January 2011 Issue



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Incurable But Not Equal

Goat producers tend to think of Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE), Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL), and Johnes Disease as equally dangerous and unwanted. While no goat producer wants to purchase goats that have one or more of these incurable diseases, the truth is that they should not be lumped together as equally devastating illnesses.

CAE is a retro-virus, like AIDS. It is transmitted through colostrum, milk, and body fluids. Although very debilitating to the infected goat, CAE is not believed to be transmittable to humans.

CAE blood tests detect antibody produced in response to infection with the CAE virus. However, because only very small amounts of the antibody are produced in the early stages of infection, these low antibody levels may not be detectable by some blood tests. Therefore it is not advisable to test for CAE until the goat is at least six to eight months of age. Most female goats will develop detectable levels of antibody at or shortly after their first freshening (kidding).

CAE is incurable, untreatable, and not manageable. Goats infected with the CAE virus should be slaughtered for meat consumption. The meat is safe for human consumption.

CL is caused by a bacteria that can in theory be transmitted to humans but in fact seldom happens. This disease is transmitted through oral ingestion of the pus or through direct contact with the pus through a cut on the body. CL does not transmit through colostrum, milk, or bodily fluids. I repeat: CL does "not" transmit through colostrum, milk, or bodily fluids. CL bacteria is filtered by the goat's lymph system to the underside of the skin, where it is contained in thick-walled abscesses that are impenetrable by antibiotics. The problem with CL occurs when an abscess breaks open into the environment, spredding pus that can infect the goat's herdmates. Internal abscesses are possible but much more common in sheep than in goats. Slaughter facilities routinely identify and condemn abscesses in internal organs and allow the rest of the goat to be processed for food. The meat from CL-infected goats is safe to eat after the affected areas have been condemned and discarded.

Blood testing for CL has a high degree of accuracy, depending upon the type of blood test used, but the only way to be absolutely certain if the abscess contains the CL bacteria is to test the exudate (pus). There are many types of abscesses. Two abscesses often visually mis-diagnosed as CL are pasteurella abscess and a. pyogenes abscesses.

CL, while incurable once the goat contracts it, can be vaccinated against with the CaseBac sheep vaccine (same bacterial organism affects both sheep and goats) and will in the not-too-distant future be able to be vaccinated against with a goat- specific vaccine currently in development by Colorado Serum. CL is also manageable either by lancing and cleaning out abscesses or injecting the abscess with 10% Formalin. I have articles describing how to do this on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. If you decide to employ one or more of these methods, read these articles carefully and contact me if you have questions. While no sane producer chooses to have CL or any other infectious disease in the herd, CL is nowhere near the health, managerial, or economic disaster that is CAE and Johnes.

Johnes Disease is the caprine equivalent of chronic wasting disease in deer. This bacteria is passed via fecal-to-oral contact. Chronic in dairy cattle herds and becoming more common in goat herds, Johnes Disease stays in the ground for a very long time. Johnes is very debilitating to infected goats and usually doesn't show up for years, producing a situation where all of the herd can become infected before the producer sees symptoms. Johnes-infected goats should be slaughtered for food consumption; the meat is safe to eat.

Johnes is not believed to be transmittable to humans, but it is incurable and untreatable in goats. Both types of tests for Johnes have their drawbacks, but producers suspecting Johnes Disease should definitely have their goats tested immediately.

Bob Glass, owner of Pan American Vet Lab in Hutto, Texas (near Austin, Texas), performs blood tests to identify all three of these diseases. The prices are astonishingly inexpensive. Pan American Vet Lab can be reached at 1-800-856-9655. Bob Glass can be reached via email at bglass@pavlab.com.

If you suspect any disease in one of your goats, always use disposable gloves when handling the animal. Before you decide to cull the goat, you need to know what choices are available to you. Your goals and your managerial style will impact your decision. This article is intended to present those options to you so that you can make that decision based upon facts rather than emotional heresay from other goat raisers.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Onion Creek Ranch
onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com 1/1/11

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.


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TIP: Every time you handle a goat for any reason, get into the habit of checking inner lower eye membrane coloration. This FAMACHA field test for blood-sucking stomach worms helps producers keep on top of worm loads. Coloration of inner low eye membrane should be bright red to bright pink. Light pink coloration = worms. White coloration = worms + anemia, which means that deworming plus Vitamin B12 injections and iron supplements are needed.



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


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