May 2009 Issue



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There are many health problems that can impact a pregnant doe. Below are some of the most common ones. The Articles page at contains articles detailing diagnosis and treatment for most of these conditions.

Congenital and Developmental Defects: Many birth defects are never seen by the producer because the doe's body either reabsorbs the embryo in early gestation or aborts the fetus.Visible birth defects appearing at parturition (birthing) include cleft palate, atresi ani, and mummification.

Cleft palate is a lengthwise split in the roof of the mouth. Atresi ani is no rectal opening. Mummification is a kid whose limbs are *frozen* in place and unmoveable. A dead mummified kid may have to be taken apart in pieces to get its body out of the doe. A live mummified kid may be born but will be unable to move.

Cleft palate, atresi ani, and live mummification are conditions requiring immediate humane euthanasia. All three conditions may or may not recur if the same doe and buck are bred again.

Ringwomb: Incomplete dilation of the cervix. Manual manipulation of the cervical opening should be done by an experienced person -- preferably a vet. The tissue involved is very easy to damage. Ringwomb may be the result of inadequate levels of minerals or hormones.

Uterine Rupture: This condition can occur at any time during pregnancy and is usually the result of being hit. Impossible to diagnose without veterinarian assistance. Uterine rupture can also occur when assistance in kidding is needed and the pushing-pulling-rearranging of kids inside the uterus results in tearing it. Uterine rupture is often not repairable surgically and the dam will die within 24 to 72 hours.

Uterine Torsion: A twisted uterus is very difficult to fix but repositioning it is the only solution.If uterine torsion is suspected, vet help is necessary.

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.

Periparturient Edema: Swelling of lower legs in long-bred does. Often but not always associated with worm load. Usually occurs when multiple fetuses are taking more nutrition than dam can replace, putting her in a nutritional deficit.

Pregnancy Toxemia and Ketosis: Nutritionally-related metabolic diseases occuring at the end of pregnancy and early during lactation. An improper level of nutrition is the cause. As the dam draws upon her own body's reserves and her tissues begin to starve, deadly ketones are produced. Oral administration of high-energy products such as propylene glycol, molasses, or Karo syrup given orally are necessary.

Abortions and Vaginal Discharges: Red, brown, or very foul-smelling discharges are not normal and may indicate early termination of pregnancy. Examples of conditions causing abortions include interruption of the fetal blood supply when injured, poor nutrition (insufficient energy), stress (moving, changing feed, illness), abortion diseases, toxicity (ingestion of poisonous plants or other substances), surgery, malformation of the fetus during development, and labor-inducing drugs (dexamethasone). The usual drug of choice is oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or generic equivalent).

Hypocalcemia: Commonly but improperly called "milk fever," hypocalcemia is an imbalance of calcium occuring just prior to kidding. The first recognizable physical symptom is usually cold and dragging rear legs. This nutritionally based illness involves hormonal changes that occur in the mobilization of calcium when the doe begins to produce milk. Calcium-rich feeds/hays need to be cut back during the last 30 days of gestation to prevent excess calcium from being deposited in her bones. The dam's body needs to be releasing calcium already stored in her bones for use in milk production. Oral administration of CMPK or MFO solution are recommended.

Prolapses. Prolapses of the vagina or the rectum can occur in a doe heavy with kids. Purse-string stitches and prolapse retainers may help. Prolapses recurring in multiple pregnancies means that the doe should be culled.

Cloudburst Pregnancy: False pregnancy, pseudo-pregnancy, more specifically hydrometra.Everything about a cloudburst pregnancy is normal except that no kid was formed and a "cloudburst" of liquid comes out of the dam's body at delivery. Infectious diseases like toxoplasmosis and border disease may be the cause, as may certain plant materials that contain phytoestrogens. A more common cause is the chemical alteration of estrus through artificial induction into heat of does by producers who use gonadotrophin-releasing hormones.

Mastitis: The infected udder becomes swollen, hard, and hot from bacteria entering through the teats. The milk, if any, is stringy, bloody, and unuseable. Cleanliness of pens and feeding areas is critical. Because the udder is an interwoven mass of fibrous tissue that is walled off from the rest of the doe's body, injectable antibiotics cannot get to the source of the infection. Because mastitis organisms can become systemic and infect the doe's entire body, a broad-spectrum antibiotic like prescription Nuflor is recommended. Cai-Pan Peppermint Oil Cream applied externally to the udder can provide relief from discomfort to the doe. In some breeds mastitis may occur in certain genetic lines. Mastitis is usually chronic and therefore a *cull* factor in a meat-goat herd.


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Congested Udder: Unlike mastitis, congested udder is readily treatable by applying hot compresses to the udder until the over-filled tight udder softens enough to get useable milk out.

Retained Placenta: Placental tissue (afterbirth) should be expelled by the doe's body within 12 to 24 hours after parturition. Retained placenta can be caused by abortion diseases such as toxoplasmosis or chlamydiosis or can be the result of selenium deficiency in the doe's diet. Tall fescue grass or hay can be the culprit. A prescription oxytocin injection may be needed if the placenta has not passed within the normal timeframe. Do not pull the placental tissue out, even if it is dragging behind the doe; doing this can kill her. After a difficult birth, the uterus should be flushed with a solution of Nolvasan or Chlorhexidine antibacterials to prevent infection (metritis).


Bottle babies will overeat on milk if you let them, resulting in Floppy Kid Syndrome. Bottle babies should receive 10 to 12% of their bodyweight in milk over a 24-hour period. Take the kid's weight, convert it to ounces, calculate 10 to 12%, and divide it into at least four feedings -- perhaps more -- based upon the individual kid's ability to digest the milk.

Metritis: Infection of the uterus that can occur with retained placenta or dead kids inside the dam.

No Milk. If the doe has been a good milk producer previously, then the problem is either mastitis or nutritional. Feeding tall fescue grass or hay can cause poor milk production. A non-mastitic freshened doe who is not producing enough milk should be fed a diet high in legume hay (alfalfa or peanut hay) and extra grain rations. Occasionally an injection of dexamethasone can bring a doe into milk. In some breeds, certain genetic lines are poor milk producers.

After any abnormal or difficult kidding, the producer should glove up and manually go inside the doe to check for undelivered live or dead kids. Be careful not to disturb the tissues attached to the inside of the doe's uterus. Pregnancy in goats is accompanied by great risks, occurring outside under a wide variety of dangerous conditions and usually occurs unassisted. It is remarkable that more pregnancy-related deaths do not occur. There are many things that producers can do themselves to assist their goats but there are times when vet help is essential.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto

Bending Tree Ranch has a limited number of Fullblood Boers available:

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Contact information:Pat Cotten • Bending Tree Ranch near Greenbrier, AR • 501-679-4936 •



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