Animal Farming – About Goats/Sheep
On the Goat Farm
The raising of goats for their flesh, fiber or milk is a small industry in the United States. Around 2.5 million are raised for their flesh, 360,000 for their milk, and 180,00 for their fiber. Goats are more popular as a food and dairy source in countries like India and Pakistan where nearly 200 million are raised annually.
There are approximately 360,000 dairy goats in the United States. Each year, approximately 20% of adult female dairy goats (~76,000) are culled or removed from the herd. They may be sold for slaughter, weed eaters, or pets.
Sanctuary Spotlight – Ella’s Story
Ella is a mixed breed goat used for dairy production on a local farm. She would have given birth to 1-2 kids a year, only to have them taken away from her. When Ella was about four-years-old, she escaped from the farm and found herself in a rural, wooded area, alone. A mother and daughter befriended the lone goat, feeding her and doing their best to provide shelter. The lack of fencing meant Ella could roam around, putting her life in jeopardy. Neighbors did not want the goat munching on landscaping or defecating in their yards. Animal control was contacted, but they quickly gave up trying to catch the wily goat. The farmer came out, but Ella evaded his capture too. Both gave up. Neighbors threatened to kill Ella, and she was being harassed by dogs. Her caregivers called Animal Place. We arrived with our stock trailer. The plan was to leave the stock trailer there, get Ella used to its presence, and come back later to catch her…Ella was not going anywhere near us! But we asked the woman who had been feeding her to try and lure her into the trailer. A trust had been built between goat and woman, and Ella climbed in the trailer after only twenty minutes of coaxing. Ella integrated beautifully into the goat herd.
Kids Removed From Mothers
Like on cow dairy farms, kids (baby goats) are generally removed from their moms either at birth or within 24-48 hours. Otherwise, milk that can be sold for human consumption would be fed to the doe’s (female goat) actual offspring.
It is not possible for the average goat dairy operation to keep all of the kids birthed in a given year. For example, a 500 dairy goat operation will produce about 800 goat kids a year. Half will be male and unable to produce milk.
Male kids are sold at auction, often for slaughter. They are very cheap and can sometimes be bought for only $1.00.
Some female kids will replace their mothers when they are sold or sent to slaughter.
Goats Raised For their Flesh
Around 2.5 million goats are raised for their flesh in the United States, nearly half of whom are raised and killed in Texas.
Goats raised for their flesh are different in size than breeds used for dairy production. The most common goat breed used for meat is called a Boer goat.
Most goats naturally grow horns. Horns are part of an animal’s skull. They have large blood vessels running through it. For all animals with horns, they are used to thermoregulate or keep the animal cooler. For goats, they are also useful at maintaining a healthy social structure.
Before a horn becomes a horn, it is called a bud. This is a small nub on the goat’s head less than an inch in height.
On many goat farms, young goat kids (4-8 days old) are disbudded. This involves applying a hot iron to the goat’s head and burning, then scooping out the growing bud. This is a painful process and is performed without pain relief.
Male goats are also castrated without pain relief.
Goats are raised and killed at different ages. They are primarily killed for cultural or religious ceremonies. Certain Christian sects consume 1-month-old goats for Easter. In some Islamic traditions, yearling goats are slaughtered to celebrate the start and end of Ramadan. Certain Hindu celebrations “require” the slaughter of male, castrated goats.
Because many goats are slaughtered for cultural or religious “holidays or celebrations”, there are rules associated with how the animal must be killed. This means many goats are killed in direct violation of the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which requires cattle, goats, sheep and pigs be stunned insensible to pain before their throats are cut.
Instead, goats are often “hogtied” and their throats are cut while the animal is fully conscious.
Sanctuary Spotlight – Annie & Jessica’s Story
A loose dog saved the lives of more than two dozen animals in Santa Cruz county, California. An animal control officer trying to help a stray dog paused when he noticed a cow standing in the middle of a dirt lot with blood spouting out of her head. One of her horns had been knocked off. Horns have large blood vessels running through them and when they are damaged, extensive bleeding results. The animal control officer decided to inspect the property. He found employees in the process of slaughtering a sheep without properly stunning her. In addition, he discovered multiple animals in poor body condition with ribs protruding. There was at least one goat who was unable to walk. He shut down the farm, which operated as a live-market auction. This is a facility in which animals are bought at various auctions and people can pick out the animal they wish to have slaughtered onsite. The animals were fed only bread, had no access to grass, and were often sick. Eight of the twenty-four animals confiscated (legally, the officer could not confiscate all the animals because they “appeared” well-fed) came to Animal Place. Annie and Jessica were two of those animals. Annie and Jessica are Boer goats and are traditionally raised for slaughter. Their hooves were severely overgrown when they arrived. While they never trusted any humans, they immediately bonded with the rest of the goats.
Wool is not natural for sheep
Sheep are one of the first animals to be domesticated around 9000 BCE.
The ancestors of the modern sheep did not have wool. They had hair which sheds during the spring and summer. Wool, on the other hand, grows constantly.
If domestic sheep are not sheared, wool keeps growing. It can weigh the animal down and cause heat stroke and joint problems.
Animal friendly alternatives to wool include cotton, hemp, flax and synthetic fibers.
Sanctuary Spotlight – Isobel’s Story
Isobel lived on a small farm. As the elderly farmer aged, the care she provided to Isobel started to decline. For five years, Isobel was never sheared. The wool began to weigh her down and she had difficulty getting up and walking. When the farmer died, a neighbor contacted Animal Place. We immediately scheduled Isobel’s shearing. More than 70 lbs of wool was sheared. A normal shearing removes 8-10 lbs of wool. It took almost a week for Isobel to adjust to life without the extra wool, but she was much happier without it.
Sheep Have Tails
All sheep are born with tails. Within the first week of life, most sheep farmers cut off (dock) the tails of sheep. This is done without pain relief.
Most modern breeds of sheep are bred to have many folds of skin for more wool. The extra skin can cause skin infections and serve as a breeding ground for flies.
With proper management, fly problems (called blowstrike or flystrike) are minimized. At Animal Place, caregivers check each sheep monthly. These health checks eliminate problems with flies.
On large farms, farmers do not individually check sheep monthly. Instead of implementing better management techniques, farmers remove body parts.
Tails are used for communicating with other sheep and, more importantly, help keep flies and other parasites away.
In addition to tail docking, male lambs are castrated without pain relief.
Three million sheep are slaughtered each year. Lamb meat is the flesh of a 6-mos-old baby sheep. Sheep who are bred to produce wool are still slaughtered, once their wool production declines – around 5-7 years of age. They can live into their teens.
Australia is the largest producer and exporter of wool, raising more than 70 million sheep annually for wool production.
While not performed in the United States, mulesing is common on Australian farms. Mulesing involves cutting off flaps of skin from the top rear end of sheep. It is done with a dirty knife and no pain relief, while the sheep is tied up.
Mulesing is incredibly painful. It is not uncommon for sheep to develop infections from it. Farmers claim mulesing is necessary as it prevents blowstrike and flystrike, in which flies lay eggs in the folds around the rear end, which hatch into maggots that can kill the sheep.
Proper management would prevent flystrike, but farmers once again choose mutilation over good health care.
Sanctuary Spotlight – Alice’s Story
Organizations like 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America) claim to teach leadership and responsibility, but one of their programs teach betrayal. Both 4-H and FFA offer children the opportunity to raise and care for an individual farm animal. Students name the animal and are responsible for the animal’s daily care. After bonding with this animal, children are expected to sell the animal at county or state fairs to be slaughtered. Alice is a Suffolk sheep, a type of sheep raised for their flesh. She was severely tail docked in which nearly her entire tail was cut off. This type of tail docking is only performed for show purposes so that judges can see how muscular or “meaty” the lamb’s rear end is. It can cause lifelong health problems. The teenager caring for Alice fell in love with the lamb. She realized she could not send Alice to slaughter. When she proposed finding a home for Alice to her teacher, he laughed. The school did not want to see Alice sent anywhere other than auction and slaughter. Thankfully, the girl’s mother had purchased Alice at the onset of the program. Many children take out bank loans to pay for the purchase and care of the animal, leaving them with little recourse but to sell the animal to recoup their money to pay off their loan. Alice is lucky – she ended up here. The girl caring for Alice not only agreed never to do another animal project, but she became a vegetarian as well, along with her mother!
Animal Place offers a unique program for children and animals in 4H and FFA as an alternative to slaughter.
If a child is willing to give up an animal, sign a contract agreeing never to do another animal project, and participates in an interview for our program, we will accept the animal to the sanctuary or our Rescue Ranch program, space depending.
Our 5H program adds a 5th H to the 4H motto – humane.
Sheep slaughtered for cultural or religious “holidays or celebrations” may be killed in ways that are in direct violation of the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which requires cattle, goats, sheep and pigs be stunned insensible to pain before their throats are cut.
Sanctuary Spotlight – Virginia and Lenny’s Story
A loose dog saved the lives of more than two dozen animals in Santa Cruz county, California. An animal control officer trying to help a stray dog paused when he noticed a cow standing in the middle of a dirt lot with blood spouting out of her head. One of her horns had been knocked off. Horns have large blood vessels running through them and when they are damaged, extensive bleeding results. The animal control officer decided to inspect the property. He found employees in the process of slaughtering a sheep without properly stunning her. In addition, he discovered multiple animals in poor body condition with ribs protruding. There was at least one goat who was down and unable to walk. He shut down the farm, which operated as a live-market auction. This is a facility in which animals are bought at various auctions and people can pick out the animal they wish to have slaughtered onsite. The animals were fed only bread, had no access to grass, and were often sick. Eight of the twenty-four animals confiscated (legally, the officer could not confiscate all the animals because they “appeared” well-fed) came to Animal Place. Virginia was one of them. She was a slender, elderly goat with bad arthritis. Because some of the other animals were pregnant, a veterinarian evaluated all the animals. Even with an ultrasound and sonogram, no one figured out that the emaciated Virginia was pregnant! She gave birth to a very healthy baby boy, Lenny. They are inseparable and Lenny always protects his mom!