May 2009 Issue



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Usually occuring during the last six weeks of a doe's pregnancy, periparturient edema is a very uncomfortable swelling and irritation caused by fluid accumulation within the tissues underneath the skin.

The first indication is usually the doe's walking as if her feet hurt, followed by a gradual swelling in the lower part of her front legs and progressing to the lower half of her rear legs. Initial symptoms are so generalized that the producer can mistakenly diagnose laminitis/founder.

Unlike ketosis or other pregnancy-related diseases, periparturient edema does not cause the doe to go off-feed. She will be listless, preferring to sit rather than stand because walking is painful, but she will continue to eat. Moaning, groaning, and grinding of teeth are common symptoms.

Periparturient edema usually appears in a doe that is carrying multiple large fetuses. She may have kidded before without similar problems and she may never have it again in future pregnancies. The fetuses are taking more out of her body than she can replace, putting her in a nutritional deficit condition. Edema is accompanied by increased blood pressure, decreases in blood proteins, and blockages in the body's lymph system (one of the body's main filtration mechanisms).

First step in diagnosis is to do fecals to check for worms because a heavy wormload can bring on periparturient edema. Even if she has been recently dewormed, deworm the doe again. Do not use Valbazen or Safeguard/Panacur dewormers.

Supportive care is about all the producer can do to help a doe with periparturient edema. Keep her as comfortable as possible, make her get up and walk short distances several times a day, and provide her with proper nutrition. No special supplement or diet is required. Definitely do not dramatically change her diet.

When kidding (parturition) occurs, the producer must be available and ready to help the doe stand to feed her kids during their first 48 hours of life. After that timeframe, the swelling should begin to go away and standing won't be difficult for her. Milk production should not be affected by this illness.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Onion Creek Ranch

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.


Keep water out of reach of newborns and very young kids until they are bonded to their dam and you are positive each is getting to nurse enough. This is particularly true of triplets and quads who will go drink water if they aren't getting enough milk and you will find them dead. Take a five-gallon bucket, cut off the top one third, turn it upsidedown, and mount a ring rack on it into which you can place the dam's water bucket. Now the dam can reach the bucket but not the kids.



Proper vitamin and mineral levels are essential to the good health of goats. Although no single mineral can be singled out as more important than others, copper, zinc, and selenium levels are especially critical. The interaction of minerals is astoundingly complex. The most difficult task in raising goats is getting nutrition right, and vitamins and minerals are key. Most producers are not knowledgeable enough to formulate their own feed ration with appropriate levels of minerals and vitamins included. Achieving this is a complex task that is best left to a trained goat nutritionist.

Selenium: Major portions of the United States have soils that are deficient in selenium. Selenium deficiency is widespread in most of the eastern coast of the U.S., into the Great Lakes area, and throughout the northwestern part of this country. Plants grown in these soils are selenium deficient and therefore cannot provide adequate selenium to the goats that eat them.

Selenium deficiency, like Vitamin E deficiency, can cause white muscle disease (nutritional muscular dystrophy), causing the goat to have difficulty controlling its muscles. Newborns with weak rear legs may be selenium-deficient. Kids may be too weak to nurse their dams. Pneumonia may result from weakness in muscles that control breathing.

Producers raising goats in areas having selenium-deficient soil must make sure that this mineral is added to feed. Many producers give BoSe injections to newborn kids, as well as to adult goats. BoSe is a vet prescription item. Contact the local county extension agent or your veterinarian for information on your particular area or google 'selenium levels United States' for data.

Zinc: Zinc is needed in the synthesis of proteins and DNA and in cell division. Excessive salivation, deformed hooves, stiff joints, chronic skin problems, abnormally small testicles, and reduced interest in mating are some of the signs.

Copper and Molybdenum: Unlike sheep, for whom copper is toxic, goats must have copper in their diet. Inadequate copper levels can cause loss of hair color, coarse hair that has hooked end tips, abortions, stillbirths, anemia, frequent bone fractures, poor appetite, weight loss, and decreased milk production.

Molybdenum and copper amounts must be balanced or health problems appear. More than 3 ppm of molybdenum binds up copper and creates a deficiency of copper in the goat.

It is also possible to cause copper toxicity in goats by feeding too much copper. Researchers and producer experiences seem to be proving that goats need more copper than originally believed. Make sure that the copper level in feed is correct for your goats by consulting a trained caprine nutritionist knowledgeable about your area.

Water: Yes, water. The goat's body is normally more than 60% water. Rumen contents must be about 70% water to function properly. Even a slight dip in water consumption can result in a goat with fever and off feed.

Iron: Unless a goat is anemic, iron deficiency is generally not a problem in foraging goats. Certain onion-type plants can, however, cause anemia. Stomach worms, sucking lice, and blood loss are common causes of anemia in goats. Goats that are seriously ill with anemia may be supplemented with injectable iron (Ferrodex 100) or oral adminstration of Red Cell. Conversely, an excess of iron can contribute to decreased fertility in goats.

Iodine: Iodine is as essential in goats' diets as it is in humans. Goiters are the most visible sign of iodine deficiency. Newborns whose dams are iodine deficient can be born with goiters. Commercial feeds and minerals contain non-iodized salt, so it may be necessary to offer iodized salt on a free-choice basis. A quicker method of getting iodine into the goat is to paint 7% iodine on the hairless tailweb and to offer kelp (seaweed) free choice.

Calcium and Phosphorus: Calcium and phosphorus must be in proper balance or serious illnesses can occur. Female goats that have been bred at too young of an age can develop lameness and/or bowed legs if they are calcium deficient. Calcium is essential to bone formation and muscle contractions (including labor contractions). A calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 2-1/2 to 1 is proper and helps prevent urinary calculi. Too much phosphorus in relation to calcium causes urinary calculi. An imbalance of calcium and phosphorus can result in birth defects.

Salt: If a goat lacks salt in its diet, it may be seen licking the ground -- trying to get salt from the dirt. Offer salt as part of an appropriate mineral mix on a free-choice basis. Do not force-feed salt by mixing it with processed feed; this procedure is used to limit feed consumption. Salt is often used as a feed limiter, as heavily salted rations cause goats to eat less. A pregnant doe who consumes too much salt may have udder problems -- edema (subcutaneous accumulation of fluids).

Sulfur: Excessive salivation may be a sign of sulfur deficiency. A properly balanced loose mineral and vitamin mix is required. Direct supplementation of sulfur can result in the binding up of iron and copper.

Potassium: Goats on forage usually get all the potassium they need. Penned animals need potassium added to their processed grain mix. Emaciation and muscle weakness are signs of severe potassium deficiency.

Magnesium: Goats deficient in magnesium have lowered urine and milk production and may become anorexic.

Manganese: Slow growth rates in kids (especially buck kids), reduced fertility and abortions in does, improperly formed legs, and difficulty in walking are general signs of manganese deficiency. Too much calcium interferes with manganese absorption.

Vitamin A: Inadequate amounts of Vitamin A in a goat's diet can lead to thick nasal discharge, difficulty in seeing or blindness, respiratory diseases, susceptibility to parasites, scruffy hair coat, and diarrhea. Kids with coccidiosis need more Vitamin A because they have reduced intestinal absorption of nutrients. Adults are likely to be less fertile and more susceptible to diseases if they do not have adequate levels of this essential fat-soluble vitamin.

B Vitamins: A sick goat must be supplemented with B vitamins, particularly Vitamin B 1 (thiamine). The B vitamins are water soluble, so they need to be replenished daily. One of many conditions that depletes the goat's body of B vitamins is diarrhea (which is a symptom of greater problems). Goats whose rumens are not functioning properly or have had their feed regimen changed should be supplemented with B vitamins, particularly B1 (thiamine).

One of the most common examples of Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency is polioencephalomalacia (goat polio). Thiamine must be given to counteract severe neurological problems. Thiamine-deficient goats display rigid bent necks that won't straighten and a loss of eye focus. This disease usually results from eating moldy hay, feed, or sileage; however, it occasionally occurs because the organism exists under certain environmental conditions and a susceptible goat picks it up. The symptoms mimic those of tetanus and dehydration. Because all B vitamins are water soluble, it is difficult to overdose them.

Vitamin B12, an injectable red liquid requiring a vet prescription, is essential in the treatment of anemia.

Vitamin D: Enlarged joints and bowed legs (rickets) are a result of Vitamin D deficiency. Penned goats must have Vitamin D added to their feed.

Vitamin E: Feeding sileage or old hay can produce Vitamin E deficiency and result in white muscle disease. The injectable prescription product BoSe contains both selenium and vitamin E and is often given to newborns in selenium-deficient areas. Vitamin A-D-E Gel is available for supplemental oral use.

This list is by no means comprehensive but is intended to provide a producer overview. If you get nothing else from this article, understand that proper goat nutrition is very complex and not for amateurs.

For producers affected by Tall Fescue Toxicity, several companies around the USA make a fescue-balancer loose mineral. If mineral deficiencies are widespread in your herd, Mineral Max II is available. An injectable cobalt-blue colored liquid that must be obtained from a vet, Mineral Max II contains zinc, manganese, selenium, and copper in chelated (timed-release) form. It is given to goats IM (into the muscle) usually one injection per year and in decreasing amounts as the goat ages. Mineral Max II is made by Sparhawk Labs in Lenexa, Kansas for RXV Products in Westlake, Texas. It may be available under other brand names. Do not give BoSe and Mineral Max II together.

Producers who live near a feed mill that makes commercial goat feed are encouraged to use their services and purchase their products. Such firms employ livestock nutritionists who have knowledge of the nutritional needs of goats in the areas for which they manufacture their products. If such mills are non-existent in your area, contact your county extension agent or closest agricultural university for assistance. These folks should have knowledge about feed mixtures that the average producer does not possess. Find out what your area is deficient in and make sure that is added into your feed supply.

Do not attempt to formulate your own feed unless you are a trained goat nutritionist. If such expertise is not available in your area, locate and hire a goat nutritionist to formulate a feed ration for you. This service is not expensive but you may be required to buy four to six tons of feed, so contact your neighboring goat producers about working together on this purchase. There are computer programs into which the nutritionist can input information unique to your farm and your management techniques to develop a feed mix specifically for your needs. The health and well-being of your goats are depending upon your making wise decisions about their nutrition. Find a place to cut costs other than goat nutrition. You cannot starve a profit out of a goat.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto



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