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Carrie Eastman on holistic management practices for goats

The Energetic Goat

In her book The Energetic Goat, author Carrie Eastman provides step-by-step instruction on the basic techniques of holistic management of your goats. She discusses natural, noninvasive, and nontoxic methods of treating your animals and preventing diseases.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of The Energetic Goat, discussing the holistic transition process month by month, including information about diet, parasites and diseases. Additionally, the video below features Eastman herself discussing the topic to further depth. Follow along with your own copy of The Energetic Goat – page numbers noted by section – or in the excerpt below.

From Chapter 6 of The Energetic Goat: Making the Transition to Holistic

Many of you reading this book plan to use these techniques to switch your goat herd over to more holistic management practices. There is a right way and a wrong way to make the switch. If you make a cold-turkey switch to entirely holistic methods overnight, you may be risking a sick or dead goat. Just as you would allow a goat time to adjust to a new climate or feed, you must allow time for the body to adjust to the new program. After going through this transition process many times, both with my own and with clients’ goats, I’ve come up with a somewhat standardized approach. Before making drastic changes to your goat’s management program, it’s always a good idea to talk to a trusted health professional.

Step 1: The First Month

Video: 1:00 – 4:26; Book: pg. 58

This first step assumes the goats have been getting the typical commercial grain mix. These mixes usually contain preservatives, flavorings, unusable minerals, by-products, meals, mineral oil, lots of sugar, and other ingredients that lead to health challenges such as liver toxicity, kidney stress, changes to DNA, abscesses, hair loss, and many other symptoms. To begin making the transition, over the course of a couple weeks, I start cutting the commercial grain mix with more natural substitutes. There are almost as many ways to mix and match grains as there are goat folks. To some extent your choices depend on your hay and browse situation as well as the season. Possible substitutes include oats, non-GMO corn, barley, organic black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS), and non-GMO alfalfa hay or pellets. Keep the total amount of concentrates fed equal by weight to the amount of the commercial mix, and only start cutting back the total weight fed after the transition to natural substitutes is complete and the goats have been eating their new food for a couple weeks. I use a good prebiotic/probiotic during this process.

Generally speaking, focus on high-fat ingredients for healthy weight and grains for extra energy. Remember, grains are for energy, fats are for weight gain, and alfalfa and soy are muscle/topline builders and protein boosters, so consider your feeding goals when formulating. Peas are another good protein source. In general, the less grain you can feed while still maintaining weight, growth rates, and milk yield, the better. The best feed for goats is still what nature intended, a varied browse diet on healthy soils.

Some thoughts to consider when making your personal mix:
• In Eastern medicine, foods are considered to either cool or warm the body. I am not talking about a temperature you can measure with a thermometer. This warming or cooling is energetic and part of the overall energetic balance of the body. Oats are a warming grain and barley cooling, so you may want to switch off depending on the time of year.

• Alfalfa or alfalfa pellets will be high calcium and high protein, and I consider alfalfa more of a supplement than a feed in general (I know many dairy folks consider alfalfa a main part of the diet, so my perspective is a bit different). I feel there are usually ways to support dairy goats without alfalfa. When in doubt, muscle test what works best for your herd.

• Non-GMO corn is a fantastic grain, if you can find it. Corn is very warming and very high calorie. Always use whole corn, as cracked or flaked corn can be at risk for mold unless dried very carefully. My experience has been that few mills take the care necessary to properly dry corn and resort to (toxic) mold inhibitors as a less expensive solution.

• The simplest recipe is using corn/oats/barley in equal amounts by weight, then add BOSS and alfalfa as needed to maintain body condition and milk production.

BOSS is good for laying down body fat. Start with a handful of organic BOSS* and evaluate your goats’ body condition. (*The herbicide glyphosate was approved as a desiccant for sunflowers, oats, and barley, Use only organic, or muscle test for glyphosate residue.) Increase as needed until body fat is correct. In general, wild goats will not have much fat in their diet, so I keep this in mind when adding BOSS. If you are not familiar with how to evaluate body condition, a multitude of videos, pictures, and articles on the internet explain how to score body condition in dairy and meat goats. There is a difference between scoring the two categories, so know which body type your goat is before evaluating. In general, body condition scoring evaluates both fat and muscle cover. It takes about six weeks to transition between score numbers. The score ranges from 1 to 5, with 1 being emaciated and 5 being overconditioned. Numbers of 3 and 4 are in the healthy range. Condition is evaluated by feeling the ribs, the spine, the sternum, and the transverse processes over the loins. If you are not familiar with scoring, I suggest doing some internet research.

I add non-GMO alfalfa and/or non-GMO whole extruded soy if muscle is lacking. The alfalfa rule of thumb in my barn is never go above 10 percent by weight of the entire daily browse/ hay ration. If I have to go higher than that, something is wrong somewhere else in my feeding or supplement program.

Any of these suggestions for simple grains and alfalfa assume that you are feeding a high-quality vitamin mineral supplement. Do not assume a simple grain blend will meet all your goats’ nutritional needs. The vitamin and mineral content of any feed depends on the health of the soil it is grown in, and soils vary widely. Many soils are mineral depleted.

Many different rules of thumb have been published on how much grain to feed and how to balance a ration. A simple internet search will locate many options. Keep in mind that all the ration balance calculators depend on averages and results of feeding studies, and in my opinion there is just no way to truly represent every goat and every feed. Hay will vary from bale to bale and batch to batch. Grain will vary depending on where in the field it was grown. My experience is that the quality of hay and browse, the mineral content and quality of grain, the needs of the goat, the breed of the goat, and individual goat variations are all so different that using a calculator and attempting to balance math will drive you quietly insane and still may not help you meet every goat’s needs. A ration calculator could give you a starting point, and then you could use energy testing to tweak the results. I personally don’t use a ration balance calculator at all. I start with the best hay and browse possible, then add basic broad-spectrum supplements, and then adjust fats and grains to get the body score into the healthy range. Finally, offering free-choice supplements allows your goats to do any fine balancing beyond what you can do with testing.

Step 2: Months 2-5

Video: 4:27 – 11:26; Book: pg. 63

In months two through five, you have a decision to make about the health priorities of your herd. Beforehand, make any adjustments that you must to maintain your goat’s healthy weight. Then you will need to make a decision between starting to rebuild mineral reserves and doing a full-body cleanse or detoxification (detox). This is a judgment call and unique to each goat.

Typically if the herd has a significant history of exposure to chemical dewormers, lice medicine, herbicides, pesticides, or toxic water, I muscle test or dowse the goat to start with detoxification. Remember, always ask if the goat can tolerate the change. The other option indicated by muscle testing or dowsing in month two is starting the rebuilding process with a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement program and wait to start a detox. Again, ask if the goat can tolerate the change. Remember: the body does not clean house and rebuild at the same time. Dowse or muscle test to pick a path for month two, and pick only one path.

If you start with the detox, there is another decision to muscle test or dowse. How toxic are the goats? If you suspect high levels of toxin exposure, or you don’t know, detox is usually most safely done by starting with a mild, conservative detoxification agent and building up from there. The most conservative gentle detox is montmorillonite clay for twenty-eight days. The majority of goats have some level of heavy metal exposure from the soils, rainfall, and the additives in vaccines or feeds. If the goat tests as needing heavy metal detox, I add zeolite mineral (see the Resources page for shopping links). The goat may test for a stronger detox, such as a fourteen-day round of Dynamite Herbal Tonic.

There are many other excellent herbal detox formulas formulated for goats on the market. Several brands are listed in the cross-reference chart. An internet search will locate others. A good herbal detox formula will encourage the liver, kidneys, and bowels to flush toxins while supporting healthy digestion.

Always muscle test or dowse for the detox appropriate to your goat. Always test whether your goat can tolerate the detox you decided on. If you have any doubts, start with the mildest detox and work up to stronger blends over time. When the goats are done with the detox, then I start the rebuilding program.

Sometimes the goats test to skip the detox entirely for Step 2 and move to rebuilding the body first. I start the goats on my basic supplement program of free-choice vitamins and minerals, after testing the goat for the program.

Regardless of which option your goats test to start first, Step 2 is two parts: a detox and the beginning of rebuilding the body. Either can happen first; it depends on the priority for that goat. The combination of detox and rebuilding will take about five months total, which puts Step 3 at about six months. Important: If at any time during Step 2 the goat is surrendering to parasites, test to see if chemicals are needed to save the goat. Parasite symptoms can be confused with detox symptoms, which can include diarrhea, runny nose and/or eyes, skin eruptions, weight loss, and hair loss. Before assuming that a symptom is caused by parasites during this period, I muscle test or dowse. A fever, anemia, yellow or green snot, or bloody diarrhea are likely not effects of the detox, and muscle testing or dowsing may indicate treatment with herbs or conventional medications. If you have any doubts about your muscle testing or dowsing abilities please do not risk your goat. Call the vet.

Step 3: Months 6-12

Video: 11:27 – 15:22 Book: pg. 64

At this point you have transitioned the feed and hay, gone through a detox, and spent several months rebuilding nutritional reserves with the highest quality supplement program you can find. Four months is the amount of time it takes for the blood to be completely replaced and is often the milestone when major shifts in health occur.

Another key milestone is two years. In two years, the body replaces all the bone. This is typically when you’ll see your herd reach full health, although it can take longer if the transition was rocky.

Step 3 is continuing the basic optimum nutrition program, and starting to transition your dewormers over. During the first two steps, ideally you have been able to take a break from vaccines and chemicals. Now, as we move into month six, continue to assess. If you suspect parasites are an issue, muscle test or dowse. Start testing for the mildest non-chemical dewormer, such as diatomaceous earth (DE), clay, pumpkin seeds, pine needles, lespedeza, trefoil, chicory, or one of the commercially available herbal blends (I use Dynamite Herbal Tonic). If none of the non-chemical dewormers test as clearing the parasite issue, muscle test or dowse the chemical options. A list of basic chemical options is included in the section on parasites. After the chemical dewormer, wait forty-eight hours and then do a detox with clay to remove the chemical residue. Clay has a negative charge and will bind with the positively charged deworming chemicals still in the gut and carry them out of the body. Clay works mainly on toxins in the digestive tract. You may choose to muscle test or dowse to see if your goat also needs the chemicals removed from the bloodstream. If so, test zeolite (negative charge and small enough to enter the blood stream) or other detox herbs from the crossreference chart. As the months progress, you should find that you are having to resort to the chemicals less and less often. If you get to the end of the first year, and still need chemicals on a regular basis, you need to revisit your basic nutrition program and your pasture management, and pay special attention to copper and zinc.

Never stop large-dose vitamin C supplements abruptly. Wean off over several days to avoid a rebound effect.

Step 4: Months 13-48

Video: 15:23 – 18:22; Book: pg. 65

During months thirteen through forty-eight, continue following all the previous steps. Continue the healthy diet. Continue monitoring mucous membranes and body condition. Continue testing for non-chemical as well as chemical options. You should observe an overall trend of testing for chemicals and medications less and less.

Step 4 is also when you take another look at immunity and vaccines. As your goat becomes healthier you should be seeing illnesses less frequently. There will be times when the goat is under stress, such as when traveling to shows or kidding, that the immune system may need an extra boost. If you anticipate an extra stress on the goat, test for daily prebiotics, some extra vitamin C (preferably as Ester-C with added bioflavonoids or herbal immune boosters (see the cross-reference chart for ideas). The only vaccine currently available for goats is the Caseous lymph-adenitis (CL) vaccine. However, some folks do use the rabies vaccine on their goats as well. Rather than debate whether vaccines
are necessary, I will just offer that if you choose to vaccinate, you can place a clay poultice on the vaccination site immediately after removing the needle and start clay and zeolite orally (muscle test or dowse the dosage and frequency) to remove the preservatives and mercury right away. Personally, I give one dose of homeopathic nux vomica 30c immediately to counteract any vaccine side effects (or lyssin 30c if using the rabies vaccine). You may choose to muscle test or dowse for nux vomica also.

If your goat has a history of vaccines, you may want to muscle test or dowse to determine if your goat has vaccinosis. The symptoms of vaccinosis can look like many other diseases and are as varied as behavioral changes, hair loss, or failure to thrive. If testing indicates vaccinosis, then muscle test or dowse these remedies: thuja occidentalis 30c, lyssin 30c, or silicea 30c, including the number of doses.

In Europe, there has been some work done with homeopathic nosodes. Nosodes are homeopathic remedies containing
the vibrational signatures of different diseases. Some feel nosodes can be used to encourage to body’s immune system to fight off a specific disease. Nosodes exist for CL, caprine arthritis and encephalitis (CAE), and Johne’s disease in goats. You must contact an experienced livestock homeopath to administer nosodes. I use these nosodes in my herd to boost immunity against these diseases under veterinary supervision. The nosodes come as tiny sugar pellets, usually given orally in several doses over a period of time. As with homeopathy in general, some debate exists as to their effectiveness. Also, as with all homeopathy in general, the remedies work best in a well-mineralized toxin-free goat. See the Resources page for suggestions on locating a homeopathic livestock veterinarian.

About Carrie Eastman

Carrie Eastman

Carrie Eastman was drawn to animals and healing at a very young age. She graduated from Penn State in 1990 with an honors B.S. in wildlife science and additional focused coursework in horse production and crop and soil sciences. Today Carrie continues to study health and healing, soils, crops and nutrition, as well as conscious horsemanship and balanced hoof trimming. In her spare time, she helps to keep the farm repaired, improves her building techniques, gardens, and tinkers with old machines. She shares her home with three horses, a herd of myotonic goats, chickens, dogs, cats, fish, turtles, and of course her wonderful family. You can find more of her content online at her blog, CarrieEastman.com.