Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saanen Goats--CAE and Pelt Tanning

A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my Saanen goats, one that is pregnant, started to have problems in keeping her balance. She would sway from side to side and over half the day just sit in the shade. I thought was normal in her state, but just to be on the safe side, I did an examination and found that there was swelling in both of her front legs, the knees had become the size of tennis balls. There were no other problems on the rest of her body, no cuts and no broken bones. She finally got to the point where she couldn't get up at all and her front joints were even larger and painful to the touch. 

There is no qualified vet in the area so I turned to my great source--the internet. After doing research on the issue for many days, I found out that it was very possible that my goat has C.A.E. or Carpel Arthritis Encephalitis. There is no vaccine or cure for the virus. It is transmitted from the fluids of the mother to the kid after giving birth. This can be confirmed by a blood sample but as I live in the bush that way is not an option. 

This was a big blow to me as I was so happy that we finally got our dairy goats which were donated by Grey and Esther from Germany. A goat house was even constructed. So what should I do? 

There is a way to save the baby and that is to duct tape both of the teats on the doe right before birthing and then immediately after she gives birth, remove the kid from the mother and feed the kid with bottles. You can't even let her lick or clean the kid as her saliva could infect the kid. Then the dam (a female goat who has given birth) should be put down as she will only deteriorate in time. Also you don't want that virus to continue on. 

At one time, 90% of all dairy goats in the US were infected with the virus, only by separating the kids from their mothers has the virus in dairy goats now come down to 40%. In the States you can go to good closed farms (meaning they don't bring in new goats) and purchase a virus clear goat with no problems, but here in Zambia, its a gamble.

 So what decision should I make? There is also a chance the doe might infect the rest of the goats. I would need to isolate the doe and feed her until birthing and then deal with her kid--feeding her expensive purchased milk. So after talking with my wife, we decided that at this time we don't have the time, manpower or funds to keep the doe, Although I did consider it since it was a big deal to bring the goats here from over 1000 kilometers away. I finally had to make the decision to butcher the goat as she was eating feed which is costing us funds.

  After much time delaying, I finally did it. I decided to keep the pelt and give the meat to the staff (CAE is not transmittable to humans).

The following images may be disturbing to some viewers.

  We bled the goat out, much like you do a chicken, then after draining I hung the body upside down and put a bamboo through its tenons. This place has the strength to hold the goat. Then very carefully I cut only the skin off.

The skin was not too difficult to peel off the meat, a bit more difficult than a rabbit pelt but in the process I did manage to make a small hole in the center of the body. But hey, nobody's perfect.

The innards were thrown away and the brain was put in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for use in the tanning process.

   Then I salted both sides of the pelt and nailed it on a door out of the sun. This was left for 3 days. Then I found the skin completely stiff, so I started to scrape off the salt and extra fat that still remained on the skin. That took a good 2 hours. I then took the pelt and rinsed it in a basin for an hour until all the salt was gone.

Then I took the brains that I kept in the fridge and blended them up with a few cups of warm water. Getting a paint brush I painted on the brain liquid (which contains lecithin)  on both sides of the pelt doing it over and over until all was gone. A fire was made on a braizer and bark and grass put on it to make smoke. This seals the brain liquid in the leather. The smoking was done for about 3 hours. Then the long process of breaking started. That is when the stretching and pulling and twisting goes on to make the fibers in the leather soft and pliable. This was done for two days.

  The end result is a great goat pelt ready for a chair backing or a floor mat or even something to put on a wall. It still  feels a bit gummy from the brains and the smell of smoke is present. I'm researching to see if I should throw it in the washing machine.....