Yesterday was tumultuous (ain’t they all). One of the things about being in a business which involves livestock, birthing, crops, etc. as well as a wide range of species is that something is always coming up to shake up your well planned schedule. It may be frustrating, but it’s never boring.

And, so it was that yesterday, when I had planned for potato planting at one of the other growing locations, what I actually wound up doing was treating a goat with sore feet (she was so sore that she was down on her knees probably due to laminitis, aka founder, brought on by birthing on Saturday and me giving her a bit more grain than she was used to). I also spent the day researching founder and foot rot in goats, how to treat it and anelgesia and what is safe to give a goat for pain. Animals are able to suppress pain to a sometimes amazing degree, but there’s no need to stress the body and tax it for pain suppression when the anelgesia can be provided from an outside source, like aspirin.

I found Dusty down on her knees when I went out to feed and water everyone in the morning. A quick check revealed that her front feet were very sore, so the first order of the day was to determine possible causes and remidies. The second was to determine how to relieve her pain. I went online and checked to see what kind of meds to give her. I have phenelbutazone (bute) tablets for the horses, but didn’t know if I could give it to a goat, and if so what the rate was. It was dead certain that the tablets I had wouldn’t work, even a small portion. I was right, but was able to find a list of drugs that are safe to use on goats and, yay!, asprin will work and I had some on hand.

I disolved a couple of tablets in a bit of water and mixed them with a little molassas. I keep a small mortar and pestle around for just such purpose, and was able to get that in her. Then I rigged a sling using a standard sized horse halter, and after giving the aspirin some time to work, I strung her up with some heavy baling twine. The horse halter works well for many things other than it’s standard purpose in the equine world. We’ve used halters on Loiosh, our wolf hybrid, as a harness, and on other animals with similar body size. The halter is placed on the animal as shown in the picture below. I undo the pol strap, slip the nose band over the head of the animal, then feed the front legs through so that the strap connecting the underside of the throatlatch and and chinstrap runs between the legs along the sternum. When the halter is placed, I buckle the pol strap so that it’s comfortable and as snug as possible without interfering with the animal’s ability to breathe.

Horse halter placement on goat for use as sling or harness

In the picture you can see where I have the baling twine hooked. This placement puts most of the weight on the back of the sternum/belly area just behind the elbow. It also kept the pressure points away from her throat. I was careful not to put all of her weight on the twine, for a couple of reasons. First, baling twine, especially the heavy stuff I use out here, is pretty tough stuff, it comes off of 125# three tie bales and half ton squeeze blocks, that having been said, it is used twine (I save everything), and I don’t want to push my luck. Second, I only want to give her enough support to take most of the pressure off her front hooves, but not all of it. This way, she was still able to move around on the end of the twine, turn a full circle, etc. Dusty was able to stand completely, but if she wanted a bit of relief, she could bend her knees and use the twine and sling as support. She also wasn’t left suspended for more than an hour at a time. This allowed her to rest and gave her a break from suspention in order to keep her from becoming sore. Putting pressure on the contact points can cause bruises. If I was to keep her in a sling for a prolonged period of time, I’d rig something with more support, padding and would suspend her from a trolley so that she could have more mobility. As it was, this was a temporary set up yesterday, and by evening she was standing on her own and was still standing on her own the next morning with apparently no discomfort.

Normally, I wouldn’t necessarily rigged something like this. Instead I would have given her some anelgesia and made her comfortable untill she was able to stand on her own. But Dusty kidded on Saturday, so her kids needed to nurse, which they did with her on her knees, but were not able to nurse enough, which was bad for them (not getting enough food), as well as being bad for Dusty (that bag keeps filling and needs to be drained periodically either by milking or kids nursing).

If you’re in need of a quick, temporary sling for an animal, and you happen to have an extra horse halter on hand, give it a try. Small halters work on small animals, and there are extra large/draft sized halters that will work on larger animals. I have all sizes here because I breed the horses, so I need everything from the little bitty halters for week old foals to the draft sized halters because with the Lipizzans, their heads are so big, that a standard size halter won’t fit on either my mare or my stallion. It’s not so much that their heads are so large, it’s more an issue of them being broad and deep in the jaw. I’ve used small halters as a harness on the goats when they were small, and I’ve used the larger ones on Loiosh as a harness, and we’ve even used it so he could pull light loads.

Dusty in horse halter sling showing suspention with heavy baling twine

In this picture you can see how I have her suspended from a rafter in the kidding stall. I have a simple quick release knot tied to a loop I’ve placed in the twine. To lift her, I run the end of the twine through the loop, and pull up untill she has the right ammount of support. To release, just give the end of the twine a sharp jerk. I always keep a knife on me in the event that for some reason the knot doesn’t release. One of my hard and fast rules is to always carry a pocket knife, because with livestock, you just never know when you’ll need to cut someone loose….

Speaking of emergencies, here’s how I hook the poll strap over the back. Note that I do not have the end of the strap through the bottom of the buckle. This is so that if I need to release her from the halter suddenly, all I have to do is pull up on the strap and the buckle will release. If she were to slip, or her hind legs give out for some reason, she would be hanging from that strap around her barrel. Sometimes you need a quick release, or the strap can become bound up in the buckle, or perhaps the animal is struggling and you can’t get the strap out of the buckle to release it.


Also note that this particular halter has a brass cap on the end and brass grommets. I like this type as it’s sturdier than the regular type in that the grommets will keep the tongue of the buckle from pulling through the webbing (which I have had happen on halters as well as lunging cavesons), and the cap on the end is pointed, which makes it easier to get the strap through the buckle. This particular halter is a Hamilton, and didn’t cost much more for the style with the extra brass than the plain ones. This halter also has the heavier brass rings, etc. This halter is around 20 years old and is actually the one I bought for Loiosh. Sadly Loiosh is no longer with us, but we used it on him for about 13 years.

Another picture of Dusty. Here you can see where I have the quick release knot and the end of the twine hanging down.

Dusty’s spring 2010 doeling

Gratuitous cute baby goat picture…. 

Goat medication and withdrawl table from University of Kentucky Extension Service