March 2013 Issue



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Mastitis as the cause of illness is often overlooked by meat-goat producers. Mastitis can be the cause of symptoms that run the gamut from a doe's being slightly "off" behaviorally to so seriously ill that she is close to death. Mastitis can be the cause of a newborn or young kid's death from starvation while you are searching for more exotic causes. You have to physically feel the udder to find out if it is soft, pliable, and milk flows freely from the teats' orifices. Just looking at the udder isn't sufficient. See my article titled "It Is Usually the Simplest Thing" on the Articles page on my website

Mastitis is defined as an infected udder that prevents a lactating doe from producing milk to feed her kids. Mastitis usually occurs when bacteria enter the teats via the teat openings (orifices), but there is limited research indicating that mastitis is heritable in certain genetic lines. A mastitic udder is hot, swollen, and hard and can be but certainly is not always a symptom of Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE); see my article on CAE on my website's Articles page at ( If the udder is hard and cold, it is dead and nothing can be done to fix it.) Sometimes no milk comes out, but in many situations the milk is stringy, bloody, smelly, sparse in quantity, and unusable. Because they are heavy milkers, dairy and dairy-cross does tend to experience more Mastitis than other breeds. However, no breed or type of goat is immune to developing Mastitis.

Mastitis can occur at any time. A doe can produce sufficient colostrum for her newborns and have Mastitis when her milk comes in or it can develop at any time during lactation. Open (unbred) does can develop Mastitis. Treatment may require removing the kids from the mastitic dam and putting them on another lactating doe. (There are techniques for grafting kids onto another doe that I describe elsewhere.) If no other lactating doe is available, bottle feeding may be your only option. Read my article on Overfeeding Bottle Babies on the Articles page at Do not try to make kids drink milk from a bowl. For proper ingestion of milk, kids need to have their heads turned upward to the teat and not downward into a bowl. Once bottle babies are several weeks old, their transition to solid food can be eased by providing milk-based pellets ("calf manna") in addition to milk being fed to them. Do not wean kids off milk until they are at least 90 days old. By three months of age, kids should be eating solid food well.

Injectable antibiotics are not effective against the organisms which cause Mastitis because the medications cannot reach the source of the infection. The udder is a fibrous and dense mass of tissue that is "walled off" from the rest of the body. Systemic injectable antibiotics like Nuflor and penicillin given for at least five consecutive days will reduce the chance of the doe's developing a secondary infection that can damage her overall health, but they won't help inside the udder because they cannot get there. Never inject a doe's udder with antibiotics; it will kill her. This may seem obvious, but I know someone who did it and killed the doe.

A doe with Mastitis should be milked out (sometimes you cannot get anything out) and the udder infused through teat orifices with a medicated intra-mammary infusion such as ToDay (cephapirin sodium) or Masti-Clear (penicillin). Jeffers carries these over-the-counter products for lactating does (1-800-533-3377 or A newer product, Pirsue, is available by prescription from your vet; I've had good luck with Pirsue. Jeffers carries the California Mastitis Test Kit which measures somatic cell counts to tell you if Mastitis is the problem, but further testing is necessary to learn which bacteria is causing the infection. Knowing precisely which infusion product to use involves professional testing for bacterial identification. Occasionally you encounter bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics. Lots of meat-goat producers don't take the time to test for specific bacteria but rather "wing it" with products readily available to them. Always clean the teat, the teat's orifice, and the infusion tube tip thoroughly with alcohol prep pads before infusing the medication. Wear disposable gloves. Do not re-use alcohol prep pads. After infusion, gently massage the udder to move the medication around inside it.

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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Additional treatment includes hot compresses applied at least twice a day to the udder. I like to use the Metro absorbent towel that Jeffers sells that holds 15 times it weight in liquid, is reuseable, durable, and machine washable (Item #MP-M7); it holds both moisture and heat well. After every hot compress and milk-out treatment, apply CaiPan peppermint cream topically and massage it into the udder. Jeffers carries CaiPan. Prescription Banamine can be used every 12 hours to ease discomfort. Dairy-goat producers claim that 1000 mg per day of chewable Vitamin C is helpful.

Give 15 cc of Milk of Magnesia orally for five days and keep the doe hydrated with electrolytes. Magnesium plays a big factor in milk production, and Milk of Magnesia is the easiest way to get magnesium into her. Keeping the dam hydrated is very important. Lots of water is needed to produce enough milk for nursing kids. Dehydration also lowers magnesium levels in the doe's body. Some does run fever with Mastitis. A fever-reducing medication like Banamine or the oral dosing of aspirin can be helpful.

Mastitis tends to be chronic. It is likely to recur with each succeeding pregnancy because it is almost impossible to get enough medication into the dense udder tissue to kill all the bacteria. Some does run fever with Mastitis. Since Mastitis is both chronic and often incurable, it is often a cull factor in meat-goat herds because (a) the sheer number of goats in a meat operation is usually higher than in a dairy operation, and (b) meat rather than milk is the primary product so it is often easier to replace the mastitic doe than treat the problem.

Congested udder can occur when the doe's body produces so much milk so rapidly that the udder becomes overly full and therefore congested. It is an uncomfortable condition for the doe but is usually readily treatable and fixable. Sometimes congested udder can be traced back to heavy feeding of grain; other times it occurs when there are three or more fetuses and the doe's body is trying to produce sufficient milk for multiple babies. Does having a single kid can develop a congested udder when the newborn kid suckles only one teat, so producers need to check udders of dams with a single kid in anticipation of this problem. Often it is initially indistinguishable from Mastitis, but upon examination you will find that the udder is normal temperature and not hot and inflamed like Mastitis. So I treat with hot compresses, Cai Pan peppermint oil, Milk of Magnesia, and chewable Vitamin C, but I do not use teat infusion medications, injectable antibiotics, or anti-inflammatories like Banamine. Infection isn't the cause of a congested udder. It has been my experience that an udder that is hard but without hot or cold spots is probably congested rather than mastitic, but this is not written in stone. Congested udder is difficult to milk out, but the milk is good when you can get it flowing. Nursing kids can help break loose the congestion. Congested udder has a huge dehydration component to it, so keep the doe hydrated. Read Sylvie's Story in the MeatGoatMania Archives on Yahoogroups for a detailed explanation of how I treated OCR Sylvie's congested udder.

Clean and dry pens and bedding areas are essential in preventing udder problems. Every time a doe's udder touches the ground, she is at risk of udder infection. This is especially true in wet climates, but even in dry West Texas, I occasionally encounter Mastitis.

Successfully treating a doe for Mastitis or Congested Udder is time consuming and labor intensive but very worthwhile.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 3-11-13



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


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