April 2010 Issue



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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


You discover a goat that is sick. You don't know what is wrong with it. You imagine all sorts of exotic illnesses and problems.

You are probably wrong.

When a goat gets sick, the cause is most often the simplest and one that you either didn't think of or thought of and dismissed as not likely.

Examine for worms, using FAMACHA field testing, and follow up by doing fecal counts under a microscope. Worms are a major cause of sickness and subsequent death in most goats. Wet climates and goats don't go together, but huge numbers of people are raising goats under wet conditions that make successful goat production verge on being impossible. Wet = Worms

Take the goat's rectal temperature with a digital thermometer to confirm or rule out high body temp that could be caused by pneumonia, mastitis, or a host of other issues. If goats don't die from blood-sucking worms that cause anemia, the next most common cause is pneumonia.

If the sick goat is a kid, check its tummy for fullness and its dam for adequate milk. It is likely starving, either because (a) its siblings aren't letting it eat, (b) its dam isn't producing enough milk, (c) its dam has mastitis and cannot produce milk, (d) it got chilled or overheated and could not control its body temperature, so it became dehydrated, or (e) it got separated from its dam and the scenario in item (d) occurred. These are all nutrition and management issues that you must observe and prevent. If the kid isn't starving, it may have developed pneumonia. Way too often the kid is starving and the producer doesn't recognize the symptoms.

My point is that a sick goat is seldom sick because of some exotic problem. For some reason, people tend to look for odd causes and overlook the obvious. Perhaps there are gaps in their management program which result in their not recognizing symptoms critical to good health. Learning to think like a goat goes a long way towards closing this management gap.

Nine times out of ten (not a scientifically-derived number, but you get my meaning), the cause of the illness is the simplest thing you could think of . . . and didn't.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Onion Creek Ranch
Lohn, Texas


Using Products Off Label/Extra Label

There are many products which Jeffers carries and sells that are not specifically approved for use with goats.

What does "off-label/extra label" actually mean to goat raisers? Are medications used off-label/extra-label illegal to use with goats?

Administration of products which are not labeled for use in goats is called "off label/extra label" usage. This does not mean that such usage is illegal. It simply means that the manufacturers of these products have not spent the time or money to complete and submit expensive detailed research studies to obtain government approval to label them for use with goats. Using products off label or extra label is NOT illegal as long as the producer has a good working relationship with a veternarian and the vet has advised the producer on proper use and dosage of the drugs. Develop a good relationship with your vet so that he/she knows about, supervises, and approves of your drug management and usage practices.

Suzanne Gasparotto and Pat Cotten


So, you've got a sick goat, but you don't know what is wrong with it. This article will address the steps to take to diagnose the problem. Details of treatment will not be covered. The writer's website has an Articles page that details many goat illnesses and how to treat them: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Once the problem has been diagnosed, go there for specific treatment information.

Obvious conditions exist that tell the producer that a goat needs help. These include cuts, bleeding, bruises, broken horns or bones, bite or puncture wounds, swelling of body parts, recumbancy (off its feet, down and can't or won't get up), limping or dragging of legs, staggering, circling, and a myriad of other acutely obvious situations which scream out that there is a problem.

Several not-so-obvious conditions may exist which will tell an alert producer that the goat needs help. If the goat is staying away from the herd, remaining by itself and/or not eating or drinking (and it is not a doe getting ready to kid), then the goat likely has something wrong with it. A turned-down tailweb in times of good weather is also an indicator that something is probably wrong. (Healthy goats turn their tail webs down in cold and/or windy weather.) Does in the process of kidding may require special assistance.

By and large, goats as a species are not hearty animals; they can adapt to new surroundings over a period of time, but abrupt changes cause health problems and sometimes death. Goats have very specialized (and therefore *sensitive*) rumens that require high-quality (not high protein or high calorie) food intake. Notice that goats eat from the top down when foraging; that is where they find tender vegetation which is most palatable to them. Goats are not the Saturday-morning cartoon characters who eat tin cans.

Goats are herd animals; they dislike being alone. Put a goat by itself and see what happens. Other than horns, goats have few natural defenses. Because they are sprinters and not long-distance runners, they cannot outrun predators. The herd means safety in numbers.

A goat alone is usually a goat in trouble. Here is what to do:

Examine the goat from head to toe for obvious problems. Check for dehydration, runny or ulcerated eyes, nasal discharges, bloated body barrel, impacted cud, broken or bad or missing or worn-out teeth, obstructions in the mouth, hot or hard udder, vaginal or anal secretions, strange smells coming from the mouth or the rectum/vaginal areas, retained placenta (if the doe has just kidded), foreign objects in or between the hooves, ripped or torn udder, labored breathing, difficulty in urinating or defecating, vaginal or anal prolapses, skin rashes and itches or other irritations, loss of hair or change in hair coloration, shivering, hunched back, teeth grinding, out-of-the-ordinary vocal sounds, dragging legs, white lining of the tissue in the lower eye socket, dehydration, diarrhea.

If the doe is pregnant, smell her urine; sweet smelling urine is an indication of ketosis. Check each newborn kid for a cleft palate, fully-formed hooves, functional rectal and vaginal openings, and penile shaft. Make sure all the 'parts' appear intact and present on newborn female and male kids.


Ask yourself if you've made any grain, hay, or mineral changes in the goat's diet, or if other management changes have occurred . . . a change in pasture, for example. If the sick goat is new to your facility, there is an excellent probability that this is the cause of the illness. Changes in climate, location, feed, and herd mates dramatically affect goats. Under the best of conditions, goats do not travel well.

Do not run for the antibiotics. Over-use and incorrect usage of antibiotics has caused many of these products to become ineffective when they are really needed. Antibiotic usage is indicated when fever and/or inflammation is present (with few exceptions like listeriosis).

The most important step: Take the goat's rectal temperature. Normal body temperature for a goat is 101.5*F to 103.5* F. If the goat has been running or is out in direct sunlight on a hot day, allow one degree higher to account for that fact. If you've not figured out the precise problem yet, the goat's rectal temperature will tell you what to do next.

Hope against hope that the goat has fever rather than sub-normal body temperature. In most cases, fever is easier to treat. Fever will make a goat go off-feed. The producer must determine what is causing the fever. If the goat has fever or inflammation (from a wound, for instance), an antibiotic as well as an anti-inflammatory medication is in order. Example: Interstitial pneumonia is a quick killer of both adults and kids, the only symptom for which is rapid-onset high fever, so immediate antibiotic therapy is crucial.

Kids and pregnant does are medicated differently from adults in some instances; determine the problem, then find the solution on this author's website, remembering that there are specific medications to be used for respiratory, ruminal, injury, and infectious disease situations. No one medication is applicable to all situations. An article entitled Goat Medications and How to Use Them appears on this writer's Articles page at: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

If the goat has sub-normal body temperature, this is a 'red flag' to act quickly. In this writer's opinion, most of the low-body temperature problems occurring in goats (assuming that the goat is not already dying) are attributable to rumen trouble. And too much of that sadly falls on the doorstep of producers who heavily manage their herds and feed them improperly . . . over-feeding grains, under-feeding grass hay, providing improper levels of nutrition, or not furnishing appropriate loose minerals that have been specially formulated for goats.

A newborn or very young kid with sub-normal body temperature is a critically-ill goat. The producer has no time to waste. A shivering or hunched-up kid is starving and dehydrated. A kid dragging its hind legs is probably selenium-deficient. Severe diarrhea and accompanying listlessness in a very young kid may be an indication of an eColi infection; eColi is a big killer of pre-ruminating kids. A kid who is circling and has a rigid neck either has goat polio or possibly tetanus. Tetanus kills quickly, while goat polio runs a longer course. Diarrhea can be a sign of many things, including heavy worm load and/or coccidiosis. Most of these problems are rumen-related. Milk of Magnesia, Bounce Back or equivalent electrolytes, Lactated Ringers, Banamine . . . all of these products are useful in such circumstances.

Adult-goat rumen problems include listeriosis, ruminal acidosis, bloat, and enterotoxemia (overeating disease) . . . to name a few. Articles detailing diagnosis and treatment of all of these conditions can be found on this writer's website's Articles page: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com

Performing your own fecals on a random weekly basis will prove to be quite helpful in managing the health of your herd. Routine regular fecal evaluation is very important when young kids are on the ground. Coccidiosis, which usually but not always manifests itself with watery diarrhea, is a quick killer of young kids.

Keep essential emergency medications and supplies on hand and within easy reach. Health crises too often occur when stores are not open. Illnesses involving toxic reactions kill the goat quickly, leaving no time to go get the needed products (assuming that they are available locally, which often is not the case). Refer to this writer's article entitled Supplies Every Goat Rancher Needs on the Articles page of: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. These supplies are a significant initial investment of money, but losing a quality goat (and possibly her unborn kids) is a considerable expense, too.

Observe your goats carefully. Learn each animal's unique behavioral and personality patterns. They are there for you to see, if you pay attention. Think like a goat, and you will be able to see many problems in the making . . . well before they become life-threatening.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto






Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
325-344-5775 for prices and availability.




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