March 2022 Issue



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There are 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.

Solutions to easy-to-fix problems are presented below, but detailing the protocols that I use to address complex situations would make this article too long. Go to the Articles page at for detailed articles on each topic. You must 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, depending upon how much nutrition they received in utero. Kids born with teeth completely in the gums are premature. Full-term males have slightly erupted teeth; full-term females have teeth completely out of the gums. The lungs are the last major organ to develop fully, so premature kids are likely to be born with breathing problems. 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 if addressed immediately.

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 or they become "poor doers" as they get older. Colostrum kick starts the body's organs, especially the digestive system. Make sure that 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 (too much milk too frequently). FKS is very common in bottle babies.

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 not being able to figure out where the teat is. Give that kid a Vitamin B1 injection.

Neonatal Diarrhea Complex: 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 occurring 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 has 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 (not just baby poop yellow) feces.

Reduce fever to normal body temperature with injectable 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 antibiotic Sulfadimethoxine with Trimethoprim (SMZ-TMP). Alternatively, neomycin sulfate (brand name Biosol) may still be available over the counter, but the sulfa-based products are probably already available by prescription only.

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 ever be able to absorb nutrients. Blackish diarrhea (dried blood) is one of the symptoms.

Coccidia treatment should be given orally directly into the mouth of each goat for five consecutive days. Prescription-only sulfa-based medications like Dimethox 12.5% oral solution or Albon should be used. CoRid (amprollium) is a thiamine inhibitor, so don't use it unless you give Vit B1 (thiamine) injections for five consecutive days concurrent with oral cocci medication.

Coccidia preventatives can be added to goat feed, but it is no guarantee that you won't have cocci if your management practices don't keep a clean and dry environment, especially for young kids. Dewormers do not treat coccidiosis.

Worms: Stomach worms aren't a threat to newborns as they are pre-ruminant, but when they get to be two to three weeks old, they become a real health threat as the kids begin to eat solid food. From rumination age on, worms are the single biggest threat to kids, other than predators.

Pneumonia: Pneumonia is the common term for a range of respiratory infections that kill goats quickly, especially kids. Though usually a summer disease in hot and wet weather, pneumonia can occur anytime in goats.

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.

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 eight (8) 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 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, especially 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.

Presponse HM is a cattle vaccine made to treat pneumonia. Presponse HM is much much better than the Colorado Serum pneumonia vaccine for goats. It is also more expensive, but it is worth it.

Floppy Kid Syndrome: Overeating on milk. Often happens with bottle babies. People love to watch kids suck that bottle, 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): 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 aka Pulpy Kidney and/or Overeating Disease: 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 aka Water Belly: Urinary tract stones can develop when male kids have been wethered very young, stopping the growth of the diameter of the urinary tract. Urinary Calculi occurs when male kids are fed too much sacked feed, but UC can also occur in females.

The problem is not calcium; the problem is too much phosphorus in relation to calcium. The calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of sacked feed should be 2-1/2 to 1 and the ratio in loose minerals should be at least 2 to 1 calcium to phosphorus. Areas where chicken litter is used as fertilizer will have very high phosphorus; chicken litter is high in phosphorus. You may have to add calcium carbonate to your sacked feed.

Selenium Deficiency aka White Muscle Disease aka Nutritional Muscular Dystrophy: Symptoms include causing weak rear legs and can also keep the kid from swallowing. Walking on pasterns can 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 given SQ. Do not use MuSe; it is too strong for goats.

Mineral and Vitamin Deficiencies: 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. Your neighbor who raises goats and mixes his own feed likely isn't a trained goat nutritionist either. People raising show goats are the 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, monitoring and controlling stomach worm load, 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 Updated 3.2.22

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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