May 2012 Issue



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Several years ago we experienced an unusually rainy spring in normally very dry West Texas. The goats were thrilled by all the plant growth, so I did not mow the pastures. I came to regret that decision. One particular pasture was literally horn-tip high, and the 15 bucks could and did disappear into the tall grasses as they feasted off the new growth at ground level.

One by one, the bucks began to display symptoms of pneumonia. I treated them appropriately with antibiotics and other medications; they recovered and returned to normal goat behavior. However, over the winter and into the next spring, buck after buck began to do poorly. Weigh loss, snotty noses, and general listlessness resulted in a return to poor health. Fecal counts initially indicated no worm problems, but as each buck got sicker, the worm loads gradually increased. I tried several different dewormers but never got the worm loads back to an acceptable level. Each buck gradually declined in health at his own pace. It wasn't a situation of 15 sick goats at one time but rather the deterioration was so slow that it would have been easy to miss if I were not a producer who observes my animals on a daily basis.

Over the next two years, every buck died a slow death which I was unable to reverse with any treatment prescribed through consultations with my vet. When GoatCamp™ of that year arrived, I decided to have my vet do a necropsy on the last surviving buck from that pasture who was failing fast. When he was euthanized and opened up, his lungs were filled with pasteurella abscesses. He was also full of worms which had successfully attacked his body due to his poor physical condition resulting from the pasteurella abscesses.

I wanted to know why the treatment for pneumonia did not work. My research revealed some pasteurella organisms produce enzymes that create microabscesses that turn into big abscesses which eventually become septic and kill the goat. I caused this problem in the 15 bucks by not mowing the tall grass which held moisture at the ground level where they were grazing. The environment which I allowed to exist insured that each buck was continually exposed to bacteria against which they had no immune system defenses and they never got completely well. My goats live in a normally very dry climate, and I allowed them to be placed in an environment totally alien to that which they were ADAPTED to survive.

I now do two things that I didn't do before these events occurred: (1) Everyone gets vaccinated against pneumonia annually and in wet years bucks are vaccinated every six months, and (2) when the climate changes to produce conditions different from normal weather patterns in dry West Texas, I make sure pastures are mowed regularly to a height that allows the underlying ground to dry out. Had I been vaccinating to prevent pneumonia, I could have avoided this terrible loss. Pneumonia in goats tends to be a spring-summer disease, although it can occur in winter.

I lost 15 extraordinary Tennessee Meat Goat™ bucks because I didn't understand the risk. This was clearly one of those "what you don't know that you need to know will bite you in the butt" situations.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Lohn, Texas 5/10/12

Update on 6/16/12: A goat producer subscribed to my meat-goat education group ChevonTalk mentioned that her doe had been treated for pasteurella abscesses with Nuflor, dosing every third day for eight (8) weeks, and she recovered. While I have no personal knowledge or experience with this medication protocol, I offer it for producers to consider an a treatment option. In my case cited above, the problem was undetermined for so long that I doubt that *any* medication would have saved the bucks. Prompt treatment for any illness is critical; time is always of the essence. --swg

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.


Don't miss Goat Camp™ 2012 October 22-26, 2012
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Bending Tree Ranch located near Greenbrier, Arkansas

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