A few weeks ago I noticed that my goat buck’s front legs were a little scabby and bleeding in places. Visiting family members helped us to lay him down to take a closer look and we debated the possible causes. Naturally parasites – lice and mites – were considered. However it was only the front legs affected on the buck and neither the doe nor any of the sheep – who all inhabit the same environment – had similar symptoms.
Unfortunately after the above photos were taken, his legs actually got worse and were actively bleeding (and I forgot to take photos).
However my afore-mentioned wonderful neighbor visited when the symptoms were at their worst, and the buck sidled up to us for attention. I asked her what she thought and she immediately said “rain rot”. I was familiar with the term when it comes to horses but had never considered it for the goat! However on doing some research online, HWA and I learned that goats are indeed susceptible. One source even suggested a possible cause: copper deficiency. That made a lot of sense because…….it turns out that keeping goats and sheep together is a challenge. Goats require a much higher copper content in their diet and a lack of copper can lead to difficulties maintaining a pregnancy. Meanwhile, sheep can miscarry if the copper content of their diet is too high.
I have worked around this problem by providing loose sheep minerals in an area accessible to all of them, and during breeding season, taking the goat doe aside each evening to give her some grain formulated for goats. I did not provide the same grain to the buck because he didn’t need it to maintain a pregnancy and is a bully. Had I set the grain down for both of them, he would have hogged it.
Having determined a possible cause, the solution turned out to be fairly simple: make sure the buck has access to goat minerals daily. For the past couple of weeks I have offered him a bowl of goat minerals once each day, from which he can eat until he loses interest and moves away. I did not expect to notice instant improvement so was surprised by how quickly his legs started to clear up. Already they are no longer bleeding and raw and I think the hair may even be starting to regrow already. It will take some time before they are completely healed, but I do believe we are on the right path.
I maintain that as livestock go, sheep and goats are pretty easy to raise. But it doesn’t mean they don’t throw a few curve balls here and there. I’m sure there will always be something new to learn but hopefully each new thing we learn leaves us just a little bit wiser.