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Involving Youth Early

Mad scientist helping with the goat pill evaluations.
By Josh Crise

By Josh Crise

Featured in the September issue of Goat Rancher (pages 45 & 46).

Featured in the September issue of Goat Rancher (pages 45 & 46).

With this month’s Goat Rancher focus on “Youth”, it’s left me reflecting on what our home would have been like if I had taken the Kiko meat goat leap when our kids were youngsters. We were always involved in school activities, including music, sports, and other after school outdoor activities but neither my wife nor I were raised on farms so goating was and is foreign to us. There’s nothing you can’t read and research to learn or reach out to locals (mind you local could be anywhere in the world with the technology we have available at the tips of our fingers today), knowledgeable producers, ranchers, farmers, specialists or outreach programs to help you get up to speed.

We did dive in with the gateway farm animal, chickens, while our kids were still in high school. Our daughter came to me and asked if we could raise chickens. I said you read and do the research and we will get set up and then get a few chickens. Of course, a few chickens turned into a lot more over time. That led to Kikos a few years later. The question I am left with is, would we be more heavily involved in FFA, 4H programs or the show ring if we had started much earlier? Knowing our children (young adults at this point), I am not sure. Of course, my Kiko decision limits the show ring (gladly)! However, we attend agricultural fairs around the state of Maine and I see various ages mucking stalls, working the ring and showcasing with pride their chickens and other barnyard animals, including goats. However, our daughter, Amelia, is still heavily involved even today, cautiously starting her own herd and my son still pitches in from time to time staying involved on the weekends when he is home, from building naval ships in Southern Maine.

This leads me to how you keep your kids (pun intended) involved from an early age, and not just involved but keeping them coming back for more. For us, it was POO! Yes, fecal counts, microscopes, and parasites. It all started when the kids and I got involved with the University of Maine and the FAMACHA training we attended through our local livestock extension. We attended training that included an overview of parasites, FAMACHA scoring and conducting our own fecal counts. There are so many organizations offering free training to help you get started, including conferences and extension programs. Don’t forget about blogs, YouTube or Facebook! All are great ways to read up and get up to speed. The training was cool but I was more interested in the study that was being conducted by the University of Maine. However, it did put the itch in the back of my mind, that later became part of our goat husbandry practices.

The short of it is that the University of Maine was offering to cover all costs to be a part of a research project around understanding the efficacy of various wormers in use to combat parasites in goats. I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to work with your local livestock extension or university to take advantage of it. You can learn so much. Of course, since then I have learned a ton and won’t focus much on the study itself other than to say, my gut reaction was whoop, whoop, free ride, this is a great opportunity!

So without further ado, I dove in and collected fecal, from very uncooperative Kikos each month for the entire herd (about 20 goats) for an entire summer. I understand it isn’t practical for 100+ herds or even smaller but even spot checks on suspect goats will help you understand your herd better. The collecting went as expected. We received great data and started to understand what parasite thresholds a goat can manage and when they start to have issues. Understand, I am not a veterinarian and not making any recommendations around when to provide a wormer and when not, but like most producers, we have to make some educated decisions because there aren’t vets around 24/7 or in rural, remote areas as often as we would like. Of course, parasite thresholds also leads to questions around resistance or resilience. Maybe an article for another day. However, the research project came to an abrupt end and I was left wanting, so I reflected on that original training and decided it was time to invest in a mini-lab to conduct my own fecal counts.

Keep in mind, your fecal counts are not going to be perfect but they certainly will provide the necessary insight to take preventative measures should it be needed. Every goat is different so understanding their parasite threshold can mean the difference between losing a goat and making a course correction to save a goat. I can hear many of the long-time Kiko producers, saying you can’t coddle them. Cull them if they can’t make it on their own. I hear you. I hear you, and respect your approach. For me, I want as self-sufficient a herd as possible so totally in line with characteristics we want from Kikos but for me, I am still trying to understand my local environment and the various factors that pull and push, day to day, on my herd. So I take a few extra steps just in case so I can predict and quickly address the signs should I see something out of the ordinary.

This is where it gets truly fun with youth though, keeps them involved, brings lots of laughs (I mean who doesn’t like playing with goat poo) and teaches them process, to evaluate and to make decisions based on sound data. I am not going to focus on the evaluation aspect or making decisions around your data. For now, I just want to look at instilling a process, sticking to it and how it brings focus to youngsters that might be helping you. Recently our 8-year-old niece, visiting from California, couldn’t get enough of being outside with the animals, from getting chores done to collecting eggs.

There were a number of processes I picked up throughout the years, but one that was imparted during my days as a sailor in the US Navy is conducting spot checks. Maintenance comes in two flavors; preventative and corrective. Stay with the analogy for the moment but preventative care goes a long way in preventing the need for corrective actions or care. Preventative maintenance includes daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly (you get the point) checks on various systems to make sure they are running well and that they are maintained in an effort to prevent catastrophic failures which result in corrective maintenance or worse. And mind you corrective maintenance sometimes can’t be avoided, even with all of the precautions you might take upfront.

When you are to the point where you have a goat down, in many cases, it is too late. So like many, we do spot checks. And it takes a village, so it is definitely a “We”. We keep an eye on our herd for loners or goats that are just not acting quite right and I do regular FAMACHA checks. Not daily, but regular. On larger herds or when you are working full time and goating is your part-time gig, it just isn’t possible, to check every goat but with a regular preventative program, including fecal counts you can conduct spot checks on your herd and keep your kids involved and even do a bit of teaching along the way. Our daughter loves data, tracking and making lists to ensure the health of our herd.

A process is important to ensure the integrity of your data. Process teaches kids how to follow directions and using a microscope gives kids a real-world example of something that most kids learn in school in their science classes. All too often we hear, why do I need to learn this, I will never use this in the real world. Well now you have something to involve youth in, that is relatively straight forward, gives them a chance to collect and play with poo, follow directions, count and analyze data and make decisions to support the health of your herd. In the end, our niece, couldn’t quite bring herself to collect poo the way the Crise clan collects it but she had a lot of fun and can’t wait to come back next year.

If you want to get kids involved, teach them a ton, and have some great laughs, then get them out collecting and analyzing poo!

- Disposable gloves
- Fecasol solution
- Beaker graduated in milliliters
- Stir stick
- Scale with a sensitivity of .1 gram
- Gauze 3” x 3”
- Disposable plastic pipet
- McMasters egg counting slide
- Paper towels
- Compound microscope

Note: Total egg count (both chambers of McMaster’s slide) x 50 = EPG (Eggs /gram)


- Collect fresh fecal sample
- Weigh out 2 grams of fecal
- Add 28 milliliters of Fecasol to beaker
- Add weighed fecal to beaker with Fecalsol
- Break up fecal and stir
- Strain slurry through cheesecloth into another beaker
- Squeeze out as much liquid as possible
- Pre-wet McMaster’s slide and shake off excess water
- Mix strained fluid well and draw up into pipet
- Fill both McMaster’s chambers and avoid adding bubbles to counting chambers
- Let stand for 1-2 minutes
- Methodically count each egg type

(Josh and Kathy Crise, and their grown children, Amelia and Kevin, operate Marble Creek Acres in Lee, Maine. For interest in a future year’s Kiko waitlist, or any other questions, we can be reached at 207-619-3758, email [email protected] or