As as a child or young married adult I never dreamed I would have a backyard that was a home for Nubian goats. After acquiring chickens, rabbits and ducks, I thought why not expand and get a few milk does. They are not only a total joy to watch from my kitchen window, but they were great for my kids, a healthier choice of dairy products and quit frankly a great little companion. After raising goats for over 20 years there are a few things I would not be without for my dear little hairy friends. While it is essential for goats to have great food and roughage in their diet such as twigs, branches and bark that they would naturally get in the wild (ours get multiple tree clippings from the orchard) I have always felt it is important to have a few herbs on hand. Some for general health and some for those unexpected emergencies.
Top on the list would have to be ‘Slippery Elm’. Slippery Elm has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments for animals and even humans. It coats the goats fragile digestive tract and acts as a dual purpose herb treating both diarrhea and constipation. Most goats will eat it willingly, but others may need a little help from a friend! 2 tsp is the average dose for adults and 1 tsp for kids (that would be goat kids!). Sprinkle over their daily ration or you can dilute it with water and use a syringe to dispense to the back of the goats tongue until she has swallowed the entire dose. Tip: Once you have diluted the slippery elm it will set up quickly, so mix just before dispensing.
Garlic would be also be a must have for my goats. Garlic is a natural wormer, not to mention all of its health benefits. Pure garlic powder is fine, but fresh garlic is the best. It’s so much more potent and beneficial than a dry form. Feed them the peels and all. You will notice that at times goats will gobble the cloves up and other times they turn their noses up! They know what they need. I toss a clove in their grain at milking time (once a day), this way the ‘garlic’ taste won’t come out in the milk because it have 12 hours to mellow before the next milking. It has been used for clearing up blood in the milk, by cleansing the blood stream, treating fevers, increasing fertility, it’s an antibacterial, anti-fungal and is excellent for diseases of the nose, throat and intestine. Crushed garlic disinfects sores and wounds along with parasitical infections when used externally as a poultice. Garlic is almost like a heal-all.
Raspberry leaves, the mother herb. Goats love raspberry leaves! I grow a big row of raspberries right near the barn just for my goats (plus a little nibble of fresh berries for us). Raspberry leaves should be fed to female goats just before, during and right after pregnancy while increasing the amount (up to two handfuls) of leaves the second half of pregnancy. Raspberry leaves are important to the female reproduction organs. They are cleansing and improve the conditions during pregnancy, ensure healthy birthing and the ex-spell of afterbirth. During birth, and to bring down delayed afterbirth, make a strong brew of two handfuls of leaves to one pint water, with two spoonfuls of honey. Give a cupful of the brew frequently. I have never seen a goat pass up raspberry leaves, but be sure they are disease free!
Marshmallow Root is not near as important as the other three herbs above, but it is useful for increasing milk production. 1 Tablespoon mixed in the girls grain at milking time can increase your production by 10%.
Olive Leaf is another great herb to have on hand because of its antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Wood Sage is useful to treat mastitis. Two handfuls of raw wood sage feed daily to treat. Massaging the udder will also help.
Comfrey (known at knitbone) was a mainstay for one of my goats years ago. Every time after birthing, she would develop a lame leg. She always had four kids. We feed her fresh comfrey leaves. Once she started to walk with ease she would no longer eat the comfrey. Comfrey Root is stronger and keeps well through the winter months while the comfrey plant goes dormant. Another good herb to grow and have on hand!
An ounce of prevention…..Grow an herb garden
Some goats are just stubborn…Ha, a goat stubborn, who ever heard of such a thing? Getting them to eat certain herbs can just seem impossible, but when goats are raised up eating a variety of herbs while they are young they have a tendency to enjoy them as adults. Hum, kinda like humans! I have always tossed herbs that have been trimmed from the herb beds such as thyme,
comfrey, marjoram, sage, germander and even lavender. Goats are very intelligent creatures. When left out in the fields they will find herbs or plants that their bodies needs and graze. When I toss herbs into their pin, it is interesting to watch each of them devour certain herbs at times and then totally leave that same herb alone the next.