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Will eating a lot of shrubs cause a drop in milk production?

Annie Hope

Joined: Mar 05, 2012
Posts: 58

Both our goats have suddenly dropped milk production to almost nothing in the last few days.

It is not their water. I have taken out a bucket of fresh rainwater, and they looked at it as if to say "is that all, why would we want that?".

The main thing that has changed is that the last week or so I have been chopped the hedge bushes a few branches at a time and giving it to them. It is making them come running for food at milking time, rather than having to drag them from the back of the farm with baby in arms. But I have noticed that it is giving them and some of their kids runner stool, and I am wondering if it could also be causing a drop in milk production.

They choose to eat the bushes though, and they are still have their normal diet - which is open grazing.

The other option is that they have eaten out all of the high protein undergrowth clover etc. in their paddocks, and just have the "gone to seed" grass stems. (I don't supplement their feed at all, and we are nearing the end of a dryish summer in New Zealand).

laura davis

Joined: Jan 21, 2013
Posts: 2
Location: N. Charleston
What kind of hedge bush is it? There may be something deficient in their diet they are trying to supplement. I have found often that as I introduce other plant species into where my goats graze, some of what I thought were their favorites become untouched. It wasn't that that was their favorite plant... It was just their only option. I would be pretty concerned about the stool issue... thats not abnormal when there is a drastic change in diet, but lasting more than a couple of days could mean serious health risk. Check out this chart at the link below. I did not realize that azaleas were so toxic to goats. Most goats will readily eat them, unlike nightshades, which they seem to instinctively know are poisonous. The azalea bushes are all over my property... except where the goats graze. Fortunately I did a great deal of research on this subject before we got goats. I posted an ad on CL and gave away about 80 bushes to clear some of the land. They did get out a couple times, and I'm pretty sure they ingested some of the azaleas. Symptoms were disorientation, bloat, head pressing... it was pretty scary. The second link is about azalea toxicity in goats. If this is what your feeding them, it can be fatal. The second link will be helpful for quick reference if you think this is what you are dealing with. Good Luck!

Annie Hope

Joined: Mar 05, 2012
Posts: 58

A week on - I have asked a few people to identify the bushes and noone can (they may be New Zealand natives), but most of them are shiny-leaved ever-greens which I said to be usually dangerous, so I have kept them away for almost a week now. We noticed that one old doe in particular looks very thin in the ribs and back-bone, though she always has a fat stomach. We have been tethering them round the yard and orchard where there is lush overgrowth, and I have noticed for the last few days her stool is still lose to soft and bright green. Am wondering about coccidosis, but I have seen no blood. We are only getting a tablespoon or so out of her, and about a cup morning and evening from the younger one - the younger one seems to be increasing production a bit.

I have also done the following:
- Given them fennel and fenugreek seeds. Both ate it eagerly for a few days, and then only the young greedy one
- Given them powdered kelp extract. Only the old doe at it, but she ate HEAPS for a few days and then no much now
- Given them pumpkin seeds. The old doe took one mouthful, then refused any more. The young greedy one will eat more. (Neither will eat raw pumpkin)

The older one was our best milker, so we may have taken more out of her in general. They have raised five kids between them, and then two calves (milking twice a day, then dropped back to once a day) and kept us in milk and some cheese. We gave them some corn when pregnant to keep them tame, but for the past few months they have only had pasture feeding.
Alice Kaspar

Joined: Jan 19, 2011
Posts: 70
Any time you make a large change in their daily diet, you'll see a reduction. It is much better to introduce things slowly to avoid gastric distress and reduced milk.
Erika May

Joined: Feb 18, 2013
Posts: 14
Sheep person here, but our animals have similar digestive tracts! Can't say for sure what would cause a drop in production since goats arn't my specialty, but for *any* mammal if they are being heavily milked they will loose alot of weight and may not be getting enough fat/calories/protein/ect. from just the grass/shrubbery at the end of a dry summer and have used up all the fat reserves on their bodies. If you are milking them dry you probably need to supplement their feed just a little. Also, what your animal eats comes out in milk so if you are feeding goats a "dangerous" bush, while it may not harm them, those "dangerous" chemicals may come out in the milk to either your goat kids or your family to drink. I would not recommend being adventurous with feeding your lactating animals.

One awesome trick I learned for stomach problems is to pour some raw apple cider vinagar into their water. I go a little overboard and pour 1/4 cup into a couple gallons. It makes the water taste really good to some animals: my pig broke through the sheep pen just to steal some! It might encourage your goats to drink a little more water. Make sure the vinegar has some of the mother still in it, but it will help the rumen if its having trouble. If you put enough in the water it will make the water look a little funky (I used some the other day and the water got a bunch of weird bubbles, but it was totally fresh and clean water). I assume it was the yeast.

My ram had scours the day before i took a trip so i flushed him with a little oil and vinegar (oil *just in case* it was bloat. I was going on a trip for 5 days and didn't want to come back to a dead ram!) and i guess the next day he was doing better. But if you look at his horns theres a ring from when he was feeling sick. Just try the cider vinegar in water as a digestive aid. Good luck.
Annie Hope

Joined: Mar 05, 2012
Posts: 58

Thanks for this suggestion. I hear all about raw AVC on websites, but have not been able to source the raw stuff in New Zealand. I do, however, have Kombucha that my husband kept forgetting to drink, and it turned VERY vinegary. I am wondering if this would have similar benefits.

I have not wormed the animals since I got the two does 8 months ago, and checking their eyelids, they do seem rather pale, so I have ordered a herbal drench. I did not think it would be an issue, as they are being rotated round a number of overgrown paddocks. The only kid out of 5 that looks bad is the one we got at 10 days to be our breeding buck. I am a little confused about the worm life-cycle. Do the eggs have to hatch outside the body and be eaten by the goats for infestation to continue, or can they hatch and multiply inside the goat?
Alice Kaspar

Joined: Jan 19, 2011
Posts: 70
Depends on the worm. Just a precaution... the herbal goat dewormers work well AFTER you have cleared them as much as possible with a conventional dewormer. Do not rely on them to solve the problem by themselves.

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