Goats can be pretty finicky. And stubborn, too! I needed a sure-fire method that would insure each goat got the right herbs, in the right amount. None of this business of spitting them out, eating another goats herbal treatment, etc.
I've read a lot of forums and websites with several ideas that would work, but with quite a bit of effort, requiring more time and energy than I have to devote to just one homesteading need. But there IS an answer... after months of experimenting, I've found a ridiculously easy manner for encouraging most goats to eat their herbs as if you were giving them a really special treat. It's so easy in fact, you'll probably laugh and say "Seriously? Is that IT?"!
The reason that it took me so long to get to this simple solution is BECAUSE I HAD read so many forums and websites. I tried all their solutions before thinking it through logically. Most people suggest making "herb balls" where you add everything from olive oil, peanut butter, or molasses to the herbs and then roll it into a ball (a.k.a. a bolus). It's then either administered as a treat or given with a bolus gun (like a large syringe down the throat, but without a needle). Others make the herbs up into a tea and drench the goat (another method where it's given down the throat).
But because herbs are typically given twice a day for six days a week (with one day off to let the body rest), all this bolusing and drenching was WAY too much work for me. Besides, I really didn't sign up for daily goat wrestling when I started a herd!
Even if one made herb balls that the goats would WILLING eat... these took an incredible amount of time. So I tried making them up in advance and storing them in little glass containers in the refrigerator. For one week's worth of herb balls for three goats, it took me almost an hour and a half (although I confess it was probably due to the fact that I was frequently interrupted for Mom duties). Suffice it to say... this just wasn't going to work for me. I dreaded making new batches each week and often procrastinated which meant a day or two of missed herbs for the goats.
So it occurred to me I needed to find that one ingredient to add to the mix that was irresistible... a secret ingredient that would override their desire for anything else. For my goats, it was a pretty easy solution since they were always fighting over the kelp that I added to the mineral feeder. They would eat this WITHOUT FAIL and head butting often ensued as they tried to go for their herd mate's portion.
It also occurred to me that making balls wasn't really necessary if they were willing to eat it. I just needed a way for the herbs to "stick" to the kelp so they would eat both at the same time. At first I tried molasses, but this stuff is stickier than honey. And messier. I HATED getting it out twice a day and fighting it. Honey and peanut butter would work, but neither were cheap solutions, especially with the organic peanut butter recall at the time. The few times I did use these ingredients, I found it was just a mess.
FINALLY... I tried olive oil and the result was perfect! It was inexpensive and required only about 1/4 of a tsp. for each dose. And if I didn't get it on the sides of the bowl, it didn't make a mess. Because it held everything together so well, there wasn't a need to make it into balls either. Instead, I just added enough to keep it crumbly so I could add it to their ration on the milking stand.
So without further ado, here's a simple tutorial...
Serving Herbs to Goats
Add about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. of olive oil to a small dish. How much oil you use will depend on how much herbs you're giving, so adjust accordingly.
Next add herbs...
And the all too irresistible kelp and stir.
I use oats, barley, BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds), and dairy pellets. Stir until combined.
Place dish in feeder on stand along with additional stand ration. If any goats are not "in milk" you can still have them step up on the stand for their daily serving or simply secure each goat to a mineral feeder until everyone has consumed their own serving. Molly Nolte does this at Fias Co Farms.
Note: Some goats, such as Symphony (pictured below), like to toss their bowl when they're all done and they get bored waiting for me to finish milking. Oh, well... haven't broken one yet, but you might keep that in mind.
I keep all my herbs in a small dorm size refrigerator in our walk in pantry (this could easily be kept in a barn, garage, shed, etc. if electricity is available). Later I'll do a post to give you a tour of this, but for now, you can see it keeps all my herbs fresh and easy to administer.
Most herbs come in plastic bags (and occasionally in mylar bags), so I transfer them to canning jars and cut the labels off the bags and tape them to the jar. I also highlight any info I want to remember as to dosing instructions, but I also add a measuring spoon that matches how much I want to administer on a regular basis. I pick these up at the local dollar store for almost nothing. Herbs are typically given by weight and since my goats are all roughly the same weight, I just add the correct measuring spoon to each jar. For example, if they all should get 1 tsp. of Kop-Sel (a copper and selenium herbal supplement), then I just add the 1 tsp. measure. This way anyone in the family who might need to make up a dish for the goats knows just to give whatever is in the jar. SO EASY!
So there you have it; herbs administered... EASILY. Now you can be "Mary Poppins" to your caprine friends, too!