March 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.

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Kids and Adults

When the time comes that only way to save the life of a goat -- kid or adult -- is to stomach tube electrolytes, nutritional supplements, and/or medications into it, producers must have the necessary supplies on hand and must know how to use them.

Kids - With some practice, stomach tubing newborn and very young kids can be done by one person if conditions require it. It is amazing what you can do when the alternative is death.

Purchase a 60 cc weak-kid syringe and flexible stomach tube from Jeffers (1-800-533-3377 or Cost in 2010 is around $5.00. Buy several spare catheters (tubes) to replace those that kids chew or bite. Jeffers carries them but you have to ask for them; they are about $1.00 each. Remove the plunger from the 60 cc syringe and store it; you are not going to use it when stomach tubing kids.

Holding the tube alongside the kid's body with the tip near the last rib and the syringe/tube connection nearest the mouth, determine how far it must be passed into the kid to reach its stomach. Sit the kid upright on its sternum. Open the kid's mouth and slightly elevate its chin to stretch out the neck. Carefully place the tube into the kid's mouth and down the side (rather than down the center) of the throat. You will feel a slight *bump* as the catheter passes through the throat. If you feel significant resistance, pull the tube out and start over.

Once the catheter is inside the kid, put your ear to the open end of the 60 cc syringe and listen for gurgling/crackling/popping or whooshing-air sounds. These sounds indicate that you are in the stomach and not the lungs. Double check by gently blowing into the open end of the syringe to get more sound feedback.

Lifting the kid's chin slightly to stretch out the neck, dispense about one ounce (30 cc) of fluid -- sometimes as little as 1/2 ounce (15 cc) -- into the kid's stomach at one time. See my article on Overfeeding Newborns on the Articles and MeatGoatMania pages of Frequently pinch the flexible tubing with your fingers to stop the flow so that the kid is not overwhelmed. Take your time. Remember that you are dealing with a sick/weak baby goat. You may need to put your fingers in the side of the kid's mouth to keep it from chewing/biting the stomach tube. Kids, even newborns, have very sharp grinding teeth in their jaws.

Kids are very good at spitting up stomach catheters, so make sure that the correct length of tubing remains inside the goat. Fluid flowing through the tube can enter the lungs if it comes out prematurely. Before removing the catheter, pinch it and hold the pinch securely for several seconds to cut off flow of liquids left in the tube. Keep the tube pinched until the entire length of the catheter has been pulled out. Rinse the syringe and stomach tube thoroughly and hang to dry for future use.

When tube feeding a weak/sick kid, limit the total amount per tubing event to no more than two ounces (60 cc). Give the kid time to digest the liquids tubed into it. Because colostrum from some dams is very thick, it may be necesssary to thin it with a small amount of goat's milk for proper flow through the stomach tube.

How to tell if a kid is full or needs additional nutrition: Place the kid with all four feet on the ground supporting its own weight and feel the abdomen in front of the back legs with both hands. The stomach should feel firm but not tight. If the kid's belly feels 'squishy,' then he needs more colostrum, milk, or whatever is being tubed (or bottle-fed) into him. If you perform this procedure by holding the kid off the ground, he will always feel 'fuller' than he really is.

Do not tube milk or colostrum into a kid who cannot hold its head up or whose body temperature is less than 100*F. Instead, use simple sugar/water mixtures (Karo syrup, molasses, or equal parts of 50% dextrose and water -- *not* honey) to give it energy until it can sit upright. See this writer's article on weak and newborn kids on her website's Articles page: for details on how to save such kids.

Adults - Purchase an adult livestock stomach tube from Jeffers (1/2" or 5/8 " outside diameter, 10 foot length of clear polyvinyl chloride vet tubing, 2010 price of around $10.00 in the Livestock Catalog) and cut the base of a *plastic* funnel to fit over the end of the tubing. Make a mouthpiece by cutting an 8- to 10-inch length of 1" diameter C-PVC, file off the sharp edges on both ends, and store it with the stomach tube and attached funnel. You can also make your own adult stomach tube and mouthpiece using the instructions provided in my article similarly titled on the Articles page at

When a sick adult goat goes off-feed, it is difficult to syringe enough electrolytes and nutrients into it. One gallon equals 3,840 cc and a 100-pound goat needs one gallon of liquids per day under normal conditions. Keep electrolytes on hand: Bounce Back and ReSorb are good choices. Keep non-soy-based milk replacer on hand to add to electrolytes for protein and energy needed by a goat that is off-feed. The product "Ensure" or its generic equivalent will also work as a full-feed replacement for short-term use. Pfizer no longer makes Entrolyte; it was a great full-feed replacement for livestock off-feed, but it isn't coming back. Entrolyte HE is not the same thing; it is only electrolytes and not a full-feed replacement.

To insert the stomach tube into the adult goat, have another person hold the animal steady. This can be done by one person if there is no other option by using an adjustable sheep halter and tying the goat to a fence, but it is a physical challenge for everyone involved. Place the 8- to 10 inch C-PVC pipe mouthpiece into the goat's mouth as far back as possible to prevent the goat from biting the soft tubing into pieces and swallowing it. If this occurs, major invasive surgery is needed to remove the tubing so that the goat does not die. Before inserting the tubing, gauge the distance from the goat's mouth to its back rib to determine how much should be pushed into the goat. With funnel attached, uncurl the tubing and thread it through the C-PVC pipe mouthpiece. If you meet serious resistance, pull the tubing out and begin again. Before attaching the funnel, listen for the same sounds described in the kid tubing directions already given in this article. Hold the funnel end of the tubing as high as possible for good gravity flow. Make sure that the tubing is not twisted or kinked, then begin to pour the liquid into the funnel. If the fluid does not flow into the goat, pull the tube out a bit . . . . you've probably got it in too far and the open end of the tube is touching the wall of the rumen, blocking flow. When all of the liquid has been poured into the tube, wait several seconds before removing the tubing so that none enters the lungs as the catheter is withdrawn. Rinse the tubing, funnel, and C-PVC mouthpiece thoroughly and hang them to dry for future use.

Every producer must learn how to use stomach tubes on both adult and kid goats. Like so many things in life, it is easier to do than you think. One day a goat's life is going to depend upon your ability to use a stomach tube properly. Be prepared.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Onion Creek Ranch






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




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