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Livestock & Pets

This section of the website holds articles on everything you need to know about keeping pets and livestock. Choose from the menu on the left to browse our articles.

Snuggling up to a soft mohair blanket is a simple luxury, and we are so lucky in New Zealand to have some of the world’s best mohair producers on our door step.

The Angora goats which produce the beautiful, fine mohair wool are a small breed of domestic goat which takes its name from Ankara in Turkey. They are known to be relaxed, docile and generally easy to handle.

If any of your sheep or cattle seem to be unwell, it can be useful to give your vet a good description of the nature of the problem by doing a basic health check before you contact them.

Ruminant animals must be able to get around comfortably on their feet so they can eat.

We all have special animals on the farm. They might be dogs or cats, ponies or horses, cattle or pigs. When we’ve shared their lives and enjoyed their company for years, we get very fond of them

Stiff joints, teeth problems, loss of strength and energy. To those of you who are getting on a bit, this may sound familiar.

If one of your horses or dogs seems to be unwell, it can be useful to examine it carefully

Rabbits were first introduced to NZ in the 1830s for food and sport.

These are words to strike fear into the heart of many farmers. However, as lifestyle farmers there are far fewer risks for you and your cattle than there are for many commercial dairy farmers.

Cattle need teeth. But don't ever look in the mouth of a ruminant and worry that it has lost all its top incisors: it never had them.

boar maleBoars reach maturity around 6 months of age although this can depend on feeding levels and management. Usually they are not used for service until 7-8 months old.  A boar courts a female by chasing her around, nuzzling her head, flanks and genital area, sometimes drinking her urine. He frequently pushes or leans on her to see if she is approaching standing heat.

The way an animal is constructed is known as its conformation.

horseWe all know of fat cresty-necked ponies and horses that are prone to laminitis (tender feet or founder).  

horseMud fever (greasy heel) and rain scald also known as dermatophilosis are all too common in horses in New Zealand.

We've been farming angora goats for over fifteen years and can't imagine life without them now. They are fascinating animals to work with and you make money from them every six months, year after year.

If you are wondering is angoras are right for you then read on..

hoofFoot scald and footrot become much more common during prolonged spells of wet weather and they are not easy to deal with.

goateyewCAE is a disease of goats caused by a virus. It is present in many herds throughout New Zealand. It tends to develop into clinical disease when goats are under stress, for example in dairy goats kept in relatively intensive conditions. There is no cure for CAE.

deckchairGoats that have chewed their way through the dry herbage at many gateways over the summer need as much holiday care as any other animal in the family or on the farm. People need to go and check their goat each day, over the holidays and ask someone to check the animal when they are away.

shearinggoatAll goats are susceptible to cold, particularly in wet windy conditions. They have little fat below the skin and little grease in their fleece.

goatshelterwDo you think the easiest way to keep your verge tidy might be to get a goat?  Don’t be fooled - it takes a lot of time and effort to look after a tethered goat properly. 

shearingWhen you shear a sheep or a goat, you remove its weather-proofing. After all, a fleece is warm when it's cold, it prevents sunburn on clear sunny days and it's windproof and water-proof. So shearing leaves sheep and goats very vulnerable to the elements. Here's some advice on how to keep your stock happy after shearing.

drenchingIn recent years, a lot of progress has been made in understanding how to control worm burdens in livestock. However it's a hugely complex issue, not least because of the widespread problem of drench resistance! This makes it difficult for lifestylers to know how to deal with worms in their stock.

alpacasHousing, health and disease control, some elective husbandry procedures (particularly castration and blunting fighting teeth) and euthanasia.

llamaFemales, crias, weaning, identification, selection for transport and behaviour.

The cattle tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) is well established in New Zealand.

Did you know that as a cat owner, you are legally obliged to take proper care of your cat?

 Most of us are responsible dog owners and we already meet all the requirements of the Code.

pregnant eweOne of the problems that can occur when a ewe is lambing is that the cervix doesn't relax and expand fully.

nitrate poisoning riskLivestock farmers should be careful when allowing their animals to graze any regrowth in pastures that are recovering from the exceptional drought much of New Zealand has experienced this year – because farm animals are especially vulnerable to nitrate poisoning at this time.

goats and trace elementsNot a lot is known about the requirements of goats for trace elements like iodine, selenium, copper and cobalt. The diet of goats on lifestyle blocks is restricted to what we offer them, and their diet is more likely to be deficient in some elements than a diet of natural browse. In that case, are lifestyle block goats at risk of deficiency diseases?

For many of us our dogs are our best friends, but we all know the potential for any dog to bite and cause nasty injury.

Some of you keep your goats for their milk, either for home supply or as part of your farming business, and some of you choose to keep your goats indoors for some or all of the time, either for milking or perhaps to protect them from rough weather or to help control worms.

barbers poleIn parts of the North Island, barber's pole worms (Haemonchus contortus) have been the cause of a lot of goat ill-health this year, and many goat owners will have suffered losses as a result of this nasty parasite.  In this article, we explain what the disease is, and how you can make sure you don't have problems with it in future.

Goats now have good legal protection against any treatment that causes unnecessary or unreasonable suffering – it’s enshrined in the recently released Code of Welfare for Goats. 

sheep grazingThe word 'refugia' seemed to appear out of the blue about 5-6 years ago, and was used by veterinarians and parasitologists when talking to farmers about worms (internal parasites) in sheep and in cattle.

sheepyardswA tried and true design for sheep yards built by Bruce Binnie.

DagswFaecal Egg Counts measure the eggs per gram of faeces (epg) that pass through a sheep and hence the worm load.

The broiler chicken industry shows what can be achieved by applied science. 

sheeplambwBonding between a ewe and her lamb(s) takes only a few minutes. After this she will not take a lamb that smells differently.

sheeptripletswWith today's more fertile sheep breeds, inevitably there are more lambs born, which everyone thinks is a good thing. 

blade shear sheepThere are many methods used around the world to shear a sheep using hand shears or blades.

pig wasting diseasePig wasting disease, initially called post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) is a devastating pig disease which broke out in the North Island in 2003 and the South Island, in 2006 and it's still spreading.  It's a cause of huge financial loss to pig farmers - and to the country.

Zoonoses can be acquired from species other than domestic mammals

There have been some alarming recent cases of bulls causing injuries and even deaths to humans. 

zoonoses,salmonellosis, yersiniosis, ringworm, leptospirosis and scabby mouth,In the third article in Marjorie Orr's series on zoonoses, Marjorie looks at some of the fairly commons diseases on lifestyle farms including salmonellosis, yersiniosis, ringworm, leptospirosis and scabby mouth, and giving signs to look out for and how to protect yourself against these risks.

In this article Dr Clive Dalton examines the things an animal needs to get from its feed

For many of us, our dogs and cats are important members of the family and they enhance our quality of life. 

Ruminants are animals that have a four-part stomach and can digest the fibre (mainly cellulose) in plants.

mohair fibreFibres start to grow in the foetus from follicles in the skin.The first to develop are large coarse fibres from primary follicles, and finer fibres follow these from secondary follicles.A typical group of these follicles would be made up of three primaries and 20-30 secondaries in a mohair goat.  Birth coats are rich in coarse fibres but are shed at about three months old leaving fine fibres from the secondary follicles to produce the first fleece. Fleeces generally become coarser with age as the primary follicles continue to produce and shed coarse fibres, especially during spring and autumn.

zoonosesMost of us are approaching lambing and calving, and some of us are well into it.  We should be aware that there are a few diseases of livestock that can spread to humans.  These are called zoonoses, and many of them are particularly common in spring.
handling angora fleeceIf you do a good job on the basic fleece handling on the farm, then it makes the job easier for the classer, and this will be reflected in a higher return.  Before shearing sort goats into sexes and groups.  For example: any shorn at different times with different fleece lengths.

intensive shepherdingIt's worth providing all the help you can in a small flock.  Here are some suggestions:

slaughter or euthanasiaIf you have to euthanase a goat of any age, it’s important to study the Code of Animal Welfare No. 19 on “the emergency slaughter of farm livestock”, because the process can be very dangerous for the operator, and you may end up being prosecuted for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the animal.

how to lift a sheepMany back injuries occur when sheep are being handled, especially when lifting sheep over a fence.

lambs Every lamb this year is going to be worth saving this year, as the demand for sheep meat is at a high.

castrating and dehorning angora goatsAngora goats are not usually dehorned although the horns are usually tipped (the last 1cm of horn clipped off) as they can be extremely sharp.  Horns can be tipped with hoof shears or secateurs.  Sharp horns can be a nuisance and a danger to humans in both kids and adults, but they have the big advantage of making catching and holding goats easier. Kids can be dehorned with a hot iron before they are a week old but great care is needed.

We have to provide a diet for the animal that will meet all its nutritional needs. 

Every spring a new group of people get the urge to rear 'a few calves' to make some extra income.  This is despite the many others who could tell them that there's very little profit in it.  Here are some points for a very simple system for anyone who plans to rear calves for the first time.  The KIS principle is vital - keep the job simple.

angora ill thrift and poisoningIf your goats are not doing well, there are many possible causes.  The obvious ones are under-feeding and worms, but if you rule these out, what's left?  Here are some of the possibilities - selenium deficiency, iodine deficiency and Johne's disease. Also Marjorie looks at the most common poisons, plant and chemical, which could kill your goat.

goat nutritionIn 2008 the drought in New Zealand was producing pasture with low nutritive values. This meant that supplementary feeding of goats may be necessary in some areas to maintain growth rates and milk production, meet the requirements of pregnant does or even just maintain the welfare of goats depending on the situation and use of goats.

Suspect neosporosis if any of your cows aborts or is infertile.  Neosporosis is the most common cause of abortion in cows in this country. 

Chicks dehydrate quickly at the high temperatures of rearing, so they must find water quickly after hatching and learn to drink.

angora health diseases of the skin and the brainThe signs of skin disease are usually fairly obvious, with itchiness, or hair loss, or scurfiiness or sores, or reddening or some other change in the appearance of the skin.  Sometimes though the long hair of Angora goats can hide developing disease, giving you a nasty surprise at shearing time!  As with all diseases it pays to be vigilant to spot the early signs of disease, and this means hands-on inspection, not just eye appraisal.

BVD (Bovine Virus Diarrhoea) is a complicated viral disease of cattle that causes big financial losses in herds across New Zealand.  .

Chicks are very active and when running, they extend their wings and flap them for use as breaks. 

injecting angora goatsWhen giving injections always get veterinary advice to make sure the products are appropriate and you know the correct procedure. A loaded syringe can be a dangerous weapon for both you and any helpers. If anyone does get injected, then seek immediate medical help and take the product with you to the doctor.  Keep your tetanus vaccinations up to date too.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter for storage and use of the product. 

Studies of wild fowl and free-range domestic hens show the importance of the very strong maternal behaviour that develops between the hen and her chicks.

leptospirosisThirty years ago leptospirosis was one of the most common zoonoses in NZ with over 400 human cases a year, mainly in dairy farm workers. In recent years the widespread vaccination of pigs and dairy cattle has reduced the number of human cases to fewer than 100 a year. However there are still plenty of infected livestock on farms.

finding feed for angora goatsFuture goat farming in New Zealand is based on pasture feeding, and as world grain prices have gone crazy less of it will be fed, and it will be fed more carefully.  The problem with “pasture“ as a feed is that it varies in quality and quantity every day of the year. It goes from low DM, low fibre, high protein and high digestibility in spring and autumn, to low protein, high DM, high fibre and low digestibility in the summer.  Balancing all this to meet the nutritional needs of the stock at different times of the year is often described as more art than science.


This last part in our series on dairy goats considers keeping of one or two pet goats of a dairy breed.

The start of sexual behaviour is greatly affected by the environment, especially feeding, lighting regime and genetic strain. 

feeding angora goatsGoats don’t have a split upper lip like sheep so don’t graze as close to the ground. They are classical browsers and are used successfully by farmers to graze out weeds and avoid chemical sprays. Offering goats a wide choice of feed can cause problems as they may for example take a liking to feeds of low nutritional value when you want them to put on weight.

No matter how much we love our goats, we have to subject them to some unpleasant procedures from time to time, like disbudding, castration and ear-tagging. 

angora fencingMaking sure you can find goats where you left them has been a challenge for herders since domestication.   Although goats are not classical “follower” species like sheep, if one finds an escape route the whole herd will soon follow.  Some goats are born to be escapologists and they can lead to disasters on steep hill country when one finds a hole in the fence in a hollow, and the rest of the mob push up behind it waiting their turn to follow ending up in a massive smother.  So having good fences in the correct locations is the first priority of goat farming.

dairy goat healthThis is a fairly long article, but there do seem to be rather a lot of significant health problems in dairy goats.  Here we discuss some of the main ones, like scouring (including worms and Johne's disease), feet and teeth problems.

livestock 101In this article Clive Dalton looks at the pros and cons of keeping different types of livestock. If you're thinking of getting livestock for the first time, this article is a great place to start!

Being a social bird from the open forest, the hen has developed a wide range of sounds for communication.

Angora breedingBreeders agree that many traits are important, but they may put them in different orders of priority.  For example if you are spending hours treating goats for footrot and dealing with dirty rear ends with worms, then getting rid of these two traits for an “easy-care” flock is of prime importance.

Containing dairy goatsKeeping goats in can be a challenge for the farmer!  They don't just have to be kept behind fences, they sometimes have to be individually restrained for various procedures, the flock has to be yarded from time to time and the goats have to have secure shelter and housing to protect them from the elements.  All this can be difficult, but fortunately dairy type goats generally adapt well to life on the hobby farm.  Sheep facilities are generally suitable for them, although adaptations are beneficial and effective shelter is imperative.  Here we discuss these issues - physical restraint, shelter, housing, mustering, fences and yards, and mixing goats.

Angora - lameness and sudden deathPart three in a series on Angora goat health and disease looks at lameness and sudden death. Practically every goat farmer has to deal with lame goats at some time or other. It's a common problem, particularly on wet land and when the horn on the feet becomes overgrown. The most common causes of lameness are foot scald, foot rot, foot abscess and arthritis.

Save lambsEvery lamb is worth saving this spring - so it's worth putting a lot of effort into your lambing management. 

Acetonaemia is known as ketosis in cows and sleepy sickness (or pregnancy toxaemia or twin lamb disease) in ewes.  Acetonaemia in cows is fairly common, especially in high-producing cows in early lactation. The best cows are most at risk.

The phrase "Crop Ear" relates to a genetic fault in Highland cattle that affects the ear shape.

Highland cattle tend to evoke many emotions in people. 

swine flu H1N1NZPork, the organisation funded by New Zealand pork producers has important information for all owners of pigs. Please read this carefully and take very good care to ensure that any risk to your pigs, and therefore New Zealand’s pig herd, is minimised.

Scouring (diarrhoea) is common in Angora goats.  The first sign of scouring is usually soft wet dags under and around the tail. "Worms" or gastrointestinal nematode parasitism is not just the most common cause of scouring, it's by far and away the most common disease problem of any kind in Angoras.

In New Zealand, Highland Cattle have traditionally been a breed that has been embraced by lifestylers.

A month by month diary for angora goat farmers.

"Disbudding" of calves and kids means removing the very early developing horn base to prevent horn growth.

There are particular welfare issues associated with goats, because of their sensitive nature and inquisitive personalities!  Compared with sheep and cattle they need much more protection from the elements because their fleeces are not as waterproof.

conditionsheepwWhen considering the state of health of a sheep, it's a great help to know its liveweight.

calveshighlandwThe Highland Cattle industry in New Zealand uses a grading system to denote what level of Highland genetics (or 'bloodlines') each animal enjoys.  

Let's hope you never have to deal with rhododendron poisoning.  The signs in sheep and goats include spectacular vomiting and intense pain.  A few hours after eating rhododendron, the animal is in agony, rumen heaving, and it's plastering the shed walls with green vomit.

sheepwWe use population genetics to study complex economic traits that are controlled by many genes.

colouredsheepwNaming genes. We use letters for this and there is an international convention to avoid confusion.

dnawWhat is animal breeding all about? We keep animals for many reasons, and it’s a great mistake to think that making money is always the top priority. 

Studies in the United States indicate that 70% of calves are weaned 7 weeks of age or later.

Once a day feeding of calves is a convenient option that many large, time-poor or professional rearers adopt for convenience and time saving purposes.

Increasingly calf rearers are becoming aware of the benefits of using prebiotic and probiotic supplements that have come onto the market in the recent past.

With international demand driving demand for dairy product commodities increasing the payout at the farm gate, the ramification of these increased commodity prices have also been driving up the price of CMRs for the forthcoming calf rearing season. 

All animals have energy and protein requirements to maintain existing bodyweight and functioning of vital organs,

goattongueoutwGoats have no top teeth and instead have a hard dental pad that their bottom incisors bite against. You can estimate the age of goats by the age at which the milk teeth are replaced by permanent incisors. They get new ones in pairs working from the middle outwards. 

There are plenty of goat welfare issues. Footrot a major problem with goats and is difficult to cure once established.

baby pigsMake sure you know why you want to keep pigs before you start.

pig breedsFeral pigs (Captain Cookers) are farmed on small blocks and the Kunekune is also popular. These pigs grow more slowly and have much fatter carcasses.

big pigIt’s tempting to think that you can make money from pigs by feeding them kitchen scraps and garbage. Pigs will love this diet, but they won’t grow and reproduce as well as when fed correctly balanced diets.

pink pig mudHousing costs money, and to reduce costs, many pig farmers build their own, ending up with eyesores that annoy and stink out the neighbours. The rooting and wallowing of pigs around their accommodation does not help the scene. It’s important to decide what stock will need housing and what sort of housing they’ll need.

Pigs are den-living, home-loving individuals with a poor herding response.

black pigIf you have pigs on your lifestyle farm and they are well fed with a comfortable free-range lifestyle, they are likely to be relatively healthy and content. But there are a few health problems you should know about  They are the ones that are most likely to occur, and knowing a bit about them and taking steps to prevent them is the best health insurance you can have.

tiny baby pigsPigs should be handled quietly to avoid stress. Electric prodders, plastic pipes and dogs must not be used on pigs.

pink pig mudProfit comes from keeping a productive sow that regularly weans good litters that grow well to slaughter weight with no deaths. That’s the main objective. It’s also important to make sure pigs have a friendly temperament and have no physical defects.

mrs pigMost gilts (young females) show their first oestrus between 170-220 days old, which is usually around 90kg liveweight. Age and not weight limit puberty in modern strains of fast growing pigs fed high energy diets.

group of little pigletsPregnancy in pigs is 115 days (3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days) with a range of 110-120 days. Pigs will breed all year round, but if kept outside their fertility drops in the darker months of winter.

AI in pigs is now regularly used around the world. The advantage for small pig breeders is that it avoids the costs and inconvenience of keeping a boar.

cute pig sniffingMost lifestyle farmers use outdoor huts for farrowing sows. Huts should be situated in a sheltered spot and made airtight to retain the sow's body heat.

baby pigsPigs are very social animals that prefer to live in small groups. They are very clean animals not dunging in their eating/lying area.

mixing pigsMixing pigs can cause a lot of stress, especially if they start fighting. Mix 3-4 sows and their litters before weaning.

big pigPigs urinate and defaecate at regular intervals during the day, except for a lengthy rest period between 7pm and 6am when their day starts. Pigs are naturally clean.

big pigThe time may come when you are faced with having to kill a pig, whether slaughtering for food or euthanising an old or sick animal. This article explains what you need to know.

Research now 60 years old showed that poorly-reared young stock will carry this burden into later life. 

lambsingrassWeaning is a stressful time for lambs.

Make sure the hen is “sitting tight’ on eggs before introducing the hatching eggs to her.

With eyes on the sides of their heads cattle have an almost 360 degree peripheral vision with both head up and when head-down grazing.

This is usually very easy as you use their “mobbing” instinct where they move together for security.

Stock used to regular handling like dairy cows will move quietly through a gate in their established social order without problems. 

Driving dairy cows or stock that have been regularly handled is easy. Just let them move along at their own pace.

Remember that animals remember!  They certainly remember bad experiences (fear and pain) from handling in yards.

Remember that animals remember! They certainly remember bad experiences (fear and pain) from handling in head bails.

Livestock can usually cope fairly well with either rain or wind or cold temperatures.

Good quality pasture is generally the best feed for stock, and surplus autumn pasture can be rationed for feeding into winter.

When there is insufficient pasture for livestock, alternative feeds must be provided. The most common of these is hay. Other common supplements include concentrate pellets and grain.

hayMany farmers are running out of pasture for their sheep and cattle and they are wondering what to do about it, because there’s not a lot of supplementary feed around.

fireworksThe fireworks displays around 5th November will be noisy, colourful and dramatic. Most people will love them.

skinnycowYou might well have heard of Johne’s disease, because it’s a common problem in ruminants.  But even if you’ve heard of it, you may not know much about it.

goatfaceHave any goats on your farm died after losing weight steadily?  Did they develop severe diarrhoea?  Did their condition worsen over a period of weeks or months?

Johne’s disease is a particular problem in cattle and deer for several reasons. deerIt causes slowly progressive and incurable scouring and weight loss leading to death or euthanasia.

Most animals on the farm will be lame at some time or other, especially the animals that live to a good age like horses, ponies, donkeys, dairy cows, pet goats and sheep.

ponywYou know how uncomfortable it is when you have a stone in your shoe, or an infected toe-nail?  Then you can imagine how painful it is for your horse or pony when he has an injured or infected foot.

hoofPractically every farmer has to deal with lame livestock at some time or other.  It’s a common problem in goats and sheep, and it can be a problem in cattle.  Occasionally it’s a problem in deer.

horsesgateYes, it’s a mouthful, but “neurological” just means “relating to the central nervous system”, and the central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord.  So neurological signs in animals are the clues the animals give us that there is something wrong with their brain and/or spinal cord.

ill thrift

Some livestock just don’t do as well as they should, even when they have plenty of pasture.

sheepAbortions can occur at any stage of pregnancy, although usually only mid to late-term aborted foetuses are big enough to be noticed.

Spring is a wonderful time on the farm. It means a new crop of youngsters - lambs and kids, calves and foals - beautiful, delicate little creatures that represent your farming future.

metabolic diseases In late pregnancy and early lactation, ewes and cows are under great metabolic stress. Their foetuses grow fast in late pregnancy, and after giving birth they have to produce a lot of milk.

cowwHypomagnesaemia is relatively common in cows in heavy lactation and on lush pasture (inadequate energy intake and low magnesium content).

acetonaemia ketosisAcetonaemia in cows is fairly common, especially in high-producing cows in early lactation. The best cows are most at risk.

cowlyingwMilk fever in beef and dairy cows occurs most often in high producing older cows within 48 hours of calving, but it can occur several weeks before or after calving.  Ironically predisposing factors include high calcium or phosphorus in the diet in late pregnancy.

cowlyingwWhen cows with metabolic disease go down, it may be difficult to get them on their feet again - they become ‘downer cows’. Usually the initial cause is milk fever, then either grass staggers or acetonaemia can develop as well. All three can occur together.

For just about as long as animals have been farmed, they’ve been routinely subjected to several painful husbandry/surgical procedures that make it easier for their owners to manage them - and they may make life easier for the animals too.

Most male cattle, sheep and goats are castrated while they are young, to make their management easier.  It goes without saying that castration can be a very painful and distressing experience for the animal.

Disbudding of calves and kids means removing the very early developing horn base to prevent horn growth. It’s a procedure carried out routinely for management reasons.

Tail docking can help prevent dirty faecal dags forming under the tail.

facial eczemaFE is a disease of sheep, cattle, goats, and deer. It also affects alpacas but not horses. Affected stock show photosensitisation or sunburn which can be severe, and animals are very uncomfortable, irritable from the itch and obviously in discomfort or even pain.

goat hoof trimFoot problems can affect all sorts of animals at any time of year and should be treated promptly. Animals need to be able to walk to access food and shelter and an animal in constant pain is not going to thrive.

cowteethwCattle, goats, sheep and other ruminants have no upper incisors - they have a hard dental pad and their bottom incisors (eight of them) bite against that.

cowteethwWhen farm animals develop acute pneumonia the signs are dullness and difficulty with breathing (heaving sides, rapid breathing, head low and extended). Sometimes their elbows are pushed out, sometimes (but not always) they cough. But often affected animals are just found dead.

injectionWhen giving injections always get veterinary advice to make sure the injections are appropriate and you know the correct procedure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.  Various pathogenic bacteria are present on the surface of the skin and these may produce infection if injected with the medication. 

horses ryegrass staggersRyegrass staggers is a neurological disease of sheep, cattle, horses and ponies, deer and alpaca. Alpacas appear to be particularly susceptible.

DagswGastrointestinal worms (in the stomach and intestine) are without doubt one of the biggest threats to the health and welfare of grazing animals in New Zealand. Internal parasites live in the stomach and intestines, and they lay eggs, which are passed out in faeces and hatch into larvae.

microscopewMost adult round worms live in the gut of the animal, (usually the small intestine) where they suck the animal’s blood, reproduce and shed eggs that pass out in the faeces on to the pasture. When conditions are favourable (wet and warm) the eggs hatch and the larvae climb up the pasture plants and are eaten again by the animal.

DagswDrench (anthelmintic) resistance is a huge and growing problem on livestock farms, particularly with sheep and goats. If you have drench resistance on your farm it means that some of the worms on your pasture and in your sheep or goats have developed resistance to a particular type of anthelmintic, so drenching with anthelmintics in that drench family will not be effective in getting rid of these worms.

injectionwVaccination of ewes against the clostridial diseases such as pulpy kidney and tetanus is good insurance against losses in lambs, because lambs are passively protected by antibodies in their mother’s colostrum for up to 3 months.

iodinewIodine is another vital nutrient and a trace element, and although deficiencies are not as common as those caused by copper, selenium and magnesium, deficiencies can still occur in a few areas.

hand rearing lambs, kids and calvesIt is very tempting for lifestylers to adopt an orphan lamb or goat kid, or to buy a very young calf to hand rear. They’re often available cheap, and they are always cute and fun for the children. But they are very vulnerable little animals.

scours in hand reared animalsDiarrhoea (or scours) can be a problem in hand-reared lambs, calves and kids in the first week or two of life. It’s a lot easier to prevent scours than to treat it, and the key to prevention is ensuring good feed quality, appropriate feeding regimes and good hygiene.

microscopewDrench resistance is a real threat to future worm control in goats, sheep and cattle.  About 80% of milking goat herds and 65% of sheep flocks may already be affected, and on some goat farms, resistance to all three drench families has been recorded.

Deer farming is not for the faint-hearted.

The food requirement of deer varies hugely from one season to the next. 

It’s just as important to have a good understanding of how to manage your deer well and how to keep them in good health.

Today there are approximately 5000 alpacas and 270 registered breeders throughout New Zealand.

Alpacas might look a bit like pantomime horses to some people, but alpaca farming is a serious business in New Zealand

There isn’t space to discuss all the potential problems of alpacas of course, but these are conditions to which they seem particularly susceptible. 

With their big eyes and fluffy coats, crias (baby alpacas) are particularly cute

You may want to be around when the cria is born in case anything goes wrong

Last week, one of our lovely cats, Dave, was killed on our drive, probably by a courier van.

Dogs will eat all sort of unlikely things.  In fact, the more disgusting they are the better! 

Christmas food!  It’s delicious, but there's usually a lot left over, and the scraps usually go to the family pet. 

Dogs and cats should be treated for worms every three months.

wdog4wThis is a major problem where town meets country and is getting worse. Here are some basic facts based on research in Western Australia.  New Zealand dogs are no different.

dogSigns may appear from as little as half an hour to as much as several hours after poisoning.

dogAccess across farmland to public waterways and hunting grounds has long been a custom in New Zealand. Lately though, with the increasing awareness of sheep measles, sheep farming landowners are taking a much sterner approach to this public privilege.

Working dogs are valuable animals and often have accidents a long way from a veterinary clinic.  What you do after an accident may not only save the dog's life, but it can also hasten its recovery.  First aid is all about sustaining life and preventing things getting worse before you get professional help. 

There are too many dogs housed in cold damp kennels and a few unfortunate dogs have no shelter at all.  Animals suffer just as much in cold damp winter condition as humans do. 

Dog problems are people problems

 There are no such things as dog problems! All the problems are "dog-owner" problems. That's certainly the clear opinion of the great majority of dog experts in New Zealand and overseas.dog

Your dog is a good and faithful companion. Whether it is a working dog, a guard dog or a household pet, it is an intelligent animal with the potential to be a real asset on the farm.dog

Farm dogs are usually very intelligent animals and willing workers. They learn quickly, they can think for themselves, they are very active and they are easily bored.

dogApart from helping to keep your dog fit, regular good quality exercise will help prevent boredom and the bad habits that often go with it, like persistent barking or continual pacing.

This is the first in a 12-part series on the “Care of Farmyard Poultry”.

What breed of chicken you choose will of course depend largely on what’s available, and that will vary hugely from one country to another.

The best way for anyone with a backyard flock to hatch chickens is using a broody hen,

One of the best reasons for having backyard hens is that they provide your family with a regular supply of tasty fresh eggs.

Free range poultry - what should you feed them?

One of the basic requirements for all backyards flocks is good housing. 

What’s the best way to carry a hen?  How do I clip my birds’ wings?

Generally, free-range poultry that are well cared for in a suitable yard have a very good quality life.  So much so that some hens in well-managed backyard flocks have been known to reach 10 years of age.

There are hundreds of different diseases that can affect poultry, and free-range chickens may be more or less at risk. 

Infectious diseases can be a problem in any group of poultry, even those in the best managed backyards.

Many of the diseases that can cause problems in farmyard poultry are the results of infections by parasites, bacteria or viruses, but there are many other types of problem too. 

If you have farmyard chickens then sure as eggs is eggs you will have to deal with sick birds sooner or later.

hopperA design for a feed hopper for chooks.

Ducks are endearing creatures and they make friendly and lovable pets, even if they can be a bit messy! 

Chick embryos respond to light as early as 17 days after the start of incubation

black pigIf you have pigs on your lifestyle farm and they are well fed with a comfortable free-range lifestyle, they are likely to be relatively healthy and content.  But there are a few health problems you should know about.  They are the ones that are most likely to occur, and knowing a bit about them and taking steps to prevent them is the best health insurance you can have.

cute pig sniffingMost lifestyle farmers use outdoor huts for farrowing sows. Huts should be situated in a sheltered spot and made airtight to retain the sow's body heat.

 donkeys1Donkeys are becoming more popular as pets, and for those of you who are thinking about getting a donkey, this article gives a brief overview of what you should know.

The term ‘BIT’ is like the term ‘HORSE”. A HORSE can be a mare, gelding, stallion, colt, foal etc,

This month we shall take a look at the PELHAM. Most people think that the PELHAM is more severe than a snaffle - but is this so?

This month we will look at fitting the Mullen Mouthed or Port Mouthed Pelham correctly

The application of the plain, ordinary and supposedly simple egg-butt snaffle cannot be discussed until the way the bit should fit into the horse’s mouth has been looked at.

Last month we discussed some of the reasons why the simple, mild egg-butt snaffle is not simple or mild

When a young horse is learning to accept a bridle, putting the tongue in the right place is a skill that must be taught.

There are a variety of reasons for an older horse developing the dreaded problem of the tongue over the bit

Sometimes, when we go to purchase a horse, everything is perfect except for one or two things

If you have decided to purchase a horse that puts its tongue over the bit, you will need to start the re-training immediately.

The tom-thumb snaffle is an ordinary and commonly used bit that comes with a range of built in bad-habit developers.

What can you do about the horse that is not accepting the tom-thumb?

Last month we covered the tom-thumb snaffle and some of the reasons why a horse may find it uncomfortable

This month's topic is the kimblewick, a bit that may also be known as a Spanish snaffle.

horsesgatewAll horse owners will have to deal an injured horse sooner or later, and those of you who have experience of this will know that it can be quite a drama. 

horsesthreeIn this article, we follow on from the emergency conditions considered in Part One (Cuts and other wounds) to deal with colic, tying up, blocked gullet (sometimes called ‘choke’) and the horse caught in an electric fence. 

horses Accidents and emergencies happen to many horses sooner or later, no matter how good your paddock and stable management is.  So if you have horses it’s always wise to be prepared. 

ponySome ponies, and some horses too seem to live on the smell of an oily rag!  How can they eat so little and stay so fat, and why are they so prone to developing laminitis?

horseA comprehensive list of good and bad signs to check for with your horse.


When driving or moving horses give them somewhere to go.  Position yourself behind the driving line.  If you move left the horse will move right.  More movement from you (either quicker, closer or sharper) will produce more movement from the horse.  Keep your adrenaline down.

horseLike to learn how to ride a horse? Read on - you can learn the principles in a few minutes.

horseLike to learn how to ride a horse? Read on - you can learn the principles in a few minutes. 

penHere is an idea for a simple inexpensive horse pen.  The openness of the pen and all round vision helps keep the most highly strung horses calm - as they can see their mates a few paddocks away, and everything else that is going on.

horsesthreeIf horses are to be covered, only light covers should be used, and the horses should have access to cool shady areas for relief from the heat.

hayFeed little and often.  Feed plenty of bulk food.  Feed according to body requirements

horsefeedWinter pasture in most parts of New Zealand is not an adequate feed for a horse - even to maintain its body weight. 

horseMany horse owners don't seem to realise how hot it gets below a winter double rug along with a neck rug and head cover.

horsesgateTo the observant stockman, a sick foal stands out like an Aberdeen Angus bull in a field of Charolais heifers.

angoragroupwThose of you who have goats will know they are not the hardy creatures many people think they are.  They are fastidious eaters, they need good shelter, they are very susceptible to worms and Johne’s disease, their feet need trimming regularly, and the Angora-type goats that have continuously growing fleece must be shorn each year. 

horseFoaling outsisde (under lights) - the better option in a mild climate or foaling in a stable - the better option if there are complications.

horseGestation in the mare tends to be around 342 - 345 days after last service by the stallion, but can vary from 315 - 370 days.  Mares do tend to follow a pattern so if your mare foaled a fortnight late last year, there is a strong possibility she will do the same this year.

horseInjury Prevention Research Centre Fact Sheet 32, December 2000.
New Zealand 1993-1998

horse teethTo prevent problems, it is wise to have the cheek teeth of ponies and horses rasped regularly, perhaps once a year or so, by a veterinarian or a horse dentist.

horseHorses like to roll in soft earth or sand, especially after exercise and when hot and sweaty.


  Horses are herbivores like cattle but are not ruminants.  They eat a wide range of pasture plants and  weeds. 

rhrododendronwAssume that all garden shrubs are a potential danger to goats. Some plants cause delayed poisoning as well as immediate poisoning eg ragwort and St John’s wort.

Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, a tethered goat must be provided with adequate feed, water and shelter.  A goat is not like a sheep and does not have a fat layer or wool to keep it warm.

The tethered goat causes more welfare complaints to MAF and SPCA inspectors than any other animal, and winter is the worst time for this neglect.  People should remember that a goat is not a sheep! 

pastureThroughout their lives, goats are very susceptible to worms in their stomach and intestines. Big worm burdens cause ill-thrift, weight loss, diarrhoea and even anaemia and deaths.

goateyeVery similar to sheep, they have a similar blind spot at rear – but they are more difficult to catch using this area as they are generally more alert than sheep.

goatspikeGoats are a flocking species but they don’t flock as tightly as sheep. Feral goats are hard to muster as individuals (especially males) keep breaking back and prefer to escape rather than stick with the mob. Sheep stick with the mob for safety unlike goats who seem to more keen to take a chance on their own.

kidGoats are seasonal breeders coming into heat in autumn with the declining daylight. Goats reach maturity at about 5-6 months old but well-reared milking-breed kids can show heat earlier (4 months) so they have to be watched to avoid too-early mating.

angorainfieldwGoats are a vastly greater challenge to handle than sheep. The first thing you’ll need to do is to heighten the yards to prevent jumping.

sheepwSheep have generally very good vision. The position of the eye allows for wide peripheral vision – with each eye they can span some 145° with each eye.

sheep grazingSheep are the classical social "flocking animal".

sheepmouthwSheep are ruminants – and they start eating pasture from about a week old. They are efficient ruminants by about a month old.

lambSheep are seasonal breeders and ewes are stimulated to cycle by the declining daylight pattern in Autumn.

lambwwA few hours before lambing, a ewe will move away from the main flock to find a quiet birth site.

sheeplambwTo keep sheep moving, make sure there’s always a clear way ahead.


lamb hayHogget lambing is regularly promoted as a way to increase income, but results have been variable in the past.

shearingwWool merchants are getting hot under the collar about people packing wool when it’s damp.

ramwEvery year, usually after the holidays in February and sometimes later, the owner of a lifestyle block with a small flock of sheep will realise that it’s that time of the year again.

Docking removes most of the lamb’s tail to prevent build up of dags on the wool around the sheep’s back end.

sheepgrazingwA bearing is a mass of flesh bulging from the vulva of a heavily pregnant ewe.

lambsMaybe a good time for small farmers to start thinking about more sheep.

newborn lambSaving lambs this spring is all about being well prepared, having the right gear and knowing when to offer or seek help.

flystrikeFlystrike is a horrible disease. In flystrike, blowflies lay eggs on the skin. Maggots hatch from the eggs and eat into the skin causing sores. This is a horrible sight for even the most experienced farmer.

DagsIf your sheep get diarrhoea, their daggy rear ends will be a very obvious sign, not just to you but to all the passers-by who look over your fence!

shearingwOccupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) now recommends that sheep are fasted prior to shearing

DagsLifestyle blocks are unfortunately a great place to find sheep decorated with dags.

shearingwSheep grow wool continuously, so it is important to shear them at least once a year.

lambEver eaten Weetbix for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

lambs1wMating hoggets can be quite profitable if done properly, but it has severe pitfalls which have be taken care off.

lambwA few weeks before lambing the ewe will “bag up”. You’ll see her udder swelling.

Before you get the rings out to castrate your lambs this spring, decide if it’s a wise move to turn them into wethers.

sheeptripletswIf you get things wrong, you’ll end up with poor weaners that will be poor hoggets, and these in turn will make poor-performing ewes over their lifetime.

sheepgrazingwIf you’re keeping breeding records of your sheep flock, making sure you get the correct mother at birth is critical

Rearing a pet lamb can be a great experience and it’s especially rewarding if you’ve saved a young lamb from starvation and exposure.

lambs newbornWhen a ewe is preparing to lamb, she’ll try to find a quiet spot for a birth site.

sheeptripletswIf you have to put your hand into the vagina, and then through the cervix of the ewe into the uterus to sort out a lambing problem, try this to make it easier:

spinning wheelNatural coloured fleece is sought after by handspinners, but the quality has to be right.

lambsbottleThe day you are offered an orphan lamb or kid to rear for school pet day - you have to be very hard hearted.

lambsbottlewThe day you are offered an orphan lamb or kid to rear for school pet day - you have to be very hard hearted.  You must ask the question - "has it had colostrum from it's mother, or from any other source which would be an adequate substitute"? 

shearingwImportant points if you shear your own sheep

meatwNew Zealand is well advanced in slaughter practices in all meat works, where cattle, sheep, goats and pigs are electrically stunned before their throats are cut severing the carotid arteries.

ramA ram has two jobs.  He has to get ALL the ewes pregnant, and then improve the next generation of the flock via his offspring.

lambStart to save your old bread bags to put over new-born lambs when it’s wet and cold.

Every lifestyle farmer who breeds cattle need to have a good calving kit.

calfwIf you buy calves directly from the farm where they were born you can see the conditions they have come from.  You can check all sorts of things, such as the way calves are handled, the smell around the calf yard or house, the consistency of faeces and so on.

digestionwThe very young calf is described as "monogastric", ie. it has a single stomach like pigs, poultry and mankind. This is designed to digest milk.

When you go to dairy weaner sales, and see the variation in size of calves that have been "reared" by sincere folk presumably trying to do a good job, you wonder how they got it so wrong.

A few weeks before calving the cow will 'bag up'.

Twins in cattle are not common- about 1 set in every 4000 births. Some dairy farmers find they have a run of twins in some seasons and these are difficult to explain.

syringewProtecting your valuable future money earners is a vital part of your animal health program.

It’s not until you end up trying to save scouring calves from death row that you realise what a risk buying in calves can be.

calfcutewA light-hearted view of life from the calf’s viewpoint – but with a serious animal welfare message.

calvessales1Farmers who have scouring calves that are passing blood should not assume it is Coccidiosis.

cowdairywTo find your grazers, this might need a couple of adverts in the local paper during April or May, or a few phone calls to local dairy farmers and word of mouth.

cattleeatingwIf you have not reared your yearlings you will have to organise time to buy from the market or a reputable calf rearing enterprise.

cattleyoungwIf you have not reared your weaners you will have to organise time to buy from the market or a reputable calf rearing enterprise.

calffeedingwA look at what is involved in rearing calves to weaning.


cattlefamilywOnce you start looking at cattle you need to choose the option to go for. Here are some things to take into consideration:

When to remove a calf from her dairy cow mother is often debated as an animal welfare issue.

calvingcowwA cow may spend couple of hours seeking out a birth site, and going through the first stages when the calf moves into the birth canal and the water bag appears.

bullnoseringwFarming bulls for beef is a major business. It provides lean export beef (grinding beef) for the USA hamburger trade.

cattlefamilywCows will breed all year round and are not as affected by the day/night pattern (photoperiodicity) as sheep, goats and deer.

milkingwDry cattle and bulls have 3 main grazing periods from daybreak to mid morning, mid afternoon to half an hour after sunset, and then a shorter period about midnight.

digestionwCattle digest fibrous feed in their 3 fore stomachs – rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum which is the true gastric stomach.

cowsleepingwAdult cattle sleep very little. The sleeping pose is all four legs tucked under and head turned to face the rear.

cowteethwCattle have a well-developed eye that sees some colour but not as much as humans.

milkingwCattle evolved into about 260 different breeds, types and varieties in different parts of world

conditioncowSimple Condition Scoring for cows - learn these seven points to feel on the cow.


skinnycoww“Condition Scoring” (CS) cows was developed many years ago to help farmers specify how skinny or fat their cows were.

meatwUnderstanding the beef schedule.

Primitive cattle needed horns to fight off predators and to sort out social ranking within the herd. Bulls needed them in their death fights for the 'king' bull status.

meatboardwWith such a high emphasis on Quality in our export markets, it's vital that farmers recognise this in the paddock because this is where Quality starts. 

cowteethwBloat in cattle is caused when grass is growing rapidly and clovers are coming away, as these feeds contain natural foaming agents that generate stable foam in the rumen.


heiferWell-grown heifer calves are capable of becoming pregnant from about 6 months of age. Bull calves can be fertile from about the same age.

cowwCows will start to cycle about 6 weeks after calving when they’ll should show the typical heat signs.

headbailA design for a simple, cheap and effective headbail for cattle.

milkingwEverything you need to know about having a house cow.

meatboardwWhen to sell your beef cattle depends on many things, but the two most common reasons are to maximise returns, or cut losses by quitting stock.

bullnoseringwWhen bulls start to become territorial and difficult to handle it’s tempting to assume that putting a ring in their nose will solve the problem.

bullnoseringwThere are many reason to try to do without a bull on your block. They are generally expensive to buy - if you buy a decent one.

bullwArtificial Breeding (AB) and Artificial Insemination (AI) are the same thing. The term AB is only used in New Zealand and Australia. The rest of the world uses AI.

cowandcalfwThese are breeds that provide both meat and milk.

cowlyingwCows with low magnesium run the risk of loss of production, going down at calving with “grass staggers” and death, at a time when you can least afford these losses. 

syringewAlways give intramuscular injections in the neck of cattle. Your veterinarian should know about this meat industry requirement.

This eight part series deals with the care of goats of the dairy breeds such as Saanen, Nubian and Toggenburg.

goatlumpLumps, bumps, bruises and swellings of all types are all too common in livestock.  So if you spot a lump on your horse or cattle-beast or sheep, what does it mean?  How can you tell what it is, and what should you do about it?

autumn rainWatch out for nitrate poisoning when the autumn rains come. This is when stock eat the fresh new “autumn flush” pasture that grows after a long dry period.  It is usually worst with new grass, but can happen on old pasture too.  Nitrates are broken down in the animal's rumen and cause death through reducing the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.  The animal actually dies from oxygen starvation, and it can be very rapid.

Despite welcome rain over the past few days, many areas of the country remain in the grip of what has been described as the worst drought ever.  Because of the extremely dry conditions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is advising small farm owners to seek help and advice if they have any problems with the condition of their animals.

How many stock should you carry on your block? This is not an easy question to answer. This is because the feed supply varies from day to day in quality and quantity, and so do the nutritional needs of the stock.

Angora goats are believed to have originated in the mountains of Tibet from where they spread to the Angora province in Turkey. There were five types each with different fleece characteristics but these were merged over time into the mohair goat recognised today.

Getting started is often the most difficult part, as some major decisions have to be made. These are mainly controlled by available finance and the time you are prepared to wait for results.

You cannot do worthwhile recording and breeding to improve flock performance unless all animals are identified. This ID must be unique so that no two animals have the same identity.

If you keep goats you are bound by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The details of good practice under this law are set out in a number of animal welfare codes that you should be aware of. 

Goats (Capra hircus) were among the first animals to be kept by man. Goat remains (or those of their early ancestors) 10,000 years old have been found in central and West Iran, and domestic goats have existed in other parts of the world for 8,000 years.

What are the main types of disease problem in Angoras?

Compared with other farm animals, goats are relatively susceptible to internal worms, which can cause scouring and ill-thrift.   Angora goats tend to suffer more problems with their feet than sheep, especially on lush pasture, and this causes lameness and ill-thrift.

If you keep goats you are bound by the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The details of good practice under this law are set out in a number of animal welfare codes that you should be aware of. 

What to buy depends on what’s available at the time and what the current market is like. If mohair is out of fashion, then does will be a lot cheaper than when fibre prices are good and people are talking about an approaching boom!

Goats are a vastly greater challenge to handle than sheep and the first thing you'll need to do is to heighten the yards to prevent jumping.

Goats are seasonal breeders coming into heat in autumn as daylight declines. They reach maturity at about 5-6 months old but well-reared milking-breed kids can show heat earlier (4 months) so they have to be watched to avoid too-early mating.

Angora goatYou cannot do worthwhile recording and breeding to improve flock performance unless all animals are identified. This ID must be unique so that no two animals have the same identity.  No system of ID is ever perfect, as there are always problems with permanent tags being pulled out on fences, and temporary marks on fleeces fading or being shorn off.

Tagging and recording angora goatsNew Zealand sheep farmers, shepherds and research technicians over the years have shown amazing innovation in developing practical ways to make field recording easier. This article looks at tagging adult goats with both plastic and brass tags and tagging kids in wet weather and in fine! The article also looks at the common causes of recording errors.

The finding of MmmLC in a dairy goat herd in July 2001 led to a disease investigation undertaken by MAF, because MmmLC was previously considered exotic to New Zealand. The conclusions of the investigation were that MmmLC has probably been present in New Zealand for some time, and given the movement of dairy goats between herds, that many herds may be infected.

Dairy goats, like meat and fibre goats, need good feed.  If they are pregnant or lactating or both, they need up to three times their basic maintenance ration.  Yet they are fussy eaters and if they are to be healthy, happy and productive, it's important to know what to feed them and how much.

Pasture is the main source of feed for goats in New Zealand, and the general principles of grazing management for livestock apply:  Make efficient use of pasture by reducing wastage and improve pasture quality by managing pasture growth properly.

milking dairy goatsMilking goats provide milk for the family, even butter and cheese, at little cost.  The down side is the time and effort it takes to manage does and their kids, to train the does to be cooperative and to milk them at the same time in the same way every day.

Goat milk is popular because it is more like human milk than cows' milk is.  It's suitable for a range of dairy products and is particularly good for making cheese.

dairy goat reproductionHand milking goats is not an easy procedure.  Before does can produce milk, they generally have to produce kids, and that means you have to manage the mating process, pregnancy, kidding and the day-to-day farming of the does and kids as well as the milking process itself. This article by Dr Marjorie Orr looks at mating, pregnancy and kidding in dairy goats and covers dealing with weak kids.

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