July 2009 Issue



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Water is critical to the goat's survival. That seems like an obvious statement, but producers sometimes miss recognizing just how sick a goat will become when it lacks adequate water in its body.

A dehydrated goat is close to death. Dehydration is not just a hot-weather issue. Think of how thirsty you are in cold weather. Adult or kid, a goat cannot survive long without adequate fluid levels in its body. The rumen must be about 70% water to function properly. Nearly every illness or injury to a goat involves some level of dehydration. A good indicator of dehydration is lack of urination. (Note: A goat that is straining to urinate has a different problem. Refer to my article on Urinary Calculi on the Articles page of the Onion Creek Ranch website at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.)

Fever and diarrhea remove large amounts of liquids from the goat's body. Pregnancy-related problems, illnesses, and injuries often produce circumstances that result in dehyration. Anytime a goat is off-water and/or off-feed, the likelihood that dehydration will occur is great. Sub-normal body temperature, which is often an indication of rumen-related problems or that the goat's bodily functions are shutting down and death is imminent, goes hand in hand with dehydration. Shock, toxic reactions (poisoning), and infection all involve some level of dehydration. Rehydrating the goat is as important as administering medications. Indeed, if you don't rehydrate the goat, it won't make any difference how much medication you give it -- it will die.

Diarrhea in both adults and kids is a symptom of illness rather than an illness itself. Something is wrong that is causing the diarrhea. The producer's challenge is to determine the cause of the diarrhea before trying to stop it. Sometimes diarrhea is beneficial, but it always requires rehydration. See my article on Diarrhea on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

The producer cannot adequately rehydrate a goat, adult or kid, by using a syringe filled with fluid. A 60 cc syringe is only two ounces and is too cumbersome to use to dribble liquid into the goat's mouth. Both the goat and the producer are going to stress out before any reasonable amount of fluid has been delivered via any size syringe. The less the goat is handled, the better for both of you. A 100-pound goat needs a gallon of liquid a day to maintain hydration. One gallon is 3,840 cc's. The only reasonable delivery method of this much liquid is a stomach tube. For kids, an example of needed fluids: a ten-pound kid needs 10% to 12% if its body weight converted to ounces over a 24-hour period. Ten pounds = 160 ounces; 10% to 12% of 160 ounces = 16 to 18 ounces of liquids, ( milk, water, or electrolytes).

A newborn kid comes into the world empty and vulnerable; immediate intake of colostrum is essential to the survival of a normal healthy newborn. If the kid does not get this life-starting liquid within about six hours (weather conditions may cause this timeframe to be shorter or longer), it will dehydrate quickly and die. To save a kid whose dam is either unwilling or unable to nurse it, the producer must supply fluids in the form of colostrum from the dam or colostrum replacer (not colostrum *supplement*). Weak, premature, and dehydrated newborns, young kids, and kids with sub-normal body temperatures must have a molasses/water or Karo syrup/water solution (not honey/water) administered orally and Lactated Ringers Solution (vet prescription) given sub-cutaneously because their stomachs cannot digest colostrum or milk. Electrolytes (Bounce Back, ReSorb, Pedialyte, or even Gatorade) should be kept on hand for oral rehydration. If these products are not available or if the producer does not know how to administer them, then the kid needs immediate professional veterinary intervention to survive. In many cases, both oral and sub-cutaneous rehydration techniques are necessary to save a weak or dying kid. It is very difficult to get enough Lactated Ringers sub-cutaneously into an adult goat; stomach tubing (or IV infusion by a vet) is necessary.

Stomach tubing an adult goat is easier than tubing a kid if the producer can get someone to hold the goat still or can secure the animal to a fence or post. Stomach tube the sick adult goat two or three times a day until it begins eating and urinating. In the beginning of the illness, stomach tubing should be kept to about a quart of liquids at a time so as not to overwhelm the goat's system.

Stomach tubing newborn and young kids is more of a challenge than tubing adults because (a) they are often harder to hold still without risking injury, (b) getting the catheter into the stomach and not the lungs can be more difficult, and (c) it is easier to over-fill a kid's stomach and make the situation even worse. However, with some dexterity and practice, one person can do it if no one else is available. Read Stomach Tubing Sick Goats on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com

The first step in dealing with a sick or injured goat-- kid or adult -- is to take its rectal temperature. Then address the very likely situation that the goat is dehydrated, as well as the need for antibiotics or other medical treatments. Remember that a goat can be very ill as the direct result of dehydration. It doesn't take much dehydration to knock the rumen off its proper pH and make a goat very sick.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto ONION CREEK RANCH 7-1-09

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.


We recommend purchasing Colorado Serum vaccines and products through Jeffers Livestock. Click the Jeffers ad banner above to visit the website.


Don't miss Goat Camp™ 2009
October 26 - October 30
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A healthy rumen produces B vitamins. A sick goat's rumen stops B vitamin production. It is always good to give a sick goat supplemental B vitamins, especially B1 (thiamine)

Bending Tree Ranch Clay, young TMG™ herdsire

BendingTree Ranch TexMaster Goats

BTR Clay is a son of:
OCR Alix and OCR Carlie

BTR Clay is ready to improve your herds genetics or choose from one of his sons.

Below are bucklings out of his first kid crop born June/July 2009

Pat Cotten 501-581-5700
Bending Tree Ranch
Damascus, Arkansas


Bending Tree Ranch is located near Greenbrier, Arkansas

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