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Natural Goat Care Paperback – CLV, November 1, 2001
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About the Author
Pat Coleby has been instituting eco-farming techniques in Australia for the last half-century. She practices commercial-scale farming and writes and travels extensively as a lecturer and farm consultant. Early on in her career, she realized that conventional veterinary medicine was far from a cure-all. She recognized that good nutrition is the key to preventing ill health in animals, and her prescriptions of non-invasive, natural remedies resulted in amazing, seemingly miraculous cures in animals whose cases conventional veterinary wisdom would abandon. As word of the success of her natural treatment spread, Pat Coleby quickly became known as an expert on holistic animal care. Coleby has written numerous books on holistic livestock husbandry and land stewardship including Natural Cattle Care, Natural Sheep Care and Natural Horse Care, also available from Acres U.S.A.
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When I first bought this book, I looked at it daily for several months, even though I had already been keeping milk goats for a year. It's a complete and thorough education in goat keeping, representing the author's lifetime of experience. My other goat care book, "Raising Goats Naturally" by Deborah Niemann (which itself isn't bad), just sits on the shelf getting dusty.
Having healthy goats, following Pat Coleby's advice, saves me tons of $$$ in vet bills. My goat friends are already following suit, getting their own copies.
The trouble is twofold: Coleby isn't very scientifically minded and she lives in Australia, so the American reader needs to consider her assertions with a major grain of salt. For example, I suspect Coleby is right that minerals are essential to keeping goats healthy, but I cringe a bit when I hear American goatkeepers using her feeding formula precisely as she lists it in her book. Our soils are completely different from Australian soils, which suggests that the supplements our goats need are also likely to be quite different. Coleby pushes dolomite very hard as one of her cure-alls, but are goats raised on browse in an area like ours with very high magnesium in the soil likely to be deficient in magnesium? Probably not. Similarly, she feeds a lot of grain to her goats because Australia is so dry that it's probably close to impossible to keep goats happy on pasture and root vegetables, but grain isn't a good choice for most American goatkeepers. In the end, this isn't so much a fault in the book as a fault in the lack of critical thinking in her American readers, who follow Coleby's lead blindly without assessing their differing habitats.
However, the book does have its own faults. As one small example, Coleby talks about Mendelian genetics in the chapter on breeding, and shows a clear misunderstanding of statistics. Mendelian genetics is all about percentages --- if you're likely to see 50% of one phenotype, that doesn't mean that if your goat has two kids, one is going to show the phenotype and one isn't. However, Coleby clearly thinks that's the case, which throws her understanding of basic biological principles into question.
The trouble is that after a few assertions that are obviously not universally true, I began to lose faith in the author of the book. I feel that this book could have been much better (for an American audience) if it had come with an introduction explaining the differences between Australian and American goatkeeping, and if the author had made clear which of her assertions were backed up with data and which were simply her own guesswork. As it is, I would hesitate to recommend this book to anyone without a science background since I suspect it could do more harm than good. On the other hand, if you're able to think critically, this book will provide some food for thought and is a good addition to your goat-keeping library.
Pat Coleby mentions an article about kid digestion in "United Caprine News" from January 1986. I could not find it online. "United Caprine News" does not have a copy of it. Does anyone know where to find it?