensuing long labor can take a toll on mom (the doe). Sometimes she may be too weak to stand and will need post-partum help recovering — a whole other article. Does may select only one newborn and kick away others — you must be very vigilant that mom licks dry each baby and stands still to let them nurse. If she ostracizes one or more babies for very long, it is really tough to get her to accept them. You either have to foster them onto another doe that is more accepting, or raise a bottle baby. This may be the most critical decision you face in the first 48 hours of life.

After that, common husbandry — warmth, dry bedding, no drafts, no predators, etc. are key for does and babies to be comfortable and thrive.

In the first three days any diarrhea can be fatal if prolonged or untreated. Clostridium and E.coli are bad news day one to three. Coccidia from muddy udders can cause bloody diarrhea as early as day 5 to 7. Talk to a veterinarian or bring a stool sample in to get an accurate diagnosis to treat diarrhea before giving shots, pills or liquid meds.

Respiratory problems also surface early in life. Kids can suffer from aspiration pneumonia during the birth process if placental fluids get into their lungs. Cold or damp weather hampers healthy lungs also. Quick treatment with antibiotics is necessary if you notice snotty noses, coughs, or any labored breathing or lethargy.

budding horn before procedure – red arrow points to it

Once they pass the one week milestone — they usually are on their way to a healthy and happy life. The next issue is disbudding. A wide varying number of opinions exist, and all want to be right. In my experience, I would rather disbud a one or two week old kid when it is very easy and quick healing — than fix a wreck later on. Animals will use horns for defense AND offense: that will never change. We try to domesticate them, but their instinct and equipment still take over. To successfully disbud a 1 to 3 week old kid, I use a hot cautery iron placed over the horn bud for 8 to 10 seconds to cauterize the cornual artery and nerve. The horn then has no nerve or blood supply to grow — and is gone. Pain medication post op is provided. Tetanus antitoxin is a must due to the sensitivity of goats to Clostridium tetani. Disbudding will save many animals from getting caught in fences and strangulating, and many fences will not have to be cut and patched up. Also you are safe to walk into a pen without getting butted or gored by juvenile or adult goats.

Nutrition: moms’ milk is by far the best choice for 2 to 3 months. Second choice is another goat’s milk. Third is a quality GOAT milk replacer that has at least 4.5% fat. Whole milk from cows from the grocery store has reduced fat (down to 2%) and provides only half the fat needed.

Next goat starter pellets with vitamins and free choice GOAT mineral works well at weaning. Most kids will be grazing next to mom before weaning and ready to eat grass at three weeks old. Grass in Iowa has all the needed mineral for goats to survive and thrive.

Watch for anemia — worms are a huge problem in goat herds. The FORMANCHA test determines anemia by degree of color in membranes of the lower eyelid. Soon you can be an expert in finding an anemic animal — before they become weak, lethargic, and anorexic. All dewormers will work — rotating between the benzamidazoles, ivermectins, and moxidectins will eliminate resistance problems. Injectable or oral is a personal choice. It is recommended to have stool samples analyzed for # and type of parasite in a herd. It often amazes me how many parasites can live inside an animal without any outward evidence. Some herds are dewormed monthly, some 3 to 4 times a year, and some do not need any — no one rule fits every farm.

Exercise: Goats are nimble climbers by ancestry — and love as many climbing challenges in a pen as your imagination can build. Asphalt shingles on steep surfaces provide grip and keep hooves wore down. Without wear, goat hooves should be trimmed every three months to prevent curling over and possibly trapping wetness in the sole. Hoof rot can be a big problem in herds without proper hoof care.

Health care: Castration is recommended as soon as a week of age if a kid is healthy and nursing well. Knife castration is very quick and easy, or bands placed above both testicles with a tetanus antitoxin is effective also. Vaccination to prevent overeating (Clostridium C and D) and tetanus is recommended at 3 weeks of age with deworming if necessary. A booster 2 to 4 weeks pater ensure solid protection.

Goats thrive everywhere in Iowa. They are hardy and thrifty and provide a profitable business, as well as a lot of crazy entertainment for the owners. Good luck and have fun!

2022 February is Dental Health Month

Dentistry equipment is another item we use in the practice routinely. This has been an important tool as most pets have some amount of dental disease by the age of 3. It has been said that without brushing your pet’s teeth at least 4 times a week they will develop issues with tarter and gum disease. If you begin brushing your pet’s teeth at an early age most of them enjoy the flavored toothpaste and attention. I encourage people to start with their puppies and kittens before the age of 4 months therefore they see it as a part of the daily routine and not something to fear.

Interesting enough when I graduated in 1988 from the College of Veterinary Medicine we had very little time spent on dental hygiene. There was an awareness that teeth would need to be pulled or jaws repaired related to trauma or age. We knew that teeth can get bad in a short period of time but the idea of doing regular dental care was less common. Amazing changes have taken place since then.

Veterinary Dentistry has become an area of specialization. Besides doing scaling/polishing/extractions, we now have dogs with braces, root canals, crowns, orthodontic care, etc. These advancements are important to be aware of since years ago, the only option was extraction. Now a tooth can be saved which prevents further decay to the rest of the teeth surrounding the bad tooth. Often when the 4th premolar tooth is removed the pets will no longer chew on that side so tarter build up occurs faster.

It is important to FLIP THE LIP of your dog or cat. Look at the surface of the teeth and determine if dental care is needed. Be certain to look at the front of the mouth but also the larger premolars and molars towards the back. Pets have a salivary gland above those upper teeth and that contributes to the accumulation of tarter. Foul breath can also be an indication of need for dental preventative care. If the odor is not consistent it may be something else that is causing the bad breath. Many pet owners want to believe that bad teeth are the cause of their pet not wanting to eat. Research shows that rarely is dental disease the cause of pets not eating. We see some horrible mouths and those dogs and cats are still eating. 

Dental Machine

Our pets need to be under anesthesia to have their teeth professionally cleaned. An assessment is done of the teeth to determine viablilty of the teeth. Large chunks of tarter are removed with hand tools prior to extractions. This gives visualization of the tooth surface to see if there is any damage to the tooth. The mobile dental machine has dental burrs to help with extractions of multiple root teeth. The 4th premolars have 3 roots and when fractured those roots remain solid so it is necessary to extract the tooth in multiple pieces.  Another area where these burrs are important is when the canine tooth is damaged it aids in extractions as well. The root of the canine teeth are as long as what you visibly see of that exposed tooth.

The ultrasonic scaler is used to remove additional plaque on the surface of the teeth and is followed with polishing the teeth. We have flavored polish that freshens the breath temporarily but if good home care is not continued in a short period of time there will be accumulation of plaque once again.  Many older dogs and cats do not chew their food anymore which contributes to the poor dental health. There are dental chews and other products that can assist in dental health, but only brushing offers the best long term benefits.       

If no home care is done we expect to see dogs annually for dental preventative care. Once a dog starts having accumulation of plaque with further buildup if hardens and mineralizes to form tarter. As tarter builds up if pushes against the gum surface and gingivitis can develop over time. We also see gum recession and exposure of the root of the tooth all of which damage the tooth and lead to extraction. Pay attention to your pet’s teeth. Abscessed teeth are common in both cats and dogs and occur with advanced dental disease. Avoid these problems by having routine dental care done for your pets. Keep their mouth healthy with routine brushing, dental care, and use of foods that prevent tarter and plaque build up.  Doing these things will extend the health of your pet’s teeth. If interested in having your pet’s teeth cleaned we schedule those appointments M-F. The pets come in by 8:30 am and are usually ready to go home anytime after 4:00 pm. They do not need to spend a night with us to have the teeth professionally cleaned. Go ahead and flip your pets lip and see if you need to schedule an appointment with us.

ISO Scanners???

With the start of a new year, we begin a new theme for blogs. Looking back over the past years it does become a little more challenging to discover new things to discuss. Decided to talk about the different tools that can be used to assist us with our daily tasks as veterinarians. 

The first tool that we use quite frequently is an ISO microchip scanner. When microchips were introduced, each company had a chip and a scanner. That was clumsy because scanners would only read their companies chips or certain frequencies. Therefore, a chip may have been missed by a shelter or veterinary office unless they had multiple scanners. The International Standards Organization (ISO) approved and recommended a global standard for microchips. At that time, it was also decided that chips should have 15 numbers and no letters. They would be called universal chips and would be accepted worldwide. All chips would also be read with a forward and backward universal scanner. The ISO frequency is 134.2kHz. There are 125kHz and 128 kHz chips still implanted in dogs. They are not acceptable to travel worldwide but most universal scanners will detect the chip number if the pet is scanned properly. Earlier chips had a tendency to migrate once implanted. The new universal chips will not migrate. If scanning a pet be certain to scan over the entire body just in case they were chipped with an earlier version of microchips.

At this time no company has microchips that have GPS trackers on them. There are collars that come with tracking devices but as for a microchip that is implanted and trackable, that technology is not available. The size of the GPS tracker and its need to be charged does not allow for this to be implanted under the skin of an animal. The following link is one source that is available if you are interested in tracking your dog’s movements. There are usually costs associated with the tracking so be aware of that as you are considering this type of technology. 

https://tractive.com/en/pd/gps-tracker-dog

We can place microchips under the skin above the shoulder blades on any animal during a routine exam. The microchips we provide are from Home Again. Once the chip has been placed, we register the chip with Home Again to safeguard that information is available should the pet ever get lost. It is important that owners update this information should addresses or phone numbers change. We have had situations where a lost pet is brought to Winterset Veterinary Center and we find a microchip number but it is registered to a person in California. We know that animal did not walk from California to Iowa. Updating this information is as important as notifying the Post Office of an address change. In a few situations a pet has 2 microchips. Please register both chips. When a pet is scanned the first number it picks up is the one searched. No one suspects a second chip being present. Therefore you must register both numbers. This can happen from a pet being lost and a chip migrates so it is missed and when adopted out a new chip is placed. I also had a puppy that had 2 chips – both placed from the breeder. Apparently one puppy got two chips and another did not have one. It can happen so just make certain to register both chips if you find out your pet has more than one chip.

Many people fear that the microchip carries important information that could affect ones privacy. This is not true. The only information gathered from the chip reader is the 15 digit number and recently I was able to get the pets body temperature from the chip. That beats a rectal or ear thermometer any day! All personal information is kept confidential by the company that registered your pet’s microchip.

For under $50 a microchip can be placed and registered to safeguard your pet gets home should they ever decide to wander off. We have had dogs all sizes, ages, shapes, and colors, come to us as lost pets. The reunion happens quickly if a chip is discovered.  Without a chip, the distance a dog can travel in a short period of time makes that reunion much less likely. Statistics have shown that 15% of dog and cat owners will lose their pets. Dogs have a recovery rate of 93% but cats are only at 75%. Dogs seem to wander away more than once. Cats not wearing ID collars because they are considered “only indoors” is a big concern. In one study 41% of the owners who were searching for their lost cat reported the cat was indoor only.  Cats wearing a collar with an ID tag is a great method to improve reunion of cats with their owners. All pets should be microchipped as a way to improve a lost pet being reunited with their family.

Any microchip can be registered with the Home Again’s registry if you wish. You can register with multiple registry’s. American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has a microchip lookup online site where you may search microchip numbers of found pets. If you have found a pet you are able to enter the chip number and it will give you a phone number to the proper site so a pet may get home safely. Again your personal information is protected and that of your pet. It is designed to reunite pets with their families as quickly as possible.

All pets should be microchipped if you want to assure they find their way home to you. One is never assured that even an indoor only cat or a tiny dog would not wander off someday. I once had a person ask my why their 8 year old neutered male boxer ran away. He had never done something like that in the past. This owner was worried but also confused about why? I had no answer for him and as you might guess there was no collar or chip with identification on it.

Place a microchip in your pet. Get ID on the collar of your pet. Start kittens with collars at a young age so you can have ID on them as well. Last week I saw a client that had her phone number embroidered on her cats’ break away collars. She is not leaving it to chance. She wants to make certain her cats get back home if they were ever to get lost.

If you have more questions about microchips feel free to contact me at Winterset Veterinary Center during regular business hours or the article below has some additional information about frequently asked questions.

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/microchips-reunite-pets-families/microchipping-faq

Please do not let your pet go out unprotected. Their ability to get home depends on you. A microchip is a pet insurance that is priceless were you ever faced with a lost pet.

Months of Animal Blogs in 2021

We began the year with Alpaca/llama’s followed by mini horses, rabbits, cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, and chickens. I was wondering what I should do to round out the year. I decided that even though I do not do a lot of exotics, zoo, or marine species, this would be a good topic for the final month of 2021.

As veterinarians there is no species that we do not see. We may have preferences for certain species but after receiving your DVM degree and passing your state boards you can treat any and all mammals, birds, reptiles of land, water, and air. This carries with it a great responsibility to explore the variations between these species.

At Winterset Veterinary Center we do see a few exotic species for simple procedures on occasion. It may be a bird for wing or nail trims or a pocket pet for eye issues or a reptile for skin lesions We have had skunks, raccoon, possums, and wild birds brought in for certain procedures. An occasional snake or iguana has entered the practice for one reason or another. I will admit that I am more of a fur and feather veterinarian, but Dr. Jim has always been willing to see “All Creatures Great and Small”.

When these unusual creatures come in often their needs come down to basic husbandry issues. Cleanliness of their cages, temperatures that need to be consistent, water sources that are necessary for healthy skin, diets that are complete with the nutrients needed to remain healthy so they live a long life. Sometimes we have to offer the facts that lead to a difficult decision since some have a short lifespan to begin with. Sometimes we will refer if additional diagnostics are needed. The area of exotics has expanded in the last decade and more people are seeking out treatment for their special friends.

I know that my daughter would enjoy snuggling with a snake as much as a puppy. She said the way they will wrap themselves up around her and give the big hugs has always been a physical high for her.  She is the  one furthest to the right in this photo. A friend owns these and she has enjoyed their unique personalities.

I have watched exotic veterinarians on television handle the different species that enter their doors and have learned interesting facts. Since my practice days have mostly been in more rural areas we see less exotics. The neat thing is that regardless of what someone classifies as a pet we are given the opportunity to help them stay healthy and live longer lives. These pets mean as much to their owner as a puppy or kitten does to theirs. We must do everything possible to protect that client- patient- veterinarian relationship. As the song goes…

ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

ALL THINGS WISE AND WONDERFUL

THE LORD GOD MADE THEM ALL!

As we say goodbye to 2021, Dr. Jim, our staff, and myself would like to thank you for entrusting us with your pets and livestock. We continue to strive to meet your expectations and retain your loyalty and trust. Winterset Veterinary Center cannot exist without our clients and their critters. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2022!

CHICKENS… Pet or Livestock? Hobby or Business?

I would like to thank Ashley Kinney for November’s blog on CHICKENS… Pet or livestock? Hobby or Business? Ashley is currently a Senior at Winterset High School and is working at Winterset Veterinary Center after school and weekends. She has been showing chickens at the county and state fair for a number of years. We are so grateful for her contribution to our veterinary office and her willingness to write this blog and share her photos.

~ Thanks, Dr. Lonna

Photo by Teddi Yaeger

There are many different uses for chickens, one of the most popular usages being meat. Chickens grown for meat are known as broilers. The Cornish Cross is the most commercial of the broiler breeds. This breed is wide-set and built to grow fast. Cornish are ready to be harvested between 8-10 weeks of age and produce large amounts of meat. These birds are likely to have health issues due to their rapid growth, therefore it is not recommended to keep them past their harvesting age. Raising these birds in a pasture-like setting can help improve their overall health. Other broiler breeds include the Bresse, Barnyard crosses & other heritage breeds. These birds have fewer issues compared to the Cornish but take longer to grow and produce less meat. 

A Crossbred Rooster

Egg production is also a very popular use for chickens. White Leghorns are by far the best layers. They have thin bodies to make them food efficient and a distinct flopped-over crest. Leghorns are the ones that lay those large white eggs you can buy in the supermarket. Road Island Reds and Sex Links are also good layers and are desired in backyard flocks. Chickens can lay many different colors of eggs. The color of the egg a chicken lays can be told by their earlobe color. White earlobes indicate white eggs, red earlobes brown eggs, and blue earlobes blue eggs. There are some exceptions to this rule like the Silkie who has blue earlobes but lays cream-colored eggs. Laying hens do not need a rooster to lay an egg, but a rooster is required to produce fertilized eggs. 

A White Leghorn Hen

Dual purpose breeds are popular in homestead flocks. These chickens are bred to be utilized for both meat and eggs. Some of the most notable dual purpose breeds would be the Australorp, Orpingtons, and Barred Rocks. 

Hobby poultry have become increasingly popular in recent years. Hobby chickens are some of the wackiest of the chicken breeds. They can have interesting colors and patterns. Some have feathers growing out of their waddles (muffs), heads (topknots), and feet. Others have feathers that look like rabbit fur (silkies), feathers that curl up towards their heads (frizzles), and even a combination of both these features (sizzles). 

A Black Bearded Silkie Bantam Hen

Hobby chickens have a wide variety of combs. Some of their combs look like popcorn, pebbles, spike balls, or even a king’s crown. Sultans are a breed of chicken with the most of these characteristics. They are a small white bird with a “V” shaped comb, top knot, vulture hocks (feathers that extend down from the thigh), feathered feet, and an extra toe. Phoenix chickens are another impressive breed. They come in vivid colors and have tail feathers that never stop growing. 

This Black Sumatra Rooster has a tail similar to a Phoenix, however his will stop growing.

The largest of the chicken breeds include the Cochin, Brahma, and Jersey Giant. The smallest of the chicken breeds are known as Bantams.  They’re essentially the toy dogs of the chicken world who only grow to be half or less the size of a normal chicken. The smallest of the bantams include Serama Bantams, Sebright Bantams, and Game Bantams. 

A Dark Brahma Hen perched in a flower tree
(Photo by Carissa Gerwig)
A Golden Laced Sebright Bantam Rooster showing off to the ladies

Proper housing is a necessity when raising chickens. Chicken houses and runs need to be predator-proof which means unable to be dug into, squeezed into, climbed into, or easily broken into. It should also protect from weather such as snow, rain, and strong wind. The coop should be cleaned out regularly. Lastly, housing should have adequate space per bird (2 feet minimum inside the coop) and enough perch space for all the birds to perch comfortably. Chickens should be given more space if they don’t have access to free-range or a large run. When chickens are too crowded it can lead to cannibalism and health issues.

The flock is all perched up and ready to go to bed.

What a chicken eats depends on what it is used for. Broiler chickens are fed a high protein diet to help them grow fast. While laying hens need extra calcium to help them produce eggs. Laying feed and meat bird feed can be found in most farm stores. Chickens also need grit, especially if they don’t free range. Grit is a rough ground substance that helps aid in digestion and keeps a chicken’s crop healthy. With proper housing and nutrition, your chickens can live their lives happily. 

Some hens enjoy a watermelon slice as a snack on a hot summer day.
(Photo by Carissa Gerwig)

When it comes to showing chickens the Standard of Perfection is your best friend. The Standard of Perfection is a book containing all the recognized chicken breeds in the American Poultry Association and American Bantam Association. The book outlines nearly everything about the breed from the number of points on the crest to what angle the tail should be held. At some shows, the birds are brought up to a table and examined there. Other times, the birds are kept in their cage and the judge comes to them. At the show, chickens are divided into classes. In the large fowl category, chickens are divided up based on where they originated. While in the bantam category, they are divided up based on crest type. In each class, a reserve champion and grand champion are picked. Then all the reserve champions and grand champions are pooled together and the grand champion overall is picked. Judges judge based on the book, but personal preference can also play a role in their judging. To do well in a chicken show, your bird should follow the standard of perfection and be in good condition, meaning healthy and no feather damage. Taking good care of your chickens and knowing the Standard of Perfection is the key to success when showing poultry.

A Grey Japanese Bantam Hen poses with her Grand Champion Bantam and Overall Grand Champion trophies.

Further Information:

This website is loaded with information and allows you to read, talk, and ask questions about chickens from experienced poultry owners: 
https://www.backyardchickens.com/

This website contains information regarding show poultry: 
https://www.poultryshowcentral.com/

Baa Baa Black Sheep

I would like to thank Randall Parkin for being our guest blogger this month. The Parkin’s have been clients of Winterset Veterinary Center for a number of years and she graciously consented to helping me with our sheep blog. I hope you enjoy her pictures and words as much as I did. I have really learned a lot from the guest bloggers I had this year.

~ Dr. Lonna Nielsen

In 2003 we bought a farmstead complete with house, pastures, and a barn on 10 acres in Madison County. For the next Mother’s Day, my husband gave me a gift certificate for 2 sheep and a llama. At the Iowa State Fair that year, I met a Lincoln Longwool breeder, and was hooked. In September, we drove to their farm, and I picked out a Natural Lincoln (white) ewe and a Colored Lincoln (black/grey) ewe. On the way out of the sheep shed, another ewe put her front feet on a fence rail and demanded I pet her. She was a Corriedale, and I HAD to have her. Corriedales, like Lincolns, are generally friendly. I had found three sheep and no llama.

The llama was supposed to provide protection for the sheep, but we acquired three miniature horses instead, who performed well and were much more fun.

Most sheep producers in Iowa raise sheep for meat, or sheep to sell to 4-H and FFA youth for livestock projects. As a long-time knitter and very beginning spinner, I wanted the sheep for their wool. Most producers don’t want to deal with the wool, which only brings pennies per pound.

In contrast, my little spinning flock grew wool that when processed into yarn or sold as doll hair sold for $40 per pound. Even raw fleeces could bring $5-7 per pound. One of the main differences was that I kept the wool cleaner while the sheep grew it, kept it organized when it was shorn and removed the icky parts before the fleeces were packed in bags.

Fleece

Lincoln sheep originated in Lincolnshire, England. I first chose Lincoln Longwool sheep because they were a people-oriented breed, and looked really cool. With wool that grows about an inch a month, I sheared them twice a year, in contrast to most breeds who are shorn once a year. Lincoln wool is lustrous and grows in curls – I found a market for the white wool in artists who make those fabulous Santa Claus figures with long white hair and beards. I washed that wool by hand and sold it to a doll hair wholesaler.

Lincoln Wool

I named my first Lincolns Victoria (the white one) and Jasmine (the colored one).

Corriedale sheep are a Merino/Lincoln cross that originated in New Zealand and Australia. (Merino, or Spanish Merino, are believed to have originated in Spain, and produce a very fine wool.) My Corriedale ewe quickly became my favorite, and I named her Corinna. Corriedale wool became a favorite for spinning, and produced yarn that was comfortable even against bare skin. Corinna and I would sometimes just hang out watching the other sheep. I would sit on the barn threshold, and she would stand beside me and lean into me.

Corinna

We ended up breeding our ewes by taking them to the farm where we got them, then the next year purchased a Lincoln ram from them. I named him Duke – since our address was Earlham, he was thus the “Duke of Earlham”.

Our first crops of lambs were born in January and February, which is common in Iowa sheep operations. Lambs sold for 4-H or FFA projects need to be of a certain size early in the project year. Winter is a miserable time of year to be traipsing up to the barn to monitor lambing, so I finally started breeding my ewes in November so they would lamb in a much more pleasant April!

Because our ram was a Lincoln, some of our lambs were Lincoln/Corriedale crossbreds, and they also produced really nice wool. It had some of the luster of Lincoln, and some of the characteristics of Corriedale wool – a finer wool, and the desirable crimp.

I started to spin on a wheel after I got the sheep, and though my wool crop got pretty out of hand after my flock became larger, I did have a great time making yarn to sell.

I was much more a dabbler in the business, though I know several women in Iowa who have made it a profitable endeavor. It didn’t take long to decide to send my wool to be processed into a form that was ready to spin, but I washed and carded my first few fleeces by hand. Victoria’s first fleece became a wonderful knitted afghan that I swear is like wearing a heating pad.

Eventually, I purchased a few Jacob sheep, and then some Babydoll Southdown. Jacob are an ancient breed with four horns and multicolored fleeces. Babydolls are a small version of the Southdown sheep, which originated in England.

There’s a fabulous web site that covers the topic of sheep beautifully: www.sheep101.info. According to information on that site, I learned there are over 1,000 breeds of sheep worldwide, and over 60 breeds here in the US.

We now live in Winterset, and our sheep days are in the past, but we are glad we got to experience raising sheep. My mom raised sheep when I was growing up, and I have always loved them, especially lambs. Having my own flock was a way to connect to my childhood.

Big Event in September

Allow me to share another milestone in our household. Our son got married this past weekend at a resort in Wisconsin. The weather was perfect and venue accommodating for all family and friends that were able to attend. We were able to spend some quality time with our children and grand-daughter.

JD and Alison will continue to live in the Chicago area once they return from their honeymoon. The ceremony was at 1:00 and the reception started at 5:00 so they could do pictures between. It has been a long time since I was at a wedding where the groom did not see his bride prior to her walking down the aisle. It was emotional for JD (or the sun was in his eyes), but I did see him tearing up. As with all weddings, you hope and pray that these young couples are able to weather the storms that come their way. Marriage is hard but if they commit to working as hard on their marriage as we work at our jobs and other relationships the rewards are endless. My parents have been married next month for 64 years, Dan and I celebrated 37 years in June, so I have high hopes that this marriage will carry on the tradition of until death do us part. Congratulations JD and Alison. We love you both and are excited for you as you begin this journey together.

I was excited that my parents were able to drive from Iowa to Wisconsin to attend the wedding and festivities. They are pictured with our immediate family in this photo. It is exciting that we have 4 generations with the addition of our grand-daughter, July. It is fun to watch my mom in her great-grandma role enjoying the smiles and laughter of July. I think every parent and grandparent enjoys watching others oooh and aaah over their children or grandchildren. It was amazing how many people wanted to hold July that were new acquaintances. Some people are baby crazy even if they get spit up on. Our daughter and her husband have been great about socializing July so she has no reservations with new faces. I am prejudice as most grandparents are, but July is pretty cute and special!

I enjoyed having all 3 of our daughters in the wedding as bridesmaids. Had to capture this moment since that will never happen again. They did not think it was a big deal. As their mom, I felt differently. Alison is now our daughter as well and we all love and adore her. Many fun years ahead for our family as we gain numbers by marriage and births!

We do not have any additional milestones planned for this year. I think the birth of a grandchild and the marriage of our son to his sweetheart Alison is enough excitement for one year. Thank you for letting me share these events with you as they happen. Happy Fall!

Do You Know Pigs?

Continuing on with our blog series on other species of animals and their unique needs, Dr. Jim Pottebaum wrote this article about Micro-pigs. Dr. Jim has been a large and small animal practitioner in Winterset since 1988. He has had many clients from around the state seek out his veterinary services for micro-pigs. Thank you Dr. Jim for your blog this month.

Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the nation, raising 1/3 of all pigs nationally. 48 million were raised in 2018, and $40.8 billion dollars in revenue for Iowa producers last year. 

Now, what about pigs for pets?? Mini, Micro, pocket, or teacup pigs have surged in popularity in the last few years. Micro pigs are cute, intelligent, affectionate, and easy to train. They are hardy and mostly disease free. They provide the owner with a connection to a grandparent’s farm or rural life, while living in the city.

What you need to remember is that they are a PIG, not a dog. Some cities have zoning restrictions against farm animals, and will not allow you have pigs within the city limits, even if they are pets. 

It is important to see both parents. Sometimes breeders show pictures at a young age and not full grown. Pigs that grow to big are the most common reason for surrender to animal shelters.

Feeding mini pigs should be easy. They are omnivores and need a balance of protein, fiber, fat, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Pelleted feed is available, and pigs enjoy a variety of veggies and fruits in their diet. They enjoy people food, but be aware this can cause digestive upsets. It is important that they receive pig pellets to ensure vitamin and nutritional requirements are being met. Information on the internet can be misleading about feeding recommendations. Feeding a reduced level each day to keep a pig small may lead to starvation and develop health issues. Each pig should be maintained specifically to its size and needs. 

A book called, “Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs”, is a great resource for anyone that is considering having a pig for a pet.

Pigs can adapt to living indoors or outdoors much like a dog, and are usually tolerant of other pets. They are curious and enjoy an environment to explore, root, and manipulate objects.  Without opportunities to act normally, pigs will become bored and create their own fun in the house like getting into cupboards, bumping or pushing over furniture, etc. Pigs love outdoors with space and obstacles. When outdoors, they need shade from the bright sun. A child’s swimming pool or pig wallow (shallow mud pit) is heaven because it cools them on hot days. They don’t sweat, so water/mud acts as insect repellent, sun screen, and skin conditioner.  Appropriate fencing is important. Pigs are very strong and can uproot or push thru many fences. Fences add protection from predators such coyotes or dogs.

This little pig at the airport was flown its new home!

Spay or neuter your pig early. Intact males can be aggressive. Intact females will be vocal and moody for a period of time every month. Healthy micro-pigs can live at least 6-8 years, and 10 to 12 is not uncommon. Micro-pigs can be very enjoyable and provide years of love and entertaining memories. Call your local veterinarian for advice concerning breeders and care of your micro-pigs. It would be wise to find your veterinarian before getting a micro-pig for a pet since not all veterinarians are willing to see pigs. Pigs do need routine hoof care and sometimes the male’s tusks need to be filed down. It is important to have a veterinarian that is able to do these things for you. If you plan to travel, please consider where they can stay?  Not all boarding facilities are willing to board micro-pigs. These are important things to consider prior to getting a pig for a pet. Micro-pigs offer great companionship and entertainment. They are a special kind of pet that has unique needs.

Have goats, will travel.

I would like to thank Aaron Steele the founder of “Goats on the Go” for his contribution to the Winterset Veterinary Center’s blog. Aaron also began a podcast called Farm Dog recently that our readers may enjoy following as well. You can click on this link and it will take you to Farm Dog.

In 2012 I was at a weird crossroads. My family was enjoying living the rural life on our Story County acreage, but it seemed a bit artificial to live there without being involved in agriculture at least a little bit. It seemed wasteful to mow and care for our 3.5 acres as a giant lawn, but it was still too small to be farmed in the traditional Iowa sense. My wife and I were also raising three young boys who we felt would benefit from having some chores to do (character building, as my dad would say). And finally, my 9-to-5 office job was slowly killing me with boredom and lack of purpose.

So, we did what anyone would do. We bought goats! Six of them, in fact. The plan was to buy them in the spring and sell them in the fall with the hope of quickly recouping our investment and avoiding winter chores and feed purchases. But something happened along the way. We became enthralled with our goats. We wasted a good part of that summer sitting in lawn chairs next to the pasture watching their antics. Even antic-free moments were great therapy, as we found ourselves unwinding while they ate and rested. I loved pretending to be a farmer for a summer, and I started to wonder if I could raise meat goats as more than just a hobby.

That thought kicked into overdrive when we started to run out of pasture for the goats in that drought stricken summer. I’d read that goats would eat weeds and brush, so out of near desperation I enclosed a quarter-acre patch of weeds with portable electric fencing and moved them from their clean grass/alfalfa pasture to the brambles. We were astonished at the results. The weeds simply disappeared! The only evidence that remained of the weed patch was the most fibrous main stems of some of the plants.

Light bulb! What if I could raise more goats without investing in more land by feeding them on other people’s nuisance vegetation? And…what if they would pay me for it? It all sounded too good to be true, but in 2013 we set out to do some demo projects to prove to ourselves that the concept would work. It did. In fact, our little demo projects generated some buzz among the press and the public and the phone began to ring!

Before Goat Grazing and After

In those first few years, Goats On The Go® could only serve the area within about 45 minutes of Ames, but people from all over the U.S. (and beyond) had been reaching out to us wanting to start their own goat grazing businesses where they lived. In 2016 we began building a network of independent goat grazing businesses that all share the Goats On The Go® brand. These affiliates get access to training, support, and a bunch of other benefits as well. We now have 33 of affiliates across the U.S. plus one in Canada and one in Tasmania, Australia. (Shameless plug: Our affiliate serving the Winterset area is looking for a partner to keep up with demand!)

So how does targeted goat grazing work? We used portable electric fencing and a solar powered fence energizer to enclose the goats on concentrations of our customers’ nuisance vegetation. This might be poison ivy, multiflora rose, honeysuckle, wild parsnip, giant ragweed, or a mix of these and others. Sometimes our customers want to eliminate invasive plant species to promote native landscapes, but often they just find the vegetation to be annoying. We’ve worked on residential properties and acreages, parks and trails, golf courses, retired landfills, detention ponds, campuses, farms, and more.

More Before & After Photos:

It’s common for us to put 30 – 40 goats inside an enclosure that is a half-acre to one acre in size. Typically our goats can complete an acre every 4 – 5 days. If a project is 10 acres or larger, we shift into big project mode and use 200 or more goats to pick up the pace.

We’re often asked if we worry about our goats eating poisonous plants. We do, and we’re careful about a few particularly dangerous ones (yew, a common landscaping shrub, is a bad one), but we’re amazed at the goats’ ability to select what’s good for them and avoid what isn’t. And, what’s good for them is usually in abundance on our projects. Some of Iowa’s most common nuisance plants are very nutritious, and goats are the only livestock animals that can make use of them. We rarely have to provide any nutritional supplements other than water and a simple mineral block.

So, is this a good way to raise goats? Yes, but it definitely has its challenges. I couldn’t provide better nutrition for my herd by feeding them hay and conventional Iowa pasture at home. The stuff they get on our projects is ideal goat food. But, it’s really hard work to maintain a mobile operation that changes “pastures” every few days. We have to install our own fencing at each property, and customers typically don’t pay for goats to eat in places where a lawn mower could do the work with less expense. We’re working on steep slopes, in the woods, often around dangerous — or at least very annoying — vegetation.

It’s hard work, and I sometimes think, “I could be sitting in an air conditioned office right now.” But being outside and helping people manage their land without chemical pesticides or machinery is really rewarding. And, of course, can you imagine better coworkers than a herd of goats?

Goats On The Go® provides portable, sustainable weed and brush control
By Aaron Steele, Goats On The Go® Founder

Mini Silky Goats

I would like to thank Grace Davidson for her contribution to Winterset Veterinary Center’s blog. Grace has been a long time client of ours and we are so glad she was willing to share her Mini Silkies with us.

It is love at first sight when meeting a Miniature Silky Fainting goat. The mini silkies sweet disposition and beautiful soft hair makes them great for showing and/or pets.

I got my first mini silkies from a breeder in Kansas in 2008. I would add a few more with each passing year and eventually started raising and showing them locally. I now travel to 2-3 shows a year and have been all over the Midwest showing and even into Texas and Virginia. I use natural breeding, but many have gone to AI which means artificial insemination.

Good quality goat feed is needed along with goat minerals, baking soda (to prevent bloat), a good grass/alfalfa hay mixture, and clean fresh water daily. Required immunizations are CD/T and a preventative external and internal parasite program. Trimming hooves is an important procedure to prevent joint issues. Your veterinarian can assist you with other health needs as things arise.

Their long silky hair hangs straight from the body in a range of colors and patterns. The goal is to have a full long skirt, long chest and neck hair, full beard, muff on the face and bangs. Bucks (male goats) are more likely to have bangs and have thicker, fuller coats than the does (female goats) are. There are varying degrees of coat and coat placement. They can be snowy white, raven black, shades of brown, or a combination of these colors. The height limit for a doe is 23.5 inches at the withers and the male is 25 inches. The male weighs between 60-80 lbs and the female 50-70 lbs. Their smaller size makes them more manageable to work with. The lifespan is usually 10-15 years. The oldest buck I have is 9 years. His name is Breeze, and he is retired now. He probably misses the life of a show goat. He had many friends at the shows.

Their coats need to be kept clean and free of tangles and burrs. I use a good human shampoo and conditioner to bathe them the day before I travel to a show. I then bathe them again at the show. We have even been known to offer an oil treatment if a goat’s coat is dry or course. How a coat is cared for depends on the color of hair and type of coat the show goats have.

The goats are judged on conformation, body condition, and length, evenness, and silkiness of coat. The four main divisions are Junior Does, Junior Bucks, Senior Does, and Senior Bucks. Each division are further divided into different classes. If you get 1st or 2nd place in your class, you qualify to return to the ring and a Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion are selected from the division. When all 4 Grand Champions are named, the judge will choose 1 Best in Show. If a goat has won 3 Grand Champion ribbons, it gets a title of Master Champion. I had my first home bred goat earn that title about 4 years ago. Through selective breeding the Silkies have developed better conformation and coats, so the competition is tough.

Fainting goats do not actually faint. There is no pain involved. Some will continue to chew their cud during the spell and after a few seconds their muscles relax, and they jump up like nothing ever happened. This condition is called Myotonia Congenita. This is a genetic mutation. The muscle fibers stiffen for 5-30 seconds and the goats collapse. If the goats are startled or even excited about treats or mealtime these spells can occur.  Myotonia Congenita can be found in other species of animals as well like horses, dogs, and even humans.

September 11-12, 2021, at the Madison County Fairgrounds, we will be holding the Covered Bridge Silky Show in Winterset, Iowa. All are welcome to come and see some of these lovely goats up close. The show draws breeders and goat owners with their Silky Fainting Goats from several states.

If you are looking for more information about these special creatures, please use the website www.msfgaregistry.org.  The Miniature Silky Fainting Goat Association is always looking for more goat fans!  Come check out our show and see for yourself if it is LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

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