It's no secret that I love my goats.
Once upon a time, I'd never have dreamed that “goats” would be my favorite animals, but I fell in love with them the day we went to pick up our first 2: a lactating doe and a 5-month-old doeling.
As our herd has grown, my love and appreciation for the funny, curious creatures have grown too.
I choose to keep my goat herd in good health by using herbs and other methods. One of the wonders of herbs is their versatility. I can use what I have on hand to mix many different formulas and treat many different issues.
This affects me, too, since I avoid putting toxins and chemicals in my own body, and this way I don't even have to worry about the milk withdrawal time that would be necessary after any injections.
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and Natural Goat Care both contain a wealth of information. Please note that neither author lives in the United States. There may be differences in common names for herbs, climate, or diseases. Conduct your own further research if necessary.
Fir Meadows LLC is run by a Master Herbalist — the author of The Accessible Pet, Equine, and Livestock Herbal. She formulates and sells a wide variety of herbal mixes and tinctures that she also uses with her own LaMancha herd on a regular basis.
Where I Buy My Herbs
I buy most of my herbs from Frontier Herbs.
My Herbal Veterinary Medicine Cabinet
I store all of my herbs in an old cooler in the garage — where it's cool, dark, and dry. Additionally, I usually keep them in their original packaging and seal them well to preserve their freshness and potency. However, for herbs I use on a regular basis, or herbs I keep in the barn for any emergencies, I transfer to jars and keep in a cabinet in the milk room.
In addition to my herbs, I also have a few tinctures (Immune Support and Ow-Eze), a bottle of VetRx (a natural blend of oils used to treat minor respiratory issues and external parasites), and garlic, which I give to the goats regularly.
Finally, the last 2 items in my medicine cabinet are actually herbal mixes — an herbal dewormer and the GI Soother.
13 Ways I Use Herbs To Maintain A Healthy Goat Herd
Okay, what do I use the herbs for exactly? How do I use them? Do they really work?
#1 — Herbal Dewormer
While I'm sure these herbs have other benefits as well, their main use is to help make the goat an undesirable and unsuitable host for parasites. I make my own dewormer according to this recipe but it is also available for purchase.
Thanks to this, my goats have nice coats, pink eyelids, and not-too-high egg counts in their fecal tests!
#2 — GI Soother
This mix is specially formulated to fight coccidia and barberpole worm, 2 specific parasites.
It also heals scouring (diarrhea), and I use it as coccidiosis prevention for my goat kids. This year I also gave it to one of my does struggling to digest all the new spring growth.
#3 — Garlic
I am a firm believer in the benefits of garlic!
I give my goats one clove a day to ward off mastitis, keep respiratory illness at bay during the winter, repel ticks in the summer, and prevent parasites. At the first sign of illness, or when a goat gets injured or has an open sore, I increase the dosage to 1 clove per 50 pounds of body weight.
This year, one buckling couldn't heal his scur — horn tissue that grows back after disbudding — properly. He was a bottle baby so I made him some garlic “tea” to add to his bottle, along with echinacea and goldenseal to prevent infection and tetanus. I monitored his temperature and kept an eye on him, and he healed up just fine.
#4 — Red Raspberry Leaf
I have a huge bag of this — you may have noticed! This is because it was on sale when I bought it, but that's okay since I'll definitely use it.
Red raspberry leaf promotes female health in goats just like it does in humans. I give it to my girls during pregnancy, gradually increasing the dose as their due date approaches and continuing the dose for a few weeks after birth.
#5 — Comfrey
This is a great herb to support bone healing after a fracture or break. Thankfully, I've not had to use it in this manner yet!
#6 — Cayenne
This is one of my favorites because it has so many uses. It's an ingredient in the herbal dewormer above, it contains many B vitamins, has great antiseptic properties, and stops blood flow externally (in the case of a wound) as well as internally (in the case of hemorrhaging).
It also invigorates weak animals enough to give me time to address the real issue. We had a few rough kiddings this year, and one of our bucklings aspirated on birth fluid. We cleared his lungs but his temperature kept dropping and he was still fading fast. I gave him a pinch of cayenne and firmly believe that it gave us enough time to get him into the house and warm him up. He pulled through and is thriving!
If you purchase cayenne to be used medicinally, make sure it is at least 40,000 heat units. I didn't know this when I bought mine, so I have only 35,000 HU right now, but at least I know for next time.
#7 — Lobelia Inflata
This is a carrier herb — which means it is great to add to any herbal mix or give in conjunction with anything else. Think of it as a guide helping all the other herbs to get where they need to be so they can start working.
It especially works with mullein to help heal glandular issues.
I've not yet have a goat with mastitis, but if that ever happens, I will treat it with lobelia, mullein, and garlic.
#8 — Rosehips
Did you know that rosehips are the best plant-derived source of Vitamin C?
#9 — Marshmallow Root
This can be used to soothe an irritated stomach, stop scouring (diarrhea), and reduce swelling. It's not something I've had to use yet, but it's good to have on hand.
#10 — Ow-Eze Tincture
As the name suggests, this tincture is used as a natural pain reliever. I give it to the babies before disbudding, to the bucklings before wethering, and whenever a goat is in pain.
#11 — Immune Support Tincture
This tincture is also self-explanatory. I find it easier to give immune-boosting dry herbs instead of a liquid drench, so I don't use this very often, but it's nice to have around.
#12 — Cayenne Tincture
Although this tincture has the same benefits as the powder, it is better in emergencies because it is more concentrated and works more quickly.
#13 — VetRX
This is a blend of oils and herbs used for respiratory issues, ear mites, and lice or skin mites.
I've used it on goats with runny noses by squeezing a few drops into each nostril. For ear mites, drop a little into each ear. For lice or skin mites, apply a line down the spine.
How To Administer Herbs
Personally, the easiest way to dose my goats with herbs is to add it to their grain at feeding time. I always offer them a small sample of the herb or mix in my hand to see if they'll eat it, and if they don't turn up their noses, I top-dress their feed with whatever I need to give them.
Another popular method is to make “dosage balls” out of the herbs and molasses or peanut butter. This works, but it is very time-consuming and messy.
If they won't voluntarily eat the herb(s) with their grain, I mix the dose with a bit of olive oil and Thorvin kelp and mix that into their grain. This is how I give them their herbal dewormer every week.
If I need to treat the entire herd with the same thing, I make an infusion of the herbs by steeping the doses in just-boiling water, steeping for at least 15 minutes, straining the herbs, and adding the infusion to their water buckets.
Sometimes, despite all of these methods, it's still a battle to get a goat to take herbs. That's when I resort to drenching. To drench, mix the dose with water, put it in a syringe or drenching gun, hold the goat's head, and squirt into their mouth. Make sure to get it as far back in their mouth as possible so they will swallow.
Of course, this is the only way to administer a tincture. It's not my favorite method but sometimes it has to be done. I know others who prefer to drench, every time, so it's all a matter of what works best for you.
Vets Are Needed, Too!
I do not believe that using herbs and natural remedies excludes establishing a good relationship with your veterinary clinic, OR using a conventional treatment or medicine if absolutely necessary.
I have a great veterinary clinic in my area and I'm very thankful to know that they are there, if and when I need them. And, honestly, I have needed them in the past.
If you establish a good relationship with your vet, you may get the chance to share how a natural treatment has worked for you. My vet office is aware that I prefer to use natural treatments with my animals, and while they can't advise me on how to use them, they listen to what and what hasn't been working for me.
In fact, once one of our goats knocked off her horn prematurely after banding, while the vet was there. I grabbed cayenne powder and poured it on her head while the vet held a gauze over it and applied pressure until it stopped bleeding. The vet said she'd never heard of using cayenne to stop bleeding, and that she was impressed by how quickly it worked!
I go to the doctor when I need it, and I call the vet when my animals need it too. But, just as I do a detox cleanse after finishing a course of prescribed medication, I do something similar for my animals when they're on the mend after using veterinary care.
If you have animals, do you use herbs and natural alternatives to keep them healthy?
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