The Conservancy has lost several goats this winter to disease. The expert we use on the subject says the cause was likely attributable to something called coccidiosis. Coccidia parasites get into the goats when they are ingested by grazing.
During this past cold and rainy winter, vegetation on Conservancy preserves didn’t grow much, leaving it low to the ground and consisting mostly of water (e.g., not rich in protein). With edible vegetation close to the ground, coccidia was easier to ingest. And goats didn’t get the nutrition they likely needed as a defense. Sunlight and dry conditions seem to favor healthier stock, while extended cold and rainy conditions seem to make it worse.
In the past, we have carried over a small herd from one year to the next. It is good for an experienced herd of goats to be able to show next year’s herd how things work (where to get water, where to sleep at night, not to touch electric fences, etc.). But this year, we expect our wet winter will cause a larger than usual volume of vegetation to need attention. So we carried over a bigger herd during winter in anticipation of high demand in the spring.
Keeping vegetation at lower levels helps Swainson’s hawks see and access their prey, so this is important work these guys do. I don’t know if we made the right move or not. The herd looks very healthy now that we’ve had a break from the rain and cold. But I just can’t stand to lose these little guys. They do so much good work for the Conservancy and the HCP’s “Covered Species.”