June 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.


TIP on udders of freshening does:

Check the udder when the doe gives birth. Teats may be sealed off. Orifices may be too narrow to provide good milk flow. Mastitis may exist. Check daily for the first week or two of kids' lives to make sure that kids have good access to quality milk. Udder conditions and milk availability can change overnight.

with focus on Chlamydiosis

Abortions in goats can have several different origins. Some abortions are of non-infectious origin, such as butting by other goats that causes the fetus to die inside the dam, or the malformation of the fetus in utero which usually results in a spontaneous abortion of the pregnancy. Many abortions, however, can be traced to infectious organisms like chlamydia, toxoplasmosis, Q-fever, border disease, listeriosis, neospora caninum, camplobacteriosis, akbane disease, and brucellosis. Some of these abortion diseases fortunately do not currently exist in goats in the USA.

Two of the most common abortion diseases in goats in America are chlamydiosis and toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is covered in depth in my article that is available on the Articles page of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. The bacterium chlamydia psittaci has many strains, some of which cause respiratory diseases (pneumonia), keratoconjunctivitis (pinkeye), and polyarthritis, but the two most common abortion-causing types are Type 1 and Type 2. This is an unusual bacterium because it can only multiply in living cells and replicates similar to a virus, making testing dead kids and placental tissue difficult and sometimes inconclusive. More helpful is testing the blood of an aborted doe for chlamydial antibodies, although blood tests do not differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 antigens. The importance of having this information is explained later in this article.

Chlamydiosis not only can cause abortions but it can also produce kids that are born too weak to stand to nurse their dams (Weak Kid Syndrome). If the nutritional level of the doe is proper and management practices are correct, yet weak kids are being born, then the existence of chlamydia should be suspected.

Symptoms of chlamydia can be confused with other health issues. Chlamydiosis first appears as a brownish uterine discharge as early as ten (10) days before the actual abortion occurs. This discharge might be mistaken for watery diarrhea, but closer inspection will reveal that its color and texture are visibly different from diarrhea and it is coming from the vaginal opening. The infected dam may appear active and healthy until the discharge evolves into pieces of fetal and placental tissue, at which time she may become lethargic and depressed. The doe may never go off feed.

Chlamydosis can occur anytime during pregnancy. Depending upon the timeframe in which she was infected, she may abort a fetus or may carry to term and deliver either stillborn, mummified, or alive but very weak kids. Occasionally the live births have visible lesions. Placental material is always visibly different from its normal condition and should be examined by a qualified veterinarian. Retained placentas are common.

Female and male goats can contract chlamydiosis at any time during their lives. A goat can be a carrier and never display symptoms of chlamydia, or (if female) can have a chlamydial-caused abortion and continue to be a carrier. First-time kidders (first fresheners) and goats new to the herd are the most likely to be infected.

The chlamydial bacterium multiplies in the living cells of the intestinal and genital tracts. It slowly damages and then kills the fetus by preventing nutrient transfer from the dam through an increasingly thickened placental membrane. The fetus literally starves to death. Because this bacterium needs about 40 - 42 days to kill the fetus, a doe infected in the final weeks of her pregnancy may deliver live kids that are too weak to stand to nurse. The producer must be available to help the newborn, because the dam cannot and will not feed the kid if it cannot stand. The dam will usually abort in her next pregnancy. Over a period of time, does in the herd may develop some immunity and deliver healthy kids to term, but this immunity will wane after a few years and the cycle of abortions will begin again.

Identification of infected goats before they abort is unlikely, although does who contract pinkeye should be suspected of being infected with chlamydia. Testing of aborted fetal and placental material or blood drawn from the dam at the time of the abortion and again three weeks later are post-abortion options. The producer should collect all aborted fetuses/kids and placental material (using disposable gloves and containment bags) for prompt delivery to a vet for examination and lab testing. Mummified fetuses are usually unsuitable for testing. The producer must glove up and manually go inside the aborting doe to feel for and remove all kids, dead or alive. Dead kids left inside the doe will kill her. Placental tissue is more important than fetal tissue. If the doe retains the placenta, diagnosis is more difficult. If delivery to a vet is not immediately possible, refrigerate (do not freeze) the tissues.

A doe suspected of aborting should be removed from the herd and kept in isolation until the vaginal discharge has completely stopped. This can take as long as two weeks. The bacterial infection spreads when goats come into oral or nasal inhalation contact with vaginal discharges, aborted fetuses, placental material, and infected feces, so all remaining fetal and placental material must be collected and burned. Bleach or similar disinfectant must be used on the ground and on all objects with which the aborted materials came in contact.

Always feed pregnant does using feed troughs. Feeding on the ground can put them in contact with infected materials. Good hygiene is essential in attempting to prevent and control all abortion diseases. Many abortion diseases, including chlamydiosis, are zoonotic (can be transmitted to humans), so pregnant women ideally should not have contact with bred does but if contact is unavoidable, they should wear protective gloves, mask, and clothing.

Like most abortion diseases, chlamydiosis responds to the tetracycline class of antibiotics. A good preventative program involves injecting all breeding does with oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or generic equivalent) prior to placing them with a buck and every 35 days during the pregnancy until the does give birth. Dosage is 5 cc per 100 pounds bodyweight and should be given SQ (under the skin) over the ribs using an 18 gauge needle. If the producer wants to try to prevent or control abortion diseases through feed, then chlortetracycline hydrochloride (Aureomycin) can be added to the feed at a rate of five to ten pounds per ton. Because it is illegal (not FDA-approved) to combine a coccidiostat with Aureomycin in a feed ration, the coccidiosis preventative must be dropped from this mix but can be reintroduced as the kids are born. If using a custom feed ration is not an option, Aureomycin antibacterial water-soluble powders are available for use in drinking water; follow package directions. I do not believe that feed-based treatments are as effective as direct injection of oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml into each exposed/pregnant doe every 35 days. Individual injections are the only way to make sure that every doe gets a full dose of the needed medication. I've long said that if it is easy or cheap, it doesn't work with goats.

There is no vaccine available for chlamydia in goats. In early 2010, I read an article written by a Canadian producer who touted the effectiveness of using Colorado Serum's chlamydia psittaci sheep vaccine on goats. Having had extensive experience with abortion diseases since 2001, I thought that this was an overly simplistic and optimistic methodology, so I investigated and found I was right. This is true only if the antigen being vaccinated against is Type 1. The Colorado Serum product does not protect against the Type 2 antigen, and that is the antigen associated with pinkeye-related chlamydia.

Producers should not rely on the chlamydia vaccine for sheep to protect their goats against abortions. In my opinion, the use of oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml as outlined above in this article provides broad protection against multiple abortion diseases. Oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml is the only game in town for trying to prevent most abortion diseases in goats. I've been using this protocol since 2001 very successfully. My thanks go to Bob Glass of Pan American Vet Lab (bglass@pavlab.com) in Hutto, Texas for his input and review of the information provided in this article.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Lohn, Texas 76852 6/6/10


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



Both sired by MILO (above)

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are usually available year round. Contact us for ages and pricing by calling 325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com



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