September 2014 Issue



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Iodine deficiency in goats causes changes in the thyroid gland, the organ which controls metabolism. Located under the chin on the front of the neck and behind the larynx, the thyroid gland enlarges to form a goiter when the goat is deficient in iodine. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland.

Goiters are not "bottlejaw," which is anemia that is almost always caused by a heavy wormload and occurs directly under the chin. Goiters are not Caseous Lymphadenitis abscesses; CL abscesses occur at lymph glands and when located in the neck area will be under an ear, downward towards the chest, or along the jaw line. Do not confuse it with the "milk goiter" present in newborn and young kids of breeds of dairy heritage (including Boers); that is a thymus gland issue which usually goes away as the kid reaches puberty. Articles that I've written on each of these topics can be found on the Articles page at

Goiters are often nutritionally related. Soils throughout much of the northern and eastern parts of the United States are iodine deficient. Plants of the Brassicas family interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. This includes plants in the mustard family such as cabbage, broccoli, and turnips. Supplemental iodine will not help correct iodine deficiency in goats eating these plants. You must eliminate them from the goat's diet.

The tendency to produce goiters may be inherited; some Swiss breeds that have been linebred tend to carry abnormalities in thyroid function. The Boer goat breed seems to be susceptible to iodine deficiency, resulting in goiters.

Goiters can exist in newborn kids. Thyroid deficiency can cause stillbirths or kids can be born weak and hairless or with very fine haircoats. Such kids are sluggish and grow poorly. They may or may not develop skin lesions. Cobalt deficiency and its accompanying Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause goiters.

Treatment for iodine deficiency that isn't caused by plants that prevent iodine uptake (see Brassicas family information above) is to add iodized salt to the goat's diet. Many prepared goat feeds use non-iodized mixing salt because the particles are small and mix well. The amount of organic iodine (EDDI) put into prepared feeds is controlled by the U. S. Food & Drug Administration and is not adequate for some iodine-deficient areas. Severe iodine deficiency can be treated more quickly by painting 7% iodine on a hairless part of the goat's body such as the tailweb. Free-choice feeding of kelp -- dried seaweed -- is an excellent way to keep iodine levels up. Kelp isn't always easy to find and can be pricey but consumption per goat is small so overall cost should not be a major concern. A 50-pound bag of kelp lasts a long time and can be mixed with loose goat minerals to encourage consumption. Jeffers carries Thorvin Kelp, one of the best kinds. Call 1-800-533-3377 or go to

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 9/3/14

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Set Realistic Goals and Adopt Sound Management Practices

To be a successful goat raiser, you must set goals and adopt management practices that can realistically allow you to achieve them. Constantly re-evaluate the amount and quality of your acreage, including type of forage/browse/pasture; pens, fencing, cross-fencing, and other facilities in existence or that must be constructed; the number of goats you are raising on that land; the climatic conditions in which the goats are living; the amount of money available to spend on the goat-raising venture; and the availability of a market for the animals being raised. If you don't understand the terminology or the importance of items mentioned here, that should be a *red light* for you to stop and learn more before investing money in goats.

There are many websites and discussion groups on the Internet that provide information about raising goats. Do not assume that all are equal. Some of the advice is incorrect and sometimes dangerous to your goats. I have seen recommendations to give CD/T injections to kids at birth (won't help - newborns don't have an up-and-running immune system but instead operate off their mother's transferred-via-milk immunity for weeks) to giving an oxytocin injection to a doe if she has not passed her afterbirth within an hour of kidding (unnecessary and possibly harmful - a placenta is not considered "retained" until 24 hours after kidding) to other advice that is probably going to kill the goat (how to feed bottle babies comes to mind). Just because someone raises goats doesn't mean they know what they are doing.

Unfortunately, some of this bad information also comes from a few university and other professional-level sites. Some years ago, a goat vet at Texas A&M's Large Animal Clinic told me that "you folks in the field often know more practical information about raising goats than we do" and she made an effort to interact with people who are on the front line of raising goats on a day-to-day basis. The meat-goat industry, both organizationally and informationally, is in its infancy in the United States. We need to share information with each other, but we must be sure that what we say is accurate before we present it as such. Producers who have "been there, done that" can be helpful to the rest of us by sharing their experiences. Learn from those who have experience that you don't have; don't waste time "reinventing the wheel." Make sure the information you are being given is accurate. Ask WHY, even when dealing with veternarians. Few vets have a working knowledge of goats.

You can over-manage and over-medicate your goats. If you desire to make a profit raising goats, you cannot waste time and money on unnecessary or unproductive activities. If you care about the health of your animals, which I believe most of us do, you can do harm by over-medicating and over-managing. A goat needs a healthy immune system in order to survive and thrive. A healthy immune system is predicated on there being some challenge to it environmentally in order to cause that immune system to be stimulated to produce antibodies that protect the goat.

The main things that goats need to live and grow healthily are simple: lots of space, shelter from severe weather (strong winds and rain and extreme cold), fresh clean water, and adequate forage and/or grass hay and minerals. The more goats are managed, the more they lose adaptability -- the ability to survive and thrive in their own environment. Goats must be able to live, survive, and thrive in their natural outdoor environment. Don't do things that take away this ability from them.

Before accepting advice on how to raise, feed, and otherwise care for your goats, find out if the person giving the advice is successfully raising goats. Learn about his/her background. Successful people always have detractors, so use your good judgement and common sense when making your evaluations. Be suspicious of anyone who constantly speaks negatively of specific individuals and their animals unless they have provable facts to back up their statements. Responsible successful producers don't have time for non-productive behavior.

Raising meat goats is a wonderful adventure and can be an excellent business. Use common sense and good judgement in all aspects of your goat-ranching venture; you will enjoy it and make money at the same time.

Remember that it isn't what you don't know about raising goats that will hurt you. Rather it is what you don't know that you need to know that will bite you in the butt every time.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 9/3/14



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