review by Christy Bassett
Few animals on the farm are as charismatic and curious as the goat. Their attention seeking cries, soulful eyes and playful bounds win over visitors without much effort. Because of this, goats are often an early addition to a beginning farmer’s assets. But under the dog-like facade, goats are complex ruminants that require an advanced skill set and a close eye to raise successfully, especially when being raised for food production. Books like Holistic Goat Care are a godsend for when the inevitable health problem arises, and the newbie goat owner needs a crash course in health care.
Caldwell reflects this sentiment in her introduction, recalling her own personal learning curve as she transitioned from pet goat owner to dairy goat owner and conventional medicine user to holistic care giver. As a goat dairy owner, she uses examples from her own experiences as she takes the reader through the five parts of goat ownership; Starting Out Right, On the Farm, Managing Herd Health, The Productive Herd- Making Babies and Milk, and Solving Goat Health Problems.
Although I found the first several sections of the book accurate and useful in describing the selection of a breed and understanding goat needs, as a semi-experienced goat owner I was most interested in the final section on solving goat health problems. Lucky for me, this section makes up a good portion of the book’s contents. Holistic Goat Care is formatted as a resource book, with excellent labeling, indexing and searchability. The diagrams and tables are useful visuals that correspond well to the medical conditions and treatments that are shared. Chapters within this section are separated into the various systems within the body, making it easy to find and read through when you are faced with specific symptoms in your herd. Each chapter also includes a chart that identifies signs or symptoms that may appear along with a list of possible causes, allowing a quick glance at possible diagnoses.
Most common ailments that the small-scale goat owner will experience are covered well, beginning with a description of each condition and the typical cause of the onset. The author then breaks down the signs and symptoms, treatment and prevention plan for each condition reported, being clear that these statements do not replace a veterinarian’s input. I appreciate Caldwell’s focus on organic and extensive care, highlighting the fact that farm management and preventative care are the keys to maintaining a healthy herd, while recognizing that there is a balance between conventional and organic methods of care.
Unfortunately, for strictly organically managed herds, there are limited treatment options for sick animals and oftentimes the plan of action is to do nothing, resulting in death of the animal. As Caldwell suggests, however, identifying the condition and isolating or euthanizing the animal can be extremely helpful in preventing the spread of a disease or allowing a condition to further manifest. I value the overall caring tone of the book, but also the practical and realistic approach to holistic goat management. As stated in Chapter Two, “Not everyone is lucky enough to have the acreage to manage goats more extensively, nor fortunate enough to have organically produced feeds readily available-or affordable. I believe the most realistic approach to reaching this goal is to find a balance between what you’re currently comfortable with and what you can envision as the most organic and extensive management choices possible for your farm.”
Published in Winter 2018-19 issue.