November 2017 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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Misconceptions About the Disease and the CL Vaccine

In May 2012, Texas Vet Lab, Inc. of San Angelo, Texas  announced the US government approval of the first  vaccine to control Caseous Lymphadenitis in goats.    Since that announcement, questions have arisen that I will address in this article.

Some goat raisers  oppose vaccination because  testing for CL does  not distinguish between a goat that has been vaccinated with the CL vaccine and one that is infected with the organism.   This position   doesn't hold up under analysis.     Vaccines are made from the substance being vaccinated against and they work by "tricking" the goat's immune system into mounting a response  to a modified  (usually "killed")  version of that bacteria.  A "modified" or "killed" bacteria cannot infect the goat.    Of course the goat is going to test "positive" for CL once it has been vaccinated.   A good immune system will mount a vigorous attack against the killed organism and produce antibodies.   This is how a vaccine works.   Responsible producers  should want to eradicate a disease via vaccination rather than raising a herd of naive (never vaccinated) goats that  might contract the disease if they are exposed.    Smallpox and polio were  eradicated  in the USA through widespread vaccination of the population.   That was a good thing.    Blood tests for CL  are not 100%  accurate; false positives and false negatives are a possibility.   Testing the pus is the only way to be 100% sure what the organism is.  Are you as a producer willing to risk the possibility of false positive,  false negative, or "borderline" test results  so you can have goats that test "negative" for CL at a single point in time?   This is not a responsible way to raise goats.

A "positive" blood test means that the goat possesses antibodies to the disease.   It does not mean that the goat is  a carrier or shedder of the bacteria or is infected   with that organism.     A positive titer means that the goat's immune system has encountered that organism before, either naturally or by vaccination, and its immune system has either mounted a response against it or it has received passive antibodies from its mother.   A "positive" goat may never display clinical signs of CL (abscesses) nor does it have to be contagious to other goats.    EXPOSED DOES NOT MEAN INFECTED.     So vaccinate and stop worrying!

 I would much rather own   goats that test  positive because they have been vaccinated to prevent  CL than susceptible-to-disease goats that test negative.  Remember,  a  negative test means "negative" at a single point in time, i.e. when the blood was drawn for the test.    Like an inspection on a house you are buying,  there is no guarantee that the equipment   will be in the same condition beyond that single moment in time when the inspection  was done.   Vaccination provides some promise of continuing protection against disease.  No vaccine is 100%, and the efficiency of the goat's immune system has much to do with how it processes the benefits that the vaccine provides, but a vaccinated goat is much less likely  to develop  CL than an unvaccinated goat.  There is no such thing as  a "clean" or "disease free" herd.

With the  CL vaccine for goats from Texas Vet Lab, some swelling at the injection site can be expected.  The injection-site "knot" should be firm (not soft).  If  it is  soft,  it could be   caused by bacteria on the needle or on the surface of the skin and may need to be drained.  Do not  inject   Formalin into these knots.      These  knots  are vaccine   granulomas   and are a result of the goat's immune response to the vaccine.  The adjuvant (vaccine's carrier) and the antigen (active ingredient) are recognized as foreign bodies by the goat's immune system and an inflammatory response occurs at the injection site.  They usually resolve themselves over time and that timeframe is  dependent upon the size of the granuloma.  If the goat is going to slaughter, the granuloma  will come off with the hide.  If the goat is breeding stock or a show animal and you  want the granuloma gone,  lance and drain and flush with iodine.    It is likely  a sterile abscess, staph, or arcanobacterium  pyogenes.     It is not  CL.

When administering the Texas Vet Lab vaccine to protect against Caseous Lymphadenitis, use an 18 gauge needle and give the vaccine SQ (under the skin) at the neck because the neck is where the largest number of lymph glands  exist and this bacteria usually enters the body via the mouth.  Give the first injection on one side of the neck and the follow-up booster injection  (on never-before-vaccinated goats) on the other side of the neck. Taking the chill   off the vaccine by removing the bottle from the refrigerator and putting  it in a climate-controlled environment for a short time increases its flow through the syringe and is more comfortable for the goat.    Vaccinate all  non-pregnant and non-lactating goats and yearlings, including   those testing positive for CL and  all goats with visible abscesses.    Some vaccines are being used "curatively"  as well as preventatively; this is one of those vaccines.

USDA labeling does not permit the claim that the vaccine prevents the disease.  No vaccine of any kind prevents disease in 100% of the population to which it is targeted.   Wording like "aids in the reduction of," "aids in the control of,"  "aids in the reduction of severity," or "aids in the reduction of infection or shedding" are label requirements.    This label wording should not deter you  from using the only CL  vaccine  approved for goats.

The dosage for this vaccine is  one cc (1 cc).   The vaccine is labeled to give never-before- vaccinated goats 1 cc and then again in two weeks.  The label is based upon the protocol used when testing was done for submission to the US Government.  I give the initial two injections FOUR WEEKS apart, then annually thereafter.  I've verified that this 30-day spread between injections works and  causes less reaction by and stress on the goat.     As in all situations, use at your own risk.  I am not a vet.  I am a long-time goat rancher.

Contact  Jeffers  (1-800-533-3377  or to purchase the vaccine if you live in a state where over-the-counter sales are permitted.   States requiring a vet prescription means you must buy from your vet.  This vaccine cannot be shipped into Canada or Mexico, but that may changing, so contact Jeffers.  Texas Vet Lab's website  has a page giving a state-by-state listing of how the vaccine is permitted to be sold in each state.   The information is available under the goat product link and is titled "CL State Approval List."

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas      11/2/17


Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) is a contagious bacterial infection affecting goats (and sheep).  The organism corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis infects the animal through wounds caused by head butting, punctures, and shearing, as well as oral ingestion of the pus (exudate) from a ruptured abscess.  The lymph system filters the bacteria from the goat's body and puts it into a thick-walled (encapsulated)  abscess outside its body so that it can't harm the goat.  Visible abscesses usually don't appear for months after infection.  CL abscesses are  seldom seen in young goats because the  immune system  isn't fully functional until the animal nears  one year of age;  the lymph glands can't filter something that an  immature immune system hasn't recognized.   For the same reason, blood testing for CL  can be inaccurate in goats under about eight months of age.  Although I've helped many goat raisers with  CL in their herds,  I've  personally never seen CL abscesses on a meat goat under six  months of age.   Unlike CAE and Johnes,  CL is not transmitted through milk, saliva, semen, or other bodily fluids.

CL is not the disease equivalent of CAE or Johnes.  Too many people classify these three diseases as equals.  They are not.  CL is manageable and we have a vaccine made by Texas Vet Lab in San Angelo, Texas  for it.  I know of nothing  available to manage CAE or Johnes.   Goats with CAE or Johnes should  be culled and  go to slaughter.   Not so with CL.   People become irrational when they see an  abscess, often assuming every abscess is CL.  That isn't true.   There are many kinds of abscesses.     The presence of external abscesses doesn't mean that the goat has internal abscesses.   This is  seldom true  in goats  but is  common in sheep.   When a CL abscess is mature and ready to lance, it is attached to the inside of the hide  rather than the goat's body. I have detailed articles on how to handle a CL abscess.   I no longer recommend injecting Formalin because people don't use it correctly.   Lancing the abscess, removing  the pus, having the pus tested to determine the bacteria involved  (Bob Glass, Pan American Vet Lab, 1-800-856-9655), flushing with iodine, and vaccinating with the Texas Vet Lab  vaccine for CL in goats is the best protocol.  Regular use of this CL vaccine for goats tends to reduce recurrence of abscesses, i.e. it performs a "curative" function.

CL is much more likely to be spread among goats kept in close quarters  and  over-crowded conditions.  All breeds of goats can catch CL.    Vectors for spreading the bacteria include insects, birds, wild animals, domestic pets,  needles, eartaggers, scissors, feed troughs (especially wood troughs),  clippers, shoes, and clothing.    Always use a disinfecting mat for visitors'  footwear.   Jeffers sells a disinfecting mat  (item #WEBAPDA) and  disinfecting liquid  for use with this mat.   No one knows how long pus from ruptured abscesses can survive  in hay, soil, and equipment, but we do know that hot  and dry weather kills the bacteria faster than wet and  cold.   The disease is not painful to the goat but is an management nuisance to goat raisers.  Although considered "incurable,"  CL is readily managed.

In May 2012, Texas Vet Lab of San Angelo, Texas announced US Government approval of its new vaccine to protect goats against CL.   My herd was one of three that participated  in the vaccine's field trials in summer 2011, the results of which were submitted to USDA for  approval.   Texas Vet Lab then  sent it licensing information to all 50 state vets in the USA, and the terms under which it can be used in each state is on its website under the link "CL State Approval List." Jeffers, the livestock mail order company,  carries the vaccine and is the best place to buy it.   Call Jeffers at 1-800-533-3377 or go to    The CaseBac vaccine for sheep by Colorado Serum is not effective with goats.

The vaccine is not approved for use on pregnant or lactating does or kids under three months of age (or with sheep).   That doesn't mean it is unsafe; it  means that testing was not done on these groups of animals.   I  do not use this vaccine on pregnant does because they don't need any added stress and I don't use it on goats under eight months of age because of their immature  immune systems.    I give this vaccine alone and never in conjunction with other vaccines in order to minimize reactions.  It is an extremely effective vaccine which should be used on all goats, even if they have been diagnosed with CL, but it has short-term side effects that can be minimized by careful  administration.  At GoatCamp2017(tm) at Onion Creek Ranch in October 2017, Dale Weise of Texas Vet Lab  reported that TVL is working on an improved version of this vaccine that will minimize its side effects.   It must go through testing and submitted to the US Government, so I suspect it will be a couple of years before it is available to producers.

My article entitled "Caseous Lymphadenitis: Misconceptions About the Disease and the CL Vaccine" revised November  2017   explains how I  use this vaccine and why.  The CL vaccine must be kept refrigerated; it is   sensitive to temperature changes.  Do not allow it to freeze or get hot.  Shake before each use.  If the bottom of the bottle is brown, throw it away.   Normal liquid separation occurs at the top of the bottle.

As a long-time goat producer, I am grateful that Jim Bob Harris, owner of Texas Vet Lab, chose to develop this much needed vaccine for a species that is few in number and therefore not a big profit center.  Diligent use of this vaccine by goat raisers can definitely control and significantly eliminate this disease in goats in a relatively short timeframe.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas   11/2/17

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