March 2018 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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Familiarize yourself with the many possible health problems of newborn and young kids.  When a goat  is sick, your first step is to take its rectal temperature with a digital rectal thermometer.    Normal  rectal temperature is 101.5*F to 103.5*F.   Higher temperatures  mean fever and infection.   Below 100*F  body temperature indicates problems with bodily functions like hypothermia  that are feed  or weather related or the kid  is already dying.  Pray for fever; it is easier to fix.

Solutions to easy-to-fix problems are presented below, but detailing   the protocols   that I use to fix complex conditions would make this article too long.    Go  to my  articles on each topic on the Articles page at  for details.    Establish a relationship with a vet so you can purchase the prescription items you need.

Premature Kids:  Normal gestation is 147-155 days.   Kids out of the same litter can be fully mature while others can be premature.  It  depends upon how much nutrition they got in utero.   Kids born with teeth  completely in the gums are premature.   The lungs are the last major organ to develop fully, so premature kids  are likely to be born with breathing problems.   Full-term males have slightly erupted teeth; full-term females have teeth completely out of the gums.  Kids born 7 to 10 days premature likely won't live, and if they do, they may have health problems throughout their lives.

Birth Defects:   Atresi ani - no rectal opening.   Cleft palate - lengthwise split in roof of mouth.Neither Atresi ani nor Cleft palate is fixable.     Entropion - turned-under eyelid, causing eye lashes to irritate eye.  This is fixable.

Constipation:   Sometimes stressed newborns become constipated. Constipation in newborns is life threatening.   Monitoring  fecal output or   lack of feces  will  catch problems early.   Enemas may be necessary.

Colostrum:   Kids that don't receive sufficient colostrum in the first 12 hours of their lives generally  don't survive as they get older or they become "poor doers."   Colostrum makes everything start working, especially the digestive system.  Make sure your kids get the proper amount of  colostrum when they are born.

Diarrhea:   Diarrhea occurs with many illnesses and is a symptom, not the cause, of whatever is wrong.  Figure out what is causing the diarrhea before you take action.   Sometimes diarrhea is helpful, such as when the body is cleaning out something the goat should not have eaten.    Diagnose the cause of the diarrhea, then take appropriate action.

Weak Kid Syndrome:    A newborn or young kid  cannot stand and has sub-normal body temperature (hypothermic).      Condition can occur at birth or any time later when the kid doesn't get enough to eat, becomes chilled, and body temperature drops below 100*F.    This condition is both nutritional and weather related.    A kid has difficulty controlling its body temperature and is dependent upon  both adequate milk and good shelter.   It is not  Floppy Kid Syndrome, which is overeating on milk.

Dehydration:   Whether from lack of milk or climatic conditions that are too cold or too hot, kids can become dehydrated quickly. They have tiny stomachs and metabolize their food rapidly, so they can crash fast if their nutrition and hydration isn't adequate.

Thiamine deficiency:   This isn't just "goat polio."  Thiamine is essential to brain function.  A working rumen produces thiamine, but newborns and very young kids are pre-ruminant, operating off a milk stomach.   Premature kids should get B1 (thiamine) injections.  Sometimes a full-term kid comes out "stupid," not being able to figure out where the teat is.  Give that kid a Vitamin B1 injection.

Neonatal Diarrhea Complex  is the term  given  a variety of causes of diarrhea in newborns and very young kids. Usually thought to be E.coli or Cryptosporidiosis, these are infections commonly occuring in young kids in cold and/or wet weather but are not limited to these climatic conditions. Without laboratory analysis (culturing the organism), exact diagnosis is not possible. However, a very young kid who is inactive, whose head is drooping and whose tail is turned down, who is not eating, who is dehydrated, who is feverish, who has  no  respiratory distress, and who may have (generally) grayish or whitish diarrhea with a very distinctive smell -- all of these symptoms point to these groups of bacteria, although E.coli in newborns tends to produce bright yellow feces.   Reduce fever to normal body temperature with injectible Banamine (or baby aspirin orally). Hydrate the kid with oral electrolytes or Lactated Ringers given SQ. Use PeptoBismol orally every six hours dosed at six (6) to ten (10) cc's to calm the stomach. Give prescription liquid Sulfadimethoxine with Trimethoprim (SMZ-TMP).  Alternatively, neomycin sulfate (brand name Biosol) may still  be available over the counter, but the sulfa-based products are rapidly going prescription.

Coccidiosis:  This protozoan attacks the lining of the intestinal tract and can do so much damage in a short period of time that the goat's gut  won't be able to absorb nutrients.   Blackish diarrhea can be one of the symptoms.   Coccidia preventatives can be added to feed.  Coccidia treatment should be  given orally directly into the mouth of each goat for five consecutive days.  Sulfa-based medications like Dimethox 12% oral solution or Albon must be used. CoRid (amprollium) is a thiamine inhibitor, so I don't use it. Dewormers do not  treat  coccidiosis.

Worms:   Worms aren't a threat to newborns as they are pre-ruminant, but when they get to be about three weeks old, they become a real threat as the kids begin to eat solid food.

Pneumonia:    Pneumonia is the common term for a range of respiratory infections that kill goats quickly,  especially kids. There are many types of pneumonia: bacterial, mycoplasmal, viral, and inhalation pneumonia.  Common symptoms include fever, labored breathing,   sometimes runny nose discharging yellowish-green mucous, and occasionally  a hacking cough,  along with generalized listlessness and *off feed* behavior. Pneumonia kills so quickly that you  don't  have the luxury of time to determine its type. Prompt treatment is required.  The same medications and treatment regimen are used for most forms of pneumonia.  Though usually a summer disease in hot and wet weather, pneumonia can occur anytime in goats.

The type of pneumonia most often seen in goats is Interstitial Pneumonia.   Interstitial pneumonia appears with rapid-onset high fever, no nasal discharge, and oftentimes foam comes out of the mouth as it quickly progresses. Diarrhea is not present, unless some other illness is also in play.  Interstitial pneumonia can easily kill in less than 12 hours.  The goat appears ok at night and is dead in the morning.    Body  temperature can peak  and fall so quickly that you may never see  the high-fever  part of the illness.   When a goat with interstitial pneumonia reaches the point that its body temperature is below 100*F, its breathing is labored, its kidneys are shutting down, its lungs are filling with fluids, it finds sitting uncomfortable due to fluid build-up inside the body so it remains standing (or on its side, if unable to stand)  in a depressed condition and cries out in pain, then it is going to die and you are not likely going to be able to save it.   You  must medicate   the goat  when it is still in the fever stage or before the body temperature drops  below 100*F to have a decent  chance of saving it, so stay alert and take quick action.    Fever is much easier to bring down than sub-normal body temperature is to bring up.

Pneumonia also occurs  in dry and windy weather.      Do not move goats  through  dusty alleys or  pens without first wetting the ground. Better yet, don't move goats at all in such weather conditions.  Goats live close to the ground --   particularly kids.   Ruminants  have lungs   smaller in relation to the overall  size of their bodies than other mammals, making them susceptible to pneumonia.   Wormy goats are susceptible to pneumonia because their immune systems are compromised.

One of the few vaccines made specifically for goats is Colorado Serum's pasteurella pneumonia vaccine. Mannheimia Haemolytica Pasteurella Multocida Bacterin is  available from Jeffers and  is inexpensive.  Super Poly-Bac  and Presponse are newer  injectable vaccines that provide better protection.   Jeffers carries all of them.

Floppy Kid Syndrome:   Overeating on milk.   Generally happens with bottle babies.  People  love to watch kids suck that bottle down, literally killing them with kindness.  Can happen with high-milking does who are penned in small areas with their kids and cannot get away from them to control kids' milk intake.

Joint Ill  (aka Navel Ill) occurs when bacteria travels up a newborn kid's wet navel cord and migrates to its (usually) leg joints. Over  days or weeks, the kid begins to limp as joints swell. Antibiotic treatment is required, can be  long term (weeks rather than days), and the kid may have life-long residual effects such as arthritis.   Avoid Joint Ill by dipping the kid's wet navel cord all the way up to its belly in a strong iodine solution immediately after birth.

Enterotoxemia:  Also known as Pulpy Kidney.   Literally "Poisoning from within."  This can happen when newborns and very young kids consume too much milk (Floppy Kid Syndrome) or  when ruminating kids eat too much sacked feed.  Never free-choice sacked feed to any goat.    Always have C&D ANTI-toxin on hand for immediate problems.  Vaccinate with CD/T  Toxoid when the goat is old enough.

Urinary Calculi:   Commonly called "water belly," these are urinary tract stones that can  occur when male kids have been wethered very  young, stopping the growth  of the diameter of the urinary tract.   The calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of your feed and minerals should be  2-1/2  to 1.  The problem is not calcium; the problem is too much phosphorus in relation to calcium.   Areas where chicken litter is used as fertilizer will have high phosphorus;  chicken litter is high in phosphorus.   You may have to add calcium to your feed.

Selenium Deficiency: Selenium Deficiency (White Muscle Disease, aka Nutritional Muscular Dystrophy) can cause weak rear legs  and can also keep the kid from swallowing. Walking on  pasterns can also indicate  selenium deficiency.    Find out if your area is selenium deficient.  Prescription BoSe is an injectable combination of selenium and Vitamin E.    Bo Se should be injected into newborns and young kids in selenium-deficient areas dosing at  1/2 cc.    Do not use MuSe; it is too strong for goats.

Mineral and Vitamin Deficiencies:   Mineral and Vitamin Deficiencies can affect newborns and young kids in significant ways.   Copper is essential to the goat's bodily functions; loss of hair color is only one of the indicators of copper deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, poor hair coat, loss of appetite, and can predispose the kid to diarrhea, parasites, and respiratory diseases. Vitamin D is essential to the body's calcium and phosphorus absorption processes. Vitamin E deficiency contributes to White Muscle Disease (selenium deficiency), which affects the kid's ability to stand and have proper muscle function.   All of the B vitamins are important to proper rumen activity. Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) deficiency can result in goat polio and poor brain function. Cobalt deficiency prevents synthesis of Vitamin B-12. Some minerals work together well and some minerals prevent absorption of other minerals. The form in which the mineral is used (oxide, sulfide, sulfate) makes a difference in how the goat's body can utilize it. Nutrition, including vitamins and minerals, is the most complex part of raising goats. Check with your  livestock feed nutritionist for known vitamin and mineral deficiencies in your area.   If you don't have access to a goat nutritionist, find one now.   Vets are usually not trained in goat nutrition.   Feed store operators are not livestock nutritionists.   And your neighbor who raises goats and mixes his own feed isn't a goat nutritionist either.  People raising show goats are the absolute worst source of advice about goat nutrition.

Good management practices help prevent   illnesses. Sufficient space to avoid over-crowding, clean and dry pens, fresh clean water, proper nutritional levels in sacked feed, quality grass hay, and sanitary conditions are minimum requirements. Filth and crowding breed sickness.  Learn  to "think like a goat"  so you can reduce the frequency of illnesses, injuries, and deaths.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas       3/1/18



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