Article Index "Helping Our Goats To Optimum Health (Part 1)" Article Index

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By: "Linda Carlson"
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First and for most, I want to make clear that I am not a Doctor or veterinarian. Nor is the following information intended to replace professional care by a veterinarian. I am sharing information that I have learned through experience, study and reading. Some parts of this article are my personal opinions, while others are facts and ideas that come from books and studies that I have read.

Preventing illness is always better than trying to treat it. For the most part, it seems many people don't consider this alternative. What we usually hear is "How can I fix this?" after our animal is ill. And, its always much harder to try to treat the problem then prevent it in the first place. The majority of the time we need not ask this question at all if we have used preventative measures.

How the immune system works is an important subject in regards to the overall health of our animals. It is a large topic that can become boring to many. What I have tried to do is get the basics across without too much of the boring details.

The immune system works around the clock and in a thousand different ways. It does its work mostly unnoticed. One thing that causes us to "really" notice is when, for some reason it fails. If your animal gets a cut, all sorts of bacteria and viruses enter the body through the break in the skin. The immune system responds and eliminates the invaders while the skin heals itself and seals the cut. Every day your animal inhales thousands of germs that are floating in the air. The immune system deals with all of them. Occasionally a germ gets past the immune system and your animal comes down with a cough or runny nose, for example. This is a visible sign that the immune system failed to stop the germ. The fact that the animal gets over the cough and or runny nose is a sign that the immune system was able to attack and rid the body of it after learning about it. If the problem persists then it becomes obvious the immune system is not working at its peak performance. At this point it's to late to "prevent" the problem so we are faced with treatment. Fortunately there is much we can do to help.

When a virus or bacteria invades the body and reproduces, it normally causes problems. Generally, the germ's presence produces side effects that make your animal sick. However, some bacteria are beneficial. There are millions of bacteria in the intestines and they help digest food, but many are harmful once they get into the blood stream or body. Viral and bacterial infections are by far the most common causes of illness.

Certainly it would be great if the immune system were at its peak at all times. If this were the case it would be doing its job, which is to fight off any nasty little bug that tried to attack the body it worked for. And the majority of the time it would be successful. Consequently, we would not even know what illness tried to attack. The immune system did its job so there are no obvious problems.

Unfortunately, the immune system does not stay at its peak at all times. Not in our animals or in ourselves. We consider that if we are feeding our animals the best diet possible their "natural" immune system will be in top form. Sadly this is not true. No matter how hard we try we cannot duplicate our animals natural environment where they have access to what they need, precisely when they need it. Nor can we know what they know. They know what they need, when they need it and where to get it if they are living in their natural environment. Of course, our best efforts are beneficial but certainly not the answer to having the healthiest animal possible. No matter how much we care or how hard we try we cannot re-create this natural environment.

By now, it should be clear that the immune system is the most important factor in your animal’s health. What we need to do is give our animals all the help we can to induce a strong immune system. This works best if it’s done in advance of illness and disease. In other words, we need to offer our animals "all" they need to keep the immune system working at it's peak at all times.

The body can heal itself. This includes every living body. This is not a strange new concept. It's a very old fact. Yes, there is an "IF" to it. Yes, the body can heal itself if it has the proper nutrients to do so. Many studies have shown that the body can, not only, heal itself from minor illnesses but from deadly disease as well.

So - how do we see that our animals have the proper nutrients to keep their systems working at peak performance? We start with food.

It’s pretty safe to say that your animals will eat today. The goal is to digest food and use it to keep the body alive. Food contains seven basic components: Carbohydrates (both simple and complex), Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber & Water. Basically, you want your animals to eat foods that do not have artificial colors, chemical preservatives or additives that are not part of the natural food. Actually, this is more easily found in the animal world of foods than in the human world. The subject of foods and how the 7 basic components all work is a hugh topic. We will not try to cover the workings of most of them here. The reason, if our animals are getting a good diet they are probably getting the majority of what they need in terms of Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats and water. What we will focus on is the Vitamin & Mineral part of the basic 7. Why? These are the two that our animals are most often deficient in.

Yes, of course we try to give them what they need. The best way they can get needed nutrients is to graze on live grasses and plants. Even so, the constant depletion of our soils rob our animals of much needed nutrients. Next comes hay. Although it’s the best we can do, grass loose even more nutrients once they are cut, thus killed. We find the best minerals for the breed of animal we raise and make sure its available at all times. We assume they are receiving the vitamins they need in their feed. Some of us add extra vitamins, and we need to if we want them to get all the vitamins needed. Yet, there are questions. Do we know if they are getting enough of any of it? Are they getting enough Vitamin B? Are they getting enough Selenium? Are they getting too much of this or that? Trying to figure out what they need and how much of it can be a mind-twisting experience.

One fact that will give us some peace of mind is that it’s very hard to OD on vitamins or minerals. Your animal would have to receive a massive dose to cause harm. Because, the body naturally eliminates excess vitamins and minerals. It simply passes through and out. It does it in a timely fashion, however, which is why a massive dose could be harmful if it could not be eliminated quick enough. And, I have seen animals, occasionally OD on to much of “the wrong” mineral. A friend had a horse that got into a sweet block for cattle and literally burned off the outer wall of his hooves. I had never seen anything like it. It was most painful and required farrier care for quite sometime until the wall grew back. There are good reasons for keeping your animal on a “breed specific” mineral.

We understand how crucial the overall health of our animals are, and that there bodies need proper amounts of nutrients to ensure optimum health.

In part 2 of this series the topic will be minerals.

About the author: Linda Carlson has owned and raised a variety of livestock and pets for more than 35 years. At this time she raises a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats along with her husband, on a small farm in central Montana.

She has dedicated much of her time over the last 10 years to learning about natural nutrients and alternatives. Specifically, the benefits of natural nutrients for optimum health for people and animals. She enjoys sharing what she has learned with others through conversations, writing and on her website "Natures Power". She shares her information based on personal experience, experiences of others, books and studies done on the topics of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. You can find out more by visiting her website at or by writing to:
Linda Carlson
Box 517
Vaughn, Mt. 59487

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