Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Goat Keeping

Several years ago after a very discouraging outbreak of mastitis in our goats (all four in milk at that time) we made two changes that have made all the difference in the world for their health!
The first one was switching from an iodine udder wash to using GSE.  See my post about that here.
The other change we made, at the recommendation of our vet who grew up raising sheep, was to use sawdust for bedding instead of straw.  He explained to us that the bacteria (Staphylococcus strains) sit on top of the surface of the straw.  When the goats lie on top of it they are exposed more readily to the bacteria.  Of course with straw, it requires  frequently pulling off the soiled straw and top dressing with fresh - and then a more thorough cleaning 1-2 times a week.  This just stirs up the bacteria.
Sawdust is used differently.  Twice per week, we only discard the clumps and cover with a layer of clean sawdust.  We keep building up the layers of sawdust which smothers and suffocates the bacteria.  The floor of the barn will build up to about a foot. We only deep clean the pens about once every 3-4 months - taking out all the sawdust (down to the dirt floor), putting a layer of lyme down, then a layer of fresh sawdust to begin again. 
While it does require an extra errand to pick up the sawdust, it's only necessary every other month.* 
We buy a truck-load at a time (in our mini Toyota pick up)  It's a bed-full (and I do mean full) for just under $30.  First, the Mister lines the bed with an extra large tarp.  The man at the shavings/sawdust place loads it full with his tractor, and then Eric folds up the corners and edges of the tarp and secures it for the drive home.  We could have it delivered, but they require a much larger quantity purchase plus trucking fees.  We don't have the storage space for that kind of purchase and this works much better for our monthly budget.
If you choose to use this method, DO NOT USE SHAVINGS - it must be sawdust. 

*We currently only have four goats and are only using one of the four pens in the barn. The pens are 10' x 10'.  When we had thirteen goats we used all four pens, and it was a once per month errand, just to give you an idea.

I'm linking up with Amy's Homestead Revival for this week's barn hop...Monday May, 21


  1. This is really great information. I've been using GSE for a teat spray from the beginning and I've never had a mastitis problem so far. But I still use straw. I might give the saw dust a try. Is it from a particular type of wood - ie. cedar, pine, etc. Just curious, is the saw dust just finer than the shavings and that's why it compacts better and smothers the bacteria?

  2. Our supplier is Dejong's Shavings and Sawdust. The sawdust is fir. I'm pretty sure that cedar is NOT a good choice. (I know it's bad to use for small animals such as rabbits)

    Yes, you got it right - shavings are lighter and fluffier, while the sawdust compacts much better.

  3. We are only on our first milker, but so far no mastitis. We currently use a homemade udder wash and use straw for bedding, I had never read about using GSE, I'll have to look into that!

  4. Thank you for this information. We just started our milking season yesterday! I have to say that it snuck up on me and I resorted to using our bleach stand by! Bad me! :-) My dd had the goat in the milking stand and asked me to get the needed supplies. What? Ha, ha. Anyways, this post was great. My dh looked up on craigslist for a saw dust source. There are a lot things we want to change in how we do things around the homestead. It can be a bit overwhelming. One thing at a time...



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